jakebe: (Default)
Last Thursday I celebrated my 35th birthday. If I'm lucky, this puts me squarely in the territory of early middle age. That means that for the most part, I'm starting to have fewer days ahead of me than there are behind. It's a sobering thought, but not a depressing one.
Unlike most I really don't mind getting older. I think older people rule -- they have a depth of knowledge and experience that can only be obtained one way, have learned what's really important and what might not be worth paying attention to, have grown comfortable living in their own skin. I feel that happening to me as the days tick by; I keep learning new things, experiencing more things that I can compare to my previous experiences, and am more able to learn and accept my limitations. All of the regrets I have, instead of sending me into a paralyzing depression, are valuable lessons that help me strive for the ideals I treasure and the standards I've set for myself. I've made so many mistakes, and I continue to do so. But that is part of the imperfection that is my birthright.
I still have a long way to go before I feel like I'm where I want to be, but maybe it will always be that way. Maybe that's what life is; a constant running towards a set of moving goalposts. And I know how futile that might sound, but it's actually exciting -- the goalposts only move once you've reached them to find they're a signpost to the next thing. The idea that I'm standing in a place that was a goal somewhere in my 20s (stable job, self-confidence, a loving husband, a support network of smart, honest friends) is wonderful; and the idea that somewhere down the line, I'll be that much further along towards places I'm only beginning to think are possible now is simply wondrous.
I've learned a lot this year -- not only about myself, but about the world around me. I'm taking great strides in learning about my fear and overcoming it, and that is opening up an exciting range of new possibilities. I can sit with my discomfort far better than ever, which means I'm more willing to push through new experiences that make me feel stupid or uncertain (that means pretty much any new experience basically). I've learned that I probably have ADHD, and the treatment for that allows me to be focused and organized in ways I never thought I was capable of. I own a car, can drive all over town, and have (slowly and painfully) learned how to stop impulse buying. (Mostly.)
I've become more engaged with the world, both politically and personally. That engagement has pushed me further to the left at a time when it feels like my country is becoming more and more selfish, alienated and conservative. It's more important to me than ever to try and connect people, to value understanding and compassion, even as it feels more hopeless and certain that we're all going to die fighting for the few stunted scraps that will grow in polluted soil and poisoned water. I feel more passionate about the best of humanity even when I'm almost certain we will succumb to our own demons.
It reminds me of this parable: in the afterlife, all of us sit at a long table groaning under the weight of a tremendous feast. There are long forks attached to our left hand, long spoons fixed to our right. If we're in hell, we cannot possibly feed ourselves; the utensils are way too long to bring the food to our mouths. If we're in heaven, we're feeding each other; we're alleviating the suffering of our fellow man and accepting the charity of others. It's the same exact situation -- the only thing that changes is our reaction to it.
I want to devote my life to helping other people, however I can. I want to spend the time I have left helping people to understand themselves and one another, to feel less alone, to encourage them towards caring for themselves, their community and their world. I want to take all of the misery I've experienced and use it to ground myself in compassion for those who are having difficulty. I want to encourage active, positive change.
The personal is the political, of course, and vice versa. I believe that the best way to change the way our society operates is by reminding the people in it what their values are, and encouraging them to pursue that in a way that betters themselves and their fellow human beings. We can do this even if we hold different values in higher esteem. We can do this without judgment or hatred for our differences. We can feed our fellow humans whatever they want, and be glad to do it. That is what heaven looks like to me.
At the age of 35, these are my ideals. I know I will fail to live up to them; I know they might change by the time I reach 45, or 55, or 65. But that's fine. What I do today will be the foundation for what I will have built in the next decade or two, and it's taken me a while to realize just what that means. If I want to make sure that I'm one of those kick-ass old men who are smart and certain and passionate, then I'm going to have to build myself into that right now. One goal at a time, one day at a time, one small act at a time.

