When you think about it, what is a phone if not a fidget spinner by another name?

To cap off a week in which I’ve had nothing salient to talk about, I thought I’d talk about things of a non salient nature.

Someone at work came over to my desk to say hi and give me a swag bag today. This has happened a non-zero amount of times and as such, I’ve built up a vast quantity of swag I never wanted or needed. I have three or four different mugs that are basically colour swatch swaps. I have a small wireless speaker. I have So Many Pens. I’ve got a bunch of shirts for our TV shows. I must have about ten pairs of sunglasses by now. To add to that stack, today I got a lanyard, one of those things you stick to the back of your phone so you can turn it into a fidget spinner (I think that’s what it’s for?), some branded earbuds, a reusable plastic cup/straw combo, another pen and another pair of sunglasses. You’d think people would see the stack of swag bags on my desk and stop giving me things, surely? I can only use so many mugs daily. I rarely write by hand, what need have I for more goddamn pens? I feel like my carbon footprint is slowly and surely expanding with a wake of branded sunglasses. Can people stop giving me things now? Is there some polite way to say no to gifts? Do any so called “fans” want free stuff? If anyone out there has a use for the aforementioned products, get at me. I have things you can take off my hands/desk.

I was thinking this morning about how bizarrely entitled my brain is. I have a myriad of locked and loaded references to certain words and phrases. I’m sure most people do. Mine often happen to be pop-culturally based. Subconsciously however, my brain just expects everyone else to have the same ones drilled into their mind as I do. So when I say “It’s toasted” of course I expect everyone to be all hahaha, oh yes something something Don Draper. Sick reference bro. That’s not to say that friends of mine don’t do that occasionally, because of course like calls to like. The issue is that when the tables are turned and someone else throws out some kind of reference that I don’t know, my brain questions why they think I’d possibly know what they were talking about. But it’s not one of the meticulously catalogued call and responses I’ve spent years curating. How does it even exist? I’m not the most sensible of fellows.

I’ve been ill for over two weeks now and I’m sick of it. I’m tired of this ‘being tired’ bullshit. I want for once to not go through 30+ tissues a day. I would like for my nose to be clear of sticky yellow mucus. If my voice could politely slip back to its usual register instead of an artificially deepened mess that would be grand. The head/tooth aches brought on by excessive congestion? Maybe take a knee. Also my knees? Maybe ease up the tension and let those muscles relax. While you’re at it, tell my metatarsils and tibs to give up their rebellion. Thumbs up to that. Oh, while you’re there, the tendons in my thumb have been inexplicably tight for the past while. I’m sure the solution is to settle down, do all the prescribed stretches and let the physio handle it, but if you could magically fix yourself, that’d be a big help. It’s really swell when my body works fine. I’d love to head back to that glorious status of A-OK.

Or would that make my week a little too salient?

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Being grounded doesn’t mean six feet under

I feel ungreat.

The last time I went on holiday I came back a new man. I don’t know what it was precisely, but it did for me what a vacation is meant to do. I felt renewed, confident and ready to tackle any opposition life could throw at me. The one bugbear in my life, my career (or lack thereof) taught me that by its status as my only real issue, stuff was going pretty damn spectacularly. I used this newfound vim to launch myself at everything possible. I made more time with friends and was enthusiastically present. I disregarded my displeasure for my job and instead focused on the things that fulfilled me. My attitude, which had been in a severe downwards spiral for the previous nine or so months (since returning from my trip to Portland), pulled out of its nosedive and ascended. Things were better than bad, they were excellent and I knew I had the personal provisions to keep up that momentum.

After returning from London, I feel the same way as I did post-Portland.

I’m miserable to be back at work. The job still sucks. It’s busier than it was and any motivation I garnered was dissipated by my disappointment that I never got so much as a reply about the job I applied for pre-vacation. I don’t feel renewed by my trip. I feel exhausted. I’m sick with a cold. 22 hours after touching down my ears still haven’t fully popped. I’m unbalanced (physically. I forgot how much hearing dictated your sense of balance) and all congested. I’m exhausted, because the cat decided it’d be prudent to meow outside our door literally all night. It’s Spring and the ground in Toronto is covered in snow. Physically I haven’t been active in a week and a half and my body is letting me know. In short, I’m a bit of a wreck.

