Author: Jordan D Robinson

I am infinitely complex, but pretty laid back. I love DMB & I'm the Executive Assistant for a martial arts Grandmaster. I also do TKD and Capoeira, so I rock

2016 Retrospective and 2017: 希望

Well holy shit.  I just read through my 2015 recap and it was all kinds of hopeful.  Needless to say, 2016 was another shit year but in totally different ways.

Before I get started allow me to explain my months of absence: I sold out.  Yes, in what was one of the positive developments this year, I’m currently a Staff Writer for a website called http://www.List25.com.  I’ve been there for about four months now and I meant to let y’all know officially much sooner, but I wanted to get some posts under my belt and then, life got really, really busy, and I haven’t been back.  Obviously I am back at the moment, but I can’t promise much consistency here because, frankly, I have a hard enough time keeping up with my post requirement over there.  However, I’m not quitting here.  I’m just not going to commit to frequent posts for now.  That being the case, you should subscribe, so when I do post, you can come look!  And meantime go visit me on List25.com and check out my ultra-cool bio on the “about” page ( http://list25.com/about/ .)

screenshot-2016-12-31-23-22-58Enough shameless pluggery, let’s talk about sucky years.  2015, as mentioned in last year’s post, was a hard, hard year.  Uber was fun but I barely got by.  By the end I had found my new workplace, and was feeling pretty good.  Well, 2016 continued the workplace success,
and then some.  Not only am I writing part-time, but my full-time job is paying for accounting classes to further expand and refine my skills.  This is a great benefit, and I’m grateful for it.  It’s also probably a good thing my social life is more or less nonexistent.

Yeah, for just under half of the year I was something I really, really shouldn’t be for long periods of time: Alone.  While you all know I’ve been single for literally a decade (as of this last November,)  I have, for most of those years benefitted from either a relatively close-knit friend group, or a somewhat regular “companion”, or both.  But as of around July this last year, both got very quiet, and I honestly grew pretty bitter about it.

I’ll vent, briefly, and then move on because this is not meant to be a rant.  But I feel like some people use words like “friend”, “always”, and especially “love” far too loosely.  I don’t, and I understand that individuals assign different levels of meaning to them.  But when somebody promises they’ll always be there, part of me tried to believe a couple years later they still will be.  And if they tell me they love me… well, if I’ve ever said that to anyone, they could more or less call on me years later and I would do my best to accommodate.   So I guess coming out of 2014-2015, when my life made its first major shift before shifting again in 2106 and finally settling down, I just expected some of those friendships that had been built over years to endure more.  When many didn’t, and I had already grown dark because life had worn me down, it just made me more resentful and bitter towards those that made claims they simply weren’t willing to back up.

I get it.  People grow, and change and move on to new phases, but that doesn’t mean you forget who your friends were.  What they meant to you and what they did for you.  You don’t get to just write off years of experiences without reason.

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Not totally alone. 🙂

That’s not to say there weren’t those who didn’t have their reasons, myself included.  That’s also not to say that some people didn’t step up (or at least try.)  I’ve joked in person that I have like… two friends now.  But when I think about it, that’s not true.  I still have a ton of friends, we’re just distant, and spread out, and belong to different groups.  All of that is okay, and if any of you are reading this, I probably think about you, and I would probably, very easily pick up right where we left off.  I’ve been busy too, so I haven’t been super proactive in social settings.  (Even tonight a friend invited me out to a New Year’s party last minute and I declined.  I’m exhausted.  But it’s nice to know you’ve got somewhere to go.)

Speaking of, I really do appreciate those people who have hung in there through the years, and who came back on radar, whether randomly or because they knew I needed company.  It was because of them, my job going well,  and a few new people that have recently popped up, that I’ve been able to make it through the remaining months of the shit-show that’s been 2016 and not move away to a distant mountain in New Zealand (that was a very serious consideration post-election night…)

Speaking of the election.  Fucking humans.  I KNEW he would be elected.  Hell, I knew it before he even officially announced he was running.  But I prayed, and begged, and pleaded that just this once I could be wrong about something like that.  That people would recognize the absolutely horrible and absurd concepts that are becoming disturbingly normalized and think that no matter HOW much they bought into the carefully-crafted hatred of Hillary, they couldn’t possibly elect an insecure, belligerent, hateful, lying, monster of a man like Trump to lead and represent the United States on the world scene.  YOU HAD ONE JOB.  And now, a very large shadow looms over the incoming year(s).

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He’s had a lot of playtime.

There were, I think, three times this year, when I did my best to stifle the disdain and contempt for humanity that has steadily grown in me.  When things felt like they might be okay, and I could try to discard my emotionless, robotic manner in order to have a better attitude about things and maybe have a little hope.   Election time was one of those times, and obviously it was swiftly and utterly crushed.  There was another time before that, and one since then in which it lasted a day or two at most before I felt it was a lost cause and retreated back to the all too familiar darkness that’s grown comfortable.

But now a new year is upon us and I’m going to try again, and I’m going to try harder.  My foundation finally appears to be set, and those who have stuck by are being joined by a few new faces that will undoubtedly multiply.  The path for this year can initially go one of two different ways, and the first few days of 2017 will decide which of those paths I will start down.  Either is a path of growth and personal development, and more importantly; 希望 cheers(kibō) the Japanese word for hope.  With Carrie Fisher among the last of the many icons 2016 took from us, it seems appropriate that this is my sole, general resolution.  I’m going to try to be, and remain, hopeful in the face of whatever setbacks and obstacles come at me in 2017.

“When you defend your ideas in public, you then have to make an effort to  live accordingly.”  – The Manual of The Warrior of the Light. (Paulo Coelho)

Happy New Year Everyone!

A little perspective after a long time

*Note: There are some elements of this entry that some may find disturbing, or possibly even trigger-worthy.  Read (or don’t) with caution if you are the sensitive type.

I know, I know… I’ve been gone a long time.  Life is like that;  It ebbs and flows.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t write professionally (at least not on a creative level) or I would be accused of following after a certain author of thrones.  Anyway, It took a couple years for this cycle to settle, and now that it has… everything is fine.  And that’s it.  Nothing is wrong, and new stuff happens from time to time, but for the most part, I’m just doing my thing; day in and day out. My companions from my previous cycle (and even the “adjustment” period) have almost all fallen away.  Some will come back eventually, and some will not.  But for the time being I have my new cave by the lake, my work in the contrasting enormous palace nearby, my cats, some friends I see every so often (whom, I’m growing a greater appreciation for as others move on) and… me.
It’s not about time any more.  I have time.  I finally caught up on The Walking Dead (holy shit…) and I’ve been addicted to certain mobile games involving hunting small creatures in the real world and fantasies that are final at home.  So time is there… money is still in recovery but improving daily. What I realized is missing (much like in my personal relationships) is passion.  I don’t feel inspired by anything.  The world is beautiful, and I am privy to exceptional sunsets on a daily basis.  These bring me peace, but they do not light a fire.  There is no fire.  I’m not depressed, things are generally good, I’m just… here.  It’s kept me from writing because I need to have something I feel strongly enough to write about.  It’s kept me from photography because I’m still backlogged almost a year (sorry Jess.. I put some more up yesterday but I realize my pace is horrible…) and while I love the photos I put up when I do work on them, it’s honestly a struggle to get myself to sit down and focus on them.

JCamBW

At least sometimes I look alright doing it…

I know, this is a lot of whining and problems that are really not problems.  A year ago at this time I was trying to figure out if I was going to have a place to live next month, so I understand that I’m not really having real problems.  Ironically, it might be the intense focus that work requires of me that keeps the inspiration from showing up at the end of the day.  Chicken or the egg?  Be that as it may, I am virtually alone and uninspired at the moment, and while I’m making an effort to branch out a bit, it may be some time before life picks back up again.

With that said I want to share a story with you.  This story makes all of the above whining seem even more ridiculous.  The point is not to shock you or make you feel bad, the point is to help people like me, who are really doing pretty okay, keep perspective and be grateful for the blessings they have, even if inspiration feels a little short.  Having time to worry about inspiration or passion IS a blessing in itself.

As mentioned above, I work in a literal mansion.  My boss is such that he parks his seaplane (yes, seaplane) in the back yard, on the very nice lake that is shared among the local (rich) community.  Though it is not the point of this article, I want to make a point of assuring you that my boss is 1. Generally a good man.  2. Gives a GREAT deal of charity and pays a great deal of taxes without complaint.  -and- 3. Does not come from a wealthy family.  He’s built and earned what he has, more than once.

Anyway, as his Executive Assistant (you can call me Alfred) I assist in running his business, finances, calendar, estate, grounds, etc.  So as mentioned I spend the majority of my time in this huge, immaculate home.  Another staff member of ours – let’s call her Jan – comes once a week with an associate of hers to do a full cleaning of the house, laundry, etc. She is originally from Jamaica, in her late-40s, and her and I have a friendly, joking, semi-abusive relationship.  My boss has known her for over a decade (before he even moved into this mansion) and has treated/paid her well consistently.  He is even looking into the best way to provide for her retirement in the future, as she has never had her own means of obtaining one.   Not that she’ll need it anytime soon, because while she’s easygoing and friendly, she’s also tough, I mean really tough.

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Our cleaning lady would kill you son.

