being yourself

Exit 176. Go do something else with your attitude, like crush a child’s dream.

I was always that kid who liked to build things out of common household items accessible to a kid.  Growing up, my room was always full of simple pinball machines made of cardboard, duct tape, and marbles.

As an adult, I still occasionally take on do-it-yourself projects that remind me a lot of the kind of things I would build as a kid, the kind of projects that I imagine someone like MacGyver would take on.  A while back, I used two long sticks and a tape measure to unclog the dryer vent.  When I posted a picture on Facebook of the huge pile of damp lint that had been clogging the vent, I said that I would like to thank Angus MacGyver for teaching my preteen self that there is always a solution using common household objects.

Which brings me to last week.  One of my current projects requires large amounts of scrap cardboard.  I thought of the perfect place to acquire this cardboard: Costco.  For those of you who do not have Costco in your area, this is a bulk wholesale store that sells large quantities of groceries and other common items.  Many of them are sitting on wooden pallets, with sheets of cardboard separating boxes that are stacked on top of each other.  So I walked around the store, grabbing as many of the sheets of cardboard that I could without making a huge mess of the stacked items.  I even checked with an employee if it was okay, and he said sure, we usually just throw them away anyway.  That’s what I assumed.

A few people asked me what the cardboard was for, and I just told them it was for a project I was working on.  I thought about what I was going to say if anyone asked me what the project was.  I didn’t want to be one of those snobs who gets all uppity when a stranger tries to make conversation, telling the other person that they have no right to talk to me.  But explaining exactly what I was doing didn’t feel right.  At one point, I considered telling the truth: “I’m sorry, but I’m feeling really anxious and self-conscious right now, because whenever I do a project like this, people always respond by telling me it’s stupid and it’s not going to work.”

For example, a few years ago, I got another clever idea, this time an electronics-computer-type MacGyver project.  I was telling some people about my idea, and one guy just sneered and told me why my idea was dumb.  Now this guy is just an asshole all around, and not just because of this.  We still cross paths occasionally, and I try not to say more than hi to him.  But it still hurt.  And I never did finish this project.

So… back to Costco.  No one asked me what the project was.  Four people asked me on what aisle they could find things; apparently they assumed that someone pushing a cart full of scraps of cardboard around the store must be an employee.  I hadn’t even foreseen that happening.  Apparently they didn’t see my case of toilet paper, bucket of laundry detergent, or four pound bag of chocolate chips in the bucket under all the cardboard.

When I finally got to the front of the line, I checked again to make sure it was okay for me to take the cardboard.  I said I wasn’t using it to hide anything I might be trying to steal.  And while attempting to make small talk with the cashier, I told her what the cardboard was for.

And she promptly told me why my idea might not work.


You’re not helping.  Just shut up.  Go do something else with your attitude, like crush a child’s dream or something.  But leave me alone.  I don’t need your advice.

Meanwhile, nothing about that experience has helped the way I feel about this.  Notice that I haven’t even explained here what the cardboard is for… and I’m not going to.  I guess I’m just better off keeping my bright ideas to myself.  Maybe that’s ok.

And it remains to be seen whether or not my idea will work.

Exit 145. That’s ok.

I missed a post a couple weeks ago and didn’t write a second post to make up for it.  That’s ok.

I had a semi-blind date a couple weeks ago.  It didn’t go badly, but in conversations that happened afterward, it became pretty clear pretty quickly that we’re not right for each other in that sense.  That’s ok.

One day this week, we had to evacuate the school where I work, for over an hour.  It turned out to be a false alarm, but it was pretty inconvenient, and it messed up my schedule for the week.  One of the classes is now another day behind where I should be at this time of year.  That’s ok.

I had people over last night.  It had been four months since my friends had been to my house, and that was a last minute thing; it had been six months since I had planned to have people over.  I just haven’t been feeling very social the last few months.  That’s ok.

Although I have known for a long time that I am an introvert, I always enjoyed things like this where a ton of people show up at my house… once in a while, at least.  I would count how many people show up, hoping to set a new record.  But last night was a much smaller crowd.  That’s ok.

I don’t even remember what the record is now.  I remember having 30 people once, but I think that might have been surpassed once.  But I’m not sure.  That’s ok.

I stayed up really late last night, and I skipped church this morning.  That’s ok.

