Tuesday, October 25, 2016

289. Excited

What am I excited about? It’s always good to have a few things to look forward to in life. I think that helps you get through most days. Here’s a couple things on the calendar that I am really excited about.

-The start of the Minnesota Timberwolves season. I’m glad they are back. This team excites me. I didn’t get to see as many games as I would have liked last year because I didn’t have Fox Sports North at my parents house for some reason, but I have a television now and good cable, so bring on the season. So many analysts have said the Wolves have an exciting young team. I don’t believe they are NBA championship level yet. I do believe that they have the best young player in the game, Karl-Anthony Towns. They also have a new coach and some buzz around the team for the first time in a long while. I’m hoping to make it to a few more games this season.

-The movie Dr. Strange. I think this movie comes out on Friday. I’m not sure. I’m not particularly fond of Dr. Strange. I’m just excited for the next iteration of the Marvel movies, like any 20-something male. (Just checked, it comes out November 4. It’s gotten good reviews so far from the site Rotten Tomatoes.) Benedict Cumberbatch is a great actor and it seems like this one is going to be just a little bit different. I get a bit of an inception vibe from the trailers. I am really looking forward to spending a little bit of money at the movie theater to go see it.

-I’m really excited for Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite holidays. It’s either the food, or the company, or the weeks that lead up to it. Christmas is great. I’m just not all that fond of purchasing gifts. That’s too much pressure on me. I also don’t enjoy spending a whole lot of money, especially when I’m trying to keep better track of my finances. One holiday I don’t really look forward to is Halloween. I’ve just never had the desire to be a good Halloween costume maker. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to put in the work for it, or I just don’t care. I feel like all people do is spend a lot of money on something they only wear once and then it gets put in a box for a very long time. I’m starting to sound like a dad here. Whatever, I’ll totally be fine with being a Halloween Grinch.

-I’m also excited for the World Series. That’s the first time in a few years that I’ve been able to say that. I want the Cubs to win. I’d be happy if they won, mainly because I’m tired of the narrative. Let’s get someone else some credit. I also like seeing cities being able to celebrate teams that haven’t won in forever. Theo Epstein also seems like a genius. If anyone can break two curses, it’s probably him.

Monday, October 24, 2016

288. This Week

I had a really nice time down south this week. It was good to get to another part of the country. I was there for a conference for work. It was a relief meeting lots of other people who work in the same field that I do. It was good to know that things are more the same than they are different. I like that. Since I’m struggling for blog post content before the coffee has hit this morning. Here are three observations from the last week.

-I kind of like the south. I should say that I kind of enjoy visiting there for a week and staying busy. The food was really good. I met some nice people. I think my theory of “You meet nice people everywhere and you meet jerks everywhere holds true.” I hate when people try to characterize a whole swath of people by one characteristic. Maybe there’s a general way people act, but once you get below the surface, there are a lot of different things there. There was an interesting observation from a fellow conference-goer. She was from the midwest as well. She thought that southern politeness was more of a front than midwestern politeness. I thought that was an interesting observation. I don’t know if I 100 percent agree with it, but it was an interesting thought.

-I’m reading a really good book. I’m not much into novels, but The Last Days of Night is particularly entertaining. It’s about a young lawyer, Paul Cravath, and how he tries to help his client, George Westinghouse, try to end a bunch of lawsuits of the lightbulb from fellow inventor Thomas Edison. It has a bunch of other great characters: Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, and J.P. Morgan. It’s an easy read and it’s entertaining. I didn’t think I’d be able to get through it in a week. I’m almost done, hopefully I can get through it pretty quickly in the next few days

-It really needs to get colder here. It’s been brutal in my apartment. I’ve tried to turning my heat down to its lowest possible level. Since it’s central heat, it’s much harder to control. Hopefully it will become more bearable soon.

-Another thought? I don’t like Halloween. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a really good, memorable costume, or maybe it’s because I don’t like putting the effort into dressing up. It’s not a holiday I enjoy. I don’t have anything against it. I’m just not into it, like rock climbing and downhill skiing. I’ve tried it before and I don’t like it. So, I’m ready for all of it to be over. Let’s get to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday. Those are times I enjoy so much more.

