Growing Pains

Wow! I suck at posting so far this year. Have not touched this thing in at least 6 weeks. Not really sure why, but part of it is probably due to my uncertainty as to what to do with this thing exactly. Last year, I tried a thrice a week post schedule with specific topics/ideas for each day. I actually enjoyed the structure of the writing, yet I don’t know if I should keep it up within that parameter. I could revert to a more personal journal or blog style, but the random posting of whenever I feel like it does not really appeal to me at the moment. Plus, I will probably not post much if I do. So, not sure what I will do, but I think I’ll figure something out soon.

That’s kind of what this year has been so far even though it’s only been two months. I had made a few moves to get the hell out of dodge, so to speak. So far, I have only received rejection. It sucks, obviously, but it has not been as bad or devastating as I thought it would have been. Perhaps even just a few years ago, I would have been broken for a bit and stewed in my bitterness for awhile. Now, I read the rejections, made a mental not of their “suckage”, and went to perform my job minutes later. (Should be noted that I did kick some ass at work that day)

I guess that’s called ‘growth’ or something. Honestly, it was simply that I still need to leave my current circumstances and those avenues were closed off. I did what I could and it was not enough for those opportunities. That’s fine. All that really means is that I have to rely on other avenues that I am working on. Maybe that’s what I had trouble understanding before: that sometimes, no matter your efforts, things won’t workout simply because they won’t. At that point, I can wallow or move on and do something else. Before, I would do the former, but now I concentrate more on the latter. We’ll see if that makes a difference. If not, I’ll try something else. Not much else to do.

Time to get to work.

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On Drifting/Moving On

I am currently buying an airplane ticket to go see old college friends next month. The following week after visiting these particular group, I will go to an annual gathering of geeks, nerds, and enthusiasts of varying ilk at my Alma Mater. I am looking forward to both excursions; however, it is difficult not to notice the changing nature of the relationships in both groups and locations, specifically my relationship and connection to them.

It is a cliché to say how people grow and change and evolve, but the overuse of the concept is because of its accuracy. I still talk to the friends that I hold dear and made in college, but it is not with the same frequency or involvement. They, just like myself, are dealing with developing lives and events like jobs, promotions, romantic relationships, and the inevitable stresses that go along with being a “productive member of society.”

We no longer have the simple frivolity of our original friendship nor the ability to drop everything at a moment’s notice to have a conversation on the intellectual and spiritual intricacies of Community over beers on someone’s porch. Good times, Honeycutt. Obviously, I know this had to happen. Relationships change. Some grow. Some wither. And some completely die off. It is the nature of things to change.

change is good

Still part of me worries about the future of certain friendships. We are all relatively young and not yet on set career paths and already we have trouble engaging with each other as much as we used to. What is going to happen down the line when we start having legitimate careers, families, and actual responsibilities? Is it selfish of me to be concerned about this? Would it be better for me not to care about future eventualities at all?

I want the best for my friends and hope that they achieve what they want and need. I also kind of hope they have similar worries to the ones I am having. If they are not, does that mean something? I genuinely have no clue what to think on the matter. So, random reader, what do you think? Should you try to hang on to certain relationships? Or just let nature take its course and see what happens?

Lessons From…The Way Way Back

I will attempt to keep this short since I should be working on another writing project, but I am a lifetime procrastinator and might be using this post as an excuse. I had been meaning to see The Way Way Back for awhile. It was written by Jim Rash and Nat Fixon whose other writing credits include the Oscar Award winning The Descendants so I thought they could tackle the “coming of age” story well. I was neither wrong nor disappointed. As always, SPOILERS ahead.

Told you I wasn't joking.

Told you I wasn’t joking.

The movie has a pretty simple premise; a child of divorce is spending the summer away with his mom and her new boyfriend at his summer place. It would already be kind of weird and shitty, and to add to this unfortunate circumstances, the boyfriend (played by the great Steve Carell) is a total dick. Seriously, he is a childish, bullish jerk. I was so amazed by this subtle performance that I genuinely began to believe that maybe Steve Carell is an asshole in real life.

The face of a dick!

The face of a dick!

In order to find some solace from this man and the increasingly juvenile actions of the other “adults” around, Duncan, the put upon main character, begins working at a local water park under the tutelage of Owen, Caitlin, Roddy, and Lewis (Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash; yeah there are just incredible actors all around in this film). From this point, Duncan learns and grows and faces the obstacles provided by his mother and her boyfriend.

