Musings: The Four Hour Barnes and Noble Trip

For the past 6 months of so, I’ve been rather preoccupied. Well, that may not be the whole truth…for the past 23.985 years I’ve been preoccupied; however, for the past 6 months I’ve been caught up on the issue of what I should do with my life.

After graduating from UMD last year, I had a several month grace period, during which I was happy to have a job. For a few months after that, I was content having a job that I pretty much liked. From then on, I’ve been completely snagged on the fact that while my job, and the academic science industry as a whole, are perfectly fine for now, I definitely want to move on from them.

This is one of those realizations that most people seem to have at some point in their life and it sucks. For me, I just feel that the stop sign came a few intersections earlier than it does for most people.

What's red and has the outline of a hand? The side of my face after these constant slaps of reality.

Ever since I came upon this realization, I rarely go 15 minutes without trying to figure out what I want to be doing with my life. But, I’m feeling a bit more optimistic, and this is why.

While lounging with no intention of buying anything in Barnes and Noble (see, at least the one I go to is still in business), as my generation often does, I decided to pick up some business books instead of my usual video game magazines. While sifting through endless stacks of dreadfully boring books, trying to find some that sounded even remotely helpful, I came across “The 4-Hour Workweek”.

I must admit, that I had no interest in the book whatsoever. I don’t pay much mind to “get rich quick” schemes or to the suggestion that I can make millions from working at home. I’m sure people have gotten rich quickly and all, but that only worsens my chances.

Despite my reservations, I decided to give it a quick skim. Suddenly, a quick skim turned into a few chapters. Then a few chapters turned into Jenny telling me we had to leave. I still don’t buy the suggestion that you can make too much money by doing very little work; however, the book is pretty great for two reason.

First, the author and I have strangely similar writing styles/senses of humor. This makes the book a legitimately enjoyable read, as opposed to the autobiographies of stodgy old billionaires that only stand to enrage me.


Second, the book is written in a way that directly speaks to my career discontent. Sure, he discusses lawyers who work 60 hour weeks and want to kill themselves, but he also speaks to those of us who are worried about trapping ourselves in comfortable lives. As he writes:

Most who avoid quitting their jobs entertain the thought that their course will improve with time or increases in income. This seems valid and is a tempting hallucination when a job is boring or uninspiring instead of pure hell. Pure hell forces action, but anything less can be endured with enough clever rationalization.

Well, damn. I guess he’s right. At this point in the read at least, he hasn’t miraculously told me how to make it and what I should be doing. What he has done, however, is given me some more constructive ways to think about what to do, with plenty of inspiring words and tales to keep me from sitting on my haunches and hiding behind my comfort. I suggest that you do the same!

Stuff That I Like: The Beach

It’s Monday morning and I feel like I’ve been kicked in the back of the skull. My body is aching, I feel too tired to responsibly operate heavy machinery, and my fingers are rebelling as I pipette the 150th DNA sample. I may feel close to death, but all I can really comprehend is my desire to go back to the beach.

It keeps me from being crabby. ZING.

On Saturday, the three best friends took a day trip to Ocean City, MD. The weather ended up being spectacular (read: not 100 degrees and/or raining) and despite some heavy pieces of traffic and the worst parking situation I have ever seen in my life (not kidding), we made it onto the beach by the early afternoon.

I was midway through my first dive through a breaking wave when it occurred to me that the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean are the single place where I’m happiest. As I popped out of the backside of that first wave, only to nearly be clobbered by a second, more powerful wave, I was at my most content.

The beach, in my humble opinion, brings the best of the world to one place. I’m not talking about people of course; many of the people I see at the beach are of my least favorite variety; however, it stands as a mark of the enormity of the beach’s grandeur that I rarely, if ever, notice all the unsavory characters. No, I’m referring to the raw power, vastness, and thrill of the open water merging with the quiet calm of a sandy beach and the rhythmic sounds of the tide. There is simply no better place to frolic, run, sleep, eat, or endanger your life.

As I continued my dominance of the waves, I tried to take it all in. The smell of salt water, the sun-warmed sand, the churning of the ocean. I was reminded fully of why full-time jobs and non-coastal cities suck. I embraced that unique, chilly tingle that courses through your body after each trip through a wave. I thought about all that and vowed to always live by a coast, make regular visits to the beach, and never lose sight of the best bits of life.