I’ve visited Jamaica before via cruise ship.  I know, I know, that’s not the “real” Jamaica. But all you need to do is book an excursion that takes you out of the tourist area and if you’re paying attention you very quickly get an impression of the reality many native Jamaicans face.  While there are most certainly well-developed, colorful, historical towns, hotels, and restaurants, just outside the walls of the tourist area in Falmouth, things get progressively bleaker until the reality of literal poverty is staring you in the face.  They make the best of it; You could see people smiling, laughing, and living, but they have adjusted, or have never know the extent of the comforts and security we have here in the US (despite us needing to be made great… again…)

Jan, and her family are from that kind of life.  She’s happy to be here with her longtime friend, making a life for herself and her daughter here in the US that would be near impossible for the rest of her family back in Jamaica.  She sends them money and support, and shows me pictures of the gatherings she attends when she goes to visit them.  She is especially proud of their Sunday clothes, when they get dressed up for church.

The other day she pulled out her phone and was showing me pictures of her son and some of their extended family still living in Jamaica.  She has never married, and when I asked her if her children were intentional she just smiled at me as if I were Jon Snow and knew nothing.  In this particular photo set though, I commented on her son’s sense of style.  Even by US standards, he was decked out in a dark suit with a light purple tie, matching vest and sunglasses to complete the look.

Purple Style

That style.

That was when she casually showed me the next picture.  It was of a young boy (I think she said he was thirteen) hanging from a tree by a rope tied around his neck.  Her nephew had decided that his life there wasn’t worth continuing, and… before they took him down, they took photos.  She continued that her son was wearing his best to that boy’s funeral because he had been like a brother, and it was the best way to honor his life.  The whole time she spoke casually and easy about this, as if this were just another part of life like a thunder storm or the flu.  But then, for a lot of people in the world, possibly even the majority, it is.

Many of us in the US live blessed lives.  Absolutely we have poverty, I’ve shared with you before that I was homeless at times growing up and have memories of getting food from the food bank to eat.  But much harder than I ever had it is the racism that is still coming to light, when growing up as a minority here (especially if you’re poor) can be, literally, deadly.  And while a lot of us see it on the news here, and it is wrong anytime, anywhere, in some places it’s so common that it’s not even a headline.

My point is not to say that we don’t need to get better as a culture in the United States (or wherever I end up should Emporer Trump come to power,) because we do.  We have to be better because we have infinitely more opportunity than so many more places in the world.  If there’s anything the human race is good at, it’s squandering its available advantages by focusing on trivial things (like… not feeling inspired…)  But that photo of the boy hanging from a tree, because life was actually very hard there and he couldn’t make it, is something that reminds me of this responsibility.  It gives a lot of perspective to how blessed the majority of us are here and reminds me that, at the very least, first and foremost, I (we) need to do our best to not be a part of the problems in our own culture.

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This.. should be appreciated.

People like Jan can come here, and work hard, and probably never have a life as decadent as my boss (or possibly even me.)  But because she has an inherently different perspective, and the appreciation for the many things we take for granted (including our way of life itself,) there’s a good chance that she may often be happier than those of us that lose our perspective from time to time.  Happiness is relative.  That’s why people with far more money than a windbag like Trump are secretly (or not so secretly) miserable.  Meanwhile those who give away what little they have beyond their own survival enjoy happiness that eludes the majority of the world.

There’s no recipe for it either. It’s individual… relative. Giving away everything or becoming a monk won’t make everyone happy.  Nor will winning the lottery (as people have demonstrated over and over) or becoming famous.  I believe the secret (even if I’m having trouble with it currently) exists in curbing your expectations and being as grateful as possible for the blessings you have. We deserve the good things that happen to us, on whatever level (so long as you do not intentionally harm somebody for those things.) There is no need for guilt, just gratitude for whatever good things come (as opposed to the trap of being sad about what does not.)

It is an unavoidable truth of this world that some people live through horrible circumstances, and maybe the silver lining (no, I’m not saying it’s ever worth it…  it never is) for those who can overcome those things is the ease with which they appreciate simple things that others might well take for granted.  Everyone has a story, and sometimes by learning about others, it helps you put your own in perspective.

A Story Of Sluts

A friend of mine recently messaged me for my opinion on a subject she’s (ironically) contributing to a blog about.  She asked me for a male’s opinion on “the difference between a woman who is labeled a slut and a woman who’s comfortable with her sexuality.”  She said I she thought I would be a good person to ask, naturally I’m inclined to agree.  However, I would be lying if I said that I believe I represent the general male population’s opinion on this matter… which is most typically unfortunate.

With that said, I really don’t like the word “slut”.  I don’t use it, and it only ranks a bit lower than the “C-word” used toward women, or the “N-word” used toward African Americans… both of which make me extremely uncomfortable.  I have no business using either of those words, and I don’t think males in general have any business calling anyone a “slut” (though, admittedly, I can type that word, whereas the others I really don’t want to.)  Men who label women as such are usually HUGE hypocrites (for example my post back in August back about the “Downtown Alpha Male”) and are using the term to belittle women for the very thing they celebrate for themselves.  It’s ridiculous and just another example of men historically treating women as possessions.  Basically, “Shame on you if you let too many guys get a ‘piece’ of that which is obviously yours.”

maths_1

About that many I think.

When it comes to sexuality, people get all freaked out about numbers.  Specifically: “How many people have you been with?”   I literally scared off a girl I was actually interested in dating once because of my sexual history, and my “number” isn’t nearly as high as my reputation might suggest.  (Truth be told, I did stop paying attention at some point… so I would have to sit and think about where I’m at now… but I digress…) Regardless there are huge flaws in judgement based on said numbers.  First of all, you’re over-generalizing multiple, specific situations with details that are important.  Second, you’re making broad assumptions based on very little evidence/fact (even if you ask questions.)  And Third, you’ve got no pre-established parameters or reasoning by which to quantify measuring the statistics on which you are basing your judgement.

For instance, what if a specific girl decided she didn’t enjoy vaginal sex?  Technically she may have only been with one or two people in the ten or more years she’s been sexually active.  But, maybe she’s one of the few women that really enjoys anal sex.  Does that count?  Depends on who you ask.  Further, what if instead of anal sex she really, really enjoys giving blowjobs?  She’s had intercourse with two guys, but probably given a hundred times that many blowjobs.  Does that count?  What if she didn’t swallow? Then does it count?  If she gave YOU that blow job, should it add to that number?  Or does it not count because you know you’re better/cleaner than anyone else?

What about women?  If a girl’s sexuality includes women, and she has been with over a hundred women in all sorts of awesomely kinky ways, but has only been with one guy, is she a “slut”?  Or are you just envious of her far supirior ability to woo females?  What about group sex?  Does that count as one encounter?  Or should we count each penetration?  If so, which penetrations?  If we count all of them a girl could rack up double digits in just a few experiences compared to another girl who has had sex hundreds of times but with only nine guys since she became sexually active.  The point is, any “criteria” is flawed to say the least, and depends on the individual and their (very often flawed) beliefs.  There is no correct way to quantify who is or isn’t a “slut” because it’s a highly subjective term (which really shouldn’t even exist.)

However, for the sake of answering theSlutwalk Aims To Raise Awareness Of Sexual Assaults question, I suppose I’ll come up with the most obvious differentiation I can based not on the general actions of said women, but whether or not they are using their brains.  It’s time for a story of sluts.

Subject A is a junior at the University of Washington.  She did her first two years at community college, and is eager to mingle on the university level, but also focused on her future.  She’s always been intelligent, level-headed, good in her studies, has a great attitude, and is a finance major.  Let’s call her “Monroe” (please note that these examples are based on my personal experiences, but NOT any specific people.  I chose that name because I literally don’t know anyone who has it.)

Subject B is a high-dollar, celebrity level escort of roughly the same age as Monroe.  She’s always been blessed with good looks, and she comes from an (unfortunately) typical broken family.  She did the best she could to get through high school, but was forced to go to work to support herself and her younger siblings whom her parents otherwise neglect.  She went to work at a strip club because it was the best money she could find in a tough job market and with no vocational education or schooling.  Through her looks and street smarts, a chance meeting  introduced and groomed her into high dollar escort work through which she was able to become financially independent while providing for her family.  Let’s call her “Chastity“.  

So, I ask you, which of these ladies is more likely to be called a slut?  Seems obvious that would be Chastity.  But let’s continue with our hypotheticals.

girl-silhouette-vector3Monroe is pretty and has had little trouble making friends in class, but her studies keep her from going out too often.  However, she is being courted by various sororities and and is invited to an event known as a “mixer” with an associated frat house.  Though she was never really the party type, she’s excited to “live her life” and decides to go with her new friends.  At the party, she has a great time, and accepts drinks from a succession of very attractive and charming men in the fraternity.  They don’t seem anything like the obnoxious stereotypes she’s heard; these men are intelligent, charming and very nice to her, all while bringing her drinks so she doesn’t even have to leave the dance floor.  One thing leads to another, and she finds herself alone in the room of one of these charming young men… David.. she thinks..  Though she’s not been drugged, she’s already drank more than she should have and makes the poor decision to go along with this young man’s advances (he’s very pretty.)  But when they finish up (or rather when he does… he put a condom on.. she thinks…right?) he makes a remark about how the night is young, and they should rejoin the party.  Thinking they will follow-up later, Monroe agrees as she is hurried out his door.