-I’ve got a busy week this week. Things are going on pretty much every night up until Friday. I think that’s a good thing. It will keep my mind occupied so I don’t focus on all those little things that have been driving me crazy. I want to get a few more miles in running this week, finish a book, and get everything straightened out financially. Think that can get done.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

287. Stepping Out

I am not perfect. The thing I can’t stand about everything is how people want a perfectly crafted story. Things just always seem to click. The thing they never tell you is that it’s hard for things to click. I thought about that while I watched the Hamilton documentary on PBS. They talked about how there were some blatant contradictions among these men. They wrote about freedom, yet they owned slaves. They wanted a free country, but didn’t leave in room for the rights of people of color and women. They are viewed with the highest ideals of our country, yet many of them were serial philanderers.

The people they interviewed for the doc—many of them people of color—talked about how they couldn’t reconcile the fact that many of the main protagonists in Hamilton owned slaves and that they probably did many nasty things to them. Yet, they continued to tell the story. You need to accept all parts of the person for a more honest story. I like that.

We have such a tendency for hero worship and lionization that we often forget that we’re talking about people. People are imperfect. People are awful. People are amazing. It’s sometimes hard for our brain to take in all of those things. And the thing is, we’re rarely humble about not knowing or understanding that. I think that’s what’s bothered me most about this election. There is absolutely no pretense of humility among candidates (surely one more than the other, but still) or supporters of candidates. We think we know everything. We think we know what’s best. We don’t always. Some days all we can do is just sit on the sidewalk and watch the parade go by. And that should be OK.

I’m kind of rambling here, but I think these last few months have made me realize that it’s so important just to hold on to you. Hold on to what makes you sad, what makes you happy, what makes you angry, your escape. It’s no good to let things outside your control dictate those parts of your life.

There’s some overlap between the dating and political news: they can both make you upset. It’s good to be honest about those things. There have been so many things about Trump that have made me upset that it’s no use anymore. I did my part and voted. The only thing I can do is just focus on those things that make me happy. And with dating, I don’t need to be happy with every decision. I don’t need to force myself to be happy or upset about something. I don’t immediately need to bob up back to the surface and getting thrown overboard from a relationship. Somedays you just have to stay down there for a little bit. Things will move along anyway.

I don’t know what inspired me to start listening to myself a little bit more. I guess that’s been a good part of the year 2016. I feel more confident about who I am and what I can do with my life. It’ll all work out, no matter.

286. What you need

I keep thinking back to something I said to a girl a few weeks ago. I really liked this girl. Didn’t work out. I was bummed about it. It was one night after we watched a movie. We were discussing whether to move forward with something more serious or not.

I told her, “I am a kind person. I am a thoughtful person. I am loving person. Most of all, I am a loyal person. And when those things are taken advantage of, I get pissed.” That was really nice to say. It felt like the most honest thing I’ve told someone in a very long time. I’ve wondered if that’s the thing I’ve needed more in my relationships: honesty and humility. Except there isn’t much room for that in online dating. I really haven’t seen the dating profiles of too many other guys, so I’m not sure what they put on them. From what I’ve been able to surmise, it’s a lot of shirtlessness and other shallow things like that. I’m not good at that.

I’ve tried to negotiate that delicate space between being a pushover, being polite, and being honest with myself and how I feel. I’m a people pleaser. I like seeing people happy, but boy is that exhausting. A group of three ladies were sitting near me on the plane yesterday. There were four seats per row, and I was the single seat on one row. Two of the ladies were in the other two spots next two me. One woman was behind me. One of the ladies asked if I could switch with the one behind me. I told her that, “I’d rather not.” I was tired. I just wanted to be in my seat. Granted, it probably wouldn’t have taken much, but the door also had not closed yet and I didn’t want to be greeted with a last-second seat mate. It also wasn’t that long of a flight, a little over two hours.