What went wrong?

Honestly, I don’t know that I was ready for a vacation yet. My holiday in Austin was at the end of February. That’s only six odd weeks ago. Travel takes a lot of planning, which for me at least requires a lot of emotional energy. I didn’t muster up enough to make adequate plans and as such, the holiday suffered. Travel is expensive. My nine day trip to London, including airfare, cost about $1,800. $200 per day and that’s with free accommodation. The exchange rate from CAD to Pounds was brutal and my wallet felt the sting. Furthermore, aside from the wedding (the reason for the visit) and the allure of seeing old friends again, I wasn’t particularly excited about anything London had to offer. I just went to London back in late 2016. This time around, nothing was really taking my fancy.

Linking all this together, here’s what happened: I spent a bunch of money going on a trip I wasn’t hugely looking forward to. The pace of the trip felt off. I’ve gotten used to a certain style of holiday. I want to be on the move constantly, covering a bunch of ground, going to interesting local events, eating everything fascinating and having fun through spontaneous encounters with strangers. That to me is an ideal holiday. I just had my ideal holiday in Austin. London wasn’t my ideal holiday. It was too soon and didn’t scratch that itch. It burned more emotional energy than it gave and as a result, going on the trip felt more taxing than staying home. As shitty as it sounds to complain about a holiday, here we are.

I know I keep mentioning the finance aspect, but that really isn’t as much of the issue as it sounds. The fact of the matter is, I was in a really good place before going on holiday. I’d had a massive swell of personal development. I’d turned a corner on a truly shitty mire of anguish and anxiety. I felt like I could conquer the world. Now I feel like I’m back where I was when all of that started. It really fucking sucks. Maybe a good night’s sleep will make everything better in the morning, but I have an inkling that there’s something deeper at play here. Fingers crossed this is only temporary. If it’s not, I’ve got some work to do.

Aside from the shitty job, that is.

You don’t poop at a funeral without an excremation mark!

I feel like for someone to know everything they need to about me, it could be summed up in one sentence:

I have an internal hierarchy of people worth talking to in the bathroom.

Some folks just aren’t worth it. Maybe they’ll balk at the notion of talking in the bathroom fullstop. It is kind of how we’ve been encultured. Those walls are a sacred shrine to that from which we abscond. Within such a temple of refuse, lies a refusal to adventure’s call. I don’t know if the idea is not to sully words in a solemn tomb, or if the music of nutrition’s passing is nary one to interrupt.

In short, some people get pissed about shooting the shit in the loo.

Others just aren’t worth wasting the breath. Obviously by now I’d hope everyone knows I talk a ton of nonsense. Part of the fun is getting people to jump in on that whole mess. Maybe it’s having bits with people around the office. The forming of in-jokes or simple but flimsy fleeting kinship. Like we know that this whole corporate structure and 9-5 work week is a farce, but opting in doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten the humour of it all. Nothing we do is serious enough for a sterile environment, so why not poke fun where we can? Why not have more of a response than “good” when someone asks us how we are? Why not ask genuine probing questions and give earnest answers?

Does our proximity to poo have to quash our sincerity?

With the caveat of “to me” thrown in there, some people are straight up boring. It’s not their fault and I’m sure to them I’m an undesirable ludic misfit. Maybe all they want from life is a routine, white picket fence, partner, 2.5 children, couch and TV. That’s fine, power to them for knowing that. I’m sure they’ll get to exactly where they want while I’ll be out here manically rowing with one oar. I don’t care if it’s a kitchen, a bus, an elevator or a bathroom. Even if it smells like someone died, as long as it’s not a funeral I’m more interested in creating moments than watching the clock.

But then again with enough coffee I find anything interesting. Especially (but not limited to) chicken soup recipes. If it means I can procrastinate, I will ask no end of questions about whatever a person wants to talk about. Maybe it’s not that people are boring, but that sometimes there’s not enough coffee in the world to bring me to that place where they aren’t.

Speaking of which, have I procrastinated enough? Can I go home yet?

I’ve run out of shit to do and say.

