Category Archives: Philosification
The Time Machine
This car is such an interesting piece of my personal history. These past few weeks had been coming up on my 20th class reunion, and I knew it was going to take some work to get the car back on the road. So I took the opportunity to start going through everything and getting it sorted out. Throughout the process I decided to do a little cosmetic restoration as well.
If you don’t know the story on this car, it was my first car, the car I drove all through high school. In the late 90’s I plastered a deer going 55 mph. It busted the grill, knocked loose a transmission line and I got stranded. Dad had to come get the car running again so I could drive home.
The summer before college the car finally bit the dust when the transmission gave up. I got it towed back to the house and there it sat as I went off to K-State. Dad tried to sell the car, but no one wanted the old, beat up, used up, non-running heap. After a few years he decided he was either going to haul it to the scrapyard, or he was going to build it up and get it running again.
My dad is the reason this car still exists at all. From the very beginning. When we picked up the car before my freshman year of high school in 1996 it needed so much work. He agreed to help me work on it, if I paid for all the parts. It needed basically everything, but he got it road worthy again. He used old fence pipe to make a new exhaust for it. When I hit the deer, he fixed the transmission and even hand bent and welded up a new grill from scrap pipe he found laying around, that I chose to paint red to match the bowtie. And when I left for college he put a whole new drivetrain in it and gave the car a whole new life and personality.
So this car has now been a vein in our lives for almost 30 years. But what would it mean to “restore” a car like this? In my mind it wouldn’t make any sense to try to restore this car back to the way it looked when it was on the showroom. That’s a car I’d be completely unfamiliar with. We could put the gutless 305 ci engine back in it, but that wouldn’t be any fun. We could paint it a beautiful deep metallic paint, but would it even look right?
As I was bolting in the new grill and headlight bezels, tightening down the lugnuts on the classic Cragar wheels, filling in the paint chips, I stepped back and was a bit struck by an image that I hadn’t seen since I was just a cringy, insecure high school sophomore. But within seconds I already kinda missed the red grill and centerline wheels that I’d just taken off.
That car existed in that (let’s call it 2.0) form for longer than I ever knew it in the state we first bought it in 1996. So which car is more “real”? Which version deserves to be memorialized? You could easily ask a stranger which looks better and I’m sure the average Joe would pick the stock grill and chrome wheels. But I was talking to a high school friend about it and the first thing he said when he saw it was, “You saved the red grill didn’t you?” YES! Absolutely I did, for all the reasons he asked that question. In his mind, and to a great extent my own, that grill was an inseparable part of what made that car what it was.
Scars aren’t pretty, but they all have stories. Some scars come from a life saving operation. Some come from stupid choices that we are grateful to be able to tell tale of. Everything wears out, gradually losing its luster, its precision, and eventually its function. That happens to everything and everyone, whether we do anything with our time here of consequence or not. But our scars? Those are unique to us. They’re the marks left behind of our story. As permanent as we are. No one can take them, and no one can decipher them without the key you keep locked in your memory. Nothing is more unique and placed by our own choices and consequences than our scars.
But what image do you want to present to the world, or really to yourself? What do those scars represent? Shame? Regret? Pain? Do you choose to live with it and overcome it? Or do you choose to divorce yourself from it and move on separately, better than before? I’m not here to say which is right or wrong. Life isn’t about playing every hand perfectly. It’s about staying in the game, and hopefully having something left to pass to your partner if you’re lucky.
The night I hit that deer wasn’t a particularly pleasant night. But when I look at that picture above, even though it was taken 20 years after that night, I now remember my friends who drove me all the way home in the middle of the night. My Dad who spent the time to perfectly bend each and every pipe to match the contour of the car so I didn’t have to drive a jalopy. A contemporarily terrible moment, turned into a sweet memory of people who cared about me.
And so, I want to treat this car with respect. I could easily get carried away and erase everything about this car that makes it so personal. With that said, nostalgia is the art of remembering the good times in a way that is likely better than they were. And if this car isn’t rolling nostalgia, I don’t know what is. There’s balance to be found in there for sure.
