Posts Tagged ‘future’

Foggy Crystal

4 August 2011

Dear J-

How much do you let one side of your life — let’s say work — spill into all your other buckets? I suppose the answer lies in how you define yourself, whether through career or achievements at home (“Went Outdoors”, “Washed Dishes” — so many opportunities to be a hero) or some other hobbyist measure. It’s too easy to conflate work with self: after all if they’re paying you to do that then of course you’re going to value it. The longer you spend dwelling on it, though, the more likely you are to mistake that for all you’re worth. Stay sane and make sure you have something else to do outside of work. The classic example that’s been handed down to me lately is the overworked aerospace engineer whose life expectancy shrinks to months upon retiring: if there’s nothing to do, there’s nothing to live for.

Beware of people who would take advantage of your good nature for personal benefit. If you are a doormat like me who gets along to get along you’ll find yourself signing your life away with a smile and a nod because that’s what you said you’ll do and no bones about it, didn’t you know what you were doing? There’s a cartoon from xkcd that discusses responsibility and the feeling of maturity that we all fake at some point or another. Well, enough with that. I would leave if I can on good terms, but that’s icing on the cake that has its own delicious filling (feeling) of being able to leave and I’m old enough that cake isn’t going to be the right thing all the time anyway.

I’m less worried about whre I’m going than I am about those I’m leaving and I think that’s backwards. This is the longest time I’ve spent at any one desk ever — five years to get comfortable in the corner and back and forth from warehouse to desk and knowing everyone in the building. Five years is enough. Five years is plenty. I look forward to going in the same mix of dread and wonder that accompanied the changing of classes and class schedules: find a new routine and route, people you run across and sit next to, choose your own adventure. It may be foggy now but that’s going to clear before long.



Right Way

2 February 2011

Dear J-

Wednesday brings a different sort of challenge to the week between getting up on time (today: fail) and staying motivated enough to get over the seemingly endless day. I got up just late enough that I couldn’t help much with Calcifer, I forgot to set out the trash last night so after driving away I noticed that everyone else had set out their recycling while my immediate neighbors had not (meaning it’ll be a full three weeks of recycling that builds up in the meantime; I don’t know why I trust my neighbors on whether or it’s a recycling week — they are inevitably wrong). Yeah, it’s turning out to be one of those days.

At this point though after having been conscious for barely an hour so far, it’s ridiculous to give up already. Attitude demands certitude, so if you think it’s going to suck, it will. There are so many choices still left ahead of me in the next hour, in the next day so I refuse to let precedent dictate the future. Weird things happen. You deal with the messes and stop worrying about what might be around the corner. Life continues. As much fumbling around in the dark as we end up doing (I had to pull a battery to perform a hard reset on this machine — I could crow about how I’d never be able to do that with the iPod Touch, but then again I’ve never had to do that) we should celebrate the minor victories.

If you approach the day as something to be gotten through, a way to let the hours slide by and marking time all the while, then maybe you need to choose again, not job or school but attitude. I kept thinking my first two years of college whether or not I really wanted to gut it out through more engineering courses, as it seemed only that first one — drafting — was applicable in any sense, and as my favorite courses were oddly enough the ones I was taking to fulfill requirements, history courses. I’m glad I saw it through now but nearly twenty years back it wasn’t always so. Do the right thing, even when when no one is looking, right?


Candy Hand

21 September 2010

Dear J-

Despite already owning both a good camcorder and a cheap one (think cell phone-quality) I find myself toying with that evergreen Flip versus Kodak debate in my head. Here, though, it competes with reality, like whether or not I want to eat this week, or other interesting purchase possibilities, like saving money towards another lens, maybe, or I don’t know, SOMETHING. It’s nothing I can’t live without, and it would only add to my hoarder’s curse: nothing is ever discarded, only added to the pile of questionable collectibles (anyone interested in an HP-34C for the blind?) I’ve managed to rescue over the years.

figgy is remarkably good at the vague misdirection when asking for candy: “I want a snack.” We suggest, which is usually met by an outraged howl of “NO! I want something ELSE!” Various other choices are made and rejected until finally we’re left pointing at the bag of pinata candy we’ve been doling out since the last party. I understand the inarticulate need to get stuff, like knowing there’s candy in the cupboard but not bold enough to ask for it out loud. For me part of the fun is the selection process: figuring out the pros and cons, what you can live with versus what you gotta have. Actually getting it is a bit of a letdown. Sometimes I wonder if figgy feels the same, but one look and you can tell that the candy is just as good as she’d hoped.

