Respect

I used to have this stepdad. He was ex-military and still looked the part: close-cut hair, bald eagle tattoo on his calf, and preferred to wear his correctional officer uniform even after he left the prison for the day. If not for his rounded, aging face and worsening posture, you’d think he just got back from basic training. He wanted to treat my brother and I like we were part of some sort of boot camp where periodic, unannounced room checks were the most annoying part of this weird role playing. And he liked to talk about “respect.” How he just wanted to earn our respect, how we were always disrespectful to him, how he respects us and our space but he just wanted the same respect in return.

And it was always bullshit. My brother and I talked back to this stepdad a lot, that much is true. But we were teenagers and we already had a dad who didn’t try to treat us like recruits so I’m not sure what this stepdad expected. My brother and I did not appreciate him coming into our lives and trying to change our routines, our lifestyle, our relationships. So we made that known to him, and he found it “disrespectful.”

This stepdad never actually did anything to earn our respect. He only tried to bribe us or win us over – and he failed. He would let us have something that mom wouldn’t, maybe, but then “our little secret” became a twisted form of double-sided blackmail. He tried to teach me how to drive, I think. He let me drive his truck on back roads before I had my permit. Unfortunately for him I’d been doing that with my actual dad since I was probably 10 or 11. I wasn’t impressed.

These things were supposed to make us like him, but they never worked and definitely didn’t make us respect him. If anything, we respected him less for trying to earn our trust in cheap, cliche, stereotypical stepdad ways. He didn’t respect us or our intelligence enough to understand that we knew what he was doing. Not only did we know what he was doing and why, but we exploited it as teenagers (especially those with divorced parents) tend to do. So when he yelled and screamed about how disrespectful we were, my brother and I just laughed and lost even more respect for him.

Long after this stepdad has gone from my life, I still have little respect for people who demand respect without earning it. Respect isn’t something you can just demand, like a child with a temper tantrum. Respect is earned, not handed out. Just because you got a promotion, just because you’re older than me, just because my mom decided to marry you – these things don’t mean I’m automatically going to give my respect. I might be polite, but respect takes time. And the more you demand undeserving respect the less polite I will become.

Impress me, and I’ll respect you. Help me when I need it; do something I can’t. Make possible the impossible. Give me your respect. You can’t treat me like some sort of object or inferior being and in the same breath whine about my lack of respect. Learn some manners. I can respect manners.

If you’re my “superior” that’s so deserving of respect, then why don’t you help me and answer my questions when I have them? The people I respect the most are the restaurant managers that help bus tables, or the prestigious university professor that’s willing to individually tutor a struggling student. The people who are willing to help people below them, even if it isn’t their job. Just because they know what’s needed, and they know what it’s like. The ones to get to the top just to be lazy and yell at other people to do their job? They’re the worst kind of people. I won’t respect those people.

The downside of Ambition (Dating Limbo pt 2)

I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m terrible at this.

That’s my POF headline. It also happens to be what I say to myself – about almost anything – on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s work, sometimes it’s coaching soccer, sometimes it’s this very blog.

If I’m not the very best at something then I’m disappointed in myself. I’ve been in the exact same job for almost a year now, and because I’ve made no upward progress, I’m basically failing. I realize this trait in myself, and sometimes I can calm myself down but usually it just makes me more angry and frustrated.

I’ve always thought of myself as a perfectionist – but college taught me that I am more than okay with “good enough”. However, the combination of being ambitious and being a control freak is what might drive me to insanity. I want to have control over everything, and I want to be the best at everything – but I’m also incredibly lazy and easily demoralized by setbacks. I’m never settled or truly happy for very long. In my career, personal life, hobbies, or even physical appearance – I know I can do better, should be better, have been better once.

I don’t believe I’ve ever had the perfect relationship, or the perfect job. But I take the best parts of all my past experiences and want the next thing to be better than all the best parts. It makes dating a real pain in the ass. If one tiny thing reminds me of an ex in a bad way, I immediately want to break it off. I hold myself to an impossible standard, as well as those around me.

I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m terrible at this.

I’m seeing this guy right now – let’s call him Alfredo – and I can’t help but link his video gaming habit to an ex of mine. I can’t rule out all video gamers; I’d be left with maybe 10 guys in my age bracket and geographic location. Early on in my dating experiences, the minute someone reminded me of an ex – the way they acted, words they used – I immediately stopped seeing them. I’m trying to get over that. So Alfredo sometimes does things I don’t always like, has some habits I could do without… but he’s also the most fun I’ve ever had with a date-type person, even when we’re doing the simplest of things. I’ve gotten comfortable with him very quickly, and it’s just very simple and easy and wonderful. He’s more of a safe bet than some of the guys I’ve been with in the past. Yet, I’m still scared. Lately, the safe bet guys have been more scary to me than any bad-boy-wannabe. Maybe because I’ve learned that sometimes the good guy isn’t always as good as he seems.