Chastity:

Meanwhile Chastity is having a good night, there’s a convention in town with a lot of very rich executives looking for company.  She’s decked out in a Gucchi silk chiffon gown and her power heels – Christian Louboutin.  It’s only midnight and she’s looking for her fourth (and probably final) client of the night.  She prefers her regulars – much more comfortable and fun – but scoring four big pays in a night is well worth any initial awkwardness.  The last guy was aggressive and she liked that until he tried to shove himself inside of her bareback.  Fortunately she knows her business and was able slide out of position while giving a coy purr that said “you’re forgetting something big boy…”  he complained but all she had to do was give the serious look and hold it up for him to get the message: “No condom, no more playtime.”  That’s one of the first things you learn as a sex professional; not matter how clean and intelligent they seem, every guy is one shitty decision away from fucking up your life permanently.  The profession is risky as it is, and Chastity is proud of her many negative testings.  She plans to keep it that way.  Finally she spots her next potential… time for him to buy her a drink.

So at this point Chastity is up on numbers for the night (we can pretty much assume she’s up on numbers forever…)  So that would label her the “slut” of the two, right?  I mean, sure Monroe has made an obviously stupid decision, but Chastity has been with three guys and is not done yet.  Let’s see how the night plays out.

Monroe:WK-0612-teenagers0_3127905b

The world is blurring a bit for Monroe.  Drinks keep happening (though it seems like they are
spaced just enough apart to keep her from being sick…) and she’s feeling good.  She lost track of that first guy.. Daniel.. (he was so nice!) but now Michael has been dancing with her and has the prettiest eyes.  She’s afraid she’s going to hit attention overload… never in her life have this many hot guys been this into her.  Michael says he has to tell her something and leads her back to the rooms.  He tells her that his little brother in the frat, James (oh! he was cute!) has had his eye on her all night, but is not very confident.  He says his plan was to bring her back to the room and introduce them so he would talk to her.  But James isn’t here, and Michael tells Monroe that he feels a connection with her… she thinks she feels it too… but that could be the vodka.  There’s been a lot of vodka…  Now Michael is kissing her.. his hands are warm as they make their way down her back.. they feel good but she’s still blurry… “maybe this isn’t a good idea..” she thinks.. but fuck it, it’s not like this is normal for her, let’s have some fun.  Maybe there’s a connection
there…

Chastity:

This guy was tough.  The prostitute stigma was strong with him and he’d really liked her.  Sorry champ, no freebies for being cute.  He kept her for a while, she accepted more than one drink (one is her typical rule before business), but she knew she was still totally in control.  She started to walk away and he’d stopped her, disgruntled, and asked what her time would cost.  He said he wasn’t concerned about the sex, but that’s only because he didn’t know what he was in for.  He agreed to compensate for time – the same price – and dinner was excellent.  He asked if he could call her another night (sorry champ, I said no freebies) and that maybe he could support her in exchange for her allowing him to court her legitimately.  She told him maybe, but she knew it was a no.  He wasn’t the first rich guy to offer this, they all think they are different… better than the other guys.  The truth was she actually preferred the guys who were straight up for the sex… much neater and less work to get around their emotional hangups.  Her magic charmed them for whatever they were looking for, it was her job to steer them to what she was willing to give.  Nobody was going to own her.  If someday she decided she wanted something more, she would bring it up on her terms. But she doubted it would be a client, most of them already had somebody waiting at home anyway.  Chastity was a fantasy, and she was a damn good one, but when business was done she would ae8e1ff54665d9f8ad11f7e16e17275a1lways say goodbye.  By the end of the night he had champagne delivered to his hotel room.  “Nothing is going to happen” he said.  Bullshit.  She could see he was already trying to hide a raging boner.  She unzipped his pants… it took her fourty-five seconds to finish him the first time.

So now the score is two to four in favor of Chastity.  But who is the slut?  The naive college girl making multiple poor decisions?  Or the call girl who is totally in control?  They are both having sex, so how do we judge them?  Let’s wrap this up.          

Monroe:

Naked.  They are just laying there, but at least he didn’t push her back out to the party again. Granted the party is dying down.  It’s… what?  3 AM now?  Where did her friends go anyway?  It’s okay though, despite a whirlwind of a night, Monroe isn’t upset or afraid.  Nobody has been mean to her and sure, they’ve been forward, but she wasn’t forced at all.  They are really hot guys and she enjoyed herself both times.  Both times.. wow.. that wasn’t something she was expecting.  She turned and felt the wet spot on the bed near her groin.. there’s no way that was all her.  “You used a condom… right?” she asked.  “Yeah.. yeah I did.”  he paused “But you know, sometimes they break or something.. so maybe you should get the morning after pill just in case.”  The first twinge of frustration hit Monroe.  She wasn’t stupid, this dude lied to her.  But before she could say anything, he sat up and let out a deep sigh. “Shit… I’ve been stupid…”  At least he admitted it… but he continued “This wasn’t supposed to happen.  I was going to hook you up with my little bro and I got greedy.”  He seemed genuinely remorseful and for a moment Monroe actually started to feel bad.  “I’ll talk to him.” she said before she realized what she was saying.  “Maybe he and I can hang out, bring him out of his shell a little.”  Sure.  What’s the harm in that?  “We can keep this between you and I.” she assured him.  Thier connection was faded now, and she didn’t think she was going to see Michael like this again.  “Alright cool.  You know, you’re a pretty cool girl.  I mean, you’re hot, but you’re also cool.”  He handed her the drink she’d carried in with her “Finish that up and I’ll go grab us some more.”  It was three-quarters full.  “No no, no more for me.” she said.  It was still hitting her and any more would make the world spin out of control.  “Alright.” he said “Just finish that and I’ll get you some water.”  Well fuck it, it’s the last one anyway.  She emptied the cup and laid back down while Michael life for more drinks.  For a little while the world went black.

“Holy shit she’s naked…” a voice whispered.  Shocked to consciousness Monroe scrambled to cover herself.  She looked up to see the shy (but cute!) one… what was his name.. James peering down at her with Michael behind him.  “Wait.. did you?  Did you already fuck her??” James asked.  “No no bro, we were just talking and got into it a little… I just warmed her up man!  Look at her!  She’s in your bed, ready.” Michael said.  His bed.  Shit.  His room?  Thier room.  It was harder to think straight after her nap.  “Look, I’m sorry…” she started to say… she had no intention of hooking up with James tonight, no matter how cute he was.  She started grabbing her clothes and then she heard James say “I can’t do this… she’s not here for me.  She doesn’t even like me!  Why did you bring me up here?  She doesn’t want me, she wants you.  I’ll go find somewhere else to crash.”  Shit.. she’d let herself go with Michael on this poor guy’s bed and now she was going to ruin his confidence.  Michael was looking at her now.  He was pleading with his eyes and motioning at her.  Fuck.  “Hey.. uh.. James!” she said.  She wished she wasn’t so fuzzy… damn you vodka.  She sat up on his bed and motioned next to her.  “Come here, let’s just talk for a little while.”  “Are you going to put your clothes on?” he asked.  What a gentleman! “Do you want me to?” she asked playfully (she was already naked on his bed after all…) “N-No.” he replied. “You look hot like that.”  Well fuck it.  She was already here, might as well be naked.  But she was absolutely not sleeping with James tonight.  No way.  Michael left with a smile on his face and James sat and talked to Monroe for a while.  She got sleepy and they agreed to lay down and “cuddle”.  She was still naked, and before he laid down he was too.  It wasn’t long before she felt him hard behind her.  He started kissing her neck and in her sleepy haze it tingled a bit.  He had been sweet to her and they had talked for nearly half an hour before they laid down… she couldn’t bring herself to reject him now and hurt his feelings.  So when his hand made it’s way between her legs, she allowed it… she was still very wet, though somemaxresdefault of that might not be from her.  Hormones took over and she tried to say something about a condom before he could push his way inside her.  He reached over and grabbed at the nightstand drawer.  Then he was behind her again, and she felt him.  Did he put it on?  It seemed too quick but everything was a blur.  She told him to be gentle, he was and she enjoyed herself despite a bit of soreness.

Morning came with a headache and more soreness.  James was gone.  The room was empty.  Monroe couldn’t believe she’d had such a night.  It was a little exhilarating, but also way out of control.  That wasn’t happening again.  As she made her way down the hallway she passed by some of the brother’s rooms.  She vaguely remembered the faces, but all she got was a few amused smiles.  She looked like hell and had to get back to clean up before class.   After class she went to get the morning after pill.  She felt gross about it, but she knew it was the smart thing to do.  Days passed and nobody called, she didn’t see any of those guys again for a while.  She thought she saw Michael once, but when she went after him he had vanished.  Probably better, what was she going to say?  “So, I fucked one of your frat brothers the other night, then I fucked your little after I fucked you.  Good times right?”  It was tremendously embarrassing and part of her hoped she never saw them again.

Unfortunately, they haunted her anyway.  First in the burning sensation when she peed three days later, and then with discharge and something worse than cramps.  Her doctor told her she a combination of a UTI and Gonorrhea.  She was lucky it wasn’t herpes or HIV.  Those assholes!!  But it didn’t stop there, she finally ran into her new friends from the sorority that had been courting her.  They hadn’t contacted her since, but she approached them and was met with awkward looks.  They knew.  In fact, they told her “everybody” knew.  She was the slut that banged three frat boys in one night.  Those guys were 361298283-sad-alone-crying-girl-on-bedhigh-fiving and telling everyone that came to their house how they passed her from brother to brother.  The girls told her they couldn’t have her in their sorority, it wouldn’t look good to have such an openly slutty girl associated with them.  Monroe was understandably livid at the boys, but she
was more upset with herself.  She was depressed for a while and kept to herself and her studies.  Eventually though, she started to feel normal again.  Fuck what those people thought.  She didn’t want anything to do with greek life anyway.