You know what? It felt kind of good to say no. Maybe I was a slight asshole, but I was also tired, coming back from a conference and just wanting to get back to my own bed. I also knew that I probably wouldn’t ever see those women again.

To put that back in context of a dating life. It’s ok to hold on to some things that you value and are important to you. In order to hold on to those things you have to actually figure out what those things are.  It’s no use to sell out what you value and enjoy in order to find something you ultimately need.

I don’t need to go on every date or say yes to every opportunity that comes my way. I can be honest about what I need, who I am, and where I want to go with my life. There’s no use in clawing your way through life trying to be everything to everyone. It’s so cliche and overused, but just be yourself. That’s when it gets fun.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

285. I'm what?

In the past few weeks I’ve been called a word that I don’t think I’ve ever been called before: wise. Multiple people have called me that, mainly for not wanting to watch the final two presidential debates. I’ve always thought that wise people looked like the wizard Gandalf, but I guess I’ll take it. I suppose we all have our own form of wisdom. Here’s how I came to my final conclusion on why not to watch the debate.

I didn’t watch the final two debates because they wouldn’t change my mind about anything. First, I already voted, so it’s kind of moot at this point. Second, I didn’t find that they were adding anything credible to the debate. They were just shouting, interrupting, and trying to get in sick burns. I didn’t need that anymore in my life. I hear it enough already. I decided that I could allow myself some time away from it all.

During my trip to Savannah some of my fellow conference goers skipped out on a ghost tour of the city to go watch the debate instead. I thought they were crazy. This was a chance to get away from the debate and go do something else. People likened it to watching a car crash. You just can’t look away. When you’re comparing what should be our highest levels of civic discourse to a car wreck, something is wrong. I’m glad I went on a ghost tour instead.

So, my wise tip for the day? Allow yourself to step away.

This prayer from Father James Martin really struck a tone with me.

An Election Season Prayer
God, I know that I don’t have to get angry.
I don't have to get worked up.
I don’t have to get depressed.
And I don't have to throw anything at the TV.
I just have to use
my conscience
and vote.
So help me remember
what Jesus taught in the Gospels,
and what our church teaches,
especially about the poor, the refugee, the migrant,
the sick, the homeless, the unborn, the disabled,
the hungry, the elderly and the lonely.
Help me remember the "least" among us,
and help me ponder in my heart
how to cast my vote for the good of all.
God, I know that no candidate is perfect,
because I'm not perfect either,
the last time I checked.
So free me of the burden of having to
vote for someone who satisfies
all my desires for a candidate.
My candidate will be imperfect,
like me.
Help me to be grateful for the ability to vote,
because not everyone has that privilege.
And when I meet people voting for someone else,
Help me to take a deep breath and
give them the benefit of the doubt,
because they are following their consciences, too.
Help me remember
that even though they sometimes drive me nuts,
I don't have to argue with them,
I don't have to convince them,
I don't have to hate them,
And I don't have to demonize them.
Then, after the election, help me work for unity.
Because I know that’s what you want.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

284. A few Dylan Songs

In honor of Minnesota’s own Bob Dylan receiving a Nobel Prize for literature, I thought I’d share some of Dylan’s songs that have most affected me. I saw Dylan once in concert at the Xcel Energy Center. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that impressed. It was cool to see him, but he was just hard to understand in concert. I get that he’s been around for a while and he can do whatever he wants. I’ll give him a pass. It probably would have been awesome to see him at the Newport Folk Festival or in Greenwich Village back in the 60’s. Regardless, here are some of the songs that I keep playing on repeat.

Like a Rolling Stone- This is probably his most well-known song. This is also my cathartic end-of-relationship song. I love belting the chorus, “How does it feel? How does it feel? To be on your own, with no direction home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.” The song always reminded me of that awful, frightening, and wonderful sense of freedom. Being single kind of sucks, a lot, but Dylan reminds me that events like that can lead to a better sense of where you are, or at least an appreciation of things you might not otherwise enjoy or experience. I played it the other day after a thing didn’t work out with a girl. It brought me back to after the first time I broke up with my first girlfriend and I blasted it in my dorm room. It’s forever in my head as that song that hails the ending. It’s a good ending scene sort of song.