My Dad asked me, “What are you going to do with the old wheels?” A question I’d already thought about and would have been surprised if he didn’t ask. As much as this car’s memory belongs to me, it belongs to him too. And my family, and the friends who grew up with it. I’m a steward of their memories as much as I am my own, and to think that my feelings about the old black car are any more valid than my Dad’s would be a bit like me thinking I’m the only hero in this story. Like I mentioned in the beginning. This car still exists today because of him. That car had those wheels on it longer than they ever had the Crager’s that I remember from high school. There’s no way that the wheels that are on it now are the “right” wheels.
Those silver centerline’s aren’t going anywhere. I told him, I’m keeping them, and I want to get some honest racing slicks on those things. He built this car to go fast, and those rims deserve to have the right tires to make it the fastest, funnest, wildest thing it can possibly be.
I get so attached to things. But it’s never the thing really. It’s the stories attached to it. How it makes me feel. The time of my life from 1996 to 2001 wasn’t perfect. But I really did enjoy it, just like every other chapter in life so far. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget who I was, or the people that made a difference then. If this car keeps me thinking about those things, then maybe I won’t.
You Can’t Do It All
I’m a firm believer your happiness comes from where you find value. Doing what you love, and loving what you do aren’t always mutually inclusive though. In fact, mostly not. More often you’ll find yourself doing the things you have to do, instead of the things you want to do. Or for whatever reason, you can’t do that thing that brings you joy, at least not at the moment.
For the spaces in between, comes gratitude.
In the last several years, really since the kids were born, I’ve struggled with contentment. Kids do this strange thing to you in that you feel like you have to pour all of your resources into giving them a great life. It is truly what you want. You want them to grow up in a safe place, have all sorts of memorable experiences. You want to make sure that you give them the opportunities to succeed. To find out what they like, what they want to be. Watching them develop their own likes, and hopes, and dreams, and then stoking that fire and enthusiasm is really one of the most rewarding parts of parenting. And somewhere in the middle of all that you find about 3 free seconds of time to wonder… what used to make ME happy?
This is a bit of a dark path to follow though, because it leads to feeling like you’ve missed out on your own joy. You can convince yourself that you sacrificed everything to your family at the expense of yourself, and even to the point of developing resentment. I can’t say I’ve ever resented my family, the sacrifices have always been worth it, but I totally understand the feelings and emotions that can bring a person there. And I’ve definitely spent time in the pity party stage of thinking about everything I could have done that I didn’t get the chance to do.
And that’s really the thing. The sacrifice can always be worth it. And you can still come up short. Not even limited to kids, it’s just a fact that the world is a bigger place than we can exist in all at once. Every thing we do, even if it’s nothing, comes at the expense of what we could have done instead. I run into this a lot when I hear people say, “I wish I could [swim/play guitar/knit/whatever].” The thing is, you can. It’s super easy to look at other people and think they have it all. But they don’t. You’re just seeing the one thing you don’t have that they do.
The real difference in whether or not your happiness comes from what you did instead of that. If they are things you’re proud of, things you found joy in, then you shouldn’t be upset you never learned how to play guitar, because you would have had to give up so many great things to have it. So it’s okay. You have to be able to be happy without having it all.
That’s kinda where I am now. I don’t regret not having projects done, or not getting to play a game, or not being where I thought I’d be in Spanish, because I feel like at least recently, I’ve been able to do a lot of things I’m really grateful for.
Gratitude and contentment are both things that I think can be exercised. By which I mean you can focus on those feelings, and get better at them. There’s way more stuff that you don’t have, or didn’t get to do, than what you do have, or did. And the world around us is programmed to show us everything we don’t have and to make us want it. So you have to spend energy on saying, no “this story I’m being told isn’t true”. It doesn’t always come from the media either. It comes from people we care about and respect. “Why haven’t you finished school? Why don’t you trade in that car before something bad happens? Why are you moving to Toledo?” All at minimum inferring what you should be doing instead of what you are doing.
