Thursday, May 28, 2015

Deserving...

I work a white collar job for which I sacrificed many things to get.  I went to college and graduate school, paid for internships, worked for free, slept on office floors and in my car, turned down vacations and trips to work for candidates and office holders who if I looked at them objectively I wouldn't have wanted to be within 100 miles of existence.  I traveled the country for interviews in far away places that would pay shit (if I even got the job).  I put off buying medications or going to doctors so I could pay for gas for interviews.  I did the equivalent of standing outside of offices like Lloyd Dobler with a copy of my vitae above my head waiting to be picked.  Now that I have a good job, I can safely say I deserve it.

But, in reality, that last sentence: it's total shit.  I don't deserve it, because no one deserves anything. It's nice to get, and I'm experienced and these experiences added up to my being selected for my job, but I don't deserve it: it's nice to have, and someday I won't have it.  Let me explain...

I am the first person in my family to go to college (and it was up to me to pay for it).  Like every person at every college, I struggled.  I didn't just struggle with the usual suspects of college (relationships, who I am, how the fuck do I live on 5 bucks a week, etc), but also with if I deserved to be there.

Now, in the ensuing 20 years since I went to college, I have built an entire philosophy just around the word "deserve."  As for most things in life, "deserve" has nothing to do with anything.  People work hard and when they achieve something, some title, some milestone; they are told, and tell themselves, the reward is deserved.  I used to think this myself: I deserved happiness, I deserved the job, I deserved the scholarship, whatever it was.  When I got sick, I said I didn't deserve it, that at heart I am a good person and I don't deserve this life of difficulty.  I started out life with so many strikes against me, that I only deserved the good things for which I worked SO hard.

But then one day, a thought came over me, and I never used the word "deserve" again.  I saw a little girl who was obviously going through chemo.  She had the little surgical mask and everything.  And I thought that baby doesn't deserve the pain and isolation of that disease.  She deserves to run and play and be everything she wants and to never have to contemplate that she is different and may not have decades of life in front of her.  From that point on, 'deserve' never passed my lips again.

Deserve becomes our moral paintbrush.  Cleveland fans deserve a championship (damn straight).  But when it becomes deeper, that is when deserve becomes maddening.  The people who died in 9/11 did not deserve it, but the people who survived: did they deserve it?

If 2 soldiers are walking a patrol in Afghanistan and an IED detonates, did the one who survives to tell the tale deserve to live?  No one would ever say the dead soldier deserved his fate.

The Karadashians have a multi-million dollar empire, while there are schoolteachers changing lives everyday for a yeoman's wage.  Who deserves what in that scenario?

I work in politics.  People love the word deserve.  If a politician is caught in a scandal, every pundit, every enemy, every passerby states "they deserve what they get."  As if they had planted bad seeds in a cosmic garden that have now yielded the crop of destruction that the offender deserves.  In my work in politics, I have researched backgrounds on people, and tried to find the deep, dark things that would embarrass them, that would cause them to run from the limelight, that would hurt them, hurt their families, and give my side a victory.

I have told myself this is necessary, that this is what I get paid to do.  And while I often say I never judge how others make their living, making your living by hurting others warps every other aspect of your life.

I have heard people chuckle with glee when an opponent has come down with an illness, even cancer, and proclaim 'that's karma!'  Sweet God Jesus, why would anyone do that?

For the record, if you cheer for the death of people, even those you disagree with or have been wronged by, you are a piece of shit.  As far as we know, this is our only turn on this ride of life, and those who cheer the end of someone else's ride-you're a fuck.

When something happens for or to someone that they have wanted, I make sure to say "I'm really happy for you," not "you deserve this."  We have twisted happiness into a commodity that if you wish someone happiness, that you are actually being disingenuous.

But if you know you mean it, then it's true.  Be happy for people.  Be happy that they saw something they wanted, they worked for it, and it came to them.

