Month: November 2016

Exit 134. Thankful.

Since 2009, I have been attending a weekly partner dance event at a dance studio in Sacramento.  When I first started, it was a combination of blues dancing and West Coast swing; it has now changed to blues-based fusion dancing.  Since around 2011, I have volunteered to work the front desk, taking people’s money for part of the night.

Every year, on the weekend of Thanksgiving, this group has an event where, essentially, we write notes to each other to tell others why we are thankful for them.  Everyone has a bag with their name on it for people to just drop notes in as the night goes on.  This is one of my favorite nights of the year, at least as far as dance activities go.  I’m not trying to be an attention whore, but it is a great uplifting encouragement to see that someone took time out of their evening to tell me that they enjoy dancing with me, seeing me welcome them every week, or that I make great chocolate chip cookies.

In addition to this, I also look forward to the opportunity to tell others that I enjoy dancing with them, or just talking to them between dances.  I’m not always good at saying this kind of thing to someone face to face, because of my introverted nature, and this gives me a chance to express something I might not be able to do otherwise, as well as to make others feel the same way I do about this night.

What always strikes me about this is that it is provides a contrast to the way I often feel about the blues fusion community in general.  Specifically, I often feel that I don’t fit in, to the point that I question whether my continued involvement in blues fusion dance is helpful or harmful.  I enjoy the dancing itself, but I am not a dancer by nature.  I had no experience with dancing, other than a few awkward moments at middle and high school dances, until that brief time in the late 90s when swing dancing was a huge fad.  I got back into swing from 2007 until about a year ago when I got really busy with life, and I still go occasionally.  I got into blues a couple years later through some regulars there who I already knew from swing.  To this day, I still feel like I’m doing this more just for fun, as opposed to trying to be the best dancer ever and win competitions.  I don’t have time to devote to training for dance competitions, taking lots of classes and workshops, or traveling to multi-day dance festivals in other states, as many of my dance friends do on a regular basis.  The blues fusion community also tends to attract people with lifestyles and values very different from my own; I want to be accepting of others, but given my much more conservative and sheltered upbringing, I often find their lifestyles strange and a little frightening.  I often feel isolated because of this, and sometimes others will say things, or share links on social media, that I find hurtful toward people with values like mine.

But despite all that, the blues fusion community continues to surprise me with the kind of notes they write to me for this event.  Sometimes I get complimented by people I don’t know well about things that wouldn’t even have crossed my mind as something I did that others would appreciate or remember.  I even had someone tell me in person that she started to write me a note, but didn’t put it in my bag because she had a lot more to say than would fit on the card, and she didn’t want to write me a “half-assed” note, so she would give it to me next week after she finished.  Of course, that made me feel like the three-sentence note I had written to her was pretty half-assed, but that’s not the point.  The point is that, despite the fact that I feel so different from these people on the surface, there are many nice people in this group, and so often human beings have so much more in common than the differences that we choose to obsess about.  So maybe I need to be looking for the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives.

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Exit 133. Time to go our separate ways.

I’ve known you for many, many years.  I’ve trusted you with some very important secrets.  I’ve defended you to others who don’t like you and keep telling me that I can do better.

And yet you betrayed my trust.  You told lies and engaged in shady unethical behavior for purely selfish reasons.  Although I don’t believe that you put any secrets of mine at risk, I can’t say the same for everyone else who trusted you, and it was probably only a matter of time before you used me as well.

So, after 21 years, it is time to go our separate ways.  I have moved on.  I’m over you.  Time to make a new start with someone else.  It’s done.

For the record, this is about my bank.  The bank that I have used for the last 21 years was caught in a scandal recently, and as of this weekend I have finished moving my money elsewhere and cutting all ties to them.  This post wasn’t about a friend or a significant other, and it isn’t intended to passively-aggressively call anyone out.  But if the shoe fits…

I’ve said this before.  I hate to cut anyone out of my life, because even when I grow apart from someone, I remember what it was like when we were close, and I always want to hold out hope that we may grow close again.  But sometimes holding on to something like this does more harm than good.  Not everyone whom I meet is going to be a close friend forever, or at all, and not everyone whom I choose to make a priority is going to make me a priority in their life in return.  It is exceedingly draining to keep investing my life and my emotional energy in someone who just doesn’t act like they care.  Maybe we were close once, but sometimes people change, and sometimes when I first want to be close to someone, I don’t realize what they are really like.

I’ve always had a hard time with this aspect of friendships and relationships, and it has been coming up again lately in a lot of places, including my experience with the bank.  Unfortunately, this is just part of life and of growing up.  Who to keep in my life and who to cut ties with is going to be a difficult decision…

Exit 132. It reminded me of the way I’ve been mistreated.

I voted for Gary Johnson.