But keep practicing. The more you do, the more the hard stuff gets easier. You’ll get used to watching people chase whatever the cool fun thing is and still be unhappy. Listening to people be critical of your choices. And it’s all fine, because what they don’t understand is that “I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to do what I did, and that this is enough and I’m thankful to have it.”
They’re not wrong. But it’s not for me.
I’ve spent a week without social media recently. No twitter, no facebook, no online interaction at all. I turned off everything. No notifications on my phone. It was weird at first you know. I’d pull my phone out of my pocket at a somewhat regular interval, because it was “about time” there was something there for me to see. Except this time there wasn’t. And for the first couple days it was weird. Kind of the same feeling you get when you pull off the interstate into a rest area, while the rest of the traffic screams past you on the highway at a little bit more than the fastest velocity allowed by law. Some going left, some going right, but all pretty much following the one ahead of them in an orderly fashion, bound by rules they all acknowledge and accept. While I meanwhile, had to stop.
You see you don’t stop at a rest area because you enjoy the amenities. Rest stops are built out of a biological necessity. Given the choice you’d choose a gas station where you could get a candy bar and a Mtn Dew Code Red for the miles ahead. Or in a best case scenario, make it home, to the only bathroom on earth you can feel comfortable in naked. But here you are, at exit 328, if nothing else for a quick pit stop to make the next leg of your journey somewhat bearable.
The rest stop analogy ends there for the most part. I was growing weary of the amount of attention required to be given to my phone. I once pulled my phone out of my pocket and was informed I had 22 notifications. Twenty-Two. At any given point along my existence up until now, I don’t think there’s any singular point where I’ve cared about 22 different things at once. Messages, sports scores, news updates, recommendations, reviews. There’s NO WAY I’m this important that twenty-two different people or organizations NEED input from ME.
And for the first time in my life that I can recall, it was starting to affect my real life relationships. Not that I was spending too much time on my phone… but because I wasn’t spending ENOUGH. At the right times. With the right people. Saying the right things. Sharing the right stuff. To the extent that it was starting to effect my REAL LIFE relationships. And THIS really pissed me right the hell off.
You see, I exist in a pretty unique and remarkable moment in human history. I remember when email was new. I remember IRC, ICQ, MSN Messanger, AIM… and then later when text messaging was the thing. Always as each new thing came out, and people used it to communicate more and more. I still saw them as a substitute for actual interaction. “This is the thing you can do when you can’t be together.” It was the ‘instead’. You used it to in the moments between the time you really wanted with a person. Could you have meaningful conversation? Sure. But it was never the first choice.
I feel like I’m witnessing another remarkable moment in human history as I breath this air. Digital interaction isn’t just as important as face to face interaction. It’s maybe even more important. We’ve wrapped so much of our identity and actual lives around the pixel portal we hold in our hands, that it literally is a relevant measure of who we are as a physical person. And the fact that we have access to it at literally every living breathing millisecond of our lives makes it… completely reasonable.
Who is a person without their phone? Does it matter if they always have a phone?
When I realized being bad a phones, meant I was being bad at relationships. I suddenly did a full stop. I never thought about it before, that having constant connection and constant contact, or at least the ability to do so, was a reality of my existence. It was for better or worse, and by choice or not, a reality of how the world saw me. I could be reached at any moment. Therefore expected to respond at any moment. By contrast, I could reach out at any moment. Therefore expected to do so at any moment. I have always said, “I’m not good at everything. I just try to only do the things I’m good at.” And I suck at this.
Besides. It’s not what I want. It’s not who I want to be. I don’t want to be known for the sweetest links. I don’t want to be a master of the emoji. I don’t want to be the person who can craft the most heartwarming text. It may be how people prefer to experience me rather than taking up their actual time and space, but to be honest, if that’s the case… I’m not sure it’s worth my actual time and space.