I would like to say that was the end with a lesson learned, for some people it is… but months later she was invited to another party at a different house.  A friend of hers in statistics that was very smart and very handsome invited her along.  Some more alcohol, and some very pretty boys happened.  They had heard about her from some friends of theirs in another frat house.  But that’s another story.   

Chastity:

He had asked her to stay the night.  She usually didn’t but he offered extra.  Money talks.  He wouldn’t try to fuck her again, she’d worn him out and she knew it.  Sometimes it was nice to not rush off, and the sheets at this hotel were to die for.  She woke up to an empty bed and an elaborate gourmet breakfast.  He’d left his number on a card on the tray.  Very cute.  But she knew the game.  He wanted her because he couldn’t have her.  Prostitutes are looked down at because the perception is that anyone can have them.  But a high-class escort knows how to turn that around.  They got what she was willing to give, on her terms, and nothing more.  No matter how they tried.  She sometimes had referrals or friends of previous clients who would tell her that somebody had fallen in love with her or that they would treat her like a queen forever.  But Chastity was her own queen, and she liked it that way.  She gazed out the marble atrium with it’s floor to ceiling windows on the 72nd floor as she ate breakfast and smiled.  Not a bad life.

When she had more than enough money to do so, Chastity enrolled in college.  She required no loans and saw some of her regulars as time allowed for spending money.  She avoided frat parties and that sort of life because she had zero patience for the ridiculous attempts those young boys made to get in her pants.  She tried it once, and all they did was attempt to feed her alcohol and get her alone.  One guy even tried to guilt-trip her into sleeping with his “little bro” who was shy with women.  Please.  One look at the shy boy and she knew that he knew exactly what he was after.  He was no stranger.  Howsport many stupid girls had fallen for that?  After that she kept to her studies and went downtown when she wanted to have fun.  Her company was classy and on her terms, just as she liked it.  

Chastity graduated with a Masters in Business Management and a minor in Accounting.  She went on to become a highly sought after business consultant and developed a reputation for being a no-nonsense problem solver for many fortune five-hundred companies.  She eventually hired an assistant, a cute college dropout who desperately needed a job and had a background in finance to help her manage her accounts.  She was very bright, and had a pretty good attitude, but you could tell she’d been through some things… she was a little rough around the edges.  Chastity hoped she could help her rise above it as she had not so long ago.  But that’s another story.

So what’s the point of these long, drawn out stories?  Well, for one thing, apparently I like to write semi-fiction.  But  the other thing is that either of these girls fit classic examples of “sluts”.  They are both rather extreme cases, but it brings us back to the question my friend asked me: What is “the difference between a woman who is labeled a slut and a woman who’s comfortable with her sexuality.”  The actual answer is: not a damn thing. (Because it depends on the subjective veiwpoint of the person labeling them.)  But again, since we’re making an attempt to differentiate anyway, the difference is based on the choices that are made, the process, and the results.

A woman like Chastity can sleep with literally hundreds of men, in control and smart about every encounter.  Meanwhile a woman like Monroe can sleep with three in one night, out of control and making bad choices.  If somebody put a gun to my head and said “label one a slut or you die”, I would have to go with Monroe.  She made poor decisions, and allowed people who’s sole purpose was to have their with her do so without asserting herself.   That said I would not fault her, or anyone, personally as I know that some frat houses are a well oiled machines (as I tried to illustrate) designed to take advantage of naive women. But the fact remains that I have personally watched a situation like this happen in a far less understandable way than Monroe’s, with a girl who was not nearly as naive, and that sort of blatant bad decision making and irresponsibility qualifies somebody as “sluttier” in my mind than a woman who has intelligently and cleanly slept with many men.

In closing I want to reiterate what I said in the first place though.  The word “slut” is a ridiculous double-standard. The question put to me was specifically in regards to women, so I focused on that angle, but the majority of the time, that word is simply a tool used by men (like those frat guys) to shame women that they previously had no qualms about trying to get with.  It’s just another representation of the still-present archaic societal misogyny that would be better off killed with fire and forgotten forever.

 

High and Cold (brew): A Love Story

Anyone who says they cannot be bribed simply doesn’t understand what their price is.  Everyone has something important to them, and therefore would be willing to give up that which is less important in order to obtain the item of utmost importance.  I suppose perhaps a person’s integrity might be the most important thing, therefore rendering them physically unbribable, but that would make me question their lack of transcendently important things such as: family, children, coffee, and (of course) love.  Point being everyone has a price.

So with all that said, this post has nothing to do with any sort of bribery, (as much as it may sound like it at certain points.)

I discovered cold brew coffee in my hometown of Seattle.  Tully’s coffee is more prevalent up there than it is in Florida (where I reside now) and they offer it mixed with some kind of “Madagascar Vanilla” that makes for a really tasty combo.  I liked it better than my typical iced coffee at the time, but didn’t realize exactly how special it was.  Maybe because of the vanilla, maybe because I wasn’t paying attention.  Probably a little of both.

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Cold Brew – Looks like science!

For those not yet introduced to cold brew, it’s essentially what it sounds like.  It’s coffee, but it’s never introduced to heat.  So in essence, the ground coffee beans are steeped in water so that it can absorb the flavor and caffeine.  The upside to this is a FAR less acidic and smoother cold coffee.  The downside is that in this case heat is replaced with time.  So making your own “instant” cold brew is impossible (though it IS easy to buy it instantly…  we’ll get to that in a few.)  A typical batch of cold brew takes around 20-24 hours to brew, but it’s well worth it.  Added benefit to those of us who are caffeine junkies, is that the longer you steep the cold brew, the stronger the caffeine content (to the point where even the adventurous addicts find themselves cutting it with water or some kind of milk.)

Even a couple of years ago, cold brew was nowhere to be found in Florida (at least, not that I and the general population here was aware of.)  I figured it was a Northwest/Seattle thing since coffee is a cultural obsession there.  But then I heard that Starbucks was test-marketing cold brew in it’s stores and I became very, very excited.  Of all places, surely Florida, the only state that competes with Hell for total heat and humidity was deserving of this cold brew!  Naturally, I was wrong.  Of all places, primarily the northern territories (including New York, Boston, and Seattle) were the test markets.  Why?  Who knows?  Population maybe?  Regardless a friend of mine working for Starbucks told me there was no sign we would see it in Florida anytime soon, and every other barista I asked agreed or didn’t even know what cold brew was.  So my enthusiasm was curbed, but I kept asking from time to time.

Finally, I was in Miami for a job interview last year and I randomly decided to ask the barista in Starbucks about cold brew… the answer was pure hope: “Oh yeah, we’ve already got some of the materials in, we’re just waiting for the next shipment.  Probably have it next week.”  Wait.. WHAT?  I asked again and was assured it was true.  Cold Brew had finally made it to Florida.

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Starbucks Trenta Cold Brew: Sleep is not an option.

What followed was months of extreme caffeine and discovery.  I learned that I didn’t need
to mix anything with cold brew and it was far more potent than an equal amount of iced coffee.  Then another friend who manages Starbucks clued me in on the potency of cold brew.  It was so strong that Starbucks HQ gave them strict orders to cut it in half with water.  So what I had been drinking and buzzing off of was only half strength!  As a regular I eventually convinced the folks at my Starbucks to serve me full strength for my overnight Uber runs.  The taste obviously took some getting used to (it is VERY potent stuff) but it kept me buzzing all the way through an overnight Uber run with some to spare for the next night.  It was my go-to for many months until I returned to fulltime work and found my caffeine needs reduced.

Regular coffee has been so easy to come by now that I had only sought regular, cut cold brew on days I needed that extra pick me up.  That was, until, I found High Brew brand cold brewed coffee.   I randomly saw High Brew on sale at Target one day when I was searching for a companion to my lunch sandwich.  It was on sale, and I was intrigued by the idea of canned, single-serve cold brew, so I thought I would give it a try.  As is typical of me, I snapped a picture of this experience, and a member of the Highbrew marketing team commented on my photo.  My one lament was that the Mocha flavor I tried had dairy milk, and I prefer my coffee either black, or with an alternative milk such as coconut or almond milk.  Fortunately they responded that they did, in fact, have a “Black and Bold” version and would happily send me a sample if I dropped them a line via e-mail.  Of course I jumped on the opportunity.

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Social marketing at it’s best!

Weeks later my “sample” arrived, and let me tell you, the folks at Highbrew know their social marketing.  They sent me several cans of the “Black and Bold” version to try, along with several more certificates good for a free can, along with a personalized note from the girl who commented on my instagram (Thank You April!)  Also, High Brew gets a ton of points for originating in Austin, TX (the coolest city in Texas and one of the coolest in the country.)