I would hope it involves tuna for lunch. Some things never get old.

Today at work I…

Normally this is a statement that leads right to the middle of nowhere. I arrive at my desk. I make coffee. I small talk with co-workers for longer than is reasonable and leave at the end of the day entirely unfulfilled. It’s my job, it pays the rent and feeling dissatisfied is better than destitute in my mind. At the same time, it taxes me. Have you ever felt like your day to day takes more than it gives? Like you’re running on a wheel going nowhere, just getting tired?

Well today at work I…

Knew that I had a lot to do and less time than normal. Still didn’t stop the morning coffee and small talk. I was doing some voicing for a smaller market. They needed a golf announcer voice. Naturally I went to youtube for some research and stumbled upon this little gem. I was voicing with one of the production engineers that really digs in and gets to the heart of it. We’ll do tons of takes, trying alternate reads, going for specific styles and unintuitive angles. It’s considerably more fun than my desk job and helps to make said desk job more bearable.

With less time, I loaded up a Kpop playlist (and to be honest, I think I’m deeply, sincerely in love with Kpop now) and got down to business. I churned through a stack of work in an hour, before deciding that I could probably still fit my day’s  tasks in if I went off to engage in a company supplied pilates class. So I vanished for an hour to do pilates.

You know what? It was a fucking hard class and that was awesome in itself. The instructor has done a fantastic job of ramping up the learning curve over the past month or two. She’s funny, plays great music and structures the class with easier exercises that lead into those that’re more difficult. It’s been so much of a boon for the company to have shelled out for an instructor to come in and take these classes once per week. A nice way of redirecting energy in a physical manner that brings us into the afternoon all refreshed.

Having gotten my sweat on, I had about an hour before my next engagement. So I got some lunch and once again did my job (you know, that thing they pay me to come in for?). For that hour. Then it was off for two hours to one of our optional, company supplied lectures.

I’d been on the waiting list and just got my acceptance this morning. Today’s lecture was on storytelling. Out of no vocational necessity, but pure interest, I figured I could learn a thing or two regardless. The instructor was great, and the course brought to mind a lot that I’d never considered. He had a manner of putting into words things that were maybe subconsciously known, but I hadn’t tacitly heard.

Here’s the thing. I feel like humans are natural storytellers. It’s innate to our upbringing. We’re told parables and fairy tales to teach us lessons. The entertainment we so eagerly consume is all based on fundamental rules that’ve evolved over generations. We so rarely put into words what makes a compelling story, but we know it. If the tale doesn’t hit those points, we switch off. Just like that.

Something the instructor raised really stuck with me. It was about audiences. He said that people don’t care about the how, they care about the why. That intrinsically what they care about is what’s in it for them. So to tell a truly effective story, you need to consider what the audience stands to gain from hearing your story. Don’t tell a story just because you want to, but shape it into a tale that benefits those who hear it. Can they learn something? Will it make them laugh? Excited? Emotionally invested? Will it endear them to you and the struggles of the central characters?

When you’re telling a story, don’t just list the facts, plot and outcome, invite the audience inside your story. You’re not giving them empty words, you’re creating a narrative perspective and it’s your goal as a storyteller to bring their view in line with yours. Help them see the world of your mythology as you do. Cause them to invest in the characters, conflict and stakes. Understand the type of story you’re telling and its structure. Is it a rags to riches tale? A quest? A triumph over insurmountable odds? A story of tragedy or rebirth? If you know where you’re going, you’re better able to guide an audience there.

It was all kinds of gratifying to hear this stuff, to participate in discussion and feel like I’d given something back. To feel involved and cared for, to learn little tips of how to expand my knowledge in an area I care deeply about.

After that kind of day, I’m wondering what tomorrow at work could hold.

Are you?

Quite quote unquote, quid pro quo?

I’ve been humming and hawing (a word I’ve been using for years without knowing the true meaning. Apparently it’s to hesitate in speech) about what to write. No cohesive themes are popping into my head. I don’t have the darndest notion of where to start, but if I’ve learned anything from this project it’s that starting is the quickest route to getting somewhere.

Man, that sounded like I dropped some serious wisdom:

“Starting is the quickest route to getting somewhere” – Albert Einstein.