While these struggles, particularly the actions of the adults, are perfect for mining potential lessons, I wan’t to focus on two moments involving Duncan, and unsurprisingly Owen as well. The first is broken into two parts: the first is their initial encounter at a Pac Man machine. Owen is playing but has to leave allowing Duncan to finish the game for him instructing Duncan that he cannot “follow a pattern on his quarter.” Basically, he must play the game and not try to figure out how to win it through the systematic patterns inherent in the game. This is similar to a later scene where Duncan is finally having a legitimate heart-to-heart with Owen about his home situation, especially the boyfriend Trent, and Owen gives him some advice. “That’s about him. That has nothing to do with you…You’ve got to go your own way, and you, my friend, are going your own way.”

I'm not crying! You're crying!

I’m not crying! You’re crying!

Both these moments are equivalent in their message: You are not [just] the product of your parents, your friends, or any  other persons in your life. Obviously, these people have an influence, sometimes major, on who we are and who we can become, but ultimately we get to choose how far that influence goes. We get to decide who we are regardless of how badly our families screwed us up. Of course, we can also throw away the opportunities they provided, but it is still up to us.

In the movie, there is a rumor of a kid who managed to take the lead in one of the water tunnels/slides and pass the person in front of him. This is basically the water park’s legend and no one know if it really happened or how. At the end of the movie, Duncan, due to Trent’s actions and decisions, is leaving the summer house and town prematurely. He doesn’t really get a chance to say goodbye to his coworkers and friends, but decides to do one last thing before being whisked off. He escapes from the backseat of the shitty car he is forced into and runs to the water park. Once there he enlists Owen’s help to try and pass him in the tunnel. Without a second thought, Owen agrees and they are off with the entire park watching and waiting. His mother, Pam, along with Trent and his daughter, Steph, run after Duncan to learn the truth of what he has been up to the entire summer up to that point. They genuinely had no idea what he was doing when he rode his bike in the morning.

Duncan is successful in his attempt and is seen as a hero and legend before finally departing. He does not tell anyone how he accomplished this feat instead saying simply “you just have to try it.” As far as Duncan knows, this did not change anything. He still leaves and has to say goodbye to his new friends and surrogate family at the park. He believes his mom will still date the douche she is with and outside of the park, he will still be the shy, awkward kid. However, he knows what he accomplished and that changes something in him, which eventually does have other effects in the long run.

This brings forth the next lesson: Sometimes all we have is the small victories and that is more than enough. We might never be the hero. We will probably never change the world or write that bestseller or make that great film in our heads. Sometimes all we will accomplish in a day is that we survived it and that is okay.  That is more than a lot of people get. I am not saying to not shoot for the stars. Or to give up on dreams. What I am saying is that it is fine if you don’t manage to accomplish all you want to, today.

Thus endeth today’s lessons.

Lessons From…The Kings of Summer

Kings of Summer is a fantastic film and coming of age story; a bildungsroman if you will. (Yeah for finally using unnecessary terminology learned from graduate school. It was useful…) It follows the traditions of other great films like Stand By Me, 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, and pretty much every other movie heavily involving teenagers that aren’t killed by psychopaths, monsters, and demons. Basically, these are all narratives of youths growing up and discovering something about themselves and/or the world around them. While this may seem like the least possible stories to tell, their commonality of experience of characters and audience is what makes them classic films. I can say without hesitation that this has been one of my favorite films of the past year and if you get a chance to, watch it. Now on to the lessons and as always SPOILERS ahead.

Believe it or not, these are all great actors and characters.

Believe it or not, these are all great actors and characters.

The film follows a rather standard story line. Joe, the intrepid leader, is at odds with his father, played by the indomitable Nick Offerman, and his life. He is a teenager looking for his place in the world and feeling trapped by his circumstances. Fed up with the restrictions and limitations placed on him, Joe decides to leave the comfort of the culdesac along with his friend Patrick, who has long suffered under his own “helicopter” parents, and latcher-on Biaggio.

