Sunday, July 15, 2018

You Are Good Enough

If I were to give advice of any kind, it would be this: Don’t let people make you feel like you are not good enough. You are good enough.

By the time this blog drops, I will have removed you from my life. You have been a source of lifestyle-related anxiety and shame for years. I endured this nonsense for longer than I ought to have, because I thought that maybe you were right.

Shopping at Walmart was bad, and I should be ashamed of going there, right? But my budget said “take your ass to Walmart.” So I started avoiding going on shopping trips with you, because we would go to Target or Meijer. The prices might only be a few dollars difference, but on my budget, that’s a hit I had to plan for.

Fast food was out of the question. The food was not food, and I ought to be ashamed for even thinking of eating it. Well, unless it was Panda Express, where I could find nothing I wanted to eat. We ate there a lot.

I felt like I had to save up if you wanted to eat somewhere with me, or suffer the shame of having to tell you I couldn’t afford it so you could offer to pay for me. I felt grateful to have someone pay for my food, but I feel like I was your poor friend.

I look back on our friendship and remember all the shit cars I’ve owned, from a 1987 Buick Century to my current lemon from a buy here pay here lot, and I wonder how many times you secretly made fun of me for driving a craigslist beater or a buy here pay here vehicle? I think back on all the times I insisted on driving and I feel sick, and that’s not okay. I should not have to feel bad for spending within my means.

I have been on my own, more or less, since I was 18 years old. In December of 2018, that will be 16 years. In that time, I have been largely responsible for providing my own food, utilities, my own place to live, and choosing a car for myself. I have been a fully capable and mostly functional adult for 16 years. I had parents who were not big on helping their kids financially once they were living on their own. I learned not to ask people for money or help of any kind. What I have, I got on my own.

My life is not defined by owning a new car, eating at fancy restaurants, shopping at Target and believing that all of this equals transcendence from poverty. My life is defined by experiences, emotions, and time spent with friends and family.

My time spent with this you has been defined by my sense of shame at admitting that I bought something at Walmart, that I drive an American vehicle almost 10 years old that came from a bad credit lot. My time spent with you has been defined by budgeting around your refusal to eat anywhere with reasonable prices, your need to show me how much you spent on something and refer to it as “affordable,” a real slap in the face when I’m struggling to pay off debt and keep food in my kitchen at the same time. I’ve realized that I am your poor friend, the one who stands in contrast to you and makes you look better. I feel like my efforts to get ahead in life are amusing to you. I feel like you kept me around for the entertainment value, and I am done feeling like that.

The last time I was shopping with this person, we went to Target (of course) to buy fans to help the AC cope with the heat. I went for the poor people $16 box fan that was $14 at Walmart, and he went for the $80 bullshit Tornado fan, which he promptly returned and replaced because it had a minor defect in the blade that caused an almost imperceptible noise during operation. I am just glad my fan turns on.

There is a huge difference in how we approach life, and I owe it to myself to separate from this kind of attitude, at least online. I am over being ashamed of where I grew up, where I shop, the car I drive, the apartment I live in, the place I work, the friends I have, my family’s religion, and the fact that I currently have no desire or need or means to leave this god awful state.
I am done feeling ashamed of spending within my means. I am done leaving your house and crying on the way home because of something you said to me that made me feel stupid and inferior. I do not need that in my life. I deserve to feel proud of myself. I have a place to live, a car, a job, and I am alive.

If you really want to know my opinion, I think you spend way too much money on stupid shit. $25 is way too much for one person for a casual meal, and I refuse to participate in that hallucination of reality anymore. I think that Walmart, while not as clean or trendy or fun to shop in, has a wider selection of things in my price range than Target. I think that spending $80 on a fucking fan is actually really stupid at any income level. I think that Panda Express is overhyped, Americanized bullshit that I would never eat on my own. I think that paying $100 more per month than I do for the same size apartment just to live next to a busy highway with no swimming pool and no amenities is the definition of reckless overspending. I also think that buying a new car for the novelty of it is idiotic. Most of all, I think it’s really confusing and enraging to see memes about Trump voters and overthrowing the rich interspersed with pictures of expensive looking food that I would only be able to eat at a wedding or an awards dinner, if I were lucky, but that you just happen to have the budget to make at home. To me, that seems like you have no point of reference for what it’s like to be poor, and I find that sad.

