Living With a Ghost

There was a line in Grey’s Anatomy this week that prompted this post. I can’t recall exactly how it was phrased but the character says he “doesn’t want to live with a ghost — who he might have been if he had been brave enough to try.” That line struck a chord with me because I feel like that describes me in some way.

When I went away to college I went in thinking I wanted to be a teacher. I started on that track from the beginning of my college career and only once did I consider anything else. I took a journalism class with the thought of possibly changing my major. I liked the class, but I took the easy path of sticking with my major I chose as a high school kid. I muddled through my education classes and then when I actually went to the classroom, I realized I hated teaching. My advisor saw that and advised that I change my major. I was working at the university library at the time and enjoyed it. It seemed the easy thing to do was to follow my advisor’s advice and work toward an MLS. I changed my major to communications and worked toward a BS for the sole purpose of going to graduate school for the MLS. I really enjoyed my communications classes. I mostly took classes in small group and mass communications. I especially liked my mass communication classes. I should have considered moving forward in that field, but, once again, I had tunnel vision and went straight on to the MLS program after graduation. While getting my master’s, I worked at a market research firm. I was very good at my job. I didn’t, however, consider that as a career either. I stayed focused on the library thing and when we moved to Maryland I applied for multiple library jobs. Now, here I am 23 years later working in a library in Maryland.

I don’t hate being a librarian. I like my job and I’m at the very least adequate at doing said job(most of the time) but I think a lot of my dissatisfaction over the years has been the side effect of living with that ghost. The ghost of Alan who didn’t go into college with an open mind. The ghost of Alan who didn’t at least take a 2nd journalism class. The ghost of Alan who didn’t consider a career in communications. The ghost of Alan who didn’t look in to market research careers in Maryland. The ghost of Alan who would never attempt to write more than a mediocre blog post. The ghost of Alan who has always done what is easy and safe.

I like my life. I just feel like I missed out on some opportunities by playing it safe. Learn a lesson from me. Don’t spend your life living with a ghost.

A Monday Morning Rant

I can’t remember the actual thing that got me started complaining to my family about people in general yesterday.   I was in the car, so I’m assuming it was yet another stupid traffic move by another driver.  I decided to post a list of things that people do and have done recently that drive me crazy. Disclaimer: I’m fully aware that it’s possible that things I do are on other people’s lists.

People who stop walking in the middle of an aisle or in the doorway. I get that something caught your eye as you walked in the door, but move to the side to gawk at it. There are other people trying to walk here.

People who have conversations in food lines or in front of a communal coffee pot.  The coffee one is especially bad. People are trying to get their caffeine fix and you are blocking them because you are completely oblivious that your group conversation in front of the pot mean no one can get coffee. That could be dangerous.

People who don’t understand how a four-way stop works. They either sit there and don’t move when it is their turn or they almost cause a collision because they go when it is someone else’s turn. It’s really not that difficult. If you are there before me, you go. If I’m there for you, you go. Also, if you are incoming traffic in a place where incoming traffic does not stop, DON’T STOP.

The woman who was turning right on red when I had a green left turn arrow. If you are going to turn anyway, don’t wait until I’m almost in the lane before you decide to whip in to it.

If there is a road with a left turn only and a straight lane if you are trying to turn on to the road but going left don’t inch out to block the other lane until you have room to turn Now you’ve blocked all of the people trying to go through the intersection and paralyzed the entire area.

Generally, don’t go through life oblivious to how your actions are affecting others. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of the people around you. When in doubt, err on the side of courtesy.

Currently Reading:
Final Girls: A Novel

Watching Jeopardy Alone

I knew it was coming soon. My son rented a house with friends this year so he was officially completely moved out last July. He leaves on Sunday for New York for five weeks for his summer internship. Today was my daughter’s last day of her junior year of high school.  She got her driver’s license last week. I knew I was a year away from an empty nest. Today, my daughter starts a part-time job. She just headed out for her training shift. That means I will start to get a taste of the empty nest soon.

