Musings: When I Grow Up, I’m Living Alone

Without a doubt, moving to Baltimore by myself will likely prove to be the biggest life change I’ve made in a while. Graduating college and getting a job were big deals, but that’s 2010 news. It’s 2011 in America and things have just gotten very different.

I’ve been up in B-more for almost a month at this point (which, may I add, means that maintenance hasn’t managed to get here to fix my lights in almost a month). At this point, I think I’ve had a fair amount of time to assess the pros and cons of being on my own.

Forgoing a roommate is a pretty big lifestyle change, if for no other reason than the fact that you’re unlikely to ever have one again that isn’t a spouse. Think about it. The only time people talk about getting a roommate again is when they lose their job and can’t afford their own place. For me, this was both an appealing and a daunting change.

For those who know me, I’m pretty much a textbook introvert. I like a heaping serving of solitude, I lose myself in thought constantly, and I’m quickly exhausted by trying to please everybody when I’m in a group setting. At the same time, I also really like having people to talk to and go adventure with and I enjoy having someone around to sit down with and play some video games for no apparent reason.

'NOT NOW MOM, WE'RE SOLVING WORLD HUNGER'

Thus far, I’ve felt pretty much the way I expected about the changes associated with living alone. It’s surreal and not always pleasant to come home and know that no one else will be showing up. Sitting around and doing nothing suddenly seems a lot more reclusive and a lot less like two people doing their own things. On the other hand, I never feel like I’m being a downer when I want to sit down and read a book for a few hours instead of going out. Going to the gym becomes more of a personal journey than a lonely escape.

Then there’s the other things that I didn’t expect. Living alone, for example, is both a spark and a detriment to spontaneity. I’m much more likely to just hop up and take a stroll around the city or make an impromptu bike ride downtown. Conversely, there’s no one to propose a sudden late evening bike ride across town to check out something that’s going on, no one to suggest a slightly unnecessary trip to a store, and no one to suggest a run on a day when you were feeling extremely unmotivated. It’s this type of thing that isn’t apparent on a day to day basis, but you slowly realize that you miss.

In Home Alone terms, I’d say I’m about 70% eating ice cream and watching the Grinch and 30% hoping my family comes home for Christmas. On most days, it’s nice to operate on my own schedule without inconveniencing anyone else. Still, there are lots of times when it would be nice to hear someone else’s key in the door and know that you’d be on the verge of sharing some experiences.

In the end, I guess it’s all just part of growing up. I suppose I had a bit of a precursor to this whole thing during college. My junior year was definitely my funnest year, living in a house with 6 close friends who were always up for congregating to complain and study, dressing up in cutoffs and headbands, and most of all, down for an impromptu game of Super Smash Bros. My senior year, when I had a roommate who was rarely around, was my most productive year academically and the year where I got my shit together for getting a job. In other words, it was a progression towards being a real adult. Of course, no matter how grown I become (hopefully not very), I’ll always miss being able to set booby traps for an unsuspecting roommate.

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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.

KEEP LAUGHING OLD MAN.

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!

Musings: It’s the Final Countdown

The trick is up. The shows over. It’s time to move.

Last night, Jenny and I went out to Serendipity in Georgetown for her birthday (frozen hot chocolate is AMAZING) and then came back to Navy Yard to eat cake with my roommate and his girlfriend on the roof.

It was a very weird experience. All four of us have rapidly changing lives at the moment, which is made all the more apparent every time I walk into my apartment and am greeted with stacks of boxes instead of dinner on the stove and Seinfeld on the TV. Sitting on the roof, like we haven’t done since the early days in the that apartment, was surreal. It was the second time in the past week that I’ve sat there with some of my closest friends, looking out at DC and saying goodbye (to the city, not the friends, dummies). The good news is that I’ll be saying ‘Hello” to a bunch of new things very soon.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be rising bright and early to load up my dad’s van with all of my stuff. The amount of crap that I own has expanded significantly this year, so we’ll be playing an impromptu game of Tetris with my stuff in an effort to make it all fit.

In a classic example of the “Why me?” scenarios that sometimes define my life, tomorrow is supposed to mark the return of 100+ degree weather, and old apartments don’t have central air. Such is life. Without a car in Baltimore, it’s going to be an interesting scramble to acquire an AC unit, some rugs, and the other random odds and ends that you never knew you didn’t have…which reminds me, I need to find a microwave.

In preparing for this move, I’ve noticed an emotional trend that arises when it comes time for my annual moves. It goes like this:

4 months in advance – ‘Ahhhhh, why is my rent going up/the school year ending/graduation happening. I don’t want to move’

3 months in advance – ‘You know, I should probably look for a new apartment. Nahhh, I’ve got time’

2 months in advance – ‘WHY ARE ALL THE GOOD PLACES GONE. STRESS STRESS STRESS’, followed by finding the first available place and settling for it.

1 month in advance – ‘This move is going to suck, but I’m pretty excited for all of the positive changes’

3 weeks in advance – ‘I wonder when a good time to pack is. Not now!’

