life

Exit 211. I see them running too.

I discovered classic rock in the early 1990s, my high school years.  As my teens wore on, I realized that I was enjoying less and less the R&B and rap that the remaining radio station of my childhood played.  By the middle of my high school years, the stations that played what I considered good music of that time period were gone.  MTV still played music in the mornings, and they had the show where they played the most requested videos of the day that came on in the early evening.  I watched a lot of that, especially during school breaks when I was home in the morning.  But when I was listening to the radio while in my room doing homework, or in the car once I started driving, I wasn’t finding anything I liked among the numerous R&B, rap, country, and Spanish-language stations that Monterey County was in range of at the time.  There were a couple of classic rock stations, playing rock music from a time period that spanned from the mid-1960s (my parents’ teen years) to the mid-1980s (my childhood).  Most of these songs were before my time, and I didn’t remember them.  Some of them were by artists I had never heard of.  But I came to discover that I enjoyed it.  Good music.

Some of these songs remained background music to me for decades, coming up every once in a while while flipping around the radio, without me actually paying close attention to the lyrics.  And sometimes, I will actually listen closely to the lyrics of a song like this for the first time, and I’ll have a sudden realization and find some meaning in the song that I had never found before.

Like this one.

Running On Empty was first released in 1977.  I don’t remember 1977.  I wasn’t old enough to eat solid food or wipe my own butt in 1977.  I probably was in high school listening to classic rock radio in the car when I first heard this song.  Or possibly it might have been while watching Forrest Gump, during the montage in which Forrest is running across the country; that movie was released a few months after I graduated from high school.  But I think I already knew of the song’s existence by then.

And I did have some idea what the song was about.  Life on the road.  Constantly moving from one place to another with no clear destination.  And that is a feeling I know well.  Sometimes I don’t know where my life is going.  Sometimes I feel like my direction and goals are unclear.  And I literally spent four months on the road in 2005 trying to find myself, not knowing the specifics of where I was going more than a week or so in advance at the most.

But then, a couple years ago, the song came on, and one part of the lyrics really stuck out to me, at the end of the third verse:

I look around for the friends that I used to turn to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too…

I see them running too.  Everyone around me has their own struggle to find their destination and meaning in life.  It’s not just me.  I’m not alone.

Knowing that doesn’t always help me find my answers or my destination.  But it still helps to know that my struggles are not unique, and that there are others running on the same road I am.

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Exit 209. The week that everything happened.

In my last post, I made reference to “The Week That Everything Happened.”  I have used this name at times to refer to a period of seven days in my life in which, as the words suggest, a lot of things happened, many of which were the kind of things that affected me for a long time.   I’ve never explained exactly when that was or what happened, though… so it’s story time, especially since the anniversary of The Week That Everything Happened is this coming week.  As usual, I won’t mention names, and if there is someone in these stories whom I have told about before, I will use the same pseudonym I’ve used for them before (“Mimosa,” for example).

The Week That Everything Happened was Friday, July 30, through Thursday, August 5, 2010.  Eight years ago.  In the time leading up to this week, I was living in the same house where I am now.  It was summer, and it was toward the end of summer break at the school where I worked at the time.  I had been doing a lot of swing dancing and blues dancing that summer.  At the time, I was carpooling to both dancing places with a girl who lived not too far from me, whom I will call “IC443”.  I’ve told previously (#12) about a party I had been to in Davis earlier in July 2010, hosted by some college-age friends.  Most of the people at this party were from the swing dancing student club at UC Davis (some of them I already knew from my usual dancing place), and for part of that summer my friend and I started crashing the UC Davis swing club, just because we wanted to dance.  But there was also a much younger girl from that group, Mimosa, who I had been talking to a lot, to the point that other people were starting to notice and wonder if something was going on between us.  I had plans coming up to go on a long bike ride with her.