33

Aug. 5th, 2013 01:00 pm
jakebe: (Thoughtful)

When I was 13 years old, I decided that I wanted to be a UFOlogist. I had discovered the existence of this profession by watching episodes of Sightings every Friday night and reading OMNI Magazine, and I thought it was the most awesome thing to get paid for studying phenomena related to UFO sightings and alien abductions. I had been reading various case files and "non-fiction" books about alien abductions for a year or so, and I knew that's what I wanted to do with my life.


Before that, I had vague designs of being a writer. My mother had an old electric typerwriter that I banged out stories on; one of my very first projects was a sequel to my favorite book, The Wind in the Willows. I'm so glad that we didn't have the Internet back then, or else I'm sure I would have been one of the first people rabidly arguing whether or not someone's fan-fiction was a worthy addition to some communal cannon that had been established.


My obsession with UFOs took a long time to die. But by the time I was 16 I had gotten a hold of All Creatures Great and Small, and a new feverish passion took hold. The heady promise of youth had already begun to fade for me; I went from being a 'gifted and talented' student to a distinctly mediocre one, and that loss of my identity of being "the smartest kid in the room" had yet to be replaced by something else. When I read Herriott's account of rural veterinary medicine, I began to rebuild myself in his image. I wanted to be dedicated to the well-being of animals and people, officially a vet but unofficially a therapist, a friend, this big community organizer. I couldn't believe that you could get paid to do that, either.


That dream died when I took my first biology lab course, and when I discovered how insanely competitive any sort of medical field would be. I interned for an actual vet over the summer, and he turned out to be a Dr. House-type; he had burned his left leg very badly in an accident, dependent on painkillers and snark to get him through the day. When I had to take my dog to him to have her put to sleep, that was the final straw. I knew I couldn't do that. I just didn't have the stomach for it.


So I thought I would be a playwright. I became a double major in Theatre and English, changed my wardrobe from flannel to black everything, painted my fingernails, wore a pentacle necklace. I wanted to be a voice from the wilderness, a conduit for the forest and wild places to enter civilization through art. Then I found out just how extroverted and gregarious you had to be to make it anywhere in the world of theatre; high art has plenty of egos, and if you're not putting on a show all the time it's almost impossible to stand out. The identities I had constructed for myself were crumbling faster and faster; after a couple years in college, I lost my religion, my idea of my sexuality, my family almost simultaneously. It was too much, so I dropped out.


It took several years in Arkansas to even begin rebuilding. I followed a relationship to Fayetteville, and that didn't work out. I tried reconstructing myself again and again, trying on different personalities, flailing around to see who I was. It wasn't until I met Ryan that I found an anchor, learned how to be still and stopped trying to become someone. I learned how to discover who I was, who I had been this whole time.


Tomorrow morning I'll have been on this planet for 33 years. I'm nowhere near who I expected I would be: at first I thought I would be someone brilliant, a multi-hyphenate who excelled at everything he touched. But the problem with folks who have things come easy to them is that they never learn to work at something, so the moment they come up against some resistance they fold because they've never developed stamina. It's something I'm still making up for, even after all this time.


I thought I would be a writer, a scientist, a UFOlogist, a playwright, a veterinarian, a missionary, a monk, a mystic. It turns out I'm just this rabbit. ;) And a husband, to a wonderful man. The pieces of every dream I've ever had still resides within me, repurposed for use with who I've come to be. I'm happy that my life hasn't turned out the way I thought it would. It's been so much better.


Now, I get to apply the lessons of over three decades of living towards the next year, just to see how good I can make it. I know how to take whatever comes, be grateful for what I have, be patient with myself as I continue to discover and refine myself. There's a lot more stamina and strength within me that I can use whenever I need it. And there's so much experience that I can use to be compassionate towards whomever I meet. That's why it's wonderful getting older. You get smarter, wiser, more experienced and comfortable. I still have a long, long way to go in my development, but I'm so happy with the progress I've made and the man who grounds me.