Tangled up in Blue- This is Dylan songwriting at its best. He captures that wistful feeling of a relationship that could have been. I’ll admit that this is the song I usually listen to when I’m not in an angsty slobber over a relationship. This is one when I’m a little sad, a little hopeful, and longing for something that could have been. The line “Wonderin if she’d change it all if her was still red.” I think stuff like that all the time. What if I did this or that? We all have those thoughts. After more than one relationship I’ve pictured myself as the protagonist of this song: a lovesick wanderer taking on random jobs as he tries to get back to the woman he loves. I’m glad I’m not actually that guy. Although it is nice for hopeless romantic Nick to have a song that accurately describes him. Look for me singing along as I play this in my car when I’m on a long drive.

My Back Pages- The line “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” is one of my favorite lines in all of music. I still don’t quite understand what it means. (I think I wrote another blog post about it a while back.) I think it means that things are really more simple than we think they are. We think we’re so wise and that we know what we need to know. Sometimes it’s just better not to think about it and let the chips fall as they may.

282. The weekend

I had a good weekend, a really active weekend. It’s nice to get off the couch and not be watching Netflix over the course of the weekend. Here’s a quick recap of everything that went down.

I was exhausted on Friday evening when I got home. I crawled into bed for about 45 minutes before I left for a concert in Delano. All I wanted was to listen to some good music, drink some cheap beer, and enjoy myself. Mike came over and we got McDonalds. I’m not usually one for McDonalds, but I try to enjoy the one time per year I get it. I got a buttermilk chicken and fries. Man, it hit the spot. We headed over to the venue after eating to go see Farewell Milwaukee. It was at a farm.
I didn’t quite know what to expect. It was a restored barn in a semi-residential neighborhood. I expected to see a bunch of people like me-millennial hipster types-but it was a lot of people who skewed slightly older. Mike and I brought some beers in, set up our chairs, and settled in for the concert. The backyard was a terraced hill, and the stage was outlined in Christmas lights. We ended up sitting next to the wife of one of the guys who owned the place, Mary. She was very nice and friendly, very Minnesotan.

The concert was very chill. I first saw Farewell Milwaukee over the summer at the Basilica Block Party. They have sort of a country, harmonies, rock band. They also seem down to earth. They’re from the Twin Cities. I bought their newest album, and I’ve really enjoyed listening to it. The concert lasted about two hours. I stole the setlist after it was done. I’ve always wanted to do that. Mike and I also talked to the lead singer, Ben Lubeck. He was a super nice guy. It’s always a little intimidating to talk to a legit rockstar, but it’s also refreshing when those rockstars are down to earth.

I went to go see A Prairie Home Companion the next evening. The welcoming and warm music atmosphere continued with this concert. Chris Thile isn’t Garrison Keilor, but it was totally cool. He was excited to be there, and he seemed to genuinely be enjoying himself. The music was also awesome. It was a place where I could see myself spending a few hours every week. I like viewing my entertainment through the lens of “Do I want to spend time with these people?” I’d like to spend time with Thile and his band. I’m looking forward to future episodes.

This was probably peak fall this weekend. It felt good to spend most of it out and about. On Sunday afternoon I went to Surly Brewing Company with my roommate. We ended up in a heated game of cornhole. Being away from the phone and tv made me feel relaxed. I just wanted to be where I was. That’s a comforting feeling.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

281. A Prairie Home Companion

I saw the new iteration of “A Prairie Home Companion” this evening. Like most every public radio listener, I was skeptical of anyone trying to replace Garrison Keilor. He had done the show for decades, and his bits like “Guy Noir” and “The News from Lake Wobegone were iconic. And while he may have a face for radio, he also has the voice for it. It’s like a warm bowl of oatmeal on a cold winter morning, not exciting, but definitely comforting.