But deserve?  After we are born, all bets are off on deserving.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Bucket of Balls

I haven't written on this Internet outpost that I reserved for my thoughts for nearly a year and a half.
I can say that it's been work and illness and every manner of excuse, but that is what it is: an excuse.

Excuses become like only socks that look for mates and become useless even as they are used more and more often.

I made plans to move all this information to a new website, domains purchased and ready for prime time.  The .com showing myself, and my blessed readers, that I am serious about becoming a brand, a writer, not someone who writes.

But like that bathroom you are going to redo some weekend when you get to it, you realized that planning paralyzes you, and that when you bought that house and pictured that new bathroom, you woke up this morning so many years later and shaved for work over the same sink that was there when you walked through the place during the inspection.  And that when they gather at said home over cold cuts when you pass, they will talk about how nice the service was and that your tombstone will read "I'll Get To It..."

Writing is the most simple of things: it's thinking on paper.  I do it for a living.  Anyone can do it, as long as you can develop a thought.

But next to public speaking, I hear more people worry about reading their writing.  They will somehow be lain bare by using the same 26 letters that everyone is taught, that the method and style in which they combine them will be ridiculed or questioned.

We all use words, so why do we, even those of us who pay our bills by using them, sometimes get caught in this trap of worrying how they will be received?

As I am settling into middle age, I am realizing more and more that living in any kind of fear is dying before your time.  But just as important, it's time to eat off the good china, wear that heirloom watch, and dance.

I love golf (more on the intricacies of what I love about it later).  The first time you break out the sticks for the season and hit a bucket of balls to get back in the swing of things, you usually wake up the next day sore and barely able to tie your shoes (middle age, again).  But you do it and then you know its time to start the first loop of the year.

I feel like this is my bucket of balls on the range.  I doubt anyone is reading this, but just like the driving range, its not for an audience: it for the feel of it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger: This Land Is Our Land

Pete Seeger died today, after a good long life of lifting up people with his music and standing shoulder to shoulder with working people.  He gave dignity to those who wore their names on their shirts, not those who have their initials on the cuffs of their dress shirts.

He stood up to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, when others decided it would be easier to trade their word for the ability to work.  That didn't make them bad people, but it made Seeger a better one. He made his exit from this world when the questions of inequality are as prevalent as they ever were during Seeger's nearly century on this mortal coil.  But he had a faith that if we accentuated the positive, that in the end, we would win; and by we, he meant everyone.

We have to live our truths to fully live, folks.  I know I have failed on this point many a time, but a person like Pete Seeger reminds me that it will pay off in the end.  Love all the people, friends.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Death of the Cool

I was reading today that the Federal Aviation Administration is thinking of allowing passengers to make phone calls during flights.  Not just play Words with Friends or read some spreadsheet, but to actually call your bros and tell them you are 6 miles above them.  And with as quiet as the last plane cabin I was in, callers will be yelling more loudly than if they were Texas A & M’s 12th man.

Why can’t this one moment be a place where we aren’t obsessed with living our reality show in front of everyone else?  Flying has already become something that wouldn’t be recognized by passengers 50 years ago.  Flying was something that you may not do in your life, and if you did, you were big shit.  Lots of room (because fewer passengers means fewer seats), delicious libations: hell, you could even smoke.  It was Mad Men in the sky.  Now you pay for the privilege of having TSA look up your ass with a flashlight, throw half your valuables away like you are boot camp, and then crowd yourself onto an overcrowded plane where people can yak without mercy.  Planes, ladies and gentlemen, have become buses.

There is not one person walking this earth that fathoms that they won’t be here forever, even when they know they won’t.  I said earlier that everyone is starring in their own reality show, and I truly believe we are.  Most people can’t get a show on television (although they green light some real detritus), but with Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram and whatever else just was invented by a  19 year old while I wrote that sentence, every person with Internet access can create multiple platforms to show their lives to their audience.  And that is what everyone else is becoming: our audiences.  You have followers on Twitter, a ’la Jim Jones.  People you have never met are your friends on Facebook. Everyone has an outlet to show what is unique about you, and why others should join in and program the DVR of their life to tape your show.  Even this site, it is a platform for me to shout out my angst into the cold winds of the internets. 