2 weeks in advance – ‘Actually I own a lot of stuff. I should start packing now’

1 week in advance – ‘What do you mean 10 boxes wasn’t enough?’

6 days – ‘I should pack some more things. But not the TV, I need that. Or the video games. Or the computer. Or the clothes. Or the shoes. Or…..’

5 days – ‘WHAT AM I DOING I NEED TO PACK ALL OF THAT STUFF’

4 days – ‘I don’t want to leave’

3 days – ‘I reallllllly don’t want to leave’

2 days – ‘I HAVE TO TAKE PICTURES OF ALL THE WALLS TO REMEMBER THIS PLACE BY’

1 days – ‘Maybe if I just go to sleep, I’ll wake up and either have a renewed lease or find all my stuff already moved for me’

Moving day – ‘FML’

Day after – It’s not even worth saying anything, because no one will hear you from behind a 10 foot wall of boxes.

That is all. Wish me luck!

 

Fitness vs. Fatness: Nostalgia Runs

Goodbye, friend.

In previous FvF posts, I’ve discussed the various tricks, shim shams, and underhanded ploys that I use to force myself to workout when I’m not feeling it. Yesterday, I used an old favorite to break out of my recent slump; 100 degree weather is good for very little, least of which is running.

With my move rapidly (like 2-days-rapidly) approaching, I decided to pull out the good ol’ “nostalgia run”. In this particular ploy, you reminisce on all the pleasant runs you’ve taken on a given route in the past. You then remind yourself that you hardly have any chances left to run an old favorite, so you have to go immediately, before it’s too late. After all, the human brain is too stupid to remember how painful those runs may have been. It only recalls your former glory.

The nostalgia run is a powerful motivator for me; possibly the most effective of them all. It’s the one I use frequently when I go back to NJ for a weekend or occasionally when I visit College Park. It’s also the one that makes the run the least painful. With the mind intent on taking in every detail, there’s hardly any time to experience the pain.

Yesterday’s nostalgia run was done over my classic route from Navy Yard to the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and back. My legs did take a bit of a beating (the blazing sun really takes a lot out of them), but all things considered, it was a nice farewell to my faithful path. With all of my groceries and dishes packed, I settled for drinking a protein shake for dinner while we scrubbed away at the kitchen surfaces and rolled up rugs.

My apartment has reached critical mass at this point. The amount of boxes stacked all over have rendered further cleaning a near impossibility at the moment. I’m stuck playing the waiting game now and praying that all of my crap fits in my dad’s van; if we have to make two trips, I’m out of the will.

Stuff that I Like: Not Moving/Moving

Make the bed, sweep the floor, shake the carpet and spray. Put my shit in a pile, on the top slap a post-it. – Bomb the Music Industry

Yeah yeah, one more California post. Not today though, my friends. My mind is too ruined. My upcoming move is nearly upon me and it’s taking a toll.

Moving is one of those incredibly taxing, seriously confusing times in life. On the one hand, it’s a major pain in the ass. You’ve got to box up all of your possessions. You have to come to terms with the amount of crap you’ve managed to amass. It’s the time when you have to shamefully admit to being a packrat, but still end up not throwing anything out.

'WHAT'D YOU CALL ME'

On the other hand, it’s super exciting. My coworker mentioned a few months back that while it’s very hard to make more money, it’s much easier to save money by moving somewhere cheaper. After all, for every hundred you save on rent each month, it’s the equivalent of a $1,200 raise.

As excited as I am about saving a bunch of extra money, I think what he said has a broader meaning beyond the cash. While we often have limited choices in what jobs are available to us, we have comparatively massive control over where we decide to move. Essentially, moving is our best chance to redefine our life on a yearly basis.

Big changes are in store, by my own hand. Come this weekend, I’ll be living alone. I’ll be in an entirely new city. I won’t have a car for a while. I’ll be down the street from work. My paychecks will be up and my commute will be down. It’s all very exciting, but very different.

I’ve become used to having another human being around when I get home from work, even if I do possess a temperament more befitting of someone who lives alone. I’m certainly used to having my car tucked safely in a garage under the building, with all of the DMV quickly accessible by 395, 295, and the GW parkway. Sadly, I’m also used to spending 3 hours commuting and having 3/4 of my monthly salary already committed to rent, utilities, and other mandatory expenses. That bit is admittedly not great, but it’s become part of my life over the past year. Sometimes you just crave the comfort of having a home for more than 1 year over the excitement of moving. Thankfully, the necessity of my predicament forced me into a position where I’ve had to cope, so excitement has (for the most part) taken hold.

After spending the whole of Sunday and about 6 hours of yesterday packing, I’m almost done. I’m at the awkward stage now where I really want to just throw everything else in a box, but I sadly need a computer, clothing, and bathroom supplies for the next few days. For now, I’ll just have to content myself to clean and trip over boxes of crap until Friday morning.

Baltimore, here I come.

Musings: Worried Waldo

After writing my post yesterday about being good at problems solving, I started to ponder my greatest flaw. While I’m sure I have many, the one that immediately comes to mind is my penchant for worrying about anything and everything. Well, that and my inability to make decisions, but that’s derived from my incessant worrying, so it doesn’t count.

