Postponing 1989

Last night, I attended my first (and only) Christmas party for this holiday season. I had a full day at work and even went home to get out of the clothes that had the residue of impatient clients and air conditioning. My package came in for the 1989 LP that I ordered from the Ryan Adams webstore. I was tempted (level: Garden of Eden) to stay home and just lose myself in vinyl and Taylor Swift lyrics. There was a blackout at the house so I wanted to get out of the house as fast as I could before I could use it as an excuse. Darkness in its various forms make great excuses to get out of all sorts of interactions. I also wanted to be with my friends.

When I was at the party, I could feel myself leaving so that I can watch myself in the party from a safe distance. I wanted to stay in the room so I just walked around and eventually stayed with the group making ginger bread houses. I laughed and smiled and looked people in the eye. I saw them and they saw me. When I got home, the power was still out and the daytime winds made the sky so clear. Constellations looked down on me and I met their gaze while standing still. I decided that having days like these need to be remembered. Days when the depression was nowhere to be seen because I took my “medication” (SAM-e) and forgot the negative self-talk. Days like this need to be revered, too. They can show up like unexpected gifts. It might be an impetus to make them more common so that they become less like gifts and more like accomplishments. When they become more common, then they pile up and the remembrance and reverence fade into a new normal.

I hope that these days are not far from one another as I proceed into a new year. I’d like to commemorate more of these days when that ended with wonder instead of questions. The music in my room can wait – I apparently have things to do and people to see.

Plateaus in the valley

It’s almost been two months since my last therapy session. I ended therapy on a good note, even though it was an abrupt ending. I went as far as I could. The progress that I made was long and the beginning dissolved in the far horizon just ahead of where I think I started. I went in thinking that I needed to learn how to enter into a relationship with a woman. I came out learning how much I have lost in my early years – even now I still do the grief work of the lost childhood and acknowledging how I made myself invisible. I came out learning exponentially more about myself.

When the weather started getting colder in mid-November, I found myself sinking back into a depressive state. Although it wasn’t as bad as it used to be, it was a familiar feeling. I didn’t know what triggered the descent. Maybe it was a biological response or an unclear memory tied to this time of the year. It was a like an unexpected dip while driving in the fog. I think now that the fog will always be part of the climate of my mind and soul. It will come and go. Sometimes it will stick around and endure even an autumn sun or an ocean breeze. It easy to think that a stint in therapy (or any kind of treatment) will take you beyond the gravity of depression. It’s paradoxical that the ones who truly understand how to defeat their depression are the ones who recognize the bond they have with it. Like the bond that the moon has with the earth, we can experience depression in its weakness when it’s at its apogee, and in its terror when it’s close orbit. During this time, I try to remember to care for myself and immerse myself with things and activities I love.

I’m still working on connecting with people when I feel like this – sad for no apparent reason. I’d like to absorb a sense of their happiness through the residue of conversation or a funny joke. It’s like walking against the wind, though. Do I reach to people when I feel like this? Will they think that I only need them when I’m sad? Maybe the good friends won’t mind. I wonder if they’ll mind the long pauses in dialogue and when I stare off.

For now, the fog isn’t so bad. I can breathe it in when I’m standing still. Maybe I’ll bump into somebody.

Boogie goes to Computer School

Kings of Comedy

Boogie gettin’ schooled by Steve Harvey

This past Thursday night, I went to a info session for a web design course at General Assembly in Santa Monica. I admit that I was a bit intimidated by the people there – artistic types who already had super-Wordpress blogs, people already in the industry, American Apparel model look-a-likes who needed to get a real job, and probably a genius sitting to my right. I learned a lot about the course and what I would get out of it. The part time course that I’m interested in taking turns out to be more of an introductory class on web design. Even the course adviser said that the part-time course won’t get you job-ready to enter the web design industry. The $11,000 full-time web design immersion class will – of course. My six-figure debt load would make that immersion course out of my reach if I want to maintain a realistic financial path to “recovery.” Recovery here means being able to pay the bare minimum of loan payments without having to decide between food and making the monthly payment.

I want to learn web design. So far, I’m reading books and trying it on my own through Dash (GA’s HTML web tool). I’m actually enjoying myself as I learn. Maybe in a few months, I’ll know enough to start building my own website. About what, I have no idea. I just know that as tech becomes more widespread and tech skills become more valued by employers, it would be a good idea to learn this stuff. Plus, it would be nice to have a job that actually interests me!