Friday afternoon, July 30.  A friend had a picnic in the park birthday party.  One of her friends, “Y Sextantis,” left before I did.  A few minutes later, the birthday girl told me that Y Sextantis had texted her and told her to give me her number and tell me to call her.  That caught me completely off guard.  Y Sextantis is cute, but she didn’t seem like my type, and more importantly, I had plans with Mimosa the next day, so I didn’t respond to that.  However, Y Sextantis found me on Facebook a few weeks later, and we did end up spending a day together in September.  I’m still in Facebook and Instagram contact with Y Sextantis, but I don’t think I’ve seen her in person since then, and I’m still pretty sure she’s not my type.

Friday night.  I gave IC443 a ride to swing dancing.  On the way, I was talking about my plans with Mimosa the next day.  IC443 has a very different background on dating and relationships compared to me, as most people do, and I got a little frustrated with some of the things she was saying.  Something changed that night.  We never carpooled again, and she never really seemed as friendly toward me after that.  I don’t know if it was because of the way I acted while we were talking, or because she just happened to find new friends the following week who were younger and more attractive and more popular, or if she just does things on whims for no reason.  It could have been any of those.  I still tried to be friendly to her for a while, but never got much more than hello out of her.  At some point in the future, she stopped going dancing.  She came back once in 2015 and was friendly again, but we didn’t stay in touch.

Saturday morning, July 31.  My long bike ride with Mimosa.  I didn’t sleep much the night before.  I was nervous.  At one point later in the day, I kissed her… at several points, actually.  It was my first kiss in over three years.  Everything felt wonderful, and it didn’t seem to matter that I was 33 and she was 20.

Saturday afternoon and evening.  I dropped off Mimosa at her friend’s house after our bike ride date, as we had planned.  I went home and showered.  I was going to a wedding that evening of some friends from church, and they had asked me to bake something to serve at their reception.  After I was done baking, I attempted a quick nap, since I had only slept for about an hour and a half the night before and I had ridden my bike about 40 miles that morning.  There was dancing at the wedding reception.  One of my dance friends, “Gamma Comae,” also knew the couple getting married; she was there with her entire family.  That night was the first time I remember talking to her 16-year-old sister, “Sulafat,” although to this day Sulafat insists that she already knew me, or at least knew who I was, at that time.  A few years later, Sulafat (at that time 19) and I carpooled to a mutual friend’s game night, and in that half hour car ride we quickly went from acquaintances who say hi in passing occasionally to close friends, which we still are today.  But we first talked (and danced) at that wedding during The Week That Everything Happened.

Later Saturday night.  I was going to hang out with friends after the wedding, even though it was going to be pretty late by then.  Gamma Comae was friends with this group too, so both of us carpooled there (to the house of the same mutual friend from the game night a few years later in the above paragraph).  Mimosa and her friend with whom I dropped her off earlier were there too.  On the way home, at about 2am, Gamma Comae asked me how I was still functioning, since I had slept for less than two hours of the last 44 or so.  I guess I was just on a high because of the whole Mimosa situation.

Sunday, August 1.  I went to the fair with a friend.  The concert that night was Weird Al Yankovic, the most recent of two times I’ve seen him live.

Monday, August 2.  I was in Davis hanging out with Mimosa for most of the day.  We went to see Toy Story 3 in the afternoon.  Great movie.  Then we hung out at her house for a while.  That night we went to the swing dancing club at UC Davis, and after dancing came back to her house for a few hours of kissing.  I was really on a high at that point.

Tuesday, August 3.  In the morning, I made the Facebook song lyric quote that I wrote about in #208 last week.  That night, I went to the Sacramento River Cats game with some friends from church (that’s AAA baseball, one step below Major League).  I don’t remember much about the game (I looked it up, the River Cats lost, 7-5 to Las Vegas), but I do remember texting Mimosa during the game; she was packing to go out of town to visit her friend for a few days.  I’ve already told the rest of that story twice on here.  But there was another long-term consequence of the Mimosa incidents: a couple weeks later, we were still trying to be friendly, and she mentioned that she and her aforementioned friend knew someone who they wanted to set me up with.  At first I didn’t like their friend, but a few months later we seemed to click better… and that was Acrux, the horrible relationship that I was in for most of 2011, the one that became long distance because she decided she was going to move away without even discussing it with me, and then she didn’t make me a priority once she moved away.