Maybe I’ve finally gained the ability to casually drop aphorisms on the fly. Wouldn’t that be a rad superpower. It sounds meek at first blush, but the more you think about it, you’d be able to give your opponents pause while you came in for the coup de grâce. They’d be standing there doing some serious hawing (’cause the only way to truly learn a word is to use it in a sentence, right?), and I’d take advantage of their flat footed predicament. An ability to drop truth bombs at will sounds like a great power with great responsibility.

I read an Onion article the other day “Man Forced To Reverse-Engineer Point In Midst Of Meandering, Absentminded Rant“. I was just happy they had the restraint not to print my real name. Perhaps it’s come from years of downing Harmontown episodes, but I totally do this. I’ll start at a certain point in a conversation with this unearned confidence that I’ll be able to spout something vaguely resembling sense. I’ll twist and contort, taking non-linear sidesteps while engineering a through-line that comes together at the end. It’s a high wire act. I’m well aware that most of the time it doesn’t work, but when I have a couple of drinks, any potential self-doubt is clipped in favour of blind faith. I’ll make it happen, even if I have to force it with clunky segues and tenuous narrative links.

I get away with it far more than I should. Maybe here in Canada it’s an offshoot of accent privilege. I’ve mentioned it a bunch of times before, but I feel like having a Kiwi accent affords me a great many privileges here in a foreign country. You know that socially observed phenomenon whereby attractive people go through life with strangers being nicer to them? 30 Rock did a great episode on it with John Hamm. Living in a foreign country, I feel like having an accent gives shades of the same. So perhaps people smudge over those times when my conversational crafting is bumbling at best. Possibly they’re not even understanding the words I’m saying, but get a kick out of my cadence. If neither of us notices and it gives me neat little advantages, I’m certainly not gonna complain.

I was saying to my girlfriend the other day that I’d love nothing more than to have a job where I could just be amicable and charming all the time. Spout total nonsense, but help facilitate others having a blast. I like making people happy as much as I enjoy being liked. Win/win all around. I was speaking to a French dude today who said when he was in Korea, he got invited on a popular KPOP panel show just because he was a) tall and b) spoke English. They were all oh, your English is so great as he spoke in his thick French accent. He told me he had zero qualms about monetising that shit, because it made others happy and he benefited from it. Is there some way I can do the same? Find a line of work where I can be me and that’ll be enough for others? Where my meandering absentminded rants are marketable? How do I even set out to find that?

Then again, as the great Albert Einstein once said: “Starting is the quickest route to getting somewhere.”

Wise words indeed.

Let’s call it my 2 Unlimited potential.

The aftermath of my Austin holiday has been surprising. My typical response post vacation is to sink into a dense miasma of discontent. I’ll normally come back from my heightened experience to a jarring juxtaposition with my disappointing quotidian day-to-day. From the freedom and excitement that comes with exploring new territory unencumbered by schedules, to a regimented existence that sees me running on someone else’s timeline. It’s a harsh, brutal change that’s none too dissimilar from culture shock. In short, I have such a good time getting away from my life that it seems bleak in comparison.

Not this time.

Why? Is it because I had a shit holiday? Or that gravity relented when I set my foot on Canadian soil? Relief over the absence of open carry? I met a leprechaun in the hood and he gave me pot and gold chains?

I had an amazing holiday. I spent time with good friends and rediscovered parts of myself I thought long gone. Without the pressure and emotional weight of work, I felt lighter. My soul peeked out like Punxsutawney Phil and declared that whatever was bogging me down simply wasn’t worth it. To discover the summer of my heart in all that I saw. Everything the light touches, Simba. Etc. My sphincter loosened and I let go of all my tension. I felt at peace with myself and came away changed.

Returning from Austin I’ve come back in touch with my armchair social philosopher. I’ve been monologuing again and thinking about the human condition. I’ve looked at myself and wondered what’s been holding me down. The past week has left me charged and reminded me of something. I like me. I like who I am. I’m my number one biggest fan. I’m also quite okay with that. I think I’m more of a decent person than I’m not and I have no reason to not be okay with myself. I realise I’ve spent the past few years beating myself into submission. I’ve mitigated and minimised my personhood. I’ve softened my edges. I’ve been so afraid of making anyone else uncomfortable that I’ve compromised my larger than life existence. I know that I have the awareness and emotional cognisance to be as me as I want to be without dampening the light of others. It’s been as unnecessary as it has been damaging.

