The Waiting

Seems to me that there's no getting around the fact that it has been a discouraging year, and there's not much light in the tunnel just yet. But if you feel more positively about it, more power to you.

I have started my second semester of grad school (indeed I survived the first!) and I really need my energy to catch up and meet the moment.

I've recently all but given up on having a calm, thoughtful conversation on the state of the world with just about anyone. I've grown to really lament the way we talk to each other about the things that matter. The awful event a week and a half ago caused me to briefly re-engage, mostly just to kind of say WTF, but I've since stepped back again.

I made a foray into a more promising kind of engagement on Thursday. I logged in to the city's Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission monthly meeting, and listened to exciting plans to increase the local tree canopy. The enthusiasm of the volunteer members is not quite there. At some point in the meeting enough tuned out that they lost quorum. I've thought about applying for a position like that, but first I want to make sure I'm in the habit of actually attending, lest I be just another flake. I'm going to check out a few other meetings that might be up my alley. As much as I dislike constant video communication (or otherwise screen-mediated communication), I know that anything I get involved in now will eventually be available in "flesh" format.

When this is all over, which my well-paid biologist brother seems confident will happen this year, I think we imagine a very festive mood, and yet... I don't know about anyone else, but I think I'll actually be pretty tired. I won't be back to my old self overnight. This kind of thing leaves a mark. It changes a person. I will put it behind me, but it may take time.


Stress stress stress... School is doing weird things to my emotions. I picked a field that's both technical and creative, and I love that about it, but trying to exercise both parts of my brain at once is tiring. And the studio work never lets up, by design. It's always, that's nice, now why don't you go back to the drawing board and change everything by the next class session... Never mind that I also have to keep up with my history, engineering and software classes... I've gone to school before and not stressed as much, but that was partly a matter of not caring as much. I suppose it's a gift to be doing something I really care about getting right.

The weather's not letting up, and one of my stress outlets is to do outdoor exercise and generate a lot of body heat preferably in cool air. Yeah, that's not happening yet. They opened the school gym by appointment only, but I don't know if it's worth the exposure or the parking fees, and it's still not optimal weather for cycling over. The light rail was a wonderful option before the disease came along.

Needless to say the bizarre pandemic situation is not letting up either. One never stops wondering in the background if a loved one might eventually catch a bad case of it. Meanwhile people's wallets and pride and mental health are hurting with no end in sight. The last one may be the greatest challenge for me. I read something the other day about how everyone was worried about the extroverts, but that quarantine is actually hardest on the neurotic, or pretty much anyone with an existing mental health condition. I'm not especially extroverted, but I do have conditions, and the "world out there" was always therapeutic for me. I mean considering I'm someone who often purposely sought out the busiest parts of the largest cities I could find, and now I spend most of my time in this one house, yeah, it's disorienting.

The political clusterfuck certainly is in mind as well. I'm less invested in a particular outcome than practically anyone I know, but I still fear the unprecedented (word of the year) drama that will result regardless.

Story Time

I fell in love with Chicago very quickly in 2009 and made it my home the following year. In the end I asked too much of it, as with every other destination in my wanderlust years. They say wherever you go, there you are, and I can vouch for that. Worse yet, in some places, most places in fact, there you are, all alone. I got very lonely, despite seeing my beloved brother and sister-in-law every couple of weeks. After six years back in be-it-ever-so-humble, I don't feel lonely anymore, not even in this alienating pandemic year.

To paraphrase the Cheers theme, I've returned to where several people know my name, and my life has improved in improbable ways, not obviously connected to being less lonely, but possibly related. For example, I never learned to drive as a kid, and at some point in my adult life it began to feel like a lost cause. But since coming back here I have, in fact, become a driver (partly out of necessity in this town), and at this point it's just a routine thing, for better and for worse.

For a more significant example, I finally felt secure enough to halt my dead-end career track and pursue my long-time dream of becoming an architect. I'm now in my first semester of my Master's program.

This year certainly presents unique challenges in doing it all in my home, which may be a comfortable environment, but it's not necessarily made for motivation or efficiency. I guess everything happens for a reason, in that even if there isn't a planned reason, it ends up teaching some kind of lesson. I will so appreciate returning to the world out there, while trying to hold on to some of the comfort and gentleness I experienced being stuck inside.

Hopefully this comes out right. I'm using the app, and it's kind of a weird app. (Edit: I fixed it in the browser. You guys really could use some help with your app, or maybe my Western mind just doesn't work the same way as Russian developers.)

The Millennial Portion of a Millennial's Life

Seventeen years ago today I started this "live journal." A few months before that I started a "Blurty" which was what was offered to the general public. I did eventually get an "invite code" for LJ, which was needed until the site had sufficiently beefed up its servers to handle its sudden popularity.

Anyway, that was a tangent. The point is the passage of time, about which there are many clichés, and they are often true.

How long does seventeen years "feel?" Obviously, it depends on things like how old you were at the beginning, and whether you're looking backward or forward.

Mostly, it doesn't feel like "just yesterday," but for a small part of me, the part that "thinks, therefore is," I never left and never will until my number comes up.