Around 11:00 this morning, I went back to bed, and I stayed in bed until mid-afternoon.  I didn’t go for a bike ride today, and I haven’t cleaned up anything from last night yet.  That’s ok.

It’s ok, because I have to take care of myself.  It’s ok, because I needed to be around a smaller crowd and feel closer to this group of people.  It’s ok, because my true friends will understand.

Exit 57. Underneath, there is a beautiful little story.

Sorry I’m late.  I had a lot of unexpected things happen this last weekend.

One thing I did recently was watch the movie Orange County.  I’ve seen this movie probably close to 100 times since its 2002 release.  And it was not at all a movie I expected to love so much.  I actually passed up a chance to see it on the big screen when it was first released.  I had a friend from Church I with the Problems who was a live-in nanny at the time.  She was taking the teenage boy to the movie theater to see Orange County with some friends of his, and she and I were going to go see something else.  I’m not even sure now what it was, although if it’s what I think I remember it being, it was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen to the point that I don’t even want to discuss it.  I passed on Orange County because I had seen commercials for it, and I thought it looked like a dumb and disgusting teen stoner movie.

For those of you who don’t remember this movie, or (especially) for those of you who are getting it mixed up with a similarly named but unrelated TV show from a little later: Orange County stars Colin Hanks (Tom’s real-life son) as Shaun, a high school senior, a former surfer, stoner, and underachiever who has finally found inspiration.  In one horrible day, his dreams of leaving Orange County and following this inspiration constantly go wrong, despite the best efforts of Ashley, his overly positive girlfriend (Schuyler Fisk, the real-life daughter of Sissy Spacek), and Lance, his lovable loser older brother (Jack Black, playing the exact same character he always plays so well).

About six months after the time I didn’t see Orange County on the big screen, in June, I was visiting my parents while on school break.  My brother was borrowing the DVD of Orange County from a coworker, or community college classmate, I forget which.  He was into a lot of those dumb teen movies at the time, and I’d usually give them a chance.  But the day after we watched Orange County, I watched it again.  It was rare that I would want to watch one of his favorite movies a second time.  This one was special.  A few months later, my family came to visit me for my birthday.  At the time, the tradition was that my brother would get me a movie for my birthday.  I hadn’t mentioned to him any movies that I wanted, nor did I give him any gift ideas.  After taking me to dinner, we were opening presents in the parking lot, and my brother was holding my present behind his back, unwrapped, so I couldn’t see it.  Mom asked, “Do you think you know what [your brother] got you?”  I had a serious dilemma on my hands here.  If I said I thought he got me Orange County, that would mean admitting publicly that I liked this silly movie.  If I didn’t say anything, though, I’d miss a chance to be right.  I went with the first option eventually, saying something like “Ummmmmmmmmorangecounty?”  He pulled his hand out from behind his back, and sure enough, there was Orange County on DVD.  I watched it around 30 times in the next month alone.

So why did I change my mind about this little piece of cinematic brilliance?  The whole teen surfer stoner culture is just the backdrop.  Underneath, there is a beautiful little story about being yourself, figuring out what is really important in life, and having a love-hate relationship with your hometown and the way it influences you.  (Notice that the movie is named after where Shaun lives, not after what he does or what he wants to be in life or anything like that.)  And those are all things I can relate to very well.  Long before I had this blog or Facebook or Myspace or Livejournal, I used to send a monthly email to stay in touch with all my friends.  I mentioned this movie in one of those monthly emails around the time I first discovered it.  One of my good friends from high school replied, “What is it with you brilliant people and stupid movies?  My brother was just telling me he was watching Bring It On while writing his dissertation.”  (I haven’t seen Bring It On by the way.)  I replied something like, “I have a special connection with movies I can relate to.  And let’s look at it this way.  Shaun, in Orange County, is a confused kid who is tired of his hometown.  His family drives him crazy.  He writes a story based on his life.  He can’t wait to get away from all of that, but nothing goes right, and in the process, he learns what’s important in life and that running away won’t solve all his problems.  DOES THIS SOUND LIKE ANYONE YOU KNOW?  I rest my case.”

So there it is.  Orange County is one of my all-time favorite movies.  If you’ve never seen it, and you want to, come on over.  Unless you’re a jerk and I don’t know you, in which case maybe you should watch it with your own friends.

What about the rest of my readers?  Do any of you have a lesser-known movie, or book, or anything else, that you really connected with like this?