Just because someone can't afford better doesn't mean they don't know any better. It doesn't mean they're stupid, or that there's something wrong with them. It's the reality of having a prohibitive budget: some things are just not possible, so you make due.

If you feel like your friends are there to make you look better, you’re misunderstanding the purpose of friendship. It hurts to think back on all the times we spent together and realize that I was viewed in such a negative and unflattering light. I am done being your poor friend who makes bad financial decisions. I am free to live my life the way I want to, with or without your commentary.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Grief is a Funny Thing (Saying Goodbye to an Mechanical Friend)

After almost three years, I am getting ready to sell Angela 4.0, and I'm not sure how I feel about this. I actually think I'm experiencing the stages of grief. This creature is like a pet to me, in her many forms. but especially in her red Chevrolet Venture form. This is the form she began as with Angela 1.0 back in 2005. She's been a lot of vehicles: 2 nearly identical Ventures, a Jeep Cherokee, 2 Buick Centuries of vastly different ages and conditions, and now we are finally making the full transition to her life as a Dodge Journey.

Angela 4.0 was like being reunited with an old friend when I found her on Craigslist. She was exactly the same. It was the most amazing feeling. Even friends who had known her well in her first form commented that it was like the first van never went away, 4.0 was even in the same condition 1.0 would have been in if I had owned her for ten years. She was a little rougher than I remembered, but she was enthusiastic.

That's been a common theme in Angela's mostly imaginary mechanical existence: her enthusiasm. When she transitions to a new body, some common things tend to happen: the horn goes out at some point (this hasn't happened yet for 4.0), and if there is a rear wiper, it will stop working. Even after she started to get sick, she would still press on when duty called.

I honestly feel like I failed her again. I let an idiot drive her first body drunk and she was fatally wounded protecting me from him. She delivered me in first gear to Muncie via back roads with parts of her ruined transmission falling off or dragging along the asphalt, so that I could get away from him. She finally succumbed to her injuries in an Aldi parking lot, where I was stupid and confused and broken enough to leave her to die and be towed away.

That was the last time I saw Angela 1.0: from the window of a bus as her lifeless shell was being loaded onto a wrecker a week after I abandoned her. I had no money to have her towed to safety, no money to fix her, and no money to get her out of the junk yard. I still think about Angela 1.0 and I wonder if I could go to Northwest Towing and find her, and if I could sit in her and remember the first day I drove her. I felt like we were all over the road, because I was used to small cars. Honestly, I don’t think I’d want to see what became of her. I’m sure she’s been parted out by now, and it would only be more painful to see her like that after all the memories I have of her.

Grief is a funny thing, especially when it’s applied to an inanimate object. Angela the entity began when my mom died, and you could argue (if you believed in such things) that my mom came back and inhabited my favorite object at the time: my car.

Over the years, I have lost her or let her go over and over. The first van was towed away and lost. The Jeep cracked her radiator and blew a water pump all at once and was unfixable. The silver Century was repossessed because I was an idiot with my money. The blue Century was given away to friends, and I can see her anytime I want to. And now this van is simply being neglected because I can’t afford to maintain her.

I will not do this to her in her new body. I will keep this Dodge Journey running as long as she’s willing to stay in it. One day, also, she will have a second body again. Maybe it will be another Venture, or a minivan in general, or a small car. The future is bright, I just wish I could clear my head and get this over with, because the longer I postpone it, the longer she suffers.

At some point, I began to realize that I am causing Angela 4.0 to suffer, and I love her enough to let her go.

Goodbye, friend. We'll see each other again some day.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tinsel Spaghetti and a Cart Full of Cakes Up Your Ass

I have just returned from the land of Walmart, that cursed, foul hell-hole of a store that lures you in with low prices and then beats you over the head with weaponized iPads and sensory over overload, and I am ready to kiss the sidewalk outside my building. Oh my god, people.