For a good long time, I refused to be involved in social media.  I acquiesced and wrote on a blog with my friends, and then after we had to do adult things I stopped.  I got on Twitter because it seemed like an ongoing conversation, and as someone who works in politics, it is also a newsfeed.  And I started this site because I wanted to find like-minded souls (who may be able to employ me when I was out of work).  I had to create a brand, because we are all brands.  You don’t get jobs; you sell an employer on your brand.  And a single person, trying to be a brand, is utterly fucking exhausting.

Again, I am not against progress.  I am not a luddite (and besides, the sales of turntables and vinyl I am attributing to people loving my speed of music, not hipsters), but I am someone who does not want to spend every precious second trapped in the screen, worrying about my responses to questions, having to through every move in life because it will not play well in the final cutting room version of my life.
I want to love hard, work hard, sleep hard, dream hard (hat tip to Webb Wilder).  I want to know how something/someone smells.  I want the easiness that comes with being comfortable in your skin.  I want tangible experiences, and I think at the heart of everyone, they do, too.

When someone has a vice, it is almost always because something is too large and scary to deal with or we want to be something we aren’t, so we mask it with drinking, drugs, sleeping around, slashing and burning on the Internet-anything that will keep us from looking inside at the movie that is actually continually running in our soul-the documentary of your experiences and your feelings.  I believe in a heaven, and I picture that heaven as a huge sun dappled field next to a lazy river.  And we all just hang out in the field, talking and hanging out, like the largest picnic in the galaxy.  In that heaven, we look at each other-and this is a possibly for us all-no savings of money required.

I will end this rant (get off my lawn!).  Just for the love of all that is decent, let’s reserve something that is not assholed up, even if it’s just a plane ride.

AND TELL EVERY FRIEND YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS SITE AND THE LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE OF READING MY WORK SO MY AUDIENCE EXPANDS-YOU COULD CALL ME BUT I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUNDS OF MY AWESOME.



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Notes on My Birth

I'm 37 today.  I have more regrets than happy memories.
I miss who I used to be, but upon reflection, how great was that guy?

I have to make changes or that will be my epitaph.  But starting today I am no longer "kid" or "young man."

But at least I have hair...and I'm older than Bill Hicks ever got to see.

Remember, friends: it's just a ride.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Having a Dream...

50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King went off script and changed the world.  He worked forever on a speech, sitting up late into the night in a Washington hotel, making change after change to his prepared text.

He stepped up to the mic and proceeded to read the words he had tried to perfect.  He started haltingly, and slowly, delivering the words he thought the crowd wanted to hear.  And then, halfway through the speech, he said screw it, and he spoke from his heart.  He told everyone listening and watching about his dream of a more equal union than the one America was in at the time.  Like all parents (even though he was a very young man), he wanted a better world for his children, but he also wanted a better world for those that stood with him that day.

The lesson, team: whether it's at work, with your partner (or potential partner), your friends and family, teachers, bartenders, whoever it is...speak from the heart.  Live and talk like your soul is on fire, because it is.  The world turned when MLK went off script and just described what he wanted for the world.  Your wants can be just as important.

Keep dreaming, friends.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sequestration on 5, no--4 dollars a day



Hey team:

Have you looked around the house to see what you are going to sequester when the asshat party in Congress finally makes us pay their bill?

Hey you!  Yes, you, truck driver in Akron, OH: You are totally paying for this shit!  (Smoke 'em if you got 'em).

Just like the banks, Washington can go long on the people politically, and then when they come up boxcars, we have to pay up.  Republicans made this bet thinking Barack Obama wouldn't be president anymore, but he is...and they will have to explain how they put gasoline pants on our country and then had us run through fire.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57571879/in-sequestrations-11th-hour-finger-pointing-reigns-in-congress/