The big change for me will be the first couple of hours after I arrive home from work. I typically arrive home by around 5:30. My wife typically gets home around 7:30.  For a while, some of that time was filled with trips to the dance studio. The last couple of years it has meant cooking dinner and watching TV with my daughter. Monday nights we watch John Oliver(recorded from Sunday). Other nights we might watch other random shows that we have recorded over the past weeks. The one standard is that we watch Jeopardy at 7. My wife doesn’t understand why we like the show so much. I’m surprised my daughter likes it.  We watch, comment on the contestants and yell out our answers(not in the form of a question). With her at work several nights a week, I will have to watch Jeopardy alone. I’ve done it before. It’s just not as fun when no one else sees how smart(or dumb) you are.

It sounds small, but it is a harbinger of things to come. Today it is a part-time job. Soon it will be college. Soon the nest will actually be empty and I will have many hours home alone. I guess I will be reading a lot more books soon. Who am I kidding? I will probably spend the alone time watching TV shows my wife won’t watch and posting stupid stuff on Facebook.

Tater’s Monday Musings

  • I read two different books over the weekend that were written when the author was a teenager. If you ever want to feel even more like a failure, spend the weekend being reminded of people who have achieved more than you before they are out of their teens.  Sure, I have a good job and I now have a title, but I’m pushing 50 and I still feel like something of a failure when it comes to the career thing.  20 years in jail really hinders your job prospects even if you just work there.
  • I joked recently that I was going to write a book called The Power of Positive Negativity after I one again posted something negative only to be proven wrong. I feel like it is better to expect the worst in situations and be pleasantly surprised when things go right.  This weekend I did the opposite and posted something positive about a car buying experience only to have it go bad just a few minutes later. I’ve learned my lesson. No more positivity until after everything is done.
  • I might be biased because of my hate for the Washington baseball team, but  I watched the local coverage of the game yesterday and their broadcast team is horrible. Constant bad jokes that fell flat, making fun of a between innings activity and just a bad job in general. You are one of the best regular season teams in baseball(playoffs, not so much). Spend some money for some decent TV coverage.
  • I just wrote the check for my ticket to my 30 year high school reunion. How is that possible? I can’t be that old. Can I?
  • This is the end. I have to leave for work. Aren’t you glad this is the last bullet point?

I am an Awkward Introvert and It’s Still Not Cool

There was a review in the newspaper recently(I think the Washington Post) for this book

Apparently, it is now cool to be socially awkward. This is after the recent book Quiet and the movement that made people think it was cool to be an introvert. Suddenly, everyone was an introvert. The Internet was full of articles about introverts. People were sharing them, declaring themselves an introvert. Based on the activity I saw on Facebook there are no extroverts on the planet. Of course, this isn’t true. I’m sure many of the people declaring themselves introverts were actual introverts I’m also sure many of the people were extroverts jumping on the introvert bandwagon. Blockbuster superhero movies, new Star Wars movies, new Star Trek movies, dreck like The Big Bang Theory, etc have made it more mainstream to like things that used to make you a nerd.  The above book now puts the socially awkward in the cool column.

Now, speaking as someone who has been a socially awkward introvert my entire life, I don’t buy the cool thing. Sure, some socially awkward nerds make it big and enter the cool category, but many of us are still just awkward people who tend to stand in a corner alone at a party. I don’t want to be an introvert. I would rather be someone who enjoys being with other people. I don’t want to be socially awkward. I would rather be someone who can attend a party or a social event at a conference and mingle like a normal person. I wasn’t cool in high school, I wasn’t cool in college and I’m not suddenly cool now because the socially awkward have been declared cool. I think my socially awkward introvert culture has been hijacked by people who have always been the “cool kids” and now are “socially awkward” or an introvert because that’s the new in thing.  This cycle will eventually end. It will once again be cool to be an extrovert and at ease in social situations and the cool kids will abandon us once again.

Trust me. Being me is not cool.

One Is The Loneliest Number

Note – this post is more personal and introspective than usual. You should read it fast before I have second thoughts and delete it.