Man, when I was a kid, especially late high school, I remember how important “goals” were supposed to be. We were encouraged to make goals for the day, goals for the week, goals for the year, 5 year goals… to write them all down and then come up with a plan, and check in on our progress. To write down sub-goals that we needed to achieve to meet our goals. And daily goals that would ensure we were always working on our big goals and where we wanted to be.
As a kid, you always are sort of thinking about what you want out of life. Often influenced by what you consider successful in the lives you’re exposed to. I never dreamt of having a big mansion on a coast somewhere, probably because I never knew anyone that had one. But I’m sure for some folks… that’s their goal.
Truth be told, I despised all of that. I wrote down the goals because I had to, and probably never ever looked at them again. I sorta remember what I thought my life would end up like back then. It’s pretty different than reality. I figured I’d stick together with my friends, we’d move off to a place more interesting than Ingalls, and be close enough that we could all get together after work, and just hang out and be… well the same.
Something, that of course never happened. We drifted away, pulled in different directions by people, opportunity, or just apathy. One of my favorite things is listening to stories about how people got from where they were to where they are now. It’s almost always for a reason or two or ten. But I hardly ever hear anyone who arrived where they are know, because they had specific goals and a plan they executed to get there. Maybe everyone hates goals.
Even to this day, you can ask Andrea. I hate planning things. I hate having days and weeks scheduled out in advance. And I don’t always like to talk about the future and what we’re going to do, because a lot of it never happens. I hear folks all the time talking about what they are going to do, what they’re going to buy, or what they want to create, only to never see it happen. I’m not any different than them. But I’d rather not set people’s expectations, you know.
Rather than focus on plans, goals, and destinations. I prefer to just work on my character. What is it that I like? What is it that brings me joy? What makes me the kind of person I want to be? Every little decision we make, every left or right turn we choose, leads us to where we are now. You can pick a destination in life, and try to work your way backwards to where you are now, stressing on figuring out what you need to be doing now to get yourself where you want to be THEN. Am I making all the right choices? OR… I like to think that if I try to take all the little things, and do what I think will make me happy, do the things I won’t regret, I’ll end up in a place that is perfect for me. Whether I knew it existed before or not.
I don’t know if I’ve ever written about this here, or not. But over the last year, I’ve been making an actual effort to learn Spanish. I have no good reason to learn Spanish. Of course it’s one of those things that everyone around here who doesn’t know Spanish says, “It would be really good to know”. Inferring that it opens up opportunities and maybe will let you know if someone in the cereal aisle is being critical of your fashion choices.
On of my friends is bi-lingual. I grill her on the language a lot and she obliges. If I were to look into the future (far future) of my Spanish speaking existence, I don’t know that I see myself finding that one great reason that learning Spanish will finally pay off. My impression is that she finds herself being the nearest available translator in random situations. Never compensated, and more than anything burdened with a responsibility of “getting it right”.
I never really thought about a second language being a sort of weight to carry with you. Think about it. When people need a translator, they need a translator. Because whatever it is, whatever they’re doing, language barrier or not, they need to get it done. So if you step in to translate for these people… you need to get it right. That’s kinda of a big liability to sign up for out of the goodness of your heart.
Learning the language has taught me a lot about people. I see how language can be so divisive. Over the years, I’ve encountered people who know little or no english at all. As a person is struggling to get their point across, searching and grasping for the phrase that will trigger a mutual understanding… In the moment it’s hard to see that person as intelligent. As your equal. It’s easy to think, “this person is dumb”. But how can you really make that judgment then and there? What if you’re actually talking to the smartest most compassionate person you’ll ever meet in your life. But because you can’t understand them you write them off as another idiot too lazy to learn.