This is not going to be a political post, so I’m not going to go into detail on my thoughts on the issues.  So here’s the short version: I wasn’t expecting him to win a majority of the electoral vote.  I mostly just didn’t want a vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump on my conscience.  I dislike them both, for different reasons.  And I don’t agree with Gary Johnson on some things, but the thought of him in the White House scared me less than the thought of either of the two major candidates in the White House.  And I do not regret one bit voting the way I did, so all of you who kept telling me that a third party candidate can’t win, save your I-told-you-sos for someone else.

So… anyway… even though I wasn’t 100% behind all of Gary Johnson’s views on the issues, and I don’t agree with all of the Libertarian Party’s stances, this year felt different.  With Clinton and Trump so widely disliked, many voters were looking for an alternative. Johnson had previously won two terms as governor of New Mexico, so he had relevant political experience.  He was polling over 10% in many states a few months before the election.  He was popular with certain subgroups of the population, and in a few states, such as New Mexico and Utah, his numbers were looking like he might actually have a chance to win.  No third party candidate had won a state since 1968, and in an election projected to be close, like this one, just winning one or two states might be enough to ensure that neither of the two major candidates would win a majority of the electoral vote.  According to the Constitution, this would lead to the House of Representatives choosing the President, with each state getting one vote (as opposed to each Representative), and this would open up the possibility of a compromise with the Republican Congressional delegation not being unified behind Trump.  The chance of that actually happening was small, but like I said, this year felt different, and it felt like time for the unexpected to happen.

But it did not happen.

Evan McMullin of Utah entered the race late and took most of the Utah anyone-but-Clinton-or-Trump voters away from Johnson.  Johnson got a little over nine percent of the vote in his home state of New Mexico, and over five percent in only a few other states.  Nationally, Johnson won a little over three percent of the popular vote, a number very similar to his showing in my home state of California.

Watching this phenomenon kind of annoyed and disappointed me, because it reminded me of the way I’ve been mistreated over the years by people who I thought cared for me.  People get all excited about something that I’m also a part of, but then in the moment of truth, they back out and abandon me, much as many people who polls said were voting for Gary Johnson apparently abandoned him and the rest of the Johnson voters.  There have been times when I have made group plans to go out to dinner, game nights, movie marathons, sporting events, and the like.  Many of my friends act interested at first, and then many of them back out at the last minute.  Not only is this frustrating, but sometimes this leaves me with tons of uneaten food at my house, or a responsibility to find someone at the last minute to take a ticket I’ve already paid for.

Similarly, in my 20s, I was surrounded by Christians who preached an extremely restrictive and conservative message regarding dating and sexuality.  I did my best to conform: I made friends with girls instead of actively pursuing them as romantic interests.  I tried my hardest not to masturbate or have overly flirtatious and sexually explicit chat room and instant message conversations, and when my willpower wasn’t strong enough, I felt immensely guilty and down on myself.  Meanwhile, many of my friends who were so passionate about this lifestyle eventually threw all that stuff out the window and started doing all the things they preached so loudly against.  They told me that I was single because God doesn’t want me dating and I wasn’t praying enough, just before they went home to watch porn and have sex with their significant others that they weren’t married to.

Why do people do this?  I don’t know.  I do have a few theories as to where all the prospective Gary Johnson voters went.  There probably were not as many of them to begin with, since much of what I was reading on the subject came from the Johnson campaign itself, which had a vested interest in skewing statistics to make their candidate seem more popular.  As I said before, many of them, especially in Utah, voted for Evan McMullin instead.  Some of them probably decided that they were so repulsed by one candidate that they voted for the slightly less objectionable candidate just to stop the slightly more objectionable one.  Some of them probably were so repulsed by both candidates that they did not vote at all.  Some of them probably lost faith in the ability of anyone to go up against the two-party system that they voted for the slightly less objectionable candidate.  That’s their right, and I’m not here to blame third-party voters for a major party candidate winning or losing any state.  That’s not how it works.

As for why my friends acted in ways that made me feel abandoned and backed out on, I know even less.  Some of the people in my life just aren’t true friends, just as many potential Johnson voters weren’t truly on board with his candidacy.  With social plans, sometimes things genuinely do come up.  People get sick.  Family members have emergencies.  And as for the Christians-don’t-date lifestyle, sometimes people get caught up in a certain lifestyle or viewpoint because of the people around them, without actually having a life-changing commitment to this lifestyle, and when circumstances change and they see other viewpoints, sometimes they fall away.  I don’t want to be angry with my friends.  I understand that things come up sometimes.  And everyone has their own journey of faith, and everyone who has left Christianity or become more liberal in their interpretation of Scripture has their reasons for doing so.  It is not my place to judge their faith.  I have things to learn from them, and I certainly see some things differently now than I did as a new Christian 20 years ago.  Many of these things happened to me a long time ago, and I don’t think it is healthy to carry grudges.