Wednesday, August 4.  As far as I can remember, nothing special happened this day.

Thursday, August 5.  I went to a friend’s birthday dinner.  I talked a lot with one of her friends, “Aurora” (whom I mentioned in one of the other stories I linked to this one).  We got to be close over the next few months (and we actually figured out that we had met once before, through the same circle of friends, but neither of us realized it at the time), and the following January she told me that she liked me.  We hung out a lot for a couple months, but I just wasn’t feeling it, and I felt terrible having to tell her so.  I felt especially terrible because this was all during the same time that I was first getting to know Acrux, and I feel like I had to choose one over the other.  I didn’t go on an actual date with Acrux until I knew I really wasn’t into Aurora, but I still wonder if my judgment wasn’t clouded.  In hindsight, I don’t think either of them would have been right for me.  I did end up on good terms with Aurora, although I haven’t actually seen her in two years.

So what does it all mean that all of these things happened within a week of each other?  Probably nothing.  But all these little things together have made that week feel like a turning point in my life.  I guess there isn’t really a point to this story.  I like stories.  Have a good week, everyone.

Exit 204. I’m sitting on a train from Sacramento to San Jose right now with no idea what to write.

I’m sitting on a train from Sacramento to San Jose right now with no idea what to write.

Someone I know just got on the train in Davis.  I would say that that was unexpected, but maybe it’s not.  Since June of 2017, I have made three round trips on Amtrak, and twice someone else I know ended up on the same train as me.  Maybe it’s just that I know a lot of people.

The Wi-Fi on the train is actually working today.

I made a list of goals for the summer, as I said I would do last week.  I haven’t made much progress on it, but that’s okay, because I have plenty of time.  I did make small dents in the total number of miles I want to run and bike before I go back to work,   I thought about doing one of my bigger goals (go to a Giants game) last week, but I backed out at the last minute on the grounds that I was better off taking some down time, starting my Teacher Summer with a week and a half of dead time, then going to visit my family (hence today’s train ride, which will be followed by a bus ride from San Jose to Salinas), then tackling my big adventures after that.  But after watching the game I didn’t go to from home, I wish I had gone, because the Giants came back from a two run deficit in the 9th inning to force extra innings and win in the 10th.

The aforementioned dead time was just the right balance of fun, relaxing, and productive.  And now I get four days with my parents, not having to worry about things like making dinner every night.

I left a pile of dirty dishes in the sink at home.  Probably not the best idea.  I hope I don’t come home to a big stinky mess.  I was going to put them in the dishwasher before I left, but there were still clean dishes in the dishwasher from yesterday.  And I literally didn’t have time to put the clean dishes away, because I had a train to catch.  Oh well.  It’s not the end of the world.

I’m now somewhere in the marshlands between Suisun and Martinez, and I still have no idea what to write about.  So I guess this is it.  This is your post for the week.  Have a great week, everyone.

Exit 203. I need to sit down and write out a list of goals.

It’s summer.  Well, not technically.  From the astronomical perspective, summer begins on June 21 at 10:07 UTC (which would be 3:07am here in my time zone in California).  But the school year is over for me, so it’s Teacher Summer.

Every year, around this time, friends ask me what my plans are for the summer.  Every year, I say something like just sit around and relax.  And every year, when school is ready to start again, I feel unaccomplished, like there was so much more I wanted to do before the school year starts.

At some point in the next few days, I need to sit down and write out a list of goals for the summer.  I don’t want to try to take on too much, but I also should include a few goals that are a little ambitious, or at least out of my comfort zone.  If I actually write these down or make some kind of formal statement that these are my goals, then I am more likely to actually accomplish them, or at least put more effort into attempting to do so.  I say this every year at the start of summer, and every year around New Year’s Day-ish, but then I rarely do.