It’s also frustrating because I have no idea how dating works. And as that ambitious control freak, I want to know everything and be good at all of it. Not understanding the dating game makes me even more angry that I didn’t get to date in college. I still have text conversations with boys from POF or Tinder that I’ve met before, and I feel like I should shut those down, I hate leading people on. I hate being led on. I’ve been seeing Alfredo for a month or two and when does that become shady? It isn’t “official” with Alfredo, and I don’t even know if that’s what I want anyway. But I like his taste in music and the fact that I can be ridiculous in front of him. He can cook. The ability to cook is such a small thing, but the time it takes for me to fall for someone is severely shortened when I see them in their element, and especially when that element happens to be in the kitchen. He continues to surprise me, and makes me laugh all day long. There’s a slight chance I’m over-thinking all of this, too. Maybe I’m just scared.

I’m scared that another failed relationship means one more thing I can’t get right. Either way, I’m not ready to dive in head first, but I’m not ready to let go yet either. There’s no explosive chemistry, but there’s staying power and a level of comfort with him. Maybe that’s more important.

I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m terrible at this.

And maybe being lost for awhile is okay. Someone needs to remind my ambition of that.

Life Advisor?

What’s the adult, real-life version of an academic advisor? Ya know, the person who tells you that you’re doing awesome, and then tells you exactly what classes to take next semester? They look at your resume, and tell you you’re awesome, but give you small tweaks to make your resume reflect that awesomeness, and make you seem even more awesome? Is there a life advisor somewhere I’m not aware of?

About a year ago, when I was sitting through Alumni Days – listening to successful, graduated alumni talk about life after college – one of them said something that just recently sort of hit me.

There are no semesters, no constant evaluation in life. There’s nothing, and I mean nothing to break up the monotony. In college – while it could be brutal – there were breaks. There were finals (brutal) but then you were done, and then you went to new classes with new people and new professors and new topics. Now, there are intense deadlines (brutal) but no breaks, and on Monday I return to the same tasks, with the same people, working on the same project. Nothing actually changes, nothing moves forward…

In college, once you pass XYZ1000, you move on to XYZ2000. You fail that class? Oh it’s cool, just take it again.

In life, you manage to complete something, and then you have to do that thing again. And again. And again. Maybe some small things are different, maybe after a year (or several…usually several) maybe, maybe, you get promoted and get to make more money to do those things. But fuck something up? You could get fired. You don’t get to try it again.

Essentially, the consequences for fucking up are greater, but the rewards are lesser. And there are no life advisors to tell you you’re awesome, or which projects to take on, or what the hell to do about your resume. Instead, the other adults just… let you flail around out there, watching you squirm. They probably enjoy it, too. Buncha jerks.

The Loan People

Can we just talk about student loans for a minute? (Read: Can I just rant about this for more than a minute?)

In what universe does it make sense to go to a place for four (or sometimes five) years, and then spend the next ten paying for it? I just gave more money to my loan people than I will pay for rent, utilities, internet and coffee for the next month. I don’t have to give them that much, but I’d rather give them more money now than keep paying them in minimum payments for 10, or 15, or 20 years. Fortunately, I have a job that allows me to do that, but I’m also not paying into my 401k the way I probably should. All because of the damn loan people.

I get it. It’s not their fault. I wanted to go to college, and I wanted to go to one that didn’t have ‘community’ in the title. Is this what I get for being just the tiniest bit elitist? I’m now living the part of life I avoided talking or thinking about for the four years I was in school, and it kinda sucks. Paying bills and getting nothing in return feels like I’m just giving money away to some random, unknown thing. There’s not even an abstract idea here, like donating to a charity or investing in something.No fuzzy feeling or future gain. It’s not like a home or car loan, where I’m paying back the loan and if I don’t, I lose said car or house. I’m not currently using the thing I’m paying for. No, instead I pay rent to stay in my tiny apartment, I hope to all things holy and unholy that my car keeps moving so I don’t have to worry about that, and I pay the loan people for spending a majority of the last four years skipping class.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just now having the epiphany that I should have gone to class. I don’t regret a single class I skipped. My internships were far more valuable, and I’m proud to say I never missed a single day of work at any of them. It’s just amazing that I had to pay so much money to not go to class, and then earn the same grades as the kids who went to every single class. This is to say, of course, that grades matter and are an actual representation of how much was learned.. same grades = same amount of valuable knowledge, in theory, right? Shouldn’t I get a discount for getting that knowledge, while using up less of the professor’s time? No? Well shit.