First of all, everyone wanted the garland, so much so that I found myself pinned between two warring factions of grandmas with their carts full of crap ready to smash together and turn me into tinsel spaghetti. The only way out was the yell “I THINK I’M DONE IN THIS AISLE. I GUESS I CAN WAIT UNTIL SOMEONE MOVES.”

Oh the carnage. Fully lit college kids were twerking on half-lit trees. Aren’t finals soon? Pass class or go home to Iowa. No one wants you here. GO HOME. GO SET YOUR DAD’S MOOBS ON FIRE AND STUFF YOUR MOM IN THE OVEN. THEY THINK YOU’RE CUTE. NOT ME.

So then I was getting a couple food items. Warning: DO NOT. There was a crazy asshole vibrating her cart around behind me screaming Christmas carols the whole time. I lost her a couple times, but then she and her cart would jump out of the toilet paper and the cereal like the Polar Express when I least expect it. She had these terrible little crinkly hands, and I wanted to shove them both up her butt.
Just imagine picking up cheese cubes to the tune of JINGLE BELLS BATMAN SMELLS ROBIN LAID AN EGG WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS NOW PEE DOWN YOUR LEG like what was this woman singing? What were these demonic shitty siren songs coming out of her blowhole?


So I get to the self checkout and nearly get T-boned by an old man with a shopping cart full of cakes. Fucking cakes! A cart full of them. Back the fuck up, geezerland. I’ll punch you right in the thorax.
I paid for my shites. I waved bon voyage to Horrorland.

If you’re thinking of going to Walmart right now, please just save yourself some trouble and have some kindergarteners knock you unconscious with bats, because the experience is similar.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Viral Science in the Age of Social Media: THIS ARTICLE AGREES WITH MY WORLDVIEW SO IT'S TRUE. *Shares on Facebook*

There is a whole oil slick of questionable websites making the rounds on social media at the moment claiming that people who curse, are messy, and stay up late are more intelligent or have a higher IQ than those who don’t. The same websites often make some pretty sensationalist claims, sometimes taking research out of context and other times just making stuff up (see link at the bottom of the page). There are two studies (and one questionable article) involved when you dig into the subject. There may be more, but here are the two that keep coming up.

Let’s address language first. The actual article is “Taboo word fluency and knowledge of slurs and general pejoratives: deconstructing the poverty-of-vocabulary myth,” published in Language Sciences Volume 52, November 2015, Pages 251–259. It addresses the long-held myth that people who swear are less intelligent or do so because they cannot find better words to use. It argues that there is no real correlation between a wide range of swearing and a lower intelligence. It never mentions that people who swear more or have a wider range of curse word vocabulary have a higher IQ or are more intelligent. It dispels the idea that they are inferior. There are a few related articles once you find this one, and they mostly seem to agree with this research. Taboo words (AKA “swear words”) are only taboo because for cultural reasons. They are not mandated to be bad words. They are words used by people, and do not indicate a single thing about intelligence.

Now let’s address messiness. The actual article is “Tidy Desk or Messy Desk? Each Has Its Benefits,” published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. It says that while a clean desk may promote behaviors like eating healthy, generosity, and conventionality, a messy desk may promote creativity and new ideas. It does not say that people who live in messy environments are more intelligent or have a higher IQ than people who keep their environments clean.

Now for staying up late. The actual article is “Why Night Owls Are More Intelligent Than Morning Larks,” Published in Psychology Today in the Scientific Fundamentalist blog by Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics. This article does claim that people who stay up later are more intelligent than others. He is famous for an article in this same publication about why black women are allegedly not as attractive as white women, using the opinions of interviewees as the “unbiased” control for this study ( That article has since been pulled and the London School of Economics prohibited him from publishing in non-peer-reviewed outlets for a year. Take what you want from that one. I’m still trying to figure it out myself.

A final note: I swear a lot. My apartment is messy. I have been known to stay up until 7AM at 32 years old. This does not always make someone more intelligent in my opinion, because I know plenty of people who do the same things and are complete idiots. For all I know, I may be one of them.