I have before, and writing goals down has actually motivated me to do them in the past.  I was about to tell a story about a time when I made a goal for myself that was quite far out of my comfort zone, but I actually did it.  However, I then discovered that I’ve told this story before on here a long time ago, and alluded to it on multiple occasions.  For that matter, I’ve had several other posts like this where I say I need to make some goals… and then I don’t.

So, friends, start bugging me about this.  Remind me to come up with a list of goals.  I don’t know yet if I can promise that I’ll share them on here.  If I know you well, I may be willing to share them privately with you.  But the important thing is that this needs to get done.  So keep reminding me.

Exit 201. Bullet points and thoughts about the weekend.

I missed last week.  Sorry.

And I’m not sure what to write about this week.

But I had a great weekend.  So I’ll just share some bullet points and thoughts about the weekend.

Friday night, a friend went out for sushi and issued an open invitation.  Three of us plus her showed up.  My mom noticed that my friend had tagged me in a Facebook post and said that she didn’t know I liked sushi.  I don’t know when I tried sushi for the first time, but it was definitely in adulthood.  I probably would have thought the idea of sushi was disgusting as a kid, but it’s good to try new things, because sometimes you like them.

Saturday morning, I played Pokemon Go and helped some friends move.  I watched exactly none of the royal wedding.

Saturday night, I had people over for another one of my retro gaming parties.  It was a small crowd, only 10 of us, but we had fun.  Sometimes a small crowd is a good thing.  I feel more connected to everyone.

This morning, I went to my old church in Davis, because the youth pastor, under whom I volunteered in my early 20s, is leaving the church staff and changing careers after having been there for over two decades.  They had a reception for him after the service.  It was heartwarming and uplifting to hear so many stories about his work in youth ministry.  I shared about how, in addition to having such a heart for the young people of the community, he invested in the lives of the volunteer leaders the same way.  It was also inspiring for me to be greeted by so many old friends who are still at that church, and some who came just for that event as I did, almost 17 years after I moved away.

Then I came home and took a long nap, so I hope I’m able to fall asleep tonight.  If I’m not, I have plenty of cleaning to do to tire me out.

How were all of your weekends?

Exit 200. Emotional clutter.

As I said recently, I have been wondering again whether or not it is time to cut my losses and start over somewhere else other than California.  This is a very difficult decision, and I have a lot to lose if I don’t make the right decision.  It isn’t as simple as, say, getting groceries from a different store or taking your money to another bank.  Those decisions can be reversed with relative ease compared to leaving a job I love and the only state I’ve really known as home.

I’m not here to announce a conclusive decision.  But in thinking and praying about this over the last few weeks; I have come to one important conclusion: My life is too cluttered, both physically and emotionally.

Physical clutter is easy to identify and remove. Put stuff away when I’m done with it.  Make a place to put things away instead of just tossing them on a table.  Throw away or donate things I don’t need that take up space.  Although physical clutter is easy to identify, it is very time consuming to deal with completely, but this is something I can work on over time.

Emotional clutter is a bit more complicated.  When I say emotional clutter, I mean things that are clouding my head and my moods and feelings that don’t need to be there.  Emotional clutter takes a variety of forms.  All the hundreds of people who I follow on social media just because we were acquaintances briefly in the recent past, despite the fact that they are not the kind of people I would normally be friends with, are emotional clutter.  Situations in which I put myself and stress myself out about, despite the fact that these situations are not enjoyable to me, that is emotional clutter.  Pages and blogs that I follow because I used to know the author, but which cover topics that are of no interest to me, those are emotional clutter.

I have been spending time the last couple weeks fiddling with my Facebook settings, making some tough decisions about who can see my posts and whose posts I see.  I have also been thinking a bit about how, and with whom, I spend my time, and if I need to cut certain activities and places out of my life.  These aren’t easy decisions.  Cutting people out of my life isn’t in my nature.  I spent too much of my childhood and young adult years being lonely and not having many friends, and it hurts me to think of friendship as expendable.