A friend on Facebook shared an article this weekend that said the biggest threat facing middle aged men is loneliness. While I am surprised that people think it is the biggest threat facing middle aged men, I’m not surprised that middle aged men are lonely. I am a middle aged man. I think I was born a middle aged man. Loneliness has been a constant in my life. I can be in the middle of a crowd, at a party, etc and still feel alone. I have many acquaintances and not many actual friends. I talk to people at work and then to the two people who live in my house and that is the extent of my social life. I do occasionally have a text conversation with my brother.

In person, I pretend a lot of times that I think I am someone that everyone loves, but really, deep down, I always assume I am someone that people don’t really think about at all. I’ve always felt that way. I was part of a social group in high school, but felt that I was the one who didn’t really belong. I felt the same with groups in college and I feel the same today. In every group, I feel like I am the expendable one. I have social anxiety when it comes to parties and other gatherings, so I would rather just not go. This leads to the life referenced above. I spend most of my life isolated from the world. It’s OK now while my family is there, but I am looking toward a lot of alone time when my daughter leaves for college next year.

Another problem is that I have always had more female friends than male friends. I now work in a world that is predominantly women. In the one group I socialize with on a regular basis(I am the expendable one) I am the only man. This also is a limit to developing close friendships. It is harder and more complicated when the friendship is across genders. You always have to be aware of any impressions of impropriety and there are limits on what you can discuss from your personal life.

So, no, I’m not shocked that loneliness is a problem for middle aged men. I would like to say that since I am aware of the issue that I can take steps to do something about it, but that would be a lie. I will continue to spend my time watching TV and reading books when my family is not around. It just seems easier that way.

Drywall and Dead Birds

This is my late day so I’m at home until 12:30 and work 1-9. My wife left for work and then called me to tell me to watch the garage door when I leave because it was really loud when she left. So, even though I am the least mechanically inclined person I know, I decide to go out to look at the door to see if I can determine the problem. Luckily, it turned out to be a manual labor issue, not a mechanical issue. A piece of drywall has come loose and is hanging over part of the garage door mechanism.

This is the perfect job for me. No brains required. Just climbing up and pulling the drywall down. This is complicated by the fact that the door can’t be opened until the drywall is down and the Mustang she inherited from her dad is directly under the drywall and there is not a lot of room for a fat guy like me to squeeze past with a step stool to get to the drywall. So, I put a load of blankets on the car to protect it and eventually was able to angle the drywall around so I could pull it loose and bring it down without damaging the car or myself.

The worst part of the whole thing was what was on top of the drywall. I could see when I started that something was on top of it. I thought it was a plastic bag and didn’t really worry about it. Unfortunately, it was not a plastic bag, but a dead bird. I don’t know how long it had been in our garage or how long it had been dead. All I know is that it came crashing down with the drywall and it was not fun. So, once I worked my way off the stool and through fat man’s squeeze while holding a giant piece of drywall, I had to try to get the dead bird in a plastic bag and in the trash can without touching it and then sweep the feathers and drywall pieces up.

So, there you have a small look in to my glamorous life. I am now using all of that as an excuse to do nothing the rest of the morning.

Reentry Is Hard

This weekend was the first weekend in a while where I was actually able to relax.  To make it even better, it was a four day weekend. I didn’t do anything exciting. On my birthday leave day on Friday I went out and got some free food from Panera and Dickey’s and watched a movie on DVD. Saturday was so uneventful all I remember is that I took the dog for a walk and watched a basketball game. Sunday I went to church and out to eat with the family for a late birthday celebration. Yesterday I spent hour scanning pictures from 2001. Even so, the four days off makes it really hard to think about heading out in a few minutes to reenter the real world.

I don’t hate my job. I don’t hate working. I’ve just reached the point in my life when I am ready to move on from the career and to the retirement phase of life. I would even take the ability to work from home. Actually, I think I’ve always been at this point. I would have gladly been a stay at home dad if it had been feasible for our family. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never been a career focused person. I do my job to the best of my ability and I do apply for new jobs/promotions when they come up, but I’ve always been someone who would quit to stay at home if given the opportunity. I think this got more pronounced toward the end of my time at the jail. Corrections has a 20 year retirement, so I spent the last few years of my time at the jail watching people I worked with retire knowing that I still had 10-15 years left. I’m closer now, but not close enough.