So naturally I did three things with my samples: 1. I searched for places I could use my free coupons (target doesn’t carry the black and bold I like!)  2. I tried the other flavors (all are good, but the milk kills it for me.)  and 3. I did a taste test between a can of Highbrew black and bold and fresh Starbucks cold brew with a comparable amount of sweetener (Three pumps of classic, to be fair.)  Here’s how it went:

Taste: High Brew

At first High Brew seems almost a little watered down, but that’s a part of it’s consistent drinkability and flavor.   Starbucks suffers from an inconsistency depending on the brew, and often has a funky sort of aftertaste (as this one did.)  Lately I’ve been ordering my Starbucks with coconut milk, which would give them a boost, but to keep it fair I’m comparing the same style.  High Brew would benefit from a dairy alternative flavor I think.

Smoothness: High Brew

As I mentioned above, High brew is SO easy to drink.  It’s best chilled, but it doesn’t have to be.  On ice as served, Starbucks is sometimes pretty close, but it tends to have more bite along with an occasional aftertaste.

Caffeine Content: Starbucks

In roughly 6 oz of Starbucks I feel more energetic than I do from the 8 oz can of High Brew.  There’s a good possibility that Starbucks is steeped longer resulting in both the stronger taste and higher caffeine content.  It certainly gets you through the day on it’s own while it (happily) takes at least two High Brew to get me through a long day (when I need this sort of intake.)

Price: Starbucks

High Brew ranges from $2.00 – $2.99 / can. (8 oz) A similar amount of Starbucks will run you about $1.62. (based on $3.25 for a 16 oz Grande)  The $2.00 price point I found for High Brew is the four-pack from my local Fresh Market where it’s been on special.  But even with that close race, you get more caffeine for your money via Starbucks.

Convenience: Tie 

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SO. MUCH. COFFEE.

Starbucks is everywhere, and High Brew is mostly in Whole Foods and similar stores.
(Target appears to be phasing some of it out, and doesn’t have Black and Bold.) However, if you can find a local distributor on their website like I did, you can get and STORE the cold brew in your fridge for first thing in the morning, backpacking, etc. So more portable and convenient form factor, which is why lately it’s been my go-to for the office. (It just so happens my boss sends me to shop for him at the Fresh Market that sells these.)

(And… After this review.. having drank both… I can see sound.)

What’s awesome about all this is that cold brew is catching on to the point that Starbucks and High Brew are only two of many options showing up on the market (including a tasty one made with almond milk!)  But even more awesome was the personalized effort by High Brew to demonstrate to a potential customer and share their brand.  I can easily say I’m sold as I buy a minimum of two four-packs a week and show no signs of slowing down.

If you’re an iced coffee drinker, I strongly recommend you try cold brew.  And if you haven’t checked out High Brew, give it a shot.  Besides the Black and Bold that I prefer, they also offer Vanilla, Mocha, Espresso and Caramel flavors with milk that are quite good.  If you decide to try it out, drop me a line and let me know what you think!

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I’m shameless, I know.

 

Let’s Talk Politics…and Trump… Fuck.

I’m going to swear a bit this post.  I don’t want to talk about politics.  In fact, I really, really don’t like politics.  There’s only one good reason I pay attention to any of it: I’m going to do my duty to vote, and I want to make an informed decision.  But I really hate talking about it.  You know why?  Because politics, along with sports (I’m looking at you Cowboys fans,) online PvP video games, money, sex, and love, have the ability to cause normally rational, intelligent human beings to completely lose their fucking minds.  Granted, in the case of love (and let’s admit… to a lesser degree great sex…) the insanity might be worth it.

But politics… no.  Especially with the oh-so-supportive social media aspect if full-force, politics brings out a shit-ton of negativity that will, for the most part, accomplish absolutely nothing good.  I’m not talking about the people using it to fuel Bernie Sander’s “grassroots” campaign.  That’s “good” social media, and I applaud the proper use of the medium to send a positive message.  Instead I’m referring to the vast majority of armchair patriots that talk endless amounts of shit and spam Facebook with all the baseless, bias, and very likely completely unresearched articles they can find.  The more you argue with them, the more rabid and less reasonable they become.  People who are normally friends say unspeakable things to each other, families are divided, and even the workplace can become tense when you boss’s politics do not align with your own (I’ve had personal experience with this… fortunately not currently.)

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Okay… you got me there…

But this election season, shit is getting real, and it’s damn scary.  I’m not going to be able to progress much further without talking about my stance, so I should tell you that historically I’ve been moderate (you know.. the “grey area” after all..) but I lean toward the democratic side pretty much because I love women and want them to be able to do what they want as equals to men (which… they always have been… why it is taking so long for the world to figure that out is beyond me…)

This season choosing a side between the right and the left is easy.  Because this season the republican side is all kinds of fucked up.  Not since Sarah Palin have we seen a group of candidates so utterly disgraceful and representative of the republican party’s need to dismantle itself and remember what it’s supposed to stand for.  Say what you want about G. W. Bush’s handling of 9/11, the fact is he brutalized the economy and led us into a severe depression.  But that pales in comparison to the potential damage that the current republican candidates could do…  Especially Donald fucking Trump.  All of these guys, especially him.. make Mitt Romney look like a shining, angel-winged beacon of hope if only based on the fact he came across intelligent, articulate and capable of being reasonable.

In fairness, some of the candidates we started with could have proven themselves.  John Kasich hasn’t appeared utterly insane, just too quiet.  And at one point before he dropped out, I was appalled to find myself thinking that Jeb Bush was the most reasonable and feasible of the lot… another fucking Bush…  But none of that matters, because of Trump.

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He actually looked a little less douchy…

A little over  a decade ago (ugh) I liked Trump.  The Apprentice had just gained popularity and my girlfriend (at the time) and I would travel to our friend’s house to watch his tough-guy image and signature hand gesture as he fired that week’s failure.  It was television, but it had some valuable lessons about doing what it takes to survive in the real business world and managing your resources.  At the time you could almost see Trump as a guru-style, hardcore businessman that you could learn from.  Over time, however, the shiny innovation wore off and the gimmicks they attempted to freshen up the show only served to make them look more desperate.  Perhaps that should’ve been an early warning.

Four years ago, Trump talked about possibly running, and people thought it was funny.  He had gained some political notoriety by questioning President Obama’s birth records, but neither he nor anyone else thought it was a serious gesture.  To his credit, he tested the water and perhaps that time he knew it was too cold for his taste.  So he took a back-seat in the political arena for a little while.  Later he said he regretted not running and that he could’ve beaten Obama “easily”.  Sure Donald.  Regardless, it was all a funny “what if”.  Nobody seriously thought he would run, and even if he did there’s no way he’d be successful in the political arena.

Oops.  We completely underestimated the number of racist, xenophobic, hate-filled, ignorant, scared, easily manipulated, complete fucking idiots that populate the supposed “greatest country in the world.” (Yes, I also loved the speech from the opening of the Newsroom… for the 501st time when it was posted on Facebook “new”… again… Aaron Sorkin is a genius… moving on.)  I’ll give Trump credit for this: he knows his audience.  He is preying on all those that are alienated when we try to move ahead as a society.  Equality for people of color?  Fuck you, I’m voting for Trump.  Women are equal to men!?  Fuck you! I’m voting for Trump!  Accept those terrified, starving, fleeing, refugee TERRORISTS into MY country!?  Fuck you!  I’m voting for Trump!  Basically anytime we’ve given a stupid white (often) redneck male a reason to feel like he’s not the king of the world, Trump is stepping in to be their savior.

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When not talking about the size of his peni..err.. hands.

And I only wish that were his only demographic… but there’s a number of other people, who I can only assume are either evil businessmen in league with him or sheep-like people that feel scared and/or weak that are drawn to his strong bravado.  But it’s false bravado, and anyone with a brain can see that.  He talks “YUUUGE”, but anytime he’s asked a question requiring substance… a political plan, or international relations, or even his stance on white supremacy (seriously…) he balks.  If he doesn’t have something offensive and strong to say that will support and fuel his masses, he tries to talk around the question with pure nonsense.

But it doesn’t matter.  Trump has tapped into something primal: hate.  Initially, the republican party got behind it and rode the wave of his popularity.  They assumed he’d ride out his fame and settle into their ranks.  But as is the case with many a horror story, they created a monster, and the monster outgrew them.  Now they are faced with a very difficult choice; Let the monster have his way, or revoke their support and draw the ire of his legion of followers (the majority of whom were originally republican voters.)  They know Trump will turn his followers on them, he has grown very, very good at inspiring and feeding hate… to the point now it has begun to become violent.  So now those that fed him are at his mercy, watching in horror as he strikes down each of their other champions until the only one remaining is as comparably frightening as Trump himself: Ted Cruz.  I wish I could say this is bad as it gets, but it’s still in it’s early stages.

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Or.. you know.. launch nuclear missiles…

If Trump wins the republican nomination, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I will be legitimately afraid of the outcome of the presidential race.  Sure, in the past I haven’t agreed with certain candidates, but this is the first time I’ve ever felt like a candidate represented everything that was wrong with humanity.  If he becomes the leader of the “free world”, then I honestly believe the free world could be doomed.  He will almost certainly destroy our ties with long time allies such as Mexico (you know… the giant wall and all…) and the majority of Europe (who already hate him.)  Further, it’s not unrealistic to see him forging ties with China and Russia, not for the sake of peace or creating a better world, but for the sake of money.  Assuming that doesn’t create conflict through infighting and power struggle,  it could very quickly turn into intimidation, invasion, and oppression of countries that posed any sort of threat to the new “Axis of Evil..err.. Greatness”, and a very ugly, very nuclear third world war that could change life as we know it… forever.