The fact that so many people take all this research out of context and use it justify things that no one needs to justify like swearing and messiness and staying up late is ridiculous. Live how you live, folks. You don’t need to answer to anyone. I get a lot of flack for my apparent “conservative values” and my “Christian upbringing.” Well, whatever. I can respect that, but I would also like to point out that I am an atheist, because a Christian upbringing means nothing, and “conservative” is a relative word, depending on who you talk to.

My point is, even though these studies exist, they do not exist in the capacity or context that the people reposting this kind of clickbait would like to believe. But no one cares to do the research, so no one knows any better. We have made science a huge thing, praised well-known scientists, made them our heroes, but most of us would still rather not look into anything. We find something that agrees with our worldview, we like it, we share it. We spread the ignorance.

Oh well. We're all on a big, dying ball of dirt floating in a soundless void. What do facts matter, when you can have... SENSATIONALISM? :D


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Talent is Not Overrated (When An Endearing Message Becomes A Salty Threat)

I sometimes think that people take what should be a positive message and use it to hurt others. Case in point: I have seen, a few times now, friends of mine insisting that it's okay to do things you aren't good at because you enjoy them. I agree with this sentiment. But recently, I've seen something popping up that says "talent is overrated."
As an artist and a writer, I'm going to give you my opinion of this particular twisting of an otherwise endearing thought.
Talent is not overrated. It's okay to do something you aren't good at because you enjoy it. Trust me, I enjoy doing plenty of things I'm not good at. Life, for instance. Just because I'm not good at it doesn't mean I'm going to stop. However, talent does matter if you are taking your activities to the public.
People are moved by ability. People are captivated by flawless performances. Do not insult people who do things professionally by saying that talent is overrated. That is the most callous, insensitive thing to say to someone who has spent years and years and years of their life perfecting their ability to do something they love to do. It's not about "making a living" off of it. Do you really think writing or art "make a living" these days? Do you really think that most new, talented bands are bringing in bags of cash from shows? If you personally are so threatened by society's emphasis on being able to do something well, the problem is with you.
It is human and natural to suck at things that you enjoy doing, but do not tell me talent is overrated. I've worked for over a decade to be no better than I am at writing, and I intend to put decades more work into it.
If anything, talent is underrated. Talent as seen as an unnecessary waste of time, because it has to be shaped into something. The worst part is that talent is subjective. It's entirely up to society's perception of what a good performance is. The last thing we need is someone going around saying "Talent is overrated because I can't paint or write or play an instrument but I like to do it anyway." No. You have two choices. You learn to do it the right way, or you can shut the hell up when someone else does and be content with the joy you get from being alive. Assuming, of course, anyone gets any joy out of being alive at all these days.
TLDR: Shut up. You are wrong.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Rental Car Road Trip, and the Little Car-Shaped Void it Left Behind

Incoming: weird, sad post about a car. You've been warned.

Yesterday, I met this little creature when I rented a car from Enterprise. It was a chance meeting, because the car I was supposed to rent was covered in mud and still needed to be cleaned. This one just happened to have been fresh from the car wash at the back of the building. It was shiny and happy and ready for adventure.

It was smaller than anything I’d ever driven, and it displayed gas consumption in pellets. We started in Muncie, idled in the Starbuck’s drive-thru in Greenfield for twenty minutes for an iced chai tea latte and only used one pellet. We went to Nashville Indiana and the Bloomington area and back on six more pellets of gas.

We saw the lights of Nashville, the live music, the dark and secret magic of Antique Alley after all the shops had closed. I looked up at the sky above me and I was happy.

Highway 46 was dark on the way home, surrounded by wooded hills. I-65 was a bright red and white ribbon of vehicles, and after seeing an accident, we decided to go back to state highways. I found myself sitting in my living room wondering if I had enough time to go for a quick drive before bedtime. Angela 5.0 and her new companion looked like old friends in the driveway.

