Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Infinitely Ricochet Headed

I'm taking a break from writing about being a ricochet headed space cadet... but I really wanted to use the phrase "ricochet headed," which might be this week's favorite way of describing myself. Sounds old timey enough that I can imagine Grams using it to describe me to her friends while hangin' laundry, but paints a pretty good picture of exactly what's going on. The ideas just don't stick so easy- for the most part, they go bouncing off in unintended directions or get burned up in the atmosphere altogether, and all the bread crumb trails in the world couldn't help me find my way back home to the original point- as I'm sure you are about to discover first hand.

The fun part is dreaming up and creating all of the places I end up, like Alice visiting Wonderland. The hard part is often communicating those ideas to others. That's not a condemnation on the intelligence of others nor is it meant to be a back door compliment to myself- it's a personal flaw that I am diligently working at every day, to become a better writer. Having a hard time conveying my thoughts (more verbally in my case) is probably the worst consequence of being wired like this.

Smarts comes in all sorts of shapes, but even being a genius on its own doesn't matter if you can't explain your ideas in a way that makes sense to everyone else. That's what makes some of my favorite scientists of today (Neil Tyson Degrasse, Bill Nye, Phil Plait) extraordinary in their respective fields. They all realized at some point on their quest to learn stuff that it doesn't matter how much knowledge they amass- some day, they're taking all of those secrets with them to the grave. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. You can give a man a fish, or you can be the lightning rod in his head that helps him to invent the fishing pole. It's that concept that stoked the fires of my passion for writing. It's that same line of thinking that named my blog, actually. The idea that I had been holding onto all of the ideas that burrowed into my consciousness,  herding and funneling all of my thoughts through a pinhole, trying to concentrate on just one idea at a time while I wrote on this book or that. It seems so counter productive to how I started out, but I really want to finish a book. Like, really. It makes me afraid to think that I could be struck down by lightning tomorrow or have a heart attack (the latter is more likely given my sedentary preferences and predisposition towards stress). I don't want to drop dead before getting these novels out of my head. I like my current job a lot, but I don't want my legacy to be how successfully I ran someone else's business. I want to do something with my life that the future couldn't live without. Is that too much to ask?

So, I'll write here about whatever it is that I'm thinking at the time. Even though it isn't always going to be dressed up in a sweeping narrative that takes you to a far away world and inspires one of you to create something as fascinating as a fishing pole. Until I wrap my head around how to finish those books, at least if I go splat tomorrow, I know that these particular arrangements of letters belong to me and have been cast into the thought ocean as far as my fingers can throw them. I was holding on to each little idea like a little secret between me and myself, waiting for the right time to give it seeds in a novel- afraid to step on my own toes by revealing what lies behind the curtain of a story before I had even shared the story itself. After a while, the queue in my head was so backed up, there was no room for new ideas to come through. Just changing the way that I process information, by writing it all down or sharing it immediately, has changed the way that new ideas are forming. It's kind of awesome. If I stay on track mentally (which is 50/50 bet at best), I've got a real doozie of a thought to share with you next time.

So, that was a pretty long rant about how I'm not going to be talking about my ricochet headed, space cadet nature, wasn't it? In the future, I should probably stay away from discussing the things that I am not going to discuss. Discussing them ensures that I will definitely discuss them... Ha ha!

*Abrupt Segue*

What I set out to talk about was from a commercial, the likes of which I must have seen a hundred million times in my lifetime and only this once did I see it while in the midst of an agoraphobia-centric, near panicked state of mind. It was for the Today show. Yes, that Today show. That show's been around since I was zero, I'm pretty sure. This time I watched while dealing with a personal intrusion of privacy. Some of you may know that I also co-host the podcast United We Geek. I love doing it. It's one of the healthiest creative things I've done for myself in ages and I have my brother, Tim, to thank for putting it together. In its inception, it was about scheduling creative time for myself on a regular basis, well before I woke up early every morning to get my 1-2 hours of writing in before doing anything else each day- a habit which is instrumental to me now, but may not have ever come to be if I hadn't been a part of my brother's podcast venture.