I get it. I couldn’t get the job I have, and certainly not the job I’ll someday want, without this debt. Student loan debt isn’t a new concept, I also get that. Rising cost of education isn’t a new discussion. What I am just now realizing is that incoming freshmen don’t truly grasp what it is they’re getting themselves into when they apply for college and the coinciding loans. As a person who was 18 once, and was at one time willing to spend far, far more money on a school just because of the name and perceived prestige… I sure as hell wouldn’t have listened to any indebted 23-year-old. I didn’t, obviously. But what would I tell the 18-year-olds anyway? Don’t go to school? That’s stupid advice. Go to a cheaper school? That’s not necessarily good advice either. Don’t go to school until prices go down or until you can afford it?

I guess I don’t really have a point here. No bottom line, no real epiphany… it just sucks. That’s all there is to it.

“So, what do you do?”

Every time I see someone I haven’t talked to since I got my job, of course we ask each other what we’ve been up to. I tell them I graduated, got a job, live in a different part of the state, etc. Then they ask “So what do you do?” and I tell them my title, which like most titles, essentially means nothing. Sometimes they actually accept this as an answer, which is awesome, and maybe they ask what company I work for. Which, again, most people haven’t heard of most B2B companies so me telling them means nothing. They’ve heard of the main client I work for, but I can’t exactly tell them that so I continue being vague. If none of this is acceptable, they then ask something to the effect of “Soooo what does that mean? What do you actually do all day?”

Here’s the weird part for me. I have no idea. I mean yeah, I know what I do on a daily basis. I know what my job description is, vaguely. But, for example, I don’t know what to put on my resume. I never do. I mean, I know the tasks I do and what they’re used for, and in theory what the client uses them for. However, to anyone not in the industry, anything I say isn’t going to make sense. So I either ramble out some jargon about panels, verbatims, reporting specs, and testing scenarios, or I just say “I sit at a desk all day.” Neither of which actually answers their question, and it doesn’t sound the slightest bit glamorous, but neither is my job. And I get that I’m entry level, I really do. I understand that I’m just a glorified intern. And yet…I constantly feel like anything I do has no significance, no impact, and no value whatsoever.

That’s not exactly selling myself, is it?

Maybe if I was less ambitious this would all be ok. I would sit in my cubicle, put in my time, and wait until it was time to retire. Follow the suggested path, keep my head down, etc etc. I just can’t do that, though. On the other hand, I’ll be the first person to admit I can be a lazy piece of shit. Motivation eludes me for the better part of the day and maybe even week – but only when I’m not interested. If I can find a task or project that is challenging and interesting, then I also find it motivating. What I do now, is neither of those things. Some tasks, occasionally, yes. Any new things that break the monotony of my normal job routine, I will jump at the chance to tackle those projects on my own and I’ll spend all day trying to figure it out and how to do it well.

But how do I do that on a daily basis? Where is this magical job that makes me passionate about my work? Of course I understand there will always be good days and bad, but where’s the job that motivates me to do more than just kill time in my cubicle?

I love that I know things about economics and I even appreciate that I had to suffer through a few accounting classes, but that is what I really wish they would have taught me in college. How to find my perfect fit of what I’m good at and what I’m passionate about. I don’t know even how anyone would have taught such a thing…but I wish someone had. How do I figure out what I want? Once I do, how do I get there?

“Give it time,” they say. Maybe patience has just never been my strong suit, because I’m only 23 and I couldn’t be more restless.

Dating Limbo

My choice on any given day after work is to keep drinking water and make sure I get my 7-8 glasses a day, or to drink some wine instead. This choice is both literal and metaphorical. Literally, I should drink 7-8 glasses of water a day and literally every day I really want to drink some wine. However, the metaphor can apply to my dating life. (I realized this with the help of a friend, so, thanks friend!)

See, I’ve been seeing this guy. We’ll call him Remy. So, Remy is my first…idk, “thing”, from Tinder. And really, he also happens to be my first “thing” not from my high school… because, as you may recall from a previous post, I dated the same person from my hometown during most of my time in college. I didn’t have any new relationships in college…. and now I’m out here in limbo trying to date and stuff in the adult world. And by the way, what are these adult dating rules? Why has no one written them down?

So Remy. Remy claims he isn’t sleeping with anyone but me. Remy has claimed he isn’t ‘quite single, but ya know, isn’t married or anything’ (well, good, right? But I get what he’s saying. Or do I?). He also calls me ‘bae’ or ‘babe’ or similar things on occasion. Which honestly could mean nothing. The owner of the fucking liquor store calls me ‘honey’, ‘dear’, and ‘baby’ on a regular basis, and I swear I’m not there often enough for that to be warranted. So this could mean nothing. Remy can read me incredibly well, seems to clearly be very very attracted to me and also realizes I’m an intelligent human being. But…. what is this? This “thing”? Am I in a relationship and not know it because I’m a moron when it comes to adult dating? Am I being led on in a way I don’t even realize? I turned down many a suitor after I met Remy (again, I deleted Tinder for this guy). I did this because I just felt like there was some insane connection between us… or is he just really charming? Right now, there are no points against Remy other than he cancels plans on me or just simply won’t return my texts on a semi-regular basis. But he’s busy, and of course I question everything: Why was he on Tinder in the first place – to meet a nice, intelligent girl like myself.. or to get laid? Also, why was I on there in the first place? Was I looking to get laid, or something else? Do any of these questions have real answers? Are all of my questions rhetorical? When will I stop?