Somewhere between now and then your expectations get realigned. I’ll go through cycles of needing to have some kind of package on the doorstep when I get home, like a junkie hoping for a fix: maybe I’ll be as excited about this widget as I remember opening presents when I was six. Not quite, so rinse and repeat, throw another gadget on the pile for posterity. Living in the present and being thankful for what you’ve already got is a lot harder than it looks. I just need to look to figgy for validation: there will be candy tomorrow, but don’t worry about it and concentrate on the candy in hand.


Past Perfect

14 September 2010

Dear J-

Last night after class we drove home in the dark: it’s a preview of life to come during the fall, time changes and longer hours are probably going to mean that we leave and reach San Diego without glimpsing daylight during the week. If I was a philosophical man, I’d say that you can’t expect it to be unusual for power plant workers: the nature of the service demands the jobs to run 24-7 and, when you’re not running, 24-7 to get back to running. And from what I’ve heard, where I am now is one of the better jobs for being able to maintain a fairly regular schedule, but they also say that you don’t quit jobs, you quit bosses.

I’ve been struggling to get any kind of quality time stitched together for life after work, whether it’s for getting figgy off to bed (this has turned into an hourlong team effort/ordeal, first to cajole her into getting her teeth brushed*, then to read stories**, and finally singing songs***), reading my own library books (I am always overambitious at the library for fear of running out of materials to read; three weeks is shorter than you think), or studying. Of course on top of that the storage/guest room beckons with project promises: hey, how about getting some hard flooring in here, some color on the walls, maybe a Solatube to keep the gloom out?

I realize that my life is so full right now that work is almost a distraction from the real business of living, and that’s a wonderful place to be. A hundred times I might have to do it differently, but I’d want to be here now; between Kung Fu Panda and the Stargirl novels I’ve had enough digestible philosophy. This resonates, though: the past is history, the future, a mystery, so all you can do is live in the now: the present is a gift that keeps unwrapping.


* She does some teeth herself, which is semi-helpful, but needs help with others in the back. And let’s not get started on talking about flossing, which generally sets off a chase through the house.

** Here’s where the library has come in handy, augmenting our meager supply; current favorite is Shrek! by William Stieg, but I also like the Pigeon books by Mo Willems, as there is a lot of Pigeon in most kids.

*** theVet handles this part, as my singing is soothing to no one, and besides which I can’t imagine that Nirvana and The Jam would be considered suitable bedtime material.

Nostradomus Junior

24 February 2010

Dear J-

Every modern society has its vision of a future, whether it’s a dystopia (if you read sci-fi based in the 1950s and 60s, it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland — see Bradbury and Walter Miller; later on it progresed to an uninvitingly violent and increasingly mechanized socity — Gilliam’s Brazil, Scott’s Blade Runner, Cameron’s Terminator, works by Neal Stephenson and William Gibson) or utopian, replete with flying cars and jet-age inspired fashions like The Jetsons. It’s less important that we dream of the future than how those dreams change given our current situation.

For instance, it’s understandable that the age of the Atom unleashed extreme insecurity and pessimism; here we had planet-destroying weapons and the lack of good sense not to use them. Thus at the same time we were digging bomb shelters and stocking up on canned goods we had our fictioneers plotting out our course once the few survivors emerged. In the 80s, when it seemed that robots had become ascendant and computers were growing ever more intelligent, we feared how technology would disconnect and supplant us; our nightmares gave rise to some of our most iconic fictions, just as Frankenstein and Dracula fed our fears of the unknown but advancing scientific and medical knowledge of their time. On the other hand, folks like Gene Roddenberry thought we could overcome our differences and so extrapolated the space program into a sort of interstellar Boy Scouting policy..