I wasn’t upset with the choice of Chris Thile. I knew his music from the Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek, but that was about all I knew about him. Turns out, he’s a genius, literally. He won a McCarthur Genius Grant. He also seemed to understand what he was getting into. He’d be replacing Garrison, but he wouldn’t be replacing him. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to pull of GK’s iconic bits. Being a native Californian, he probably wouldn’t be able to relate (at least not right away) with the grey-haired, hot dish-eating midwesterners who made up the core of the audience. (I’m an exception, not a rule.) He also seems like a genuinely good person who doesn’t have much of an ego.

So when I sat down in my seats tonight and the band came out, I couldn’t help but root for the guy. I wanted the show to be good, and overall it was. It was a different APHC, but I had a lot of fun. The musicians were all talented, his monologues were sincere, and jokes were all pretty good.

It felt good to be genuinely rooting for someone to succeed. That doesn’t happen too often. Sports being the most obvious example. No matter how good of a story a team has, there will always be someone with visceral hate towards that team. And the internet has just allowed the voices to bubble to the surface. And well both Clinton and Trump have passionate supporters, I think most people are just rooting for it to be over.

I’m not sure what the internet chatter has been regarding Thile’s ascendence. I haven’t see much, maybe because the people who are likely to tweet awful things about someone aren’t the one’s listening to A Prairie Home Companion.

And I think he did great in his first show. He was warm and friendly, and he acknowledged that no, he was not Garrison. However, the show felt like he was inviting us into his living room for a concert with some of his good friends. I enjoyed the monologues and the comedic bits.
Surprisingly, the part I didn’t enjoy was Jack White, the reason I bought tickets in the first place. White was just fine musically, but his aura just seemed out of place in an otherwise really fun show.

I’m excited for Thile. It’s nice to send positive vibes to someone and hope that they create a good product that will make people feel something. I think he will.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

280. Turkey Club Club: Dave's Downtown

I needed this one to be good. I didn’t sleep well the previous evening. Things came to a halt with a woman that I liked. I was in stress mode with the magazine. I needed this one to be good. I had wanted to try Dave’s Downtown Deli for a while now. I occasionally pass by it on my way to different law firms. It always looked busy. Since it’s a little ways away from my office I had not made an effort to go in a get a sandwich just yet.

I decided to make the trek there on Wednesday. As soon as I stepped in there, I knew it was going to be a good place. All the food was made to order. Every person making the food was behind a legit deli counter. I know there’s a big fuss about seeing your food being made, but I didn’t mind The counter was about chest high, and I had to keep stepping back to look at the chalkboard above to figure out what fixings were available.

I liked the vibe of the place. They weren’t trying to be fancy, incorporate buzzwords, or do anything unique. They were a deli that served sandwiches, soups, and salads. (I mean, they had other things, but those were the staples.) People waited in line, ordered their food, paid, and then enjoyed their food. It’s always nice when places keep things simple.

I got my standard order: turkey on wheat bread, pepper jack cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, and banana pepper. The one thing I don’t like is when the servers aren’t honest with you about if chips and a drink come with the meal. I asked and the person making my sandwich said yes. The price on the board for a sandwich was $6.75. The whole things cost me $9.63. I get it that I got the meal, but come on, tell me it’s three dollars more. I got a chips and drink anyway.

I walked back to my office with a smile on my face. I had tried most of the turkey sandwiches within a few blocks of my office, so I hadn’t legitimately had one in a while. I wasn’t disappointed. Everything came together. It was a simple sandwich, well constructed, that tasted great, that filled me up. The meat tasted just fine. The whole meal for the price wasn’t too bad. The chips were delicious. The veggies didn’t taste like a locker room. They were crunchy and added some zest to the whole enterprise. Everything kind of just came together as I ate my lunch at my desk. It was just what I needed.

Dave’s is the new standard for good turkey sandwiches. In a tumultuous year full of celebrity deaths and an ever-lowering bar for decorum in public life, it’s reassuring to know that some places can still do simple things well. You don’t need special flavors to cater to the foodie-razi, you don’t need blazing efficiency, you just need to make a good sandwich well. And Dave’s does just that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

279. Feelin' It

This may sound a little touchy-feely, but lately I’ve been trying to feel things a little bit more. When I’m happy, I acknowledge it. When I’m sad, I allow it. When I’m angry, I try to deal with it in a constructive way. I started being more mindful of this after I went on a few dates with a woman. (Sidebar: I’ve been trying to say women instead of girls.) She was fun. I enjoyed spending time with her, and we always had something to talk about.  I realized that Hey, I might actually like her.