More than any other quality we possess, skin color, lifestyle, education, I feel like language is more intimately tied to our culture. A black man and a white woman can sit down and discuss what makes them the same, what makes them different. Whether they agree or disagree on any concept that exists. An english speaker and a spanish speaker can’t. And what I’ve learned in my own admittedly narrow world view, is that so far… people are a lot more alike than we are different. Traditions, beliefs, cuisine, humor might all be wildly different. But what is right and wrong. How a person expects to be treated. What is fair. We’re all on the same page. It’s really brightened my view on humanity.
This is hard. Really hard. I’ve been at this for 10 months now. Practicing at least a little bit most days. I can read so so at least knowing enough context to make sense of it. I can barely write and speak. I don’t really have the opportunity for conversation, but listening to podcasts and watching shows in Spanish leaves me about three or four words behind and then I’m lost. I don’t think it’s HARDER than I expected. Just that I couldn’t do it “my” way. Which was basically just expose myself to as much of it as I could and one day it would all sink in. There’s just more too it than that. You can’t learn something you don’t know by osmosis. You have to put in work and effort and just straight hard memorization. Just this week, 10 months into it, I finally broke down and ordered some textbooks.
I’m excited to get more comfortable with the language. I’m excited to be able to express myself in it. I’m excited to be challenged by people. And to be quite honest, I’m excited for it to get easier.
En este momento, estoy feliz para saber que se. Estoy feliz de hacer esta oración. Quiero continuar aprendiendo mas. Gracias por leer y si decidas hacer algo, no tengas miedo. Si es dura. Entonces el regalo sera genial.
Old people are grumpy. They are less patient. They smell weird. They talk about boring things and have crazy ideas about how the world should be. This is how I always thought about old people. But as I get older, I feel like… I get it. I’m not tired or wore out like I always thought old folks were. I don’t have an abundance of time to drink coffee and fix all the world’s problems by complaining about them as I assumed all the old folks did. But still, I get it.
Seasoned citizens are the way they are… I think… because the world has eroded the relevance of the things they’ve always thought of as valuable, and it comes to appear (to them) as apathy, laziness, and a loss of formality and professionalism. But those participating, creating and shaping culture today see new ideas as either a rejection of the status quo, or a step towards something better than we’ve ever had before. And that has to be right. It has to be. Things have gotten better generation by generation pretty objectively. Health, education, lifestyle. Millions of people have it better now than even the richest of the rich had it 100 years ago in many ways.
So why do I feel myself ready to hop off the wagon train of progress? Just content to put down my roots here with what I know, what I’m happy with, and let that be that. I can attest that it’s literally frustrating trying to wrap my head around why what is new is better sometimes. And I can’t quite understand why.
Last night Andrea was struggling trying to watch a movie. We have a smart TV with Netflix built in. Problem was, every 5 minutes, the Wi-Fi would disconnect. I don’t know what time she finally got it fixed, but it was after I’d gone to bed and fell asleep. All I could think about was how if this had just been on a disc or a tape, we would have just watched a movie, and not been troubleshooting some technological hiccups all night.
But sometimes we remember the past better than it ever really was. Heck probably most times. I can also remember wrapping tin foil around TV antennae and adjusting endlessly trying to get the clearest picture possible, only to have it messed up when somebody else walks into the room and blocks your signal, all that effort to watch the ONLY thing on TV. As opposed to the thousands of choices available now on demand.
As I get older, it feels like people are willing to accept less and less quality, but in reality I suppose we’re really getting more than ever before. At work the past few days I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to get a College Football Pick ‘Em contest put together on our website. My company entered into an agreement with another company to provide a web platform to facilitate the contest. Problem was, no matter what we did, it looked like crap. Just plain awful. I tried everything and finally called the provider when I admitted defeat and couldn’t get it to look good. Their response was, “I don’t know. It looks pretty great to me!” I couldn’t help but in that moment think… they really find this acceptable? They’re really OK with this? Actual real humans look at this ugly off center, non-screen fitting disaster and think, well… nothing. It’s just… normal.