All in all, it's been a pretty great life. I'm really looking forward to seeing what it looks like a year from now.
jakebe: (Writing)
It's been a little while since I've made a journal post about what's going on in my life, and I'd really like to, so I thought I would.

Mostly, it's been the same thing: work, exercise, TV and movies, hanging out with friends, and making incremental progress on the same goals I've had for the last few years. It's routine, and honestly not *that* exciting, but it's a good life and I like it. I've shifted my focus over time to making it as best a life as I can. At this point in my development, I realize that the loftiest goals might be a bit beyond me. I don't expect to be a famous writer, or a gifted public speaker, or a wise Zen master. That's fine. I do expect to be a better friend, a wiser person, a more eloquent speaker and writer, and more comfortable with myself. Those are easier goals to meet, and it's kind of a big deal that I made the switch. Gone are the lofty, vague dreams of childhood, where I had limitless potential and boundless energy with which to achieve it. Now, I'm not lamenting my wasted potential, and I've shifted my focus to see just how much I can push myself from where I am.

That's not to say I don't still have goals. I *do* want to become a writer, and I'm working on making progress towards that end. It's slow, but sure. As usual, the biggest obstacle I have in my way is discipline and courage. I make these grand plans at the beginning of the week -- "I will write for at least one hour every day this week" -- and I slowly wittle away those expectations until, by the end of it, I'm consoling myself with finishing an e-mail that took me all week to write and promising myself that I'll do better next week.

I think the trouble here is I'm a morning person. I really am. If I could get up and have an hour before work to get in some solid writing, I'd be a happy camper, but that's unmanageable with the schedule I have. My energy level and focus goes down until I'm at the point where I just want to play video games or watch TV by 9 p.m. I haven't discovered a way to stay sharp through the day, so that by the time I get home I'm ready to dive right in to a short story. Maybe that's something that comes with practice, and what I really need to do is push through the fatigue and write (badly) anyway.

Finally, there's the matter of my inner critic. I have the terrible habit of self-editing while I'm writing, which makes me double back and rewrite every sentence two or three times before I'm ready to move on. I have yet to find a way to consistently shut him up enough to just plow through a shitty first draft, stuff something in a drawer for a while, and then come back to it for the edit. I'm sure there's a way to do it. Again, the thing I'm imagining works best is just shutting up and doing it anyway.

I'm also spotty with exercise, though I really enjoy it. When work is really demanding, I come home tired, but always feel better after lifting weights or running or whatever it is I decide to do. Where I keep falling down is the diet.

I have a tremendous sweet tooth. I love cookies, pastries, cakes, pies, candies, chocolate, whatever I can get my little paws on, chances are I'll eat. I've been trying to train myself away from the worst offenders (chocolate bars, buttery pastries, cakes) and replacing them with stuff that's still not great, but at the very least better. Jelly beans and those little gummi raspberries and blackberries are my new best friends. :) That's worked out pretty well, but I still have a tendency to browse that just deep-sixes me.

Overall, though, things haven't been too bad. I tend to focus on the negative, what I could be doing better, just because I'm actively trying to *be* better. For the first time in a long time, I have the mental capital for it, and I'm really excited about taking advantage of it.

There's this saying that's stuck with me ever since I heard it: "Who you are is what you've done in the past, and who you'll be is what you're doing right now." It's a great reminder that in order to be the person I've always wanted to be, all I have to do is change my behavior right now, in this moment. Make the decision that makes me wiser, or more grateful, or more thoughtful. Be more organized. Follow through on goals I've set. Try harder to do what I find worthwhile. There is no time like the present for all of that.

So yes, I'm doing much the same thing I've always been doing, but also trying to forment a quiet revolution in my way of thinking and handling things. It's working, at least I hope it is.

In other news, I had an absolutely fantastic birthday week. :) Ryan was kind enough to get me a DSi and Peggle: Dual Shot; my dragon knows me too well. On Thursday we went out to Black Angus for steak, and then we hooked up with Cooner and his brother for drinks at our favorite neighborhood watering hole, Adam's Apple New Jersey's. On Friday we watched Funny People, which *was* pretty funny, but also a little depressing and about 30 minutes too long.