Now I realize that escalated quickly, and it sounds very far fetched, but look at what has been incited by this man so far.  We’ve got him offering to pay the legal fees of his people who attack anti-Trump protesters at his rallies.  The situation I described above is just a massively amplified version of that.  What happens when Canada says “Hey there… you’re being a dick to your people and we are cutting off trade with you.”?  He’ll retaliate, and he’ll encourage his people, his country, to violence.  Here’s the thing folks, as soon as we give him those codes, as soon as we put him in that house, it only takes one moment of defensiveness and false bravado for him to make a decision that will literally change the face of this planet.  That shit is real, and it is scary.

Maybe I’m overstating the situation.  I really hope I am.  Some people say that Trump is just saying all of this to win the popularity contest and as soon as he’s elected he’ll change his tune.  But I don’t think so.  I’ve seen him in the board room when the people are watching him.  As President, he would know the people, most importantly his people, will be watching him, so he’ll act “strong” even if somewhere deep down the last of his moral compass is telling him it’s a bad idea.

q49d7dtThat’s the long and the short of it: Trump is already in over his head.  He doesn’t know how government works, he doesn’t know political leadership, and he sure as hell doesn’t know constitutional law.  All he knows is that the USA is one big business and if he’s the leader he has to keep lying and acting tough.  So he’ll try to dismantle the parts he doesn’t understand and shape it into something that lets him make all the decisions like he has in his (arguably) unsuccessful corporations.

I saw a movie once where another leader came to power and did the same thing.  That leader’s name was Palpatine.  Unfortunately, the real-life version we’re faced with now is just as evil and greedy, but not nearly as powerful or intelligent.

So for the love of god people, vote for anyone other than Trump.  If he wins the republican nomination, and you’re a republican, then I ask that for the sake of your party and your country, you vote for the democratic candidate (either is better… and maybe we’ll get into that in a future post.)  The republican party has already all but denounced Trump unofficially, so if you vote for the opposing candidate, at least you know your party has time to regroup, develop a new strategy, and maybe unify into something that better represents the conservative people of this country.  This round was a disaster, we all know it, but if you vote for Trump on principle (or don’t vote at all…) the country as we know it may very well cease to exist, and the republican party might not get another chance.  How’s that for the lesser of the two evils?

The Fading Magic Of Love

Admittedly the following thoughts are my own (somewhat emo) individual observations and feelings, so take them with a grain of salt, this has not be researched by any means.  In fact, hopefully I’m very off-base overall… but it occurs to me that a great deal of what traditionally considered “romantic” or proactive in terms of somebody pursuing another person romantically is now considered “creepy”, “stalker-ish”, or “harassment”. (Which, in many cases it actually is, I’m in no way disputing that, and nobody should be harassed regardless.)

Thus is the plight of modern romance. Unless the stars align and you cross paths and are introduced organically through social situations, folks are more or less forced to use social media style apps like Tinder or various dating sites to create a pre-existing context to meeting a stranger.

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Ahh… romance (though points for the HP reference.)

There is no more “love at first sight” for a stranger or acquaintance because nine times out of ten (especially, but not always, if it’s a man pursuing a woman) randomly approaching or attempting to talk to / get to know somebody that you have no (or very limited) preexisting context with will be met with suspicion, scorn and a label of one of the above terms.

Further, even if met with courtesy, attempting to pursue the matter usually breeds discomfort and is quickly reclassified into one of the above categories.

But that said, it’s true that such things (when unwanted, which initially, before people get to know each other, they almost always will be…) ARE in fact harassment and a lot of the tactics that folks in the “old days” used to employ to get a potential partner’s attention ARE in fact a form of stalking. And it’s absolutely correct that nobody should have to put up with harassment or stalking on any level, even with good intentions.

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Stalker!

So I wonder then what the fix is? What if everyone you come across organically isn’t the right one for you? What if you come across a relative stranger and feel the magical pull of what was once love at first sight, but there’s no real way to pursue it? What if all the “dating” apps yield a few great friends but then mostly contribute to losing your faith in humanity?

More and more people are staying single, and that’s okay because we need to be our own strong, independent people… but I feel like romance and whatever magic that love once held is becoming more and more scarce because the rules have changed and people either don’t want to play the game any more, or don’t really know how to operate in the new rule set. Or maybe the new rule set just doesn’t lend itself well to spark of a real, long-term love.

It’s a social evolution in that people’s rights are being respected on equal levels (ideally anyway), but in doing away with the archaic misogyny and religion – based social constructs, we may have also discarded some of the attached old-school charm and courtship that led to a small percentage (among many failed…) of happy, long-term, adorable couples/families. These days I see families and couples, but a large majority of them have settled, I don’t see the love. Some admit it, others don’t and in some cases my observation is wrong… but in others it has been proven to me, through action, confession or simply watching it fall apart.

I suppose it’s too early to tell, and I can only speak for my immediate bubble, but I see even less potential for those true, long-term connections now than I did with the old ways. We reduced the suffering of millions, and there’s no question that it’s worth it, but I think that the increasing rarity of classic, old-school style love actually makes me sad. It’s as easy as it has ever been to find somebody to hook-up with, but the problem is some part of me always wanted the idealized classic, stable, happy family with the “picket fence” or some version of it and I’m beginning to think that for somebody like me in a world like this, I can’t build it. I can build me, but everything else is like playing the social lottery, and the odds are very much not in my favor.

(Note: This wasn’t supposed to be a blog post,  it started out as a facebook post… I guess I just had a lot to say.)

The Value Of Time

When I begin this it was 11:47 PM Friday night and a hot cup of coffee sat in front of me.  I made the mistake of leaning back and dozed away close to ninety minutes.  Later, despite my best efforts, about halfway through writing this (I’ve update this intro,) I closed my eyes again and woke up to four AM.  It is now Tuesday…  As you can see the juggling act of my recent routine has been challenging.  My social life is picking up, many exciting plans have been made, and a number of friends from the past are resurfacing in my life.  On top of that, when I *do* get time at home to work on my (recently resurfaced) photography, play some video games, clean, or write… a log overdue blog post, my body immediately decides to instead use that time to shut down the moment I relax (as it did once again the last few nights…)

Generally speaking this is not a complaint.  The things that are occupying my time are all blessings, and very few professional situations in my recent past have been as respectful of my time as the one I have now.  However, this instantly falling asleep business is troublesome.  I have to watch my willpower, especially on days I run or work out (I’ve returned to consistency there as well) or reclining for a moment will lead to waking up several hours later with nothing to be done beyond returning to bed.  This and my extremely heavy calendar have had me thinking a lot about time.

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That took me three paragraphs to explain….

You’re fortunate, actually, that I ended up passing out, because what I had originally written here was a bunch of sleepy, semi-scientific and philosophical muttering about how time doesn’t actually exist and blah blah blah…  Instead I’m going to focus on the point:  No matter who you are, or where you come from, time is one of the most important concepts in your life.  Young or old, rich or poor, there is nothing we take for granted more than the ever-fleeting instrument we use to measure change, and we often forget that sometimes change doesn’t follow the routine, and your time might be up at any… time.

With that in mind, and as an Executive / Personal Assistant, the importance of prioritizing and managing my professional and personal time is absolutely key.  Professionally, I can compartmentalize and prioritize the large chunk of that time over my personal time. That’s the easy part.  But it’s not that simple either, because if I do that consistently as I have in the past, I will lose the balance that is kept in check by my social life and pursuing my own interests.  If said balance is lost, discontentment and eventual misery follow.  Fortunately in my my current position, my Executive is pretty respectful of my time and the stress level is relatively low.  This allows me the freedom to maintain that balance and pursue my interests… even if it’s a little slow and I have to fight to stay awake.  Admittedly my current (grown-up) priority of sleep probably isn’t helping, but I like to think I’m healthier and happier overall as a result.

Enough about my slow-progressing interests though, that’s only one important aspect of where my important time is spent and for the majority of my readers it probably doesn’t apply.  What should, and does apply for all of us though is in regards to our social time.  As I fight to maintain the balance I’ve elaborated above, I find that literally minutes of my time can be the difference between accomplishing something I wanted today, or not.  The easiest way to be most efficient with that would be to lock myself up in my cave of an apartment and just spend days or weeks (when not working) getting shit done.  Writing, processing photos, cleaning house, gym / running, and taking breaks to get into my sorely neglected MMO would all fall directly into place.  I have done that, and I like doing that, but no man is an island (as they say) and I admit that I get a greater sense of personal satisfaction from my interactions with friends, new and old.

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The Philosopher

Friendship and social life are complicated though.  For one, they can (certainly not always) get financially expensive.  But more importantly different levels of friendship require different levels of time investment.  Key here is that we all have to remember that this is a two-way street.  You know how invaluable your time is to you, so you have to assume it is just as invaluable to whomever is with you.  And they are choosing to spend that time with you.  That’s the core of what that phrase means; to spend time, because that time cannot be repaid.  Ideally, time spent should be an investment from which both parties receive something greater than the time invested. But sometimes (often) we suck at that because we don’t think about the value of everyone’s time.  It takes a level of awareness to think “Hey, this super busy person who could be doing any number of things right now is choosing to engage me instead.”