As I pounded through the all-you-can eat crabs and corn that night, I was content knowing that I had spent one more day in the good old Atlantic and overwhelmingly excited about getting back to the world’s best beaches next weekend in the good old Garden State. And life was good.

Not so great for the crabs though.

Musings: Nomadic Lifestyles

At the moment, a maximum of 4 people actually read this thing. One of those people is me. Of course, it isn’t fair for me to just expect people to come running to read my blog, so I started to read some other blogs as well, including the blog of 25% of my readership. It was here that I read a post that got my mind running a bit. It discussed her impending return to New Jersey and the fact that however badly she had wanted to go back, it’s still a little panic inducing.

I know this feeling well. As we all know, I feel like a part of my soul dies every day that I’m not in the Garden State. It’s like the combination of Jersey’s sea breezes and industrial waste have formed some sort of drug-like compound that I was born addicted to. Going cold turkey for 5 years has not been easy.

So if I miss New Jersey so much, why don’t I just pack my bags and go? There are two reasons. One is that I need to keep my job for a little while longer before I bail for whatever is next. The second is that I don’t really know where to go if I go back. As much as I would like to cruise back into my hometown, where everything is familiar, I know it would never make me happy. Not in the long term at least.

There are few things I enjoy more than laying around my house in NJ on random weekends or going to my favorite beaches, but no matter how much I hate it, that’s really not my home anymore. It was my home, but now it’s just my parents’ house. I brought my bed with me to my apartment, so I sleep on the floor in my room in NJ and I know that I’ll probably never move a bed back in. Even if I did, would that be what I want? As long as my bosses permit it, I will always go back for a few weeks at Christmas and for some time in the summers, but beyond that wouldn’t be for the best.

I’ve felt like a nomad for a while now; a man without a state. I really enjoyed College Park, but that was a fixed, 4-year deal. It’s still fun to visit (I did yesterday), but it’s really an accelerated metaphor to what our hometowns become. The places are all the same, but none of the people who made it memorable are still around. If any of them still are, it’s sort of sad. They just don’t look like they fit anymore. (Edit: While on the topic of how weird it is to go to the same place and see how nothing has changed except the people, check out this website. It’s awesome.)

I moved to DC after CP, which has been an exciting experience. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the city and I’m pretty bummed about leaving it. It’s hard to just pick up and move on when you’ve only just started to find things you really enjoy somewhere. Still, no amount of appreciation will ever change the fact that it’s not really for me.

Yeah, a little too refined for my tastes.

At the same time, I’m excited about moving to Baltimore. It’s something new and it will demolish my commute; however, it’s hard to get too stoked about discovering a new city when I’m positive I’ll only be there for one year.  I’ve seen enough from coming here on a daily basis to figure out that it’s cool and a little more like Jersey than DC, but still not 100% what I’m looking for. So where to next? At this point, I haven’t got the slightest clue.

Also, this guy drank himself to death to GTFO of Baltimore, so it can't be too great.

The good news is, for the moment at least, I feel like I’m on one of those really long, fun, late night drives with friends where you’re exhausted, but don’t want to get home just yet. In my mind, I’ve already got the destination picked out; I want to settle in Jersey one day, probably in a town similar to where I grew up, but just different enough to make my own life there. I’m just not ready to finish driving yet.

Now it’s time for my shameless Jersey plug (Although this whole blog is starting to seem like one). One of the many great things about Jersey is that it has so much to offer. No two towns are exactly the same. From the farmland to the beaches to the full blown cityscapes, you can always find something unique in the Garden State. I’m not sure if I’ll move back immediately after Baltimore or if I’ll keep peddling cities for a while before I make my triumphant return, but it’s nice to know that my options will never be limited back in Jersey. Part of what excites me so much about getting back there eventually is that I’ll have a chance to live in some of the awesome places that I only briefly encountered while growing up there. Even if I move back well before deciding on a place to settle for good, there will always be more than enough places to try out.

Although the whole moving thing is a major pain in the ass, it’s also extremely exciting. It’s a good kick out the door; a little thrust to keep you from settling into a comfortable but underwhelming life. I would much rather move on a yearly basis, with a little bit of fear for the unknown constantly sitting in the back of my head, than waking up one day at 40 and feeling like I missed out. Life’s supposed to be an adventure and I’d hate to miss out.