So, I head back to work today but I would much rather be one of the people who have the ability to spend their morning with friends at Panera instead of heading off to another day at the job. Reentry is hard.

Happy Birthday to Me

As I started thinking about what to write in my very narcissistic post wishing myself a happy birthday some lyrics from a new Ryan Hamilton & the Traitors song popped in to my head: I’m still not clean, and I’m not sober, I’m just a little bit smarter and a whole lot older” While I am clean and I am sober(usually) I am pretty smart and I am a whole lot older. 

A lot has happened since my last birthday. I changed jobs, leaving the place I had worked for 15 years. I lost my mom. I went to California and went para sailing and lived to tell about it. The United States lost its mind and elected Donald Trump as president. Only two  of those things listed(I said a lot and listed a few. Maybe I’m not so smart) are a  positive and one of the positives(the new job) had some negatives(leaving friends). Hopefully, this upcoming year will be one where the positives outweigh the negatives.

It’s hard to believe that it’s now been 30 years since I turned 18. My 30 year high school reunion is this summer. How did that happen? I don’t feel like I could be 48. Sure, I’m tired more now. I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. I spend a lot more time at home and hardly any time at all “out on the town.” But I don’t feel old. I just feel boring. Maybe in my case they are the same thing. Maybe I should work on that.

I am inching closer and closer to an empty nest, 50 years old and soon after, retirement. I hope I am inching closer and closer to being a 50 year old empty nester/retiree who spends his time doing fun, active things and not one that watches a lot of TV alone. So, my goal as a 48 year old is to be a 48 year old who does more fun things out of the house. My goal is to be a 48 year old who makes the effort to see his friends he left at his old branch so they remain his friends(if y’all are reading this let’s have coffee/drinks sometime). My goal is to be a 48 year old who is an inspiration and not a cautionary tale. But, my immediate goal for my 4 day weekend(thank you HCLS for birthday leave!) is to eat a lot of free food I got for signing up for restaurant email lists.

 

Am I Getting Too Old For This?

I was thinking about my upcoming personal schedule and I’m tired just thinking about it. I work today 11-9, tomorrow 9-5, Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 1-5. Thursday night/Friday morning from midnight to 7am I will be at church acting as a monitor for the winter relief homeless shelter. I will come home, try to sleep while my family is home and then, Friday night, go to a friends house and probably stay out too late. I then work 7 days in a row Saturday to Friday, leave work at 3 on Friday to drive home, pick up my daughter and head to church to leave for a youth weekend retreat in Ocean City. We get back in time to stay up late again to watch the Super Bowl and then get up Monday morning to start the work thing all over again, including my speed friending event at my old branch that may or may not get any attendees. I guess maybe mid to late month I might get a chance to just relax. I think I’m getting too old for all of this. I should retire.

The upcoming youth group trip started me thinking about the difference between when I first started working with a youth group and now. My daughter doesn’t believe me when I say the kids in the youth group I worked with at our old church actually liked me. She’s just kidding, but there is a big difference in then and now. When I was first asked to help with the youth group at my old church I was a 26 year old with no kids of my own. I was closer in age to the teenagers than I was to their parents. I was willing to stay up all night at lock-ins, play football, capture the flag, etc. I’m still willing to do all of that. I’m just old, tired and fat now. I also spent more time with the kids back then. I wasn’t just occasionally going on a trip with them. I was teaching Wednesday night Bible study and/or middle school Sunday school, so I saw the kids on a regular basis. It also helped that I was not related to anyone on the group. The dynamic is different when you are a younger adult volunteering than when you are someone’s dad. I still have difficulty adjusting to this new reality of being a random chaperone and not something more.

So, the moral of this post is that I am old and tired and need to stop thinking so much.