Saturday was busy. We went to Brokken and Jonny's housewarming/birthday party, which was an absolute blast. There I met a delightful couple (AngelBunny and M-Tiger, I believe), and had one of the best shishkebabs ever. Also, Bolt made a special appearance. Must have been expensive to get. :) After that, there was my birthday dinner at the Duke of Edinburgh, which was attended by way more people than I thought would come. Thanks an awful bunch guys, for showing up and helping me get trashed. :D

On Sunday we headed back to the movie theatre for a double feature of The Perfect Getaway and GI Joe; both were surprisingly fun. I'm worried Getaway won't be seen by enough folks, especially because it has Milla Jovovich, but if you're in the mood for a good, smart thriller, I'd recommend giving it a try. I'm also in love with the new GI Joe power armor. Ryan had mentioned imagining that buff lion-men were doing everything instead of just guys in suits, though, and he's right; it makes the movie *twenty* times better. :)

Sunday evening was full of KOTOR, and I made significant progress with my time on Tattooine. I finally managed to get those stupid Sand People the water vaporisers they need, so they would stop attacking people on sight, and Mission finally met up with her brother Griff. Griff is a giant asshat.

Finally, there was True Blood, which is just a gem of a show if you guys aren't watching it. Last night's episode featured what was probably the crowning moment of Jason Stackhouse's young, stupid life and the near-resolution of the whole Dallas arc. But, if you aren't watching, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, right? ;)

Now I'm at work, just getting ready to clock in. For a Monday, it's not going to be a bad day. I can feel it.
jakebe: (Default)
It's [livejournal.com profile] bloofox's birthday! If you're stuck for a present, he especially loves being a fox, and especially hard math problems. Just treat him foxily and bring up a nugget of higher mathematics, and you're set!

It's the higher math that's giving me trouble, but happy birthday anyway. :) You're awesome, and I'm very glad that you were born today, however many years ago.
jakebe: (Default)
For [livejournal.com profile] toob's birthday dinner, we went to Maggiano's, which is apparently an Italian family-style dining restaurant. One or two appetizers are ordered and brought out in quantities big enough for the whole table, then the salads, and then the pastas, and then the entrees...so forth and so on, right down to dessert. It was some of the best Italian food I have ever had in life; the stuffed mushrooms were make-you-weep-for-their-beauty good, and that was some of the tastiest chicken saltimbocca ever. Usually most places I've ordered from think that dousing the chicken in a whole vat of liquid salt for 24 hours is the way to make it, but these guys had the perfect blending of ham, chicken, sauce and cheese. Add creme brulee and tiramisu, and you've got yourself a great dinner. :)

Afterwards, we went to see the new Coen bros. movie, No Country for Old Men. I could totally see how this movie would really piss off a lot of people, but I really liked it. I think being told something about the structure of the movie helped me reset my expectations for it, so I wasn't quite as jarred and peeved when it went down the way it did. That's all I'll say for now, really.

We got to see Futurama: Bender's Big Score today too! Wonderful movie. Any fan of the show should love this one. It was an awesome day all around, really. Tomorrow promises to be cool as well: I shall use my Borders coupon to buy the Twin Peaks Gold Collection DVD box set. All shall be right with the world.

Tomorrow starts another week of work, which I don't mind. :) I'm getting more comfortable with the position all the time, and having people (hopefully) well from various illnesses should certainly make things easier. Of course, it'll help if I'm well-rested for it, so I'd better get my happy ass to bed. Good night.

P.S. - Kwitcherbitching about LJ already. We GET it. Censorship bad.