With all that said, it’s exhausting to even think about being aware of every waking moment of your life.  It is also not reasonable or even healthy to do so.  Relaxation is also time well spent, and if your brain is completely engaged at all times, you are not going to be able to relax.  As with all things there has to be a balance and I think with a few guidelines you can find that balance:

1. Recognize and appreciate time spent on/with you.  Don’t question whether or not you are “worth it” to them, that is their decision.  As long as you want it, accept it and appreciate it.  I think people can subconsciously tell when they are appreciated and you’ll find that your interactions are generally more positive as a result.

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In that moment, she realized the time had been wasted…

2. Only spend personal time on people when you want to.  Ideally the people you spend time with should help, relax, or somehow enrich your life while you do the same for them.  This isn’t just about romantic situations either, I’ve had a couple cups of coffee with old friends recently that were extremely worthwhile.  If you walk away from the interaction with a good memory, a revelation, feeling rejuvenated, or wearing a smile, I say that’s time well spent.

The flip-side of that is spending time with people because they tried to make you feel guilty, or you feel some level of obligation to them… and that should be avoided.  Perhaps if they have done you important favors in the past, you owe it to them to show up and repay the favor, but consolidate that to whatever is needed to appropriately repay them and then get out.  Beyond repayment of a personal debt, don’t let the issues of others cause you to spend time you don’t have or don’t want to give on them.  Doing so will only make you resent them and damage your existing relationship.  Just as people can sense when they are appreciated, often they can sense when they are not wanted.  Do yourself and them a favor, and be strong enough to say no when you don’t want to spend your valuable time.    

3. Minimize your professional time spent on someplace that tears you down or makes you feel “stuck”.  I realize (and have first-hand experience) that sometimes we have to do whatever we can to get by.  But that needs to be as temporary as possible.  My recent stint as an Uber driver was actually really fun at times, but on a deeper level it was having a profound effect on my general state of mind, my confidence, and my attitude.  The only thing that kept me hopeful was the search and development of new opportunities.  So, if you’re doing what you have to do, don’t quit the search for something better, even if takes months or years.

As far as the people go, work is obviously a little different, you’re investing time for money and sometimes people come with it, but you can minimize the time spent with them to whatever is absolutely necessary.

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Some of my “Me Time”

4. When planning your time, be certain to allow “me time”.  I said above that no person is an island.  Well the opposite is true too.  Even the most extroverted person needs time to themselves.  Hopefully you have people with whom you can pursue your mutual interests, but even if that’s the case, you will want time to yourself to think about how it benefits you in the long-term.  Your plan, your goals, your dreams.  Take time to put everything you are doing and want to do in perspective and make them happen.  Even those who are married or in a serious long-term relationship need time to themselves to process and figure everything out as individuals.  Once that’s in perspective, it’s much easier to share those things with our friends and family.

The point of all this is, nothing in this world is more valuable than the moments we are given.  It is up to us to make the most of those moments… actually it’s up to us to simply make those moments.  But it doesn’t need to be a constant labor, it’s more a matter of reminding yourself periodically to appreciate the time that others spend on you, and in turn make sure the people you’re spending your time on are worth it (including, of course, yourself!)  By doing this you can moderate/filter your busy life and make the most your moments.

 

Kaska-Ta: Flowing Downward

*Note: The tales of Kaska-Ta can be described as a semi-fictional, metaphorical auto-biography.  It builds off of previous “Kaska-Ta” entries and will likely resurface from time to time when I wish to present situations without specific details. (It’s my blog, deal with it.) The settings / terms / names / periods are changed but the story facts are metaphorically true.  Admittedly, as time goes on, the metaphors become more and more elaborate., but if you want to know the real story behind the metaphor, send me an Email, I might be willing to explain.  ____________________________________________________

“Oh… deep water… black, and cold like the night…”

From the beginning of his mad quest it had been sheer determination that brought Kaska-Ta over many trials, through the long desert, to the farm, and then onward still despite the rain.  He had traveled to the badlands as the puddles grew deeper and approached the gates that most sought to avoid.  Kaska-Ta knew the games of these savages and had once walked among them.  But now, the gate remained closed to him despite his attempts to bargain and bribe his way in with labor and fake naïvety.

The puddles had grown into a single layer of water on the ground.  First shallow with deeper areas causing him to mind where he stepped, then deeper to the point that his boots (thankfully waterproof) sloshed through the softening mud beneath several inches of standing water.  Kaska-Ta was grateful the area which would eventually become a great lake beneath these rains was vast enough that it would take time to eventually swallow him, but already he felt the weight of the water and realized to most it was unthinkable to travel in these conditions.

He had only one direction left to go.  Any sane man would’ve returned to the farm, but Kaska-Ta could not return because it was not where he belonged.  Above all else, he sought his path… the right path in which he could grow and learn while remaining true to himself and honest with all around him.  Only then could he grow past this stage in his life, only then could he find the future he continued to seek.  These thoughts had driven him through the rising waters.

The days passed and the water overtook his boots, soaking his feet and making every step a labor.   He had realized at some point that not only was the water becoming a greater burden, but he was also weakening.  The last of his food rations had been the previous day’s only meal and his water supply wasn’t far behind (it had only lasted thus far because the desert had taught him to be frugal.)

Though he could’ve continued for some time without food, dehydration would claim him much sooner.  He walked with his water skin open and facing the sky, hoping the small opening could trap some of the persistent rain.  He had smiled at the irony that accompanied the idea that he might die of dehydration in the middle of a newly-forming lake.  Fortunately, the fact that the sand and dust on the ground became poisonous when it dissolved in water had been common knowledge to many of the travelers in the area.
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The rains became heavier and Kaska-Ta felt the pelt of large, near-solid drops through his soaked clothing.  With the heavier rains the water seemed to rise exponentially faster.  As Kaska-Ta dragged on, the water rose from his waist to his chest in what seemed like a matter of days.  He had discarded his boots and the majority of his clothes as they had only weighed him down, but his struggle had grown from physical to mental as dehydration took hold and he found himself fighting the instinct to drink the lake water.  Heavier rains he caught in his mouth might be able to prolong his life, but they could not sustain the effort it took to wade through the water as it rose from his chest to his shoulders.

“I stand with arms wide open… I’ve run a twisted line… I’m a stranger, in the eyes, of the maker…”

Finally, though his determination had been legendary in bringing him this far, it was finally exhausted, and for the first time since he embarked on his new path, driven by a dream of the future, Kaska-Ta stopped.  As he lay, using the last of his effort to float on his back and keep his head above the water, the hope that had fueled him grew dim and he realized the farmer had been right.  He was going to die here, in the dark water, alone and defeated by his own principles.  He searched for the voice… his constant companion… and though it was there, it was silent.  Perhaps because there was nothing left to say.  He had been warned, he had been sure of himself, and he had felt he knew the path he must take.

But reality did not care about his faith.  Reality did not cater to his prophetic dreams that had driven him to this madness, and reality was not going to give him a pass for being another foolish soul that thought the rules of the natural world did not apply to him.  Reality was going to teach him a hard and final lesson, and all Kaska-Ta had the energy to do now, was lie there, and accept it.

Despite this acceptance however, he was stubborn.  Kaska-Ta fought to maintain consciousness, and fought to keep his head above water as long as he could.  Finally, the light of day came and went one more time, and that night the last of his will left him along with the last of his strength.  There in the black water of the night, hope was extinguished and he felt his consciousness slip away entirely… and then he dreamed what might have been his final dream.

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“My body is bent and broken by long and dangerous sleep… I can’t work the fields of Abraham and turn my head away… I’m not a stranger in the hands of the maker…”

 

 

You don’t know who you are

You will never completely know or understand who you are. There’s a whole unknown you floating in your subconscious that only shows itself through dreams and surreal moments when you act in ways you thought you never would or could.  In some ways it represents your potential and depending on how you develop yourself that potential could be amazing, but it could also be disastrous.  Sigmund Freud would probably say that trying to get to know yourself on this level is trying to get more in touch with your Id and Super-Ego at the same time.

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“There are no mistakes.”

It’s a bit ironic actually, because the Ego (the moderator between those two) can be such a robust and confident thing when it really has no right to be.  The truth is we spend the majority of our lives trying to figure ourselves out (and that’s okay!)  I should actually say that the smart folks spend their days trying to better figure themselves out.  Unfortunately far too many people are busy looking outward than inward.  So they define things (especially the shitty stuff) by what their environment and those that inhabit it have shown them, instead of trying to figure out what they’re doing in that environment to begin with.

Don’t misunderstand me, I realize that people are often born into very unfortunate environments and circumstances.  As I’ve illustrated in previous posts, my own circumstances weren’t exactly roses and rainbows.  Some people don’t get to learn about themselves. It’s Maslow’s pyramid and they don’t make it past the first level.

An old friend of mine and I were discussing Maslow’s pyramid the other day and it both complimented and derailed what I intended to write about.  For those of you uninitiated, the essential idea is that human needs and progression happen on five levels.  The base of this pyramid are basic needs: food, water, sleep, sex (though.. I believe this transcends a bit… let’s call it “reproduction”,) oxygen, etc.

Once you’ve got your basic needs covered,the next level involved safety on every level.  Protection from the elements, security in your job/income/lifestyle, and basic personal safety.  All the things that lay the foundation for some level of confidence in your life.  But once you get all that figured out, you get to start on the advanced stuff.

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“Shit.. was that level 1 or level 3?”