I’m going to try this thing out and give it my best effort. Who knows where it will lead me? Maybe, I’ll meet Boogie – that lovable spectator from The Original Kings of Comedy.

Going back to go forward

I gave my last week’s notice to my temp agency this week. I found a job at the company where I got laid off back in December 2013. On my second “tour” of this job (2012), I didn’t have any grand purpose in life. I just wanted to work and go home, listen to music, and maybe watch a movie every once in a while. I was doing nothing. I felt like nothing. Most importantly, I felt lost spiritually and I had lost my love of playing the guitar. I just consumed and consumed and produced very little. I remember talking to a close friend during this time of my life and she said that I was spiritually, emotionally, and mentally constipated. She was right. Fortunately, I can say that I’m more regular these days.

When I start this new job at an old company, it will be in a different context. I’ve recently discovered an interest in web development and I’ve been doing initial research on what it takes to do it, who does it, and what they’re doing now. I feel some hope that I can actually change the trajectory of my career path towards something with more meaning connected to a dormant creative force within me. This job is not a vehicle to get me to do nothing. It will be platform in which I can support myself as I explore a possible new passion and pursuit. There’s something comfortable about going into something unknown in a gradual way, like walking into morning fog.

This idea of going back to something familiar while being different emerged during a recent therapy session. We discussed how my return to living with my parents (when I got laid off in 2013) was my way of trying to figure out the problems that have been with me since childhood. I had to go home so I can learn to leave in a way that made sense and reflected a true sense of progression. I’ve left home before to live on my own but I still brought with me my past – with my parents, problems, and pressures. I resonated with this idea when I first heard it because it’s so true. If I really wanted to, I could’ve stayed with a friend for a few months or maybe even live in my car (which is getting harder to do in Orange County). Instead, I found myself at home with familiar smells while living with people that I really didn’t know and who really didn’t know me (even though they think they do). Even though so many of my peers live on their own, I don’t think that they have experienced the expansion of self-knowledge and insight that I have been through in 2014. Suffering seems to produce a wisdom that never leaves you even when you get everything you want.

Friday fuck off

I walked into the office today with a sense of dread of what awaited me on my paper-laden desk and cluttered email inbox. Much of what I had to do today was put off for about two days. I put off these tasks with a bowl of oatmeal – cinnamon and brown sugar added – and a cup of tea. I don’t think I’ll ever get these things done and I scour my inbox for easier tasks to finish while I plan my escape or daydream about the day when I’m terminated from employment. Microsoft Outlook has no windows – it is a pixelated prison cell for the unambitious.

The two hours that elapse when I take my break are filled with prayer and curses. They are desperate and serene. The patio furniture and potted plants conceal me from my co-workers who play video games on their phones and smoke flavored vapor. The smartphone that threatens to slip from my hand burns my eyes with baby pictures and statuses about new jobs and cleanse diets. I slip my phone back into pocket and slip back into my cubicle and pretend like I didn’t take a 30 minute break. I am honing my skill at wasting time.
Who can survive $18 an hour, air-conditioned oxygen, and work redundancies? The desperate and serene, remember? If you want to join the ranks of this special community, you’ll have to refrain from certain activities. I’ll explore them in the coming weeks. I’ll start with this: listen to your parents’ expectations and plans for your life. If you want to join the restless and directionless workforce, then do what I just said. You will end up sitting in similar patio furniture while shaded by potted plants. Just remember to not sit near me. I like my patio furniture for myself.

The Tempin Point

I start my new temp job tomorrow at an insurance company owned by a large food distribution company. This job came just in time because I will be getting my last unemployment benefits check this week. I’ve already gone through my 6-month allotment for this year because I wasn’t able to find a job since I got laid off in December 2013.

I think it would amaze to find out what people do for money once their unemployment runs out. I’ve heard of so many people who have had to take jobs that were outside their intended fields of employment or previous educational background. English majors working at Starbucks and people with master’s degrees – like me – who have had to take jobs that have no room for growth or fulfillment. Now that this is the norm, I do feel a bit of a relief that I don’t have to feel so ashamed of my circumstances because so many people share them. We’re all just surviving but how do people grow when only money, food, and shelter are on our minds?