All right, I know that incorporating the ability for someone else to flag your personal journal as inappropriate for minors is one step closer to Orwellian thought-crime, and yes, it is pretty obnoxious. But out of all of these scads of posts of people decrying the move, I have yet to hear one person come up with a good alternative. 6Apart is caving to pressure from religious groups or lazy parents or whatever, yes, but still...think about it from their perspective. They're just trying not to get sued somewhere down the line, and given how vocal the community is about every change that's being made here (a lot of the complaints are legit, too), I think they're going to be pretty sensitive about making any changes as non-intrusive as possible. They *know* better.

Personally, I would like to believe that we can censor ourselves, and that parents can be responsible in where their children go and what they're exposed to. But unfortunately, not everyone shares that view, so what can be done? Is there a system that makes it easy for 'adult' material to be blocked from minor's eyes that doesn't involve making each and every journal post vulnerable to busybodies and hyper-sensitive people? Let's hear it! If you were running the company, how would *you* handle this situation?

OK, now I'm really going to go to bed.
jakebe: (Default)
Happy birthday to the man who got me hopelessly entwined with the seedy world of macrophilia, [livejournal.com profile] joshuwain!

Also, happy birthday to the snazziest cat who has no resemblance at all to Joe Pantaliano but reminds me of him, anyway, [livejournal.com profile] palabrajot!

And happy belated birthday to the biggest, blackest baaaaaad mofo ever to destroy a planet, [livejournal.com profile] bfdragon!

I hope your birthdays were chock-full of all the things you like best. :)

Also, happy birthday to the new fawn of [livejournal.com profile] dancingdeer, who was welcomed into the world yesterday morning. Here's wishing good health to mother and child, and a long and happy life together.
jakebe: (Default)
Work today has been kinda sucky. Call after call after call, combined with this and that thing to do, and oh look, people are showing up at the desk ready to meet employees for lunch! I'm beginning to think I might need another set of arms to keep up, and my lunchtime can't come fast enough.

At last, I am relieved, and I make a beeline for the the cafeteria and the bistro wrap station there. Their featured dish today? Organic chicken and apple salad with dried cranberries, red onions, pecans and citrus vinaigrette. It's Thanksgiving! I get loaded up, get a cup of yogurt and tuck in. All is right with the world, and I'm pretty sure I can face the unforgiving corporate world once more. Never underestimate the power of lunch. :9

Thanks for the birthday wishes and thoughts, everyone, it really made my day. :D It was especially needed when Ryan reminded me that my *actual* age is 27 now, not 28. Apparently I was so enamored with being a 'completely new' person I couldn't wait to leave those last few stubborn cells behind. Is it wrong of me to project myself as older than I am?

Finally, please keep [livejournal.com profile] daroneasa in your thoughts. Light some incense, say some prayers, whatever you can do. :) She's going through a rough patch right now and could really use some good juju. Thanks. :)
jakebe: (Flower Bunny)
Today I will have traveled on the Earth as it revolves around the sun 28 times exactly. According to some views on the way life works, this means I will be entering my fourth incarnation, since all the cells in your body take seven years to completely renew themselves.

This current incarnation of me weighs around 170 pounds, loves wine quite a bit, loves books even more, loves [livejournal.com profile] toob even more than that, and considers service of some sort to be his life's work. I'm a lot more relaxed in my new skin than any of the others, I'm keenly aware of my flaws (I'm spacy and forgetful, I have a poor time communicating with people about the important things, I need to manage my time better) but I've forgiven myself for them as long as I keep working on them, and I'm still learning how to be properly compassionate towards my fellow man.

This me is still trying to awaken. This me has discovered how great friends are, and can't help but feel grateful for all the very awesome people he can consider among that number. This me likes to make his introspective LiveJournal posts as pretentious as possible. :)

Thanks, everyone, for your birthday wishes and Forgotten English, cards and virtual presents. I really appreciate it. :)

Happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] eselgeist, [livejournal.com profile] sukebepanda, Sir Alexander Fleming, Andy Warhol, and Lucille Ball as well. :)

Hooray!

Jun. 14th, 2007 10:21 pm
jakebe: (Default)
Happy birthday, [livejournal.com profile] blackfeather!!

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