Level three of Maslow’s pyramid consists of social developmental needs. This fuels the desire for popularity in high school and then evolves into being accepted and respected by your peers at work while simultaneously developing friendship, intimacy (there’s that sex again!), affection and, of course, love in your personal life.  Each step of this pyramid can be a life-long endeavor for many individuals, but I would wager that a very large percentage get stuck here (including, it seems, me.)

The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to achieve any of these levels in any sort of traditional manner to begin work on the next level.  Hell, I’m relatively sure you don’t even have to make it halfway.  As long as you have a basic understanding of achievement on any given level, you can probably grasp the next level as well.  But that’s dangerous, because the point of the pyramid is to illustrated how to form a solid foundation for each level and building on an unfinished foundation can (obviously) end up in disaster.

But let’s say you jump to the next level and go for the really advanced stuff. Level four of Maslow’s pyramid is all about going from being accepted, to leading and transcending the pack.  Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, and respect from others are the needs this level presents.  By this time, you’ve figured out how to play the game of life, and now you need to do better than just play well, you need to excel at it.

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Maslow’s pyramid for the modern age.

Should you manage to develop yourself to the point of excelling at life in terms of what you want to achieve and what you want your peers to recognize about you, you’re ready for the supposed pinnacle of the pyramid: Total self-actualization. Now we’re getting into super-human territory that involves setting world records, becoming billionaires, scaling Mt. Everest, or becoming the President. Fortunately for a fair percentage of the people who are trying to fulfill this need also realize this potential by helping others find their way up the pyramid.  On the flip-side though, this is where the world’s absolute worst humans do the worst damage.

The point of that quick overview though was to illustrate a point: you’ll never reach total self-actualization because you will never completely know and understand yourself.  Even if you somehow thought you did, you can’t, because it’s fluid.  That’s actually one of the great joys of life.  One of the greatest strengths of humanity is it’s fluidity and adaptability.  Some very smart, very enlightened people close to me struggle with this a lot and admittedly I do as well because it’s frankly exhausting if you don’t step back to recognize it for what it really is: growth.  Not only is it growth, but it’s advanced growth that only a certain percentage of people in the world have the luxury of knowing.

It’s a given that people reach the fifth level of Maslow’s pyramid all the time, but as I

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Oh…

mentioned earlier, a lot of those people left an essential level undeveloped… some skipped it entirely and paid for it.  They are easy to see, the people who seem to have everything, experienced so much, but are still miserable.  They act out, break down, and sometimes die far too early and sometimes by their own hand.

The point in all this psycho-babble is that I’ve realized that the biggest mistake we can make is attempting to rush through or force our personal development.  We seek to master our environment and to balance that out we must seek to master ourselves.  But both are fluid and can never really be mastered, so we have to realize that it’s enough to continue learning, continue developing and build our foundations strong on each level so we have a solid base when we someday reach the top of our own personal pyramid.

You don’t know who you are, and you never will, but the point is continuing to get to know yourself.  When you do, you get to the fun part: Being pleasantly surprised and amazed at what you can do… and then being able to live happily with it.

 

Now Begins 2016

As I write this it is only a moment after midnight, bringing the first day of 2016 to a close.  I recognize that I’ve been writing more personal stuff lately and less… “lifestyle” articles but the truth is that I write what I’m feeling or thinking, and I suppose lately (especially around the holidays) it’s been more along the lines of a journal than a blog.  You get to deal with it.

So, with that said, happy new year!  For me 2015 was more of a struggle than I have had in a long time.  Actually, that may not be completely true, but it was a very different kind of struggle, one that (with the exception of a few positive introductions) basically defined the year as shit.  Yes, 2015 was a shit year with shit-filling coated in shit.  It started out with some promise and was garbage within three months.  My stress level went through the roof, my income plummeted, my finances when to hell, and my self-confidence took a major hit (okay, fine.. maybe it’s a good thing to get my ego in check from time to time.)

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See? Relaxed.

Fortunately in the last couple of months of the year, my struggles and efforts bore fruit in the form of new and different opportunities, and by mid-December I was already beginning my recovery to start 2016 strong.

So here I sit on the first day.  My stress level is minimal (in fact, sometimes I feel too relaxed.)  My work situation has me situated in a literal paradise, and my boss might be the only person on earth who has experienced a greater variety of life than I have (relatively speaking and possibly slightly exaggerated in regards to my life experience.)  Perhaps most importantly, he is very patient and laid back… which I’m honestly still getting used to after my previous bosses.  My income is not exceptional, but slightly better than it was at the height of my financial stability around two years ago (I’ve made more since then, but the situation was much more difficult essentially negating the addition income.)  All in all, the foundation is being reset after it was nearly destroyed in 2015.  It’s a mix of the old and the new (and unfortunately, it seems, not without a few social casualties…) but it feels like it’s strong and fully capable of supporting the next chapter the is 2016.

Note: I passed out while writing this, so the following is a continuation authored the next day (told you I was relaxed.)

So what is the next chapter.  Or rather, what is my intention? We all know that we picture one thing, and even if we reach that goal it will look different than we pictured and take us on a path we couldn’t have imagined, so scrutinizing that is useless.  Rather, I guess the questions are; What are your intentions for the year?  What will you focus on?

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    The elephant understands.

First and foremost: Balance.  Always balance.  If there’s anything that has been obvious to me time and time again, it’s that taking anything to an extreme, even if it’s a seemingly good thing, almost always ends badly. Obviously this is a very general philosophy that can be broken down to very specific situations, but in general I believe the more you put effort into keeping yourself and your life balanced, that happier and better adjusted you will be.  I could write and entire post on this alone (and have if you go way back to the “Philosophy of Moderation” posts.)  Short term, or extreme situations with defined deadlines are important and potentially very productive, but as a general life philosophy I suggest you strive for balance.  It’s an easy google search to find many testimonials from people who took things to extremes and regretted it later on some level.

So with that overtone in mind, I want to get back to personal development.  Much of 2015 was dedicated to the trap of “getting by” that I know a lot of people are still in.  But since it appears I’ll have a little breathing room, I want to get back to hobbies that I enjoy and are productive (no, I’m not talking about Final Fantasy XIV… but that will happen too… in moderation.)

First, I want to write more and more consistently.  The surprising number of you that have hung in there when I got down to one post a month on average during parts of the year should find that you see a lot more from me.  Initially my goal is one a week, we’ll see where I go from there.  Along the same lines I’m considering a second blog / website dedicated to fictional writing.  The “Kaska-Ta” entries are a bit of an outlet using a metaphorical world to discuss actual dilemmas and thought processes, but I’ve got a lot of other stuff that is quite a ways farther out there running around in my head.  So I’ll keep you posted on that development.  I most certainly  won’t be starting that until I feel confident I’m giving you enough attention here.

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This is a raw shot I took yesterday.  It might end up being my favorite of the set.  Feel special.

Second, I’ve got access to semi-professional camera now (Canon 70D, not the 6D that is my goal, but I like it a lot better than I thought I would.)  As such I will be spending more time on my photography.  This one is a little addictive, so I have to watch my time spent, but it’s something I really enjoy.  I’ll probably have a dedicated site for my “professional” photos (no, I’m not putting them in Instagram.. thats for my iPhone.) and while I don’t have any intention of collecting money for my services anytime soon, I’ll be trying a lot of things creatively, entering photography contests, and seeing what I can do to get my name out a bit as a legit taker of pretty pictures.  Since I showed off the camera in social media, a few people have pinged me about potential projects that I’m already excited about.

Third, and while this is nothing new it remains important: I need to get active again.  The nocturnal, all-encompassing Uber life and the stress that came from the greatly reduced income destroyed my routine and left me with little motivation to try and get it back together.  But if anything is essential to maintaining mental balance, it’s making sure your physical body is on the level with your mind.  The running especially is a sort of meditation for me, and one I will not be neglecting much longer.  As expensive as they are, I will probably try to get back into the Disney races as they are both magical and give me goals to train for.  Hopefully I can swing the Marathon this year… and survive it.  I’m a long way away from where I was when I successfully ran that a couple years ago.

The intentions above come with the obvious condition that I don’t neglect

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Work it.

other aspects of my life to do so.  Socially I’ve been recluse and I intend to improve that now that I have the resources to indeed be social.  And arguably more importantly (since it is a large part of my foundation) I need to be sure my focus on work is proactive and diligent.  As I said my boss is very laid back, but that needs to be an excuse to stay sharp and exceed expectations so that I have to basis to continue to improve said foundation.

There are also more tangible carry-over goals from last year:

1. Japan.  I made the promise last year and while she’s been very gracious about my situation causing that to not happen, I hate not keeping my promises.  Besides, I need to get back over there, it’s been way too long.

2. Canon 6D (or possibly a 1Dx should they come up with the rumored upgrade.)  The camera I have access to now will work great in the meantime, but it’s not full-frame, and it’s not mine.  Two things I need to remedy if I really want to be considered “pro”.

3.  Cruise (this is a strong optional.)  It’s been three years now (I think…) since I was last on a cruise ship.  It’s been too long.  I don’t know what it is about being on these 2015-12-31 17.29.50marvels of engineering out on the open sea, but it’s fantastic and I need to get out there again.

So, obviously, it’s going to be a busy year.  But busy is good when it’s the kinds of things you’re excited to do.  Last year I had a few moments where I lost hope and was very close to rock-bottom again, but thanks to my friends reminding me what was important, a lot of hours spent in my car, and a little bit of help here and there from the universe, this year has a great deal of potential that I’m determined to make sure isn’t wasted.

Happy New Year!