What I’ve thought about between that moment and now, is that while it wasn’t pretty… it facilitated something that in the past would have been pretty impossible. In days gone by, if you wanted to do the same contest, you would have had to print up entry forms. Distribute those entry forms to people who wanted to play. They’d have to go to a physical place to get them. They’d have to physically return them to you. Then it would be up to them to keep track of the contest on their own while they “play along from home”. Then all the entries and results would have to be counted by hand, hours and hours of people time. Where as now the contest is instantly distributed up to an infinite number of people, who can all play on devices that they already own, and get results in real time. All automatically. I guess if you put it that way, who cares what the magic carpet looks like? It freakin’ flies!
But I valued the presentation. I valued qualities of the experience that were important to me. And I left feeling frustrated wanting to retreat back to something that reinforced my values. But going back isn’t an option. For one, as mentioned before, the past as we remember it more often than not was not a place that ever actually existed anyway. But also the energy required to keep those old ideas alive requires more and more energy the farther away you get from them. Like trying to keep a Model T running in the year 2017. But I also don’t feel the need to truly embrace the new values, or maybe I’m just taking them for granted. Where I find myself is in a place of acceptance. That the world now “is what it is” and there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it.
But where do you find joy in a lifestyle of reluctant acceptance? I can see now how it’s easy to slip into the character of a person who’s frustrated, impatient, and apathetic. That’s not who I want to be, old and grumpy… and smelling bad. What I’m working towards is rather… tolerance I guess you could say. It’s a resource that I think you need to recharge once in a while. So I am working on a compromise. To complain less. To push forward more. To be productive. To be positive. However, with the understanding that I’m going to need to retreat away from time to time to recharge. To find those touchstones that reinforce my values and the things that I feel are what make me, me. That I’m still the same person that I’ve always been, and that it’s still OK to be.
Change is good. I’ve pretty much decided. Don’t get me wrong, nostalgia is by far my favorite drug. But as time goes on, the more I realize every change brings about a more firm resolve in the area the change took place. This is not to be confused with stubbornness. Rather a commitment to the choice, and a new line of thinking that makes future decisions rudimentary.
Change in my life seems to go in and out like the tide. Things are either changing all around me, or life is pretty much status quo. When you leave your parents house for the first time, your life is full of change. New settings, new objectives, new friends. For me, when Andrea and I got married, we had the ceremony, moved and started new jobs all in the same weekend. Three years later, within 9 months, we’d just bought the Cutlass, moved to a new house and were having a baby. Most recently I’ve started a new job at work and we’re buying a house. In between those eruptions of change I know there were things of consequence. Perhaps it’s just the magnitude of the big events that makes the things that happen around it seem more significant (most likely). Nevertheless, I look back on the big decisions and life, and I feel like I’ve really grown, emotionally and spiritually.
Not just the good changes. When I dropped out of college, I decided on a career path that has ultimately been rewarding both personally and as a provider for our family. At the time it wasn’t an easy… popular… or a fun decision to make. What it did though, is make me commit to making it work. When I was in school I was constantly making terrible money choices. When the bottom finally fell out, it was dark times. The only choice I had was to move on and make the decision to never go back there again. Even the unfortunate change has resulted in firm convictions that lead to more positive thoughts and actions. Now when a credit card offer comes in the mail, it goes straight to the trash bin. I have no need, or use for it in my life. I don’t have a single credit card. Infact my credit score doesn’t exist. (So the bank tells me).
Now, I can’t imagine ever having a car payment. Not knocking anyone who does. If there’s one thing I truly believe in, it’s that what’s best for me, isn’t necessarily best for anyone else. To me life is all about sacrifices. What are you willing to give up to get “X”. In order to not have a car payment, I drive older cars. I fix older cars. In exchange for that sacrifice I have a few hundred bucks every month to toss at something else. Or nothing else, and put it into savings. Luckily… I like older cars. Although I’ll be honest. I like new cars too. I’d love to be driving a new Dodge Charger. But I’ve made a choice that I have committed to making work. And if I stick to it, someday I’ll be able to go buy a new car, and still not have a car payment.