My resumes continue to be emailed and job positions on mental health agencies are added to my list. I apply and wait. These days, I’m also considering of shelving my plans of becoming a therapist with a community mental health position that would put me at the forefront of therapeutic methodologies. Maybe I can revisit these plans in 5-10 years when life is stable enough to launch such an endeavor. For now, I think I can get by with this job and I might even reconnect with some friends in the title insurance industry to find a more permanent job. I know that when I get a permanent job, I have to use my time more wisely and do a lot of soul-searching to discover what I really want to do and to do the research.

Smells like Taco Bell

For the past 3 months or so, I’ve made a habit of going to the libraries near my home but I’m at the Anaheim Central Library more than the others. I tell myself that I’m going to write a thousand words and make some kind of progress towards my insane idea of writing a novel. When I do get there, I end up reading articles on Flipboard about the decaying state of Iraq and when the iPhone 6 will be released. After I’ve had my fill of news I move on to whatever novel I’m reading at the moment (currently is Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris). While I’m reading I am amazed by what people can do with words about normal, everyday things. Sometimes, I read On Writing by Stephen King and try to remember some of the things he writes about. Mostly, I remember how funny he is about himself and what he does. When I read stuff from Michael Chabon or Walter Mosley, I think “who do you think you are to try and write a novel like them?” But then Stephen King tells me that it’s okay to be just a good writer because greatness is so rare.

When I’m at a standstill with my writing, I look around and see who’s around. I see the usual people who are probably in here everyday from the moment the library opens to when they lock the automatic sliding doors that take too long to open when you approach them. There’s this one guy who eats tacos from Taco Bell in a small group meeting room where the Wi-Fi signal is strongest. When he’s done, he puts his head down and takes a nap. He’s to my right as I type right now. There’s another guy just outside the meeting room who has brought what looks to be half the contents of his refrigerator. He’s taking up two work desks with the following items: loaf of bread (wheat), mayonnaise, lunch meat, Tupperware containers, Snapple bottle (half-finished, strawberry-kiwi), piles of books, file folders in a paper grocery bag, and a large jacket. That table is his and most likely goes unclaimed when he is not there, which is probably rare.

When I feel like just reading, I sit at the tables in a corner that overlooks the corner of Lincoln and Harbor. The light is good and the Taco Bell aroma is absorbed by the non-fiction section before it can ever reach me. Every once in a while, there’s this older gentlemen who has a stack of political action thrillers and sci-fi novels. It’s just one stack and it reaches to the top of his head when he’s sitting. Why can’t he make two stacks and ease the distribution of weight on the table? Does he think he can go through all those books in one day? Where did he get those rainbow suspenders? Would I look good in them?  I haven’t seen him in a while.

There are other regulars that I pass on my way to my regular desk at the Taco Bell meeting room. The homeless guys who sleep in the chairs by the art section, an Asian lady who sits at a desk in the middle of the room, the old married couples that sit in the room where the fiction section begins, the middle aged men who read newspapers, high school students making out. I guess they probably recognize me by now, too.

This library is a sanctuary. I think the reason I come to his library is similar to why these people come. We’re trying to escape or avoid something. Heat stroke, angry parents, unemployment, house chores, commitments, purpose, or boredom. I come here because I have to get away from the house and to keep from feeling listless. When I get home from the library, I remember that I’ll do this again tomorrow. Before the day ends, I apply for a few jobs because that’s all part of escaping, too. It’s comforting to know that I can belong to a group of people who are so different from me and from one another. I hope I remember this place and the people when I find a job. I want to remember that being lost is being in the company of great authors and people who eat fast food in small rooms.

Write your wrongs

It’s been about 6 months since I first became unemployed. At this point, I have gone through the full spectrum of emotions that one would have while searching for a job. The spectrum is even wider as I’ve searched for purpose and desire for what I want to do.  There are days that I doubt my accomplishments and there are more days where I regret going to grad school. The burden of debt that will get heavier with time has become a given for me and I no longer worry about its existence.  There are days, too, where I relish the freedom that goes along with the search for purpose. I face the day with no expectation.

This freedom is makes me afraid because there is no hiding.  I can’t hide behind people’s expectations, cultural obligations, or external circumstances.  I am responsible for what I do for the day.  In the past few months, I’ve started to write more regularly. I hope that this writing will extract something – a desires or a direction. Music has also been a more regular part of my life. I practice on a semi-daily basis and my skill level has brought me to a new place of possibility and a new appreciation for the intricacy of music.  The freedom of artistic development has also brought anxiety to an already rigid mind.  I find myself regularly worried about the future: money, relationships, actually being an adult. Of course, I regularly doubt my talent despite the gracious compliments from friends and strangers.  I don’t know how this will end. I think I just have to accept it and maybe through its acceptance it will paradoxically vanish.