This feeling was in opposition to the dozens of other women I’ve dated where I could not quite bring myself to verbalize how I felt. Some were good, some were bad, most were meh.  I don’t know whether it was out of desperation or loneliness, or what, but I would go on a few dates and then let the relationships sort of wither on a vine because I wasn’t sure what to do next. I’d feel relieved when a woman would tell me, “Actually, no thanks.”

So, starting with these first few dates I embraced whatever I was feeling: happiness, anxiety, nervousness, pining (Is that a feeling?), joy. I’d rushed through so many of those feelings so many times before that I had forgotten how good it felt to just feel something when you’re with someone. I don’t think they dwell on that part enough in rom coms.  It’s  like adding just the right salsa to your burrito. It makes everything just a little bit more zesty and alive.

I tried to do this in other parts of my life as well. I was sick of my feelings being dictated by anything I saw on Facebook. That’s why I’ve tried to reduce my time on social media this election. Everyone is so outraged and anxious. Yeah, I’ve felt both of those things, but fall is a great time of year and all those posts were killing my vibe. This election has ruined a lot of things for me, but I wasn’t going to let it ruin any chance I had of happiness.

On Sunday night, I decided to not watch the debate. I had already voted, so I really didn’t need to “become more informed.” I knew I’d just be upset and I’d yell at the television. I was sure I’d catch plenty of debate highlights the next morning. I left it at that. So, I got a growler of beer from Dangerous Man and I watched “Good Will Hunting” with my roommate. I made the right choice.

As you could expect, the other shoe dropped in that relationship. I got a call from the woman last night. She more or less said that it wasn’t the right time for her in a relationship. I was upset, but I respected her wishes. After I hung up the phone, I realized that Yeah, I am upset. I sent out a few despondent texts to my friend Jack and I paced around my apartment cursing myself. I eventually told myself that I was allowed to be upset. A woman I really liked told me that a relationship was not in the cards. Who wouldn’t be upset about that?

I told myself that I was allowed to be upset for 24 hours. There have been so many times when both short and long-term relationships have ended that I’ve felt like I needed to brush myself off right away and “get back out there.” Literally minutes after a breakup, I’d be back downloading dating apps and swiping away. Or else I’d have a few too many drinks. This time, I decided to go on a run. I turned on some good music and cranked out a little over three miles. I felt pretty good about that. I was still upset, but at least I had some endorphins from the run. (Regretfully, I did open a beer. I tend to wake up in the middle of the night after I have a beer close to bedtime, which is why I’m writing this so early.)

I thought things would be a little bit more smooth once I embraced this “feelings” thing. I actually do feel a little bit more confident in my daily decisions, and I don’t feel like such a pushover, but like anything, it will take some time. I’ve got time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

278. Taste

One of the real underrated parts of growing up that no one told me about was that it’s really nice to get some confidence in your tastes. It’s nice to know the books you like, the movies you can go to, the music that gives you joy, and the other stuff you can go to entertain.

For years I tried to get into adventure sports like rock climbing and downhill skiing. I just never particularly liked them. I’m not exactly sure what it was. Maybe I don’t have the upper body strength, or I just don’t enjoy going down or up hills. Whatever it was, it just wasn’t working for me. I remember when I had an opportunity to go do one of those things and I said, “No thanks.” I had given those things a fair shot, but I knew it wasn’t for me. It was nice to give a hard pass to something and not pretend that I liked those things.

I’ve always been a people pleaser. There are both good and bad things associated with that characteristic. I’m reliable and people usually enjoy being around me. (At least I like to think so.) But this means I can also be a little bit of a pushover. I’ve started to realize how annoying that is to myself.