And that’s what’s completely awesome. You can make it work. Whatever it is you want. But you have to truly believe it WILL work. Could be a relationship, a job, a lifestyle choice; the moment you start to second guess yourself, you’ve taken the first step towards giving up. When life throws change your way… it’s an opportunity to search within yourself and decide the path you’re willing to take. An opportunity to really confirm what it is you believe in. It’s the choice that helps bring you to that self-realization. Once the choice is made, and you’ve committed to it, every change like it which follows brings with it an answer which is automatic based on your convictions. And each change brings you closer to the center of who you are as an individual.
So I welcome change. It is not always easy. But so far, I’ve usually been better for it.
How much do we miss?
You know sometimes I feel bad for not posting enough, and generally just disappearing off the grid for a while. Then videos like this remind me that I shouldn’t.
Last night I sat down and busted out some Mario Kart 64. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve played, and a long time since I dove into time trials. I looked back at my twitter and it’s been 1,086 days since I put down a time that was good enough to rank in the top five on any tracks on my cart. So that probably means it’s been at least a decade since I’ve had a time good enough to place first on any of those tracks.
For whatever reason I’d been thinking about this game lately. All the hours I’d spent perfecting those tracks and to some extent if those were skills that were lost forever, or if they were still inside me, buried beneath all the work stress, car repairs, bills, and savings. Of course there’s been a lot of good additions to my life too since then like my family. As nerdy as it sounds, my Mario Kart times were a very special thing to me in my school years. By both the good and the bad, since the late 90’s Mario Kart 64 is something that’s been steadily been pushed aside by other things that were of greater significance.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve changed so much since then. With the pressure of being pulled in so many directions, I feel like it’s wore me down making me more tired, irritable and cynical than ever. Changes I’m not really proud of. So from time to time I wonder if that free spirit is still at the center of the layers of serious crap that have been rolled and caked on top since then. I guess I felt like if I could still compete with my old self at something I was best at back then, then maybe I wasn’t as different a person as I felt after all.
Part of the reason it’s been 1,086 days since my last “blistering” time is because I’m always afraid that some day I’m going to sit down and not be able to do it anymore. That the “old” me really will be nothing more than just a memory. So with some mild trepidation, I picked a track I knew I’d spent a considerable amount of time on. Kalamari Desert. To put into perspective just HOW much time I’d spent racing this track, there is just a 0.42 second difference between 1st place and 5th place. That’s less time than it takes a fluorescent light bulb to turn on. This is exactly the reason I’ve been reluctant to race tracks like this because unless I really am as good as I used to be, there’s no chance I’ll ever have of ranking in the top 5.
My first run through was pretty far off the mark. Relatively at least. When you start getting picky, finding 2 seconds to shave off somewhere can get pretty tricky. But I did notice that my third lap was in the ballpark of my best lap ever. So I felt like getting on the board was achievable, especially since I was literally picking this up cold after ages.
After just my second run, I was really feeling good. My third lap was slower, but I’d picked up big time on laps one and two. Heck, over all I was just a half a second off 5th place and I knew I’d made some mistakes during the run. If I could just correct those, I could be on the board easily. Heck, maybe three runs would be all it would take and my skills had virtually never left me. Hell, maybe a new personal best was in store for me, all on just my 3rd run!
What followed in the 4th, 5th… 12th runs were waves of frustration. As I’d try to get more aggressive on each lap to cut into that time, I’d push just a little too far and make a mistake. I’d only finish all three laps maybe one out of every 5 attempts or so. But you know what, I wasn’t too bummed by it, because this was exactly how I used to play. In fact these exact scenarios used to infuriate the hell out of me. (Maybe I wasn’t so free and cheery as I’d like to think I used to be). Actually… I think Mario Kart Time Trials is the only game that literally made me throw controllers. I would start, restart, start, race, restart, start race finish… restart… all until my thumb was literally raw. So to think I just cranked out these times at will is far from reality.