I think I still have hope that things will work out or that I will come to a place in my head and heart where I accept the hardships of life that seem to characterize adult life in post-9/11, post-economic-decline, life.

The Things I Learned by Being Late

I should’ve been a watch repair man because I have always been pre-occupied with time.  When I was a kid, I knew that the Power Rangers were on at 4pm and that re-runs of Fresh Prince of Bel Air were at 7pm (new episodes were on Mondays at 8pm).  Since then, I have unwittingly lived life on a schedule.  I took college-prep classes in high school and went to a 4-year university.  I got jobs that revolved around numbers, time tables and deadlines.  I went to work every day, went to lunch, braved traffic and went home.  This past year, this schedule has proven to be unviable.

As I’ve sought to live life according to a schedule, the algebraic equations I had in my head did not balance out.

happiness equation

This equation obviously did not come to balance because of untimely events and variables that I didn’t even consider.  Inevitably, the failure of this equation may have contributed to me being late and sometimes completely absent to events that should’ve occurred.

I have a master’s degree, but I was late in discovering that education is not an entitlement to success.  It has become part of American lore that higher education is the primary – if not the sole – path to success in life.  Because of social media, I’ve been given a glimpse into the lives of friends from high school.  Some of these friends were not honor students and did not go to a reputable university.  But they have found fulfillment in a creative venture or other fulfilling occupation that goes beyond financial benefits and is not bound by formulaic expectations.  These people are living proof of the incompleteness of our educational system and that they are more than test scores and statistics.

I was late in discovering that love is not on a timer.  I was with a woman who hated the hour signal beep on my watch that sounded whenever we’d be out on a date.  I’d immediately note the time and betray a look of anxiety about the things I had to do at work the next day or whether we’d be locked inside a parking lot.  Ultimately, it meant that I valued those trivial things over her in the present.  She seemed to embody this mysterious idea of time’s simultaneous continuity and abruptness.  I later discovered that her name is an anagram for the Hebrew concept meaning “to pause and listen”.  Love, then, is a stopping of time.  It is no wonder that men and women have fallen in love in their teens and in the twilight of their brief lives.   When love enters our lives, it compels us to evaluate our path and glean some lesson from the rushing streams of busy-ness that pass by.  The pause gives weight to the present, clarity of the past and hopeful anticipation for the future.

Since love is not on a timer, it’s a little bit easier to be single when culture says that you should not.  I can notice the pauses more easily.  The silence of the pause builds the excitement of the melody that is to come.  The pause also allows me to see and hear things that can rush by others without notice.  It’s easier to value independence and the inward journeys brought on by unnoticed introversion.  Because of this, we value the person not because of some connection to someone else, but for their intrinsic worth that is not diminished by a connection or lack thereof.

I am late in finding purpose that pours into spiritual development.  I know that this is now out of my control but not outside of my responsibility.  I can find ways to discover the real things that give me fulfillment and tap into the abilities that others around me see but to which I am blind.  God, too, is not on our timer.  For some reason, he lets me know that something good will come out of my impatience, rigidity, and self-betraying decision-making.  Being late is not going to be the end of the world.

It’s strange to be writing about timeliness as a Filipino.  We are infamous for our perception of time, i.e., being late.  This different perception has allowed me to question our relation to time.  We don’t have to be bound by it.  Whether our notion of time was thrust upon us by Roman emperors or our personal expectations, we can pause.  If this causes us to be late, then that just means we will be welcomed by applause from those who came on time and who longed for us to join them.

Tempin’ ain’t easy

Yesterday, I had a interview for a temp job for a fire protection company in the commercial district in Irvine.  It seemed like a good job and I saw a lot of young people in the cubicles which looked like a good sign.  However, the assignment was only for a couple of weeks.  I’m probably going to end up turning the assignment down because it’s just too short.  

I’ve started playing music again, which is great.  I’v lost the daily routine of playing my guitar and learning songs throughout my time at my last job.  That’s how bad that job was – it seemed to sap the energy to do the thing I love to do.  

Check out my new Fender guitar amp:

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