A few months ago, I wrote (part 1, part 2) about having unfriended five people on Facebook in one day, something I don’t believe I had ever done before.  One of these people was SN1604, the girl I dated off and on in 2015.  I made this decision on the grounds that, even though there was a time when SN1604 and I were very close, and there were times that it was looking like we would stay good friends despite our history, her more recent behavior has shown that it was not realistic for me to hope that things would ever be like that again.  The few times we did communicate in 2017, for example, all started with me hoping that maybe we would be close again, and ended a few minutes later with her not replying to a message in a conversation she technically started.  I never see her in person anymore, and keeping her in my life on social media was just causing more disappointment and pain.

I am realizing that I can, and should, apply the SN1604 Doctrine in other areas of life.  Maybe some of the activities that I enjoy aren’t worth it, because the other people involved with those activities are not the kind of people I want to be friends with.  Maybe some people I’ve known for decades aren’t worth staying in touch with, because all they want to do is spew hateful political rhetoric.  These are tough decisions, though, because there are things I enjoy about these activities themselves, and some of the people spewing hateful political rhetoric were a big part of my life at one point.  I don’t know.  But at least I’m asking the right questions now.

Exit 199. Oh yes, we’ll keep on trying.

I have a lot of thoughts swimming around in my brain right now, and I’m not sure how much of it I’m ready to share at this point.  So instead, this week I’ll skip all that and write about one of my other recurring themes on this site: rediscovering a great song from an earlier time in my life.  This time the song is “Innuendo” by Queen.

Queen was a British band active from the early 1970s to the early 1990s.  I did not grow up listening to Queen.  I was vaguely aware that there was a band called Queen, and my earliest memories of hearing music on the radio as a preschooler include a song called Another One Bites The Dust, but I don’t think I connected the name Queen to that song until I started actually listening to Queen in my mid-teens.  Much of Queen’s later work was far more popular in Europe than in the USA, for a variety of reasons, so they were absent from the music that was around me in elementary school and my early teens.

Queen experienced a resurgence of popularity in the USA in the winter of 1991-92, for two reasons: lead singer Freddie Mercury’s death, and the release of the movie Wayne’s World, which featured a scene where the main characters drive around singing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  I was watching MTV a lot at the time, I was 15, and the channel often aired both tributes to the recently deceased Freddie Mercury and a remixed music video of Bohemian Rhapsody, combining scenes from Wayne’s World with scenes from the original 1975 music video.  Queen was one of the first bands I got into whose heyday was before my time.

Despite this, however, my knowledge of Queen does not extend deep into their catalog, beyond their two greatest hits albums and the 2005 live CD from the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour.  (In this century, after Freddie Mercury’s death, two of the original members of Queen, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, have done tours performing Queen songs with other lead singers, but they have billed themselves as “Queen + [whoever is on vocals]” rather than just Queen.)  Innuendo, the song I posted above, was on the album of the same name, the last released in Mercury’s lifetime, but not on the US version of either of the two greatest hits albums.  Until a few weeks ago, I had heard the song exactly once.  I was in the car at some point in late high school; by that time I knew enough Queen music to recognize Freddie’s voice, but this was not a song I had heard before.  A few weeks ago, I was looking up something about Queen on Wikipedia (who knows why, it’s me and it’s Wikipedia, that’s enough of a reason), and I came upon a mention of the song Innuendo, and I thought, that’s that song I remember hearing once, the one that goes “yeah, we’ll keep on fighting.”  I should go listen to it, because it’s 2018 and you can find stuff like that on the Internet.  So I did.  (And I was wrong; the song contains the lines “we’ll keep on trying,” and “we’ll keep on smiling,” but no “we’ll keep on fighting.”  It is definitely the song I was thinking of, though.)