I guess I’m mostly angry at the world in general.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do about it.  Life isn’t fair, and people will disappoint.  I’m just going to have to find a way to deal with it, and this is a process that will take a long time.

Exit 131. Eating one for the first time.

A while back, I clicked on one of those clickbait articles meant to make Gen-Xers and baby boomers feel old.  This one was a video of so-called millennials who had never eaten a Big Mac before, and their reactions upon eating one for the first time.

I realized something after watching this video: despite being older than anyone in the video, I had never eaten a Big Mac either.

I’ve eaten at McDonald’s before.  As a kid, I ate quite often at McDonald’s.  But rarely hamburgers.  I was a Chicken McNugget fan as a kid.  I didn’t like pickles, or most vegetables, on my burgers as a kid, so I just assumed that I liked my burgers with just ketchup and mayonnaise.  In fact, it wasn’t until early adulthood that I discovered that I liked mustard and onions on cheeseburgers, and this was only because I forgot to ask for no mustard and no onions one day.  In my early adulthood, the southern California-based chain In-N-Out Burger expanded into northern California, and that became my go-to fast food burger for a long time.  It is still one of my favorites, although I have other go-tos these days too.

On Fridays, I’m usually so tired from the work week that when I get home, I don’t do much the rest of the evening.  I usually treat myself to food somewhere cheap, or somewhere that I have a coupon.  I was thinking about this video during the week, and in the spirit of trying new things, or things that are new to me at least, I decided that this week’s Friday fast food treat for me would be a Big Mac.

It wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t Earth-shatteringly impressive, but it wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t as big as I was expecting for a double cheeseburger.  For one thing, a double cheeseburger is supposed to have more than one piece of cheese.  And the patties aren’t really all that big.  I suppose it would have been a much bigger deal when this was a new product in the 60s, but I suppose I’m used to a new generation of fat-asses that want bigger burgers.  But it wasn’t bad, and it’s an option in the future.  And now I can say I’ve tried it.

I still don’t know what the third bun is for, though.

Exit 130. An outside perspective.

A friend of mine who lived in California until about a year ago, and who has been known to call himself a music snob, recently made a Facebook post in which he said something like “Since nobody else is saying it, I will: Lynyrd Skynyrd was just okay.”  They’ve never been my absolute favorite, I only have a greatest hits album of theirs, but I still think they’re better than “just okay.”  I made some snarky comment, probably a little more rude than I should have been, about how nobody else is saying it because everyone else has good taste in music.

One of his other friends said that he is only saying this because he is not from the South.  He replied something about how sometimes you need an outside perspective on things.

And then I realized that he’s right.

Lynyrd Skynyrd formed in Jacksonville in the late 1960s.  I once heard someone say that Florida is the upside-down state, in that the farther north you go, it feels more and more like the South.  Jacksonville is about as far north as you can go in Florida, just a few miles from Georgia, and the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd has often been considered one of the major examples of the “Southern rock” genre, blending classic rock with blues and country influences.  My friend’s point was that Lynyrd Skynyrd is so iconic in Southern culture that many Southerners never think to question whether or not their music is actually good.

I’ve had a few outside perspectives in my life.  I started college the same year that a TV show called Friends premiered on NBC.  Friends was huge among my peers and classmates.  It was the show that everyone related to and aspired to, with their groups of people they hang out with at home and at the coffee shop, sharing each other’s lives and gossiping about their significant others.  But not me.  I tried to get into Friends, but I came from an outside perspective.  I didn’t have that kind of group of friends in real life; having friends in the first place was new to me in my late teens, and I still didn’t have much of a social life.  All six of the main characters of Friends reminded me of the kind of Cool Kids who bullied and rejected me all through childhood.  I don’t want to watch a show about them, unless it’s about them dying horribly painful deaths.  And I couldn’t even relate to the coffee shop thing, because from my perspective, coffee tastes like crap.  I always felt that my social life was stunted being a university student in the Friends era who did not drink coffee.

A couple years ago, I also remember having a conversation with an acquaintance in which I said that I don’t particularly like romantic comedies as a genre, although there are a small few that I’ve enjoyed.  (Like this one, even though it’s not real.)  She asked why, and I said because I can’t relate to romantic comedies.  She said something like, “Really?  I would think that love is something universal that everyone can relate to.”  Maybe everyone she knows, but from my outside perspective, love is something that only happens in movies and books and other people’s lives.  I’ve experienced all of the heartache associated with relationships with very little of the good times, and even the few good relationship moments I have experienced have not usually involved the awkwardly sweet giggling, long walks on the beach, or having sex with someone you just met a week ago that seem to characterize romantic comedies.

So maybe an outside perspective is necessary.  And a good thing, so that people who aren’t living breathing stereotypes don’t get forgotten.  And if my friend from the first paragraph is reading this, I’m sorry for insulting your taste in music.