It was also about getting together on a regular basis to create something with a group of guys that I don't get to see in person often enough. It was, and continues to be, a way of making myself responsible to other people whom I love and admire and would hate to let down. Fear of letting other people down is probably one of my largest sources of drive, so I try to tap into that (which I realize is like dosing myself with the  flames of anxiety I am half the time trying to squelch) when I need to get something done that I am not entirely excited about doing.

Anyways, because my job is in the nerd field, I try to keep my podcast and work life separate so that there's no grounds for a conflict of interest. I am also the big boss at work, so I don't want to lose any of my managerial authority because somebody listens to me talk about foreskin parachutes and blue Professor Manhattan dongs, or whatever nonsensical rant I feel like making. I don't want to be penalized for having a life and personality outside of work that just so happens to deal with some of the same nerdy stuff I do at work. I guess you  could say... I'm all nerd, baby. At work, at home. When I sleep. In front of the computer. I'm a giant nerd, like, e'ry day!

So a few weeks back, somebody got a hold of me on our United We Geek Twitter account (@uwgpod, tell your friends) and mentioned that he really enjoyed what we were doing and had been a listener for a while. Then he noticed that Twitter exposed my location on one of my posts, and that I just happened to live in a city 20 minutes away from him. For those of you who know me, I'm never more than a stone's throw away from going coo banana pops mental. I've got a touch of the paranoid already, so having someone "track me down" and the threat of all my lives crashing into each other just about fried my circuits.

He started asking questions about me, and out of fear that he was going to recognize me or put things together and somehow figure out where I worked, and then proceed to blow my cover at work, I explained to him where I worked and asked that he help me keep it on the down low. I felt like I would be less worried about the exposure in the long run if I just got that conversational elephant out of the way. Usually, calling out the source of my anxiety, sometimes even making fun of it (see my famous Costco Breakdown Fiasco via Twitter all about the time I had to go shopping in the belly of my nemesis and forgot my Clonazepam at home) helps me to laugh it off and avoid calamitous implosions of the psyche.

Well, last week my fan showed up in my store while I was on lunch and started asking my employees if their boss had just gone to Comic Con in Seattle last week. I showed up, clocked back in from lunch and eventually recognized who this dude was, trolling around the store giving me the fish eye like he knew me. We were both very friendly and polite, and I really don't think he was setting out to do me harm. I think he just genuinely wanted to make friends. But, after he left, I started to realize that he had crossed a line. (I said that this wouldn't be about being ricochet headed, not that it wouldn't be obvious in my writing that I am, in fact, ricochet headed. I just now realized that I mentioned this was all connected to the Today show, and I'm laughing aloud to myself trying to figure out if anyone among you is fucking mental enough to know where I'm going with this. I'll get there... probably).

So here I was, wondering to myself what the right thing to do in this situation would be. Where should the line be? I didn't want to upset a fan- because it feels really good to have fans (especially because of that whole accountability thing- I feel more inclined to produce when I know that there are people who give a damn, which is kind of what this blog is about too). I'm sure everyone understands the desire to be famous, so in a way it was really flattering that this guy I didn't know contacted me in recognition of one of my creative endeavors. It was a huge ego boost and I was so grateful for it that I did not want to dissuade him or future listeners/readers from making the same attempts at reaching out... just not in my store! I would have loved to go to lunch, or chatted him up online, but especially after having confided in him about my work boundaries and having that line disrespected, I knew I had to find a way to redraw the lines in cement.

Being a writer, or maybe it's just me, I am constantly in one of two states: I am always either powerfully ego fueled and overly self confident to the point of being a narcissist or I am brimming to the point of choking on self loathing, doubt and the black hole void of where my confidence used to be. I don't know what that has to do with the overall point, but I figured if I let you in on that factoid, maybe you'd be kinder in the comments section. You know, really dig in. Don't be afraid to lay it on thick. Or if I did something dickhole-ish to you in high school then I guess I just gave you the keys to my kryptonite safe. Fuck.