Freddie Mercury died of AIDS-related complications less than a year after this song was released.  Rumors had long circulated about Freddie having been in sexual relationships with men, and when some noticed his health declining, rumors had circulated about his having contracted AIDS.  But Freddie never said anything public about either of these topics until days before his death.  By the time Innuendo was recorded, the band knew that Freddie was dying.

And this is a really deep song, full of great quotes that can be interpreted as wisdom from one nearing the end of his life to pass on to the next generation, the kind of wisdom I need to hear these days.

While [all this variety of bad stuff happens in the world]… oh yes, we’ll keep on trying.

You can be anything you want to be.

Be free.

And whatever will be will be, till the end of time.

Thank you, Internet, for helping me unpack this song that’s been stuck in a corner of my brain for the last quarter-century.

Exit 198. It’s okay to have two hometowns.

I was born in Salinas.  Salinas is a medium-sized city in central California, by which I mean it is considered small by California standards, but if it were located in Wyoming or West Virginia, it would be the largest city in the state.  It is located 100 miles south of San Francisco and one row of hills inland from the Monterey Bay, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.  I lived there until I was 18, the day I moved away to begin my university education, in the same house where my parents live now.

In some ways, Salinas will always be home.  That is where my memories of school take place, and that is where I spent many hours playing with Legos and Hot Wheels.  That is where I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, Full House, the 80s-90s Mickey Mouse Club, and the early seasons of the Simpsons.  That is where I spent hours in my room reading Choose Your Own Adventure books and playing the early Mario and Zelda games.

But in other ways, Salinas does not feel like home.  In addition to the memories above, many people seem to have memories of home that involve good friends, organized youth activities like Boy/Girl Scouts or sports, and first loves.  I don’t have many of those memories associated with Salinas.  I did not really have friends until I was a teenager.  There were kids in the neighborhood, but many of them only lived there for a short time, and some of them also weren’t so much friends as people who came over to play with my toys.  I went to school one town over from where I should have, as I have explained before, so until I was old enough to drive, I never saw my school friends outside of school.  My brief forays into Cub Scouts and tee ball were very forgettable, and I did not have anything resembling a first love, beyond a couple of formal school dances that I actually did go to with someone, and a few crushes that left me heartbroken, with the other person never knowing how I felt in most cases.

Yesterday was Picnic Day, a large event that I have mentioned a few other times in this blog; it is essentially an open house and community festival event at my alma mater, UC Davis.  And I realized that I have a second place that feels like home in some ways.  I lived in Davis, a university town just outside of Sacramento, from age 18 until a few weeks before age 25.  Many of those maturing experiences revolving around friendship happened to me there.  This is where I finally felt like I had a community that wanted me around.  Davis is where I came to faith, and where I finally felt like I had connections to the greater community, after I started getting involved in church activities and volunteering with the youth group.  In many ways, going to Davis and the adjacent campus also feels like going home.

I should point out that I don’t mean to put down Salinas or any of my old neighbors or school friends.  I’m just stating things the way they were.  There were some neighborhood kids and classmates who were nice to me, and I started to finally have something resembling a group of close friends by the end of high school.  I think if I had had another year or two around those friends before we all scattered for college, I would have grown a lot closer to them.

Neither Salinas or Davis feels completely like home, and neither one is home anymore.  But being both places gives me a feeling of going back home, each in its own ways.  And that’s okay.  Everyone is different.  Not everyone has one place they consider home; many people move away during childhood, for example.  And, of course, I did not experience a first love in either Salinas nor Davis.  What I would call my first true relationship, with Vega The Nice Ex, happened later during a time when I really did not have a home, but that’s another story.  For now, it’s okay to have two hometowns.

Exit 196. Maybe “reality television” isn’t such a misnomer after all.

A few days ago, I was watching this week’s episode of Survivor, and that got me wondering about things.  Specifically, it got me thinking about the fact that I’m still watching Survivor 18 years after the show’s premiere.  It seems that many of the show’s early fans have long since turned away, saying that it has become boring and repetitive, not offering anything new.