Together these three move out into a special place in the woods and build their own home. The fact that they have to steal their supplies and food is of no concern to them as they are now independent and out of the tyrannical rule of their homes. They also stop at their local library to pick up books on how to actually survive in the wilderness since they have no idea how to do so being city boys and wifi to look stuff up is not an option. So with supplies in hand, shelter built, they begin to live their lives and enjoy the summer in earnest, all according to their own code and rules.

Not the worst code to live by.

Not the worst code to live by.

This works for the trio until the past catches up with them. One of the other major reasons for Joe wanting to depart is to have a space to meet with Kelly, the girl he is infatuated with. It’s the classic tale of first love, or more accurately first crush, with a twist. Joe wants nothing more than to be with Kelly, but Kelly is far more interested in Patrick, a feeling he reciprocates. Joe learns of this one night when Kelly stays over in their summer home. He is understandably crushed by this realization which brings us to the first lesson: You don’t always get the girl and you have to make your peace with that.

In this case, the girl actually happens to be a girl, but really it can be anything. It is the first lesson we all have to learn about the world and growing up. We are owed nothing and for all the hard work, desire, and effort we put into something, we still might end up with nothing to show for it. The sooner we understand this, the better off we will be in the long run. It is an unpleasant but necessary lesson. Joe learns it when Kelly chooses someone else even after he took the initiative and made this whole other life for himself and his friends. He is understandably upset, but that is not the problem. After all, being upset and hurts would be a natural reaction. No, his problem occurred when he retaliated and became an ass to his friend and the girl. First rule of being a decent guy, when a girl, or guy, tells you no, don’t be a dick about it.

This is the new face of adolescent independence.

This is the new face of adolescent independence.

After this event, a rift occurs among the friends with Patrick and Biaggio leaving the sacred homestead to Joe for himself. Utterly alone, Joe is forced to actually become self reliant. The books full of survival skills like hunting, gathering, and cooking are of legitimate use now. We see Joe struggle to keep his shelter sustainable and see the eventual fruits of his labors in the form of a single, fully prepared meal of rabbit. However, we also see the change and pain he goes through in obtaining and preparing that meal. This is the second lesson of the film: We only truly grow and become who we are apart from others. Of course, society has much to teach us and we can learn an immense amount from peers, teachers, and others. Even so, the only way we truly know if those lessons took is to apply them outside of the comfort of having our teachers there to correct us.

Joe, ultimately, returns to his home, friends, and family in order to save Biaggio who fell to a poisonous snake bite. Once again, Joe’s acquired knowledge from his books saves the day. So I could say that read more is the intended lesson of the film (and really you should) but in actuality the final lesson to take is one of the key components of a bildungsroman. It is not enough to simply learn and grow, but you have to return and reconcile your past. I know it sounds like some new-age bullshit, but it is one of the elements of a bildungsroman and the Hero’s Journey. It is the only way to move forward. It is the reason we study history and ourselves. We desire to understand our past in the hopes of improving our future. Sometimes it is a simple measure of reuniting with our fathers or going back and forgiving those who have wronged us. Whatever our pasts, we must make our peace with them.

Thus endeth today’s lessons.

On Growing Up

I am currently in a hotel room about to attend my first work related conference in the morning. This is the first time in my life that I took a flight and went somewhere for the specific reason of furthering my employment. It is a sobering experience. I mean I have only been employed at my current occupation for a few months, and I find it a bit odd to be doing something like this so soon. 

It has been an odd year so far. I started an actual job with health insurance, a retirement plan, and hours of work that I have to attend and be present for. I have embarked on one of the traditional markers of adulthood or at least what American society considers adulthood. 

In a way, it is oddly satisfying. I have a good job with a decent paycheck. I am young and unattached, so I don’t have any major dependents or bills outside of student loans. Even so, I am still searching for something.

I know I will not stop with my current job because as satisfying as it may be, it is not where my heart, head, or passion lies. Where I am physically and mentally is not where I am supposed to be and I am making progress towards movement. So, even though I have definitely grown up, I am by no means done doing so. And perhaps that is also a staple of adulthood; realizing that getting older and growing up are not necessarily the same thing. And that it is okay to still be confused and searching.

I suppose I am not too much of a grown up considering that I am drinking a few beers, eating pizza, and playing games on my computer the night before a work conference. Frankly, that is okay too. To all adults who still hold on to a bit of their childhood, this next drink is for you (and me as well). 

Salud! Cheers! To Franks! (That one’s for you, Honeycutt)