I already have an agoraphobic predisposition that pops up from time to time and threatens to turn me Full Hermit. Watching the Today Show commercial (here comes the pay off!) while tackling this issue that rubbed up against some of those tendencies just brought out a little something extra.

I watched all of the people that line up outside of the Today show every day and I wondered- are there really so many people that are super fans of the news that they would stand outside the building, often in the freezing ass cold, just to be near it happening? I tried to envision Matt Lauer on a trading card, or filling  an auditorium with the same number of people who lined up outside his show coming to see him on tour, personally.

I mean, I'm not entirely unfamiliar with the concept- I've been to plenty of concerts. Enough to understand the basic principal. I'm not shitting on anyone else's parade if that's what they're into, but are they really that into Kathy Lee and Al Roker? It seems like such  a strange thing to spend a day on.

Then I realized that it was probably more likely that the greater majority of people were there for the chance to get on the television themselves. That struck me as an equally creepy thought. I mean, what's the end game here? You jump through a bunch of hoops so that your claim to fame can be, "I was on the Today Show!"

"Oh yah, what were you there talking about?"

"Oh... I didn't talk or anything, I was just there! You could see me holding up that goofy ass sign, and if you freeze frame right after the commercial break, you can kind of see Hoda smile in my direction! Yah, totally made a famous person smile, I think. Could have been her reflection though- I'm not sure how reflective those windows are from the inside... I've only seen 'em from the freezing ass cold side...."

Buhhhh.... Creep City. It's not like you are being interviewed for your new hit single or some story of heroics that claimed the spotlight for you. That many people gather every single day, in an effort to get recognized for nothing. This is where my agoraphobic, conspiracy laden brain kicked into over drive.

I know it's super popular to crap on reality television right now and I'm not going to go so far as to say that watching shows like that on its own is bad... but there's a real difference between having a night out, drinking with friends and blowing a homeless dude so he'll let you lick the outside of his empty bottle of schnapps.

We are recognizing people for the action of their grabbing at fifteen minutes of fame. People like the Kardashians and whatnot- they're all famous for being famous. It's an unsustainable formula, because it requires an unbalance to maintain. In order for the Kardashians to hang on to their fame, they need you to be poor and unfamous, looking at them with star struck eyes and wonderment from outside.

Being famous is more important than what you are famous for, and it's not a new concept. The Today show crowd has been around forever, and rather than going out and doing something worthy of being made famous, people are lining up in droves just to be featured on the television set for fifteen seconds.

If you are a super fan of the show, or are relating this in your head to something  else that you are a giant nerd for, then I'm probably not talking about you. Lord knows I've gone to Comic Cons and concerts galore. The thing that scares me most about people in just about any situation is the lack of self awareness. It's the dead eyed folks that can't look at situations like this objectively and say, "Yah, that's kind of fucked up."

It's my belief that if you are aware of why it is that you are lining up to meet someone, watching whatever shows you want to watch, or nerding out on whatever your favorite pastime is, you will be better for it. If you're hoping to draw inspiration from the moment that you are sharing with someone who altered your life in a way that is irreversible and significant to you, go for it. Take it all in and use it to fuel your next personal revelation. If you just want to be enveloped by a pool of people who are excited about the same things you are excited about, to find camaraderie and a sense of belonging to something greater as we are being hurled throughout space on an infinitely empty, unbelievably full universe, be a part of that brotherhood! It can be magical!

But while tiny bits of objectification can be healthy and inspire you to reach a place higher than you find yourself today, we live in a world of endless wonders- no one of them is more significant than another. So breathe in the moment, live and absorb the place that you are in right now. Seriously, do it. Then let it go and open yourself up to the next astonishing surprise.

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