Side note, and maybe really important: I kinda like this boy. I’m very attracted to him in more ways than one, he’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, and we have a lot of similar interests. That last one sounds silly, but it’s more important than you would think.

This leaves me with my literal and metaphorical choice: drink the water, or drink the wine? I could drink more water. I know that’s a safe choice. It’s good for my health, my well-being, and my conscious will likely be clear if I choose water over wine, because I won’t know what I’m missing if I choose not to drink the wine. I could choose to just not think anything of this boy, let this “thing” run it’s course. Maybe even let him go completely, to be certain I won’t fall for the boy. But – the wine could be really good, worth choosing over the water. Drinking some wine and one fewer glass of water couldn’t kill me, right? I could get drunk off this boy. I could see what this wine is all about, what it’s made of and just drink the whole bottle, drink all night. That’s really the only way to try wine anyway, to drink the whole bottle. Drink it all in, to make sure each glass is as good as the next. In the morning I could see if I get a hangover off some cheap, sugary imitation or if it was the good stuff. I could wait and see if he’s the real deal. In a month, I could wake up with a hangover when I fall and he leaves – or I could wake up in a month and be rewarded with something real.

Let’s not over think it, shall we? I’ve always preferred wine over water, bacon over vegetables, and beer over exercise anyway. I’ve gone shot for shot with some of the worst/best alcoholics I know, so bring on the hangover if that’s the case. I’m done asking these rhetorical questions, done with the annoying inner monologue, and done trying to play it safe.

Fuck it. Let there be wine, she said.

Making Friends

I’m not going to lie to you. You’re in a really strange place right now. Arguably the weirdest time of your life. I don’t know what to tell you, but you will figure it out eventually. Somehow, it just happens. -A.

I have a favorite barista. She’s been my favorite for a very, very long time. Since I started drinking coffee out of both habit and necessity, A. has been there to further my addiction.

A. was also a friend and mentor to me in high school – she was very involved in a lot of the discussions I had about where to go, what to study, etc. She eventually hired my brother to work in the coffee shop because he’s related to me (and probably because he was well-qualified, I’m sure). So A. and I occasionally stayed in touch when I went to college, but not nearly as close as we were when I was in high school. Then I graduated, and after a few months of being on my own I happened to be in her area and surprised her at the new coffee shop she opened. I told her life in general was great, getting a job right out of school and all that. Except…after being in a new place, all alone, for a certain amount of time… I realized I was constantly going back to my hometown or my alma mater to meet up with my friends from high school and college. I suddenly realized I was unable to make friends in my new situation.

“But really, how do adults make friends?” was the question I kept asking myself. Sure, I had coworkers and they were great but also most of them were married with kids and not exactly open to my still-favorite weekend pastime of drinking like a college student. Plus – do I really want to hang out with these people outside of work, too? I get to see them 40 hours a week… shouldn’t I have separate friends for evenings and weekends? Perhaps these other friends should be people who don’t have children, and therefore a lifestyle more similar to mine? Where do I find these people?

For me, what makes this whole process even more difficult is how introverted I am. Unless I’m somewhat drunk or in a super-rare talkative and outgoing mood, I’m not going to just walk up and talk to someone. Small talk isn’t something I do if possible. If you’re a fellow introvert, you get it. If you’re an extrovert, go read Quiet by Susan Cain (or if you don’t want to commit that kind of time, watch her TED talk). So even if I did want to go to a bar alone, where other people my age and with my same interests were hanging out…I wouldn’t be able to say hello anyway.

Another option could be that I could join a sports team, either something I’ve played before and am halfway decent at (soccer) or I could try something completely new (any other sport ever) and fail miserably. Either way, I’m embarrassingly out of shape and that’s no way to make a good first impression on my new friends!

My mom suggested I could get a second job, which did not appeal to me in the slightest. But still, I entertained the idea. Eventually I decided to volunteer as a soccer coach, for something to do. But that didn’t really result in any friends…just met some cool parents and their cool kids. Neither of which fall into the category of friends I’m looking for.

I moved up here in May, it’s now the following January… and I still find myself driving an hour or more to go hang out with friends. I eventually decided to join the company indoor soccer team, so at the very least I’ll meet people who work at my company, but whom I wouldn’t normally see every day. That almost counts, right?

Maybe this will lead to something, or at least help me figure out how to make friends in my own introverted way.