In short, I’ve grown tired of my shit.

There’s a fire in my heart that’s long been embers. I’m ready and stoked to bring it back to life. Gone is the mantra of “just get by” and back is the mantra of “making it happen”. I’ve been wasting the past few years of my life with the notion of contentment in lieu of fulfilment. I’ve been unfairly looking at how I pay the bills as a synonym for what I do. Frankly, I’m getting too old to care about the small stuff and I’m not old enough to settle for the little things.

I’m ready to be uncompromisingly me. Are you?

I don’t know where we were, but we were driving on the left hand side.

I had too much boredom coffee today, which means one of two things: I’m either high or dying. In any case, let’s get this show on the road!

I had a sex dream last night. It was pretty tame, but if you’re not into going down this route (both those puns entirely intentional), the last exit is on the right.

Coolsville, daddio. I don’t have a heap of sex dreams. Or if I do, it’s rare for me to remember them. I’m not a teenager anymore. It’s not like the sight of an open avocado is enough to send me into an eroticised tailspin. My mind is no longer a rabid howler monkey intent on flinging its shit at whatever sticks. It’s more like a chimp. Closer to human, but still not afraid to flay a face or two. When I do have sex dreams now, they’re more controlled. A tighter narrative than errant flesh and flowing water. Let’s go.

I’m not sure where I was in a geographical sense. I was travelling for work, but I was at a bar for sure. I was chatting with the bartender, nursing a whiskey and in walked Scarlett Johansson. I know what you’re thinking. Couldn’t my subconsciousness be more imaginative? It’s got unlimited pasture in which to run free. Not only did it not need to be a celebrity, but dreams are abstract. It could’ve been a humanoid alien or something. Get creative for (literally) my fuck’s sake. Anyway, in the dream I played it cool and kept sipping my drink and minding my own business. She sidled up to the bar and ordered a vodka on the rocks. We started chatting and it was obviously a dream, because I was not only quippy, but charming. We hit it off and soon enough I had to leave. I said she was welcome to join me. She did.

Two things somehow made even less sense. 1) I knew I was off to do some work. Would I ditch work IRL to spend time with a movie star? I mean, probably. In the dream though, I was resolute in heading for an office. Secondly, we decided to drive. We’d both had a bunch, but in dreamland our intoxication didn’t seem to matter. She had a rental, some smooth black convertible. It was her car, I knew this, but for some reason I jumped in the driver’s seat. We zipped along the highway and got caught up in traffic. Things in the car were steaming up. We were both pretty touchy and started working all up on each other. Hands darted down to laps and grasped hold. It was obvious we were both into it, but neither of us cared to go down on one another in the middle of the highway. My desire to get to work dwindled. Did we want to rent a hotel room? Find somewhere to turn off pull up the roof and get to business?

We stopped and tried to work out a strategy. I said that we clearly weren’t the only people who’d have these qualms. How often did people want quick and easy places in public to take some down time? What if, I posited, there were hidden locations you could access purely for having sex? She pulled out her phone and made some calls. We turned off the highway and headed to an office somewhere. We were in a boardroom chatting to the small team she’d assembled. There were engineers, architects, lawyers and accountants. I laid my plans out on the table. We talked specs and locations. There was agreement all around. This was not only a solid idea, but had long lucrative legs.

Cut back to the highway. We were both back in the car, but she was driving this time. We took a left exit that led down to a secluded swamp. I pressed a button on the remote and a hidden tunnel opened up. We drove through and saw a large cavern with hundreds of little alcoves. We drove into one of the alcove and a door closed behind us. Lights sprung on and we were in a private room with a bed, cross and a bunch of toys. I looked over to her and raised my eyebrow (it was a dream, so somehow this wasn’t seen as seedy and reprehensible) and asked her “so should we road test the equipment?” She grinned and hopped onto my lap.

If only this was as feasible in real life.