Ever since I was 5 or so, my mom has always commented on how incredibly nervous I make myself over mundane things. By the time I was 6, I insisted on wearing a life jacket at the beach at all times, just in case a huge wave came. I clearly never thought of how I wound fend for myself when the rest of my non-life jacket wearing family was swept away, but it was half of a good idea.

In elementary school, I’d get pretty stressed about being prepared for school. One time, I left my homework at my dad’s house (I spent the weekends with my pops and the weeks with my mom). I freaked out so hard that my parents had to drive an hour each way to make sure I had it for school on Monday. I even made my them take me to school during the summer to find my classroom so that I would know where to go on my first day.

It wasn’t until high school that I found a bit of relief. It was somewhere around the beginning of 9th grade that I realized that I could either endlessly worry about something or decide to not give a shit at all. To this day, those are my only two mechanisms for coping with anything.

This sums things up pretty well.

I took the slacker approach throughout most of high school, doing the minimum amount of work while maintaining straight A’s (which takes a shockingly small amount of effort). I didn’t read a single assigned book, solely because they were assigned. At the same time that I was ignoring my work, I was stressing myself out about swimming. Whenever we would have meets, I wasn’t capable of thinking of much else for the entire day. I still get butterflies when I smell chlorine. Conversely, I never got nervous about playing shows with my band. No matter how bad we were, it just never affected me. For no reason in particular, I couldn’t be bothered with worrying myself over getting on stage.

My paradoxical moods became even more extreme in college. Months of procrastinating, avoiding work, and generally neglecting my education would give way to obsessive study streaks and unsafe levels of stress. 30 seconds after walking out of exams, I completely abandoned any emotional connection with the test, regardless of how well or poorly I thought I may have done. By my senior year, when I was worried about getting a job, stress took over for completely. From September, when it was clearly too early to be trying to find something, until I got my job offer in April, I couldn’t help but stress about unemployment, day in and day out.

Ohhhh shit...how am I ever going to get this ring back to Mordor?

I was sincerely hoping that this whole thing would subside once I got into the working world. WRONG AGAIN. I still flip-flop from irresponsibly low levels of caring to intensive worrying about dumb things. Right now, I like to stress myself out about the logistics of moving all my stuff into my new apartment…in the end of July. On the one hand, this is why I’m always well prepared for this type of thing. On the other, I’ve probably taken a few years off my life already. I’m just glad that the grays haven’t started sprouting yet. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think that I’ll return to not caring about anything for the rest of tonight. See you tomorrow!

Musings: Problem Solving

A friend of mine recently asked me what I think my greatest skill is. After thinking about it for a few moments, I realized that I am best at solving problems. I’m not sure when I became good at it, but I’ve definitely come to rely on it at my job. As the only person who isn’t working on a well defined, very specific research project, literally everything outside of said projects falls on me. Fedex billed us wrong? Find out why. New incubator that I’ve never seen before isn’t holding temperature? Fix it. We’re in need of a new subzero freezer? Find the best one and get us a good price on it.

I was thinking of labeling this post as “Stuff That I Like”, because in a lot of ways, I like being the problem solver. I get a unique sort of high from rapidly putting a wide range of issues to rest. At the same time, I’m not sure that I actually like solving the problems. If anything, it has become more of a compulsion. It’s like some practical, real world version of a MMORPG, where I want to progress further and further, proving how much I can fix, without much of an endgame.

Speaking of video games, my compulsive desire to solve problems has seriously affected the way that I game. I’ve found more and more that in any non-repetitive game (as in, not a multiplayer game where the same basic tasks are repeated), I keep pushing myself to finish the game, sometimes at the cost of actual enjoyment.

As everyone will find out when I get around to writing about all the games that I’ve really, truly, seriously loved, I get the most enjoyment out of games where I take my time, get immersed, and really enjoy the unique moments. I still come across these moments from time to time, where I want the game to last forever, if only for a chance to experience a few more thrilling moments; however, on the whole, I push forward in games, crossing missions off as I go, more or less enjoying myself, but yearning for the moment when I’ll achieve a final victory.

This is all made worse by the fact that when I do finish a really terrific game, I’m upset that I plowed through it so unenthusiastically. I’ll rarely make it back for another whole playthrough (with the exception of a few true classics that I replay frequently), despite wanting to indulge a bit more. I seriously fear the day when I can’t find a game or two that really sucks me in. It seems to me that a lot of older gamers reach the point where gaming becomes a chore.If I ever reach that point, you will see a very unhappy Chris. I don’t want my childhood to die. I just want to grow up to be like this guy:

Anyway, back in the real world, I hope that I can capitalize on my problem solving abilities/compulsions/desires. The good thing is, it’s one of those skills that never really sounds bad in an interview. Who doesn’t love a problem solver? The downside is that I really need a job where that problem solving provides total satisfaction. Right now, I feel like the only way for me to achieve this is by working for myself. Nothing really sounds fulfilling compared to building a business, confronting and solving new challenges on a daily basis. Now I just need to find a place to start. Any ideas?