Survivor debuted in the USA in the summer of 2000.  It was an adaptation of a similar show from Europe.  Each game of Survivor lasts for around 13 episodes.  A group of 16 to 20 contestants go to some remote location and compete in games and challenges, win prizes, and gradually vote players out of the game until only one remains to win the grand prize of a million dollars.  I wasn’t hooked right away.  At the time of the first season, I was just finishing my first year as a full time teacher, and I lived in Davis.  (Now that I think about it, Survivor has been on so long that I have watched new episodes of Survivor from seven of the eleven different places where I’ve lived in my life.  I believe the only show that can surpass that is The Simpsons, which I have watched from every house, apartment, or dorm room where I’ve ever lived.)  Anyway, I watched it maybe five times during that initial season, but a couple months later, CBS replayed the entire season over the course of two weeks, to compete with NBC’s prime-time footage of the Sydney Olympics, and I watched every episode but one.  The next season started the following spring, and ever since then CBS has broadcast two seasons of Survivor per calendar year, one in the fall and one in the spring (so the current game of Survivor is the 36th).

In 2012, the year that I lived with the non-delusional roommate, one time he came home while I was watching Survivor.  He made a disapproving comment; I was having a bad day, and I told him I didn’t want to hear it.  A few days later, I came home and caught him watching WWE wrestling… I said, “How about this. I don’t give you a hard time for watching WWE, and you don’t give me a hard time for watching Survivor.”  He replied with a counter-proposal: “I can give you a hard time for Survivor, but you can give me a hard time for WWE too.”  I said I could live with that.

A few weeks later, he was watching WWE again.  He said something like, “I think what I like so much about wrestling is the way there are some guys that you just love to hate, and you can’t wait to watch them lose.”  I thought about this, and I said, “Now that you mention it, that’s one of the things I like about Survivor too.”

The show has evolved quite a bit since its beginnings.  Most of the more recent seasons have included additional twists, such as players changing teams before they merge into one tribe, hidden immunity idols (i.e., a player can use it to make them immune from being voted out) or other advantages waiting for players to find, and exile, in which one player gets removed from the game for a day (but usually with a chance to win some other sort of advantage while exiled).  Some seasons have included players who have played before getting second (or third or fourth) chances to play under different circumstances.  Some contestants have already been minor celebrities in their own right before competing on Survivor.  I have mixed feelings about contestants who aren’t just ordinary people, although if such contestants are familiar to me, it sometimes gives me someone to root for, or against, before the season even starts.

The trend in broadcasting at the time was toward unscripted shows, dubbed “reality telivision” by the media and culture.  Many people criticized the genre of “reality shows,” justifiably, for not being reality at all, usually putting people in contrived situations and editing footage to play up caricatures and stereotypes.  My problem with the label of “reality show” is that the concept of a show being unscripted is way too broad to make a statement about whether you like or dislike a genre of television, so when people say they do or don’t like reality shows, that doesn’t really mean much.  It’s as empty of a label as “alternative rock” was in the 90s.  Just because I like Survivor doesn’t mean I’m going to like every unscripted show.  When you really look at it, Survivor is basically a game show.  It doesn’t center around trivia, guessing words with letters missing, or knowing how much things cost, but you have contestants competing for prizes, and that makes it a game show.

And even though it isn’t exactly reality, in the sense that the situations are contrived and we only see what the producers want us to see, there’s a lot more reality happening on Survivor than on most game shows.  The contestants never know what is going to happen.  Sometimes the players will switch tribes, leaving someone without allies, or bringing a new opportunity to someone who had no allies before.  Sometimes your allies will turn on you because it is advantageous to their game.  Sometimes the particular competition might play well to certain players’ strengths.  Sometimes someone will just get a break out of nowhere, by discovering a hidden clue or advantage.  Players need to make the most of what they have right now in order to get as far in the game as they can, but without pissing off too many people, because some of the players voted out are the ones who decide the winner in the end.