(no subject)

100 degrees at midnight
100 ideas of how I got here
could've been anything, ended up this
whatever I try for, I will be this
I will be a rattlesnake, sliding in the dark
I will be prickly and burnt in the heart

maybe you're a snowflake, maybe you're a beach bum
maybe you're steamy magnolia rum
mine is not your sun

you must deal with how you feel
I must live with how I don't
my zest and zeal dried up way back
now it's just all crusty

fill me with a frigid fear
soak me til I burst with tears
send a hard wind to awaken my sin
make me a basket case of angst again

let my cup run over with the harrowingly human
or not, this is making me nauseous

Something Approaching Catharsis Perhaps

Using this site, I am inevitably reminiscing about... when I used this site. As you know, it was an important time in my life. A part of me has always wanted to go back, while knowing that that's not a thing that can happen. One of my brothers once said that nostalgia is just a trick your mind plays on you and he was right. My younger self would envy my older self in just as many ways as the latter envies the former. Being independent, trying things, seeing the big cities, feeling secure, knowing I can handle a lot, understanding the mysteries a little better, these are all things I didn't have then.

But everything gained involved some pain, and I'm older now, more so than time alone could cause. People used to tell me I looked so young. I took for granted that many people found me very attractive. Then came long term joblessness and aimlessness in my late 20s and before I knew it, neither of those things were true.

I put long term unemployment behind me in 2012 and began a slow and still unfinished climb back to sanity, but I'm still older than I've ever been, naturally. I don't know when, but some time in the past couple years I began to embrace it. I stopped feeling like a guy or dude or whatever and started feeling like a man.

In any case, now Internet trolls make fun of my hairline, my metabolism is shot to hell, I have a bad habit of picking at sores and you get the picture. But I've also settled on the perfect haircut, the perfect clothes, generally the sense of dignity that goes with entering one's prime. I remember well the sense of authority my father conveyed in his 40s, and I look forward to doing important things in those years.

But however old you get, there's still the young person inside, and the intense hormonally enhanced emotions of those years, and looking at my "LiveJournal" and those of friends who abandoned but never deleted theirs, I'm kind of going right back the past couple of nights.

Part of that is that I have come full circle in a way. I just finished a degree at ASU, the exact same degree I got at NAU, but I had my reasons for that. Now I'm looking at grad school, which is the situation I wish I had been in back in 06, and it's like a do-over, but not really, because there's no ignoring the passage of time. The younger students haven't seemed to pay much mind to my age, but I certainly have.

So here I am, wondering what it would be like to have a second chance at prolonging the magic of that time, and in a way I am having that chance.

And also pondering the ways it wasn't magical. Some of the feelings that have lingered most for me are not the friends, lovers and opportunities I had, but the ones I ALMOST had, and realizing that gives me hope that the best could be yet to come. Despite the hairline and such.

After all, the people I treasured then are all older themselves, and many have their own parallel recession stories. It's weird how we can all have so much in common and yet each feel so alone in it.

Walking Home

I had a dream in which I was out walking and I ran across my cat (an inside cat but I guess not in the dream), so I picked him up and took him home. Except somehow I didn't walk home, but rather inadvertently to another, in reality distant and unknown place to which I had somehow memorized the way. It was the apartment of my one-time sister-in-law who took her own life in 2006 shortly after splitting up with my brother. The door was wide open and the place appeared untouched in all that time. Cards, letters and mementos where she would have last left them, signs of mess and thirteen plus years of weathering. Signs of a troubled but beautiful, artsy spirit.

I suppose there would be some kind of comfort if time simply stood still when something sad happens, or when something happy or otherwise consequential takes place. But of course the world doesn't work like that. It keeps turning and churning, and so do we, for as long as we're blessed to be here.

I like to believe there's a second act, too, but it seems to be a part of the human experience that you can't confirm that until you get there, so you have to keep acting like Here matters, because it does. It matters so much. Don't even think of taking the easy out, even as we honor those who we loved who couldn't help themselves.

Too Long for Other Media

Apparently they never made good on their threat to delete this for disuse.

Today's topic: shade. Something I've spent a lot of time thinking about. I've also met some people working in the field.

A basic problem that seems to get insufficient attention is that shade is most scarce precisely when it is most needed.

In the early summer, which in monsoon climates is sometimes the hottest part, the sun shines almost directly downward, depending on one's latitude. In Arizona, the angle is barely noticeable.

And yet trees are typically planted at some distance from a building or road/path (for various reasons), meaning that their canopies are rarely directly above a roof or path, and they provide shade only at somewhat cooler times of year when the sun is at more of an angle.

As for those "various reasons" mentioned above, I asked recently in a class at the Desert Botanical Garden about the best tree to shade a rooftop, and the instructor seemed uncomfortable. Shade a rooftop? But then you get leaves on the roof. He didn't mention invasive roots, but that may have been on his mind as well.

While these problems are no doubt significant, I think people fail to appreciate the cost of not shading a rooftop in a world where more and more people are choosing to live in hot climates while continuing to expect air-conditioned comfort. I think it might be partially a generational thing. In the past, gardening was mainly about keeping things tidy and picturesque, whereas we young(ish) folks are starting to think there is much more at stake.
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