Today, I woke up early and we went for another drive in the country. Soon, it was almost time for my little friend to go back to Enterprise. We had been on so many adventures in less than 24 hours, and I was irrationally sad about taking it back. It had been an emotional 24 hours. I had been driving this car when I stopped at Colonial Crest and got to see my apartment. I had been driving this car when I went to Brown County for the first time. I had been driving this car when I went on my first road trip by myself with no particular destination in mind and no one to visit.

So I turned in the keys and stood at the counter dead-faced and responded to all human interactions like I wasn’t sick from grief, because normal people do not get emotional about inanimate objects, but not before I took one last picture.

Goodbye, my little friend. I wanted to keep you forever. I learned a lot from you. You taught me that I really like small cars, after almost a decade of never giving one a chance. I had no trouble turning in the Focus, as nice as it was. I had no trouble turning in the Caravan either, because as much as it reminded me of my own van, because I still had my van. But you, I don’t have anything to fill the fun-sized void you left. When Angela 5.0 is paid off, I might go to Enterprise Car Sales and look for one of your friends. I will look for a silver Nissan Versa, and maybe it will be you. I’ll never know, but it doesn’t matter. Maybe you can be the replacement for the van, a tiny little creature, a baby Altima that eats gas pellets. I hope when you retire, you find your forever home. Maybe we’ll meet again on the rental lot. I’ll look for those distinctive black marks on your driver’s door. Until then, I am glad to have known you, and I will always remember you.

I really scaled this blog down to not sound crazy, but there's only so much you can to look sane when you get attached to a car. After a while, you just have to admit you're nuts.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Yeah But I Saved You a Dollah Though

For whatever reason, in my haze of sickness, I thought that it would be a grand idea to go grocery shopping. The reasoning, initially, was sound. I needed food, I had money, so made my way to Aldi. However, the timing was bad. It was awful. Everyone on earth had just gotten off work and they were all driving their wheeled hate wagons toward this very same Aldi.

Let me describe how people drive in Muncie, just so you know what I fought with for ten blocks or so: Gets in car, immediately slams foot onto gas, careens through garage into traffic, swerves to miss bus, talks on phone while putting makeup on the baby, mistakes green light for red, gets out and has physical altercation with empty pizza box while other drivers fly around them, squelches across intersection two seconds after the light turns red, cuts off other driver, honks at them. Imagine this for ten blocks. It’s great. I was lucky to make it there alive.

So I get to the Aldi parking lot and a black Dodge Charger comes screeching around the corner the wrong way and stops dead in front of me. I put my van in park with cars behind me, because this is not a two-way and there’s nowhere for me to go. They just sit there. They SIT there. Let me explain this to you, because there are a disturbing amount of people who don’t know or don’t care that there are lanes in a parking lot. If you can read the license plates and see both taillights, you’re going the right way. There are exceptions, like two way lanes, but this was not one. So eventually the car backs up and slams itself GTA style into a space, nearly running over an old man who has decided that that empty space (next to his own car) is his own private storage unit for the time being. Everyone was happy. Whatever. Fuck a walrus.

Aldi is so busy, though, that my social anxiety kicks in, which paired with flare symptoms, is awful. So I get out of there and go to Marsh, and other than having to dodge some people who think they ought to take up the entire bread aisle and talk on their phone at the same time, everything was smooth. I should have caught the foreshadowing, though, when I kept hearing this disinterested wargarbler saying “key on four” over the loudspeaker with the microphone down her esophogas. I just happen to choose the wrong checkout lane. The wargarbler was a pale, googly-eyed heroine addict who looked like she sold drugs to babies on the side. She gets to the couple in front of me and rings up ten items for the next six hours, and then she’s like “AMMAH SAAAAVE YOU DOLLAH!” and she gets on the loudspeaker like “kan eye git a keeeeeyyyy on four please” and then she stands there all slouched over until this tiny, pissed off bog creature explodes out of the office and jams a key into her register.

I left the Marsh muttering colorful language to anyone who came within ten feet of me. Things like “Get the fuck away, get the FUCK away. Don’t you fucking even look at me.” It was a good experience. Yay social anxiety.