So what’s in store for our future? Based on the current crop of anxieties — deadly Toyotas, mutating viruses, economic fears — we might be thinking of the collapse of society through inequalities and pestilence; on the other hand with the political atmosphere of Tea Parties and large programs, perhaps an overbalanced pyramid of faceless bureaucracy and endless red tape. If I could have predicted anything, though, I’d have hit the lottery long ago and would be writing from some place like Kauai instead; we will eventually leave the nest and expand into space, if we ever get over this cripplying two-party system (how many questions in your life have yes or no answers, and explain to me how having only two parties is any different); the state of the medical art will continue to amaze, and our world will grow smaller, not larger, with technology linking our lives.


Future Shock

14 January 2010

Dear J-

You take the little breaks where you can; yesterday’s dental appointment spelled a few hours’ relief from having to drag myself out early, rushing back and forth and in a million directions as usual, the usual, the same old usual. The mental health breaks you take are no doubt as frequent as your mind needs; today I found myself wandering through various websites between assignments and watching work pile up on the sides of my desk. Dry run; I keep thinking that real life is going to start again soon.

The New Year is supposed to bring all kinds of personal resolutions and improvements; I get to spend my weeks putting my life on hold and the weekends cramming the rest that’s waited patiently. We overwhelm those short days with life lived large in overcompensation; if nothing else we must find some sort of balance between weekdays and weekends. But are resolutions supposed to be pie-in-the-sky unattainable goals? Or should we always be reaching for the stars instead?

I’m not sure that we can have everything all the time; I keep putting things off in favor of work and its schedule, we choose to defer and delay and misplace our priorities. Our schedules orbit in different planes, occasionally intersecting and burning portentious trails in the sky. As much as we try, as much as we want to believe that reach never exceeds our grasp, the truth is that pursing it all means that everything suffers.


Monday Blue

6 July 2009

Dear J-

Monday again — a long confluence of events, from the long weekend coming to an end, to having to drive the vanpool, the long stream of Monday issues held over and awaiting a personal touch, and I didn’t get anything done today. Running in place while sitting down, we don’t seem to progress past the crisis of the moment; it’s been a full year since we rolled out this new system, and though it’s become familiar, we still struggle with mundane tasks.

It all feels the same; work is what you make of it, I guess, but each day is starting to feel interchangeable. We’re here at the end of the day, struggles done and house cooling, slowly winding down into night and planning the things I won’t have time to get around to tomorrow. I’m just so tired at this point; our stars keep tracing the same paths overhead, and we keep rolling the same stone uphill. I remind myself it’s been three years — but the last one’s been one long scramble after another; the first two varying degrees of panic over learning the nuances.

Tuesday and sleep will undoubtedly bring relief and re-belief; I wonder if I’m afraid of change, or if cautious is the new chic in this economic climate. What if I had to start over again? What if — who might — where can — why does — when we’re left wondering what’s on the other side of the fence, is it time to explore that other field? Perhaps it’s only Monday; perhaps it’s the lack of sleep and other incentives; perhaps it’s the repetition ad infinitum echoing as far as I can see.


Mind Block

29 January 2009

Dear J-

Funny thing about sunsets here — lately they’ve been so regularly spectacular (and being on the west coast, working in spitting distance of the ocean means that every night this month we’ve watched that bloody orb slide into the sea) that I start to gloss over how impressive its been.  So it goes; the slightest rain sends us into timid sulkiness, and temperatures lower than fifty are greeted with grumbling about how global warming can’t come soon enough.  The “Kurt Vonnegut” (really Mary Schmich) Wear Sunscreen speech from a few years ago advocated living in both Northern and Southern California, but leaving before the North made you too soft, and the South made you too hard.