Then finally after about an hour of racing this track. This one track. I finally did it.
I’d never been more happy to get 4th place. Only 0.16 seconds away from 1st place. I did try a couple more runs to see if I could crank out a 1st place. But honestly, after two runs and it not happening, I didn’t even want to keep going. As lame as this is, part of me didn’t want fell my old 1st place time because of all the work past me had put in to get it. WTF is wrong with my brain? The motivation this whole time was to prove that I’m still the same Matt I’ve always been, but when I have a chance to even be better I draw a line. I’ve gotta be nuts.
So someday I’ll beat that time. Maybe it will take another 1,000 days, but I hope not. I was thinking today about playing and caught myself saying I didn’t need to be playing it two days in a row because of all the other things I needed and wanted to do. Which is exactly what I’ve been telling myself for years that brought about this blog post today. So you know what. To hell with that mindset. If I have the time, and I want to play Mario Kart 64… or ANY other game for that matter. I’m just going to do it. Otherwise I end up convincing myself why I shouldn’t and end up doing something I enjoy less. I’m going to quit over thinking all this crap (see previous 1,000 words) and just have some damn fun. Time to go beat some old ghosts… in Mario Kart that is.
I think it made #1 in my list of Top Ten Most Annoying Technological Advances… the Cell Phone. I cringe every time it rings or I get a text for fear that I’m getting called into work… But most of all it has fundamentally changed how we interact with each other and not for the better.
This past weekend we went to Andrea’s sister’s house. It’s about a 2 hour drive to get there. At one point in the evening we are lounging around in the living room the TV is on and I’m vaguely paying attention what is on… when I stop and realize that nobody is talking. There we sat, Andrea, her sister and her niece… all on their phones. We’d traveled all the way down to see each other… and none of them were even looking at each other. Sure they were aware of each others’ presence… but each in their own little bubble. I was as alone in that room as if I were literally alone…
Now, I’m sure I’m guilty of it at times too… so I don’t want to say I’m holier than thou… in fact, I partake in it with all the mundane crap I post on Twitter. But I think there’s definitely a huge issue when we’re missing what’s really happening right in front of us, because we have our noses buried in an LCD screens.
Since that moment, this is another thing that I’ve grown to appreciate about Luke. He is EVERYTHING about what’s happening right now in the real world. And if there isn’t anything happening… he whips up something in his imagination… or just screams to let you know he wants to go play and DO something.
We should all be screaming though. I can’t believe we allow ourselves to be pacified by these short little bursts of “intestingness”. Yeah, I made that word up. But really, you check to see if there’s anything new… What’s interesting? A quick smash and grab emotional fix. But the gratification burns out as quickly as it was consumed. So you come back for more quick hits, again and again.
What are the long term consequences of this behavior? At best, we’ve just wasted hours and days of our lives on something that has absolutely no lasting value. How many things can you remember that you read on Facebook today? Yesterday? A week ago? A year ago? How much time have you spent using social media in those same time frames? At worst I think we are robbing ourselves of true life experiences. The kind of experiences that shape us as a person, give us our personality, and make a richer and more meaningful existence.
Maybe I’m just being over dramatic. But I struggle daily with trying to find the time to not only be a responsible adult, parent, husband, co-worker and friend… but also to do the things I truly want to do. I place a high value on my own time. To think of that time gone, lost forever, never to have back… bothers me a bit. The fact that others have such disregard for what their own time is worth… frightens me. I don’t want to be 85 and wish that I’d taken the time to write a story, or build a project car, or whatever it is you’ve always thought about doing. Because someday for you… for me… for every one of us… it WILL be too late.
Please don’t settle for being pacified. Be amazing. Be awesome. Be happy, justified by your own measure and expectations, and not by what others have “pinned’ or how many “likes” you’ve received. Start something today. Because if you don’t, you’ll blink and wish you had a decade ago.