I was lying on my couch on Saturday after running a 10K. I didn’t want to do much. Nothing on television was really speaking to me. I knew I just wanted something to space out to. So I turned on Parks and Rec, and then to my favorite episode. It’s called “Two Parties” in season five. It’s where Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt have their bachelor and bachelorette parties at the same time. The group of guys realizes that none of them ever had a proper bachelor party, so they go on to have a bachelor party for each guy. I related to the “all-time best man” Chris Treager. He organized every guy’s party. I really liked that. I felt kind of like the same as him.

For some reason, I’ve just felt a little bit calmer about things these past few weeks. I don’t know what it’s been. Maybe it’s because I deleted some of those dating apps from my phone, or that I’ve quit Twitter, or that I already voted, so I don’t have to pay attention to any of that political crap anymore. I’ve started to embrace things that I enjoy and love. I’ve been going on longer runs. That feels really good to know you can crank off five miles without getting to anxious about it. I’ve been shutting off my phone and cooking bigger meals, and trying to do bigger projects.

I don’t think life is all about swinging from thing to thing. Sometimes you just know and you gotta stick to that. In a culture that is perpetually outraged about something or other, it’s really nice to fall back on things that make you happy, or sad, or make you feel something other than that fear that you’re missing out on something.

Monday, October 10, 2016

277. Feeling it

I decided not to wear headphones during my race on Saturday. I usually listen to music while I’m running, like most people. It pumps me up, and it helps keep me going when I start to feel fatigued. The right song at the right time can enhance a workout.

I decided not to wear headphones because I thought they were not allowed. Turns out, they were, but I didn’t realize that fact until the day before the race. Even when I figured that out, I decided not to listen to music while I was running. I wanted just to experience the joy of the race. I know that sounds cheesy. It really did feel great though. As I ran up the hill near the Cathedral and into the neighborhood I heard music playing. Someone blasted Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” It was really great to hear everyone cheering.

I saw little kids pounding on drums, people shaking cowbells, cops giving out high-fives, and plenty of other cheers. It was nice to hear all of those things. How many other times in my life am I going to get a high-five from a cop? Probably not many. It was all part of the experience.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much we manufacture our experiences these days. You can listen to literally any song you want, watch pretty much any movie, and find endless sorts of dumb content to entertain your anxious brain. That’s fine every once in awhile. I enjoy watching The Office after a long day where everything is scary and awful. It’s nice to have characters you “know.”

I think it’s dangerous though when you rely on those experiences for your feelings. You start to believe that if you’re not watching the best movie, or listening to the perfect song, or reading all the same crap that everyone else is reading, you’re failing. On a level deeper than that, if you’re not having the time of your life, well, then you should be! I don’t think I should be having the time of my life all the time. It’s good to feel sad. It’s good to feel angry. It’s good to just embrace what you’re feeling and roll with that.

I was surprised that I still felt pretty good coming up to the end of the race. The house that was playing Stevie Wonder before was now playing the Beatles’ “Revolution.” That was one of the first songs I really enjoyed running to. I decided to sing along. I wasn’t loud, but I heard myself sing. I felt a little silly, but I also felt great. I think I’d look a lot more stupid if I was singing to something that only I could hear.

I achieved my goal by finishing in under an hour. That felt really awesome. It was also really cool to see people cheering for something I enjoy doing. Right after the race, a young man tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had run the race. He said congratulations and shook my hand. I was impressed. It made me feel great for the rest of the day.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

276. Patience

Dear Al,

I spoke with Corey today. We discussed our friends’ life updates. He asked me if I was having a quarter-life crisis with everyone’s life developments, while I’m still single and kid-less. I thought for a second and responded with an assured no. I come back to something whenever I get caught up in my friend’s life updates: I am happy. I’m not happy in the “look-how-happy-I-am” sense. I’m happy because I know what makes me happy: soccer, good beer, running, catching up with friends, reading the newspaper. While a lot of people think adulthood is boring, I didn’t realize how underrated that feeling is when you finally understand what makes you happy and what you need. It feels really, really good.