And all of this happens in real life too.  Sometimes the people you are closest with leave you because of circumstances beyond any of your control, such as when your friends move away because of a family member’s new job.  Sometimes new friends suddenly appear.  Sometimes your so-called friends are jerks and they turn on you when they think they don’t need you anymore.  Sometimes certain challenges in life are just easier for some people than others, just because of the way we all have different strengths and weaknesses.  Sometimes you just get lucky.  But no matter what happens in life, you always need to make the most of what you have right now in order to make the best life you can, without pissing off too many people.

Sure sounds like real life to me.  Maybe “reality television” isn’t such a misnomer after all.  But either way, I’m still going to call Survivor what it is to me: one of the best game shows ever.

Exit 187. In an unfriending mood.

So I could be sitting here writing about how much I don’t care about this year’s Super Bowl, because I don’t particularly care for either of these two teams, and because I’m a little disgusted at the state of the NFL with all the protests and stuff like that.  But I kind of wrote about that already last year, when I also didn’t care much about the game.  I just now missed the Super Bowl kickoff by a few seconds because I was peeing; I suppose that says a lot about my level of interest in this game.

So instead, I’ll write about something else, continuing my post from last week.  Where we left off a week ago, I was contemplating unfriending some people on Facebook.  I had six people in mind specifically when I wrote that, and about a day after I posted, I pulled the proverbial trigger and unfriended five of them.  It felt like time to burn those bridges.  I’m a little hesitant to write this, because I feel like I’m airing other people’s dirty laundry behind their backs.  I generally feel that if you have a problem with someone, the best approach is to go to their face and have a conversation.  And I didn’t do this.  I thought about it, because I would have wanted to know why if someone was unfriending me.  But I didn’t, because I didn’t want to open myself up to any more hurt or disappointment.  Also, I’m going to write mostly in generalities, so I’m not gossiping behind anyone’s back.

I know that at least one of the people involved here used to read this blog occasionally a long time ago, and I know that the person on the chopping block who I decided not to cut off reads this sometimes as well.  On the off chance that you, reader, are one of those who got unfriended and you feel the need to confront me, you know how to find me.  I apologize for not talking to you first.  But be aware that I might not reply right away, or at all.  I don’t know if I’ll be ready to have that conversation.  I”m feeling hurt and confused about a lot of things right now.

Three of the people involved, my issue with them stems to an incident that happened approximately two years ago.  I talked to all of them around that time, and one of the people I was even on somewhat good terms with again for a while, before this person found another social circle to associate with and we grew apart naturally.  The main reason I cut off contact abruptly is because I wanted absolutely no lingering hope that things would ever again be the way they used to be.  Because they won’t.  These people are not who I once thought they were, and they have disappointed me one too many times.  I know that I should let things go after this much time.  But it’s hard, especially given the nature of what happened.  I feel too deeply, I care too much, and my life is not such that I can easily move on from this kind of thing and find other people to fill the void.

One of the other people is someone who mostly posts angry political rants against people like me.  There are lots of people who I have unfollowed for this reason, but kept on my friends list, just in case, and they don’t make me consistently angry.  And the fifth is his wife; I have no direct reason for unfriending her, except that I don’t really know her in a context apart from her husband.  So why unfriend them and not simply unfollow them?  I honestly can’t give a good answer for this.  I think part of it was just that I was in an unfriending mood after unfriending the three people I mentioned above.  Also, the way I know them, the role they played in my life, is one where the fact that this guy posts so many immature and angry political rants makes me particularly sensitive to what is going on.

I know that some of my friends are still friends with some of these people.  If you know who I’m talking about, I don’t have a problem with any of you staying friends with them, of course.  And don’t stop inviting me to things just because one of the people I unfriended might be there.  I’ll put on my big boy pants and deal with that when it comes up.

I might be willing to go into more detail in private conversations, but that’s all I’ll say publicly.  Maybe someday I’ll feel healed and ready to move on.  Part of me wants to say that maybe someday I’ll be on good terms again with all of these people, but honestly, I don’t know if that’s best, and I don’t know if that’s what I want.