We believe that whatever our faults may be down here in the South, surely everything else must offset those faults:  the laid-back attitude compensates the risk-taking, you’re regularly stuck in traffic but at least you can roll down the window and enjoy the weather, sure there’s earthquakes but at least no hurricanes.  I suppose it comes down to weighing your trade-offs, and what you find important.  With the forest of rumors and the current economic climate I actually find myself weighing options I wouldn’t have guessed at six months ago.

We have the question of relying on public schools — that’s at least a decision that can be deferred another four or so years — or hoping that figgy qualifies to go to a magnet, or contemplating private school.  This leads to the idea of moving for a better district, but trying to sell in this market is akin to cutting off your leg.  For fun.  So if not moving, perhaps a more secure job?  Or am I secure enough and just regretting the commute more with each day?  When I was little it seemed like the more you grew up the more answers you had to all those whys and hows.  Maybe it was just a shell game, this balancing the sheer terror of overwhelming choice with irresistible forces of change.  I believe it was more a simple prioritization and then fitting the pieces into place around that skeleton.


High Anticipation

8 January 2009

Dear J-

I used to watch a lot of science-fiction movies; having any Star Wars or Star Trek come on network television was cause for breathless anticipation for weeks prior, and a near-holiday from homework during.  Now with cable and satellite flooding us with a surfeit of choice, I find myself drawn to human-scale dramas.  Sci-fi almost is a victim of its own success:  the more believable the imagery, the less effort I invest in escaping.  Perhaps it’s me, then; as my imagination contracts, I can’t picture far-off worlds the way I used to.  Yet I find that I have no problems breathing life into words jumping off the page.

The lack of sleep boosts my lack of memorable dreams, perhaps.  When I was younger, I would twist in my bed, haunted by possible closet monsters (one in particular, from a Native American legend of a vengeful spirit who would sneak up and nibble on your stomach night by night as you wasted and died), killer bees (again, why do they provide these reading materials to elementary schools?), and sundry movie monsters.  I forced myself to develop a janitor of the mind, if you will — again, under the influence of TV, Dick Clark and Ed McMahon’s bloopers show — I’d visualize little cartoon custodians sweeping images out of my head.  Now my dreams revolve mostly around the past, it seems.

The future holds no surprises any more; now that, supposedly, all the milestones of growing up are in the past, I’m left staring down a long career and retirement.  But it’s not quite that simple — anticipation shrinks from weeks to hours, and simple joys bring greater highs.  It is enough; we are whole.  Paradise is a state of mind, not a place to be sought.  We find fulfillment within, though the occasional trinket never hurts, and delight when possible.


Thanks Be

26 November 2008

Dear J-

It’s a short week, which makes it an odd week. After going in early this morning, we came out with some daylight (it’s rainy out there again tonight) and marveled at the novelty of being able to see where you’re going. The world hasn’t been plunged into perpetual darkness; I just need to pick up some habit that takes me outdoors occasionally during the day.

Still the earth keeps spinning. The recent ruling in Florida reveals more hope for the future; some of the arguments for the law banning the right for gay couples to adopt sound firmly rooted in the same tortured pseudologic used to justify all sorts of abridged rights in the past. The moral absolutists in the crowd don’t realize that when there’s always a wedge to drive between people, at some point, you run out of ground to stand on; if you truly believe in the individual, there’s always some point of differentiation between you and everyone.

We fear the unknown in terms of the known; we phrase things in small words and hope that the point comes across by relating it to concrete examples. The late surge for the Yes on 8 folks came with ads decrying the teaching of same-sex marriage in schools — much of the early returns showing a comfortable lead for No on 8 came from the abstraction of the idea: how would allowing same-sex marriages affect our marriage, our lives? The answer, then and now: it wouldn’t, it won’t. Yet you drag emotion into it and kids — oh, kids — and anyone would react strongly. It speaks to the secret fear that gay is a choice and gives wings to the lie that repression is a better choice than education.