I’ve been thinking a lot about patience lately. I’ve been on a few dates with this girl. And they’ve been really wonderful. I feel really good about it, but she said she still needs to work through some personal things. I understand where she’s coming from and I’m more than willing to be patient. I think I told her the most real thing I’ve ever told someone I’ve gone on dates with. I said, “I’m a kind person. I’m a thoughtful person. I’m a patient person, and above, I’m a loyal person. However, if you take advantage of any of those things, I’m going to be really mad.” I don’t know what’s going to come of this relationship, but I’m just going to let it be and not try to make those little adjustments to try and move things along.

This may sound a little weird, but I’ve tried to just embrace moments and not try and adjust them. If I’m sad, I try and be sad for a while. If I’m joyful, I try to be joyful for a while. If I’m angry, I try to be angry for a while. I’m not trying to change things. I remember in my relationship with Mallory, I desperately tried to change things when things were on the rocks. I sent emails. I tried to get her attention anyway I could. I did every little thing to try and make everything ok. Except, sometimes things are not ok. I fell into a bad place because of all those adjustments. I probably hurt her a lot, and I hurt myself as well. I spent the next year doing everything I could to try and get out of that place. I didn’t realize that sometimes, time is just the best medicine. One of the best things I learned from that experience is that you don’t have to suffer to be happy.

I’m going to watch “Good Will Hunting” instead of the debate tonight. I’ve got a growler of Pecan Brown Ale and a sections of the New York Times and Star Tribune on the table with me. I’m listening to the Mountain Goats “This Year.” I’m about to order a sweatshirt from an organization that a friend of mine works for. I’m really excited about all of these things. These things make me happy.

Talk to you soon,


Saturday, October 8, 2016

275. Another letter to Melanie

Dear Melanie,

Have you been following this election? The only reason I ask is that when I was your age, I saw Vice President Al Gore and Senator Paul Wellstone speak at a Labor Day picnic. I remember keeping up with all the election results that year. If you have been doing the same as I did back then, I’m so, so sorry. I’m sure your mom and dad tell you to be nice to people. It’s a shame that our political campaigns can’t follow that same rule.

A recent video recording from a certain presidential candidate inspired this letter to you. I’ll leave it up to your parents to explain it when they think you are ready. (I don’t envy them.) That man said some awful, vile, and nasty things. Things I hope you never have to hear.  

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was when someone told me that your true character shows when you think no one else is looking. You should always keep that in mind when you think you are by yourself. Watch what you say. Watch what you do. Sometimes, if I’m standing by myself somewhere, I’ll pick up trash. I don’t do it all the time, but it makes you feel good, you make the world a little better, and if someone sees you doing it, they’ll be instantly impressed. Don’t say stupid things because you don’t think anyone will hear you, pick up trash instead.

I’m so glad you got to know your GG for at least a little bit. She was an inspiration to me, and I still think about her a lot. She was such a kind and thoughtful woman. I try to live up to what she taught me.

I’m also so glad you have wonderful women to look up to in life. Your grandma, mom, and aunts are all wonderful, intelligent, thoughtful, and strong women who I admire all for different reasons. They’ve all had unique and great careers, they’ve raised wonderful families, and I enjoy spending time with all of them. That is not something that’s easy to do.

Don’t let men (or other women) objectify you. Don’t hang around with people who make you feel small or awful. Hang out with people who inspire you, who make you want to be a better person, and who encourage you through thick and thin.

I don’t think you’re mom is expecting you to be perfect in life, but another lesson in all of this is to be sincere with your apologies. It doesn’t look good to make haphazard apologies. Take the blame when it is your fault, and be humble about it. It’s not easy to do, but I guarantee that you’ll have to apologize for something at some point in your life.  

This has been an exhausting presidential campaign, and I didn’t even do any real work for it. I’m sorry that you’ll have to live with all of this. Another piece of advice I have is that sometimes it’s good to step away from the cesspool of the internet. You don’t always need to argue or be outraged by something. It’s sometimes good to step out of those things and enjoy the good things in life. Even with all the dumb stuff happening, the world is still a good place.

I promise.