History Today – July 12, 2018

This History Today series aims to document what life is like in this period of history. I update whenever I feel like it.

Aspects of daily life:

  • Last Wednesday was 4th of July, and the sentiment I noticed being echoed throughout social media was that it’s odd to be celebrating America’s independence and freedom while illegal immigrant children are imprisoned and lost. But celebrations continued — it’s hard to resist a tide. I went to a park and sat so close to the show that a firework that was still sparkling hit the ground five feet away from me. I believe it hit someone, but he was fine. I heard the event planner after the fireworks show saying they would change how close people could sit the next year.
  • I can’t imagine working a 40 hour or more a week job for 20-40 more years.  But that’s a well-accepted reality for some reason.
  • At home, we’re trying to eat out less by buying groceries. It’s been moderately successful. The weekends are harder, but we are spending less.
  • I’ve been on my computer more in the last few weeks, as opposed to my phone. I don’t understand why. I am watching more tv shows online.
  • I’ve been listening to podcasts on my daily commute to and from work. I cycle through different types of podcasts: Up First, This American Life, The Mad Fientist, Lore, Terrible Thanks for Asking, Feminist Current, Feminist Killjoy PhD, and more. I don’t always listen to people I agree with (if it’s political or advice-based), but I’ve noticed that I can usually always find some common ground with the podcasters. I think it’s a wonderful method for sharing information. I learn a lot.
  • I’ve been trying to use my MoviePass as much as possible, but my fiancée has been too busy to go with me.

I just am feeling stressed a lot lately, and I’ve been getting tension headaches. This is just a mood I get in sometimes.

Pushing through the uncomfortable times seems to be a thing that our culture prizes highly. But is it worth it? Could I be contributing to society more effectively by seeking my happiness and contentment first and then contributing.

Doing the Things I Dream Of Before Financial Independence

I’m obsessed with personal finance. Yes, this is a writer’s blog, but I’ve been craving writing about financial independence, so write I must.

For the past five years since graduating from college, I’ve been working full-time — the first two years I even worked a lot of overtime though that lifestyle wasn’t ultimately sustainable for me — and dreaming of not having to work anymore.

There’s something soul-crushing about commuting large distances and spending the most energetic years of my life being productive for someone else. I don’t mind being productive, not in the least — I come home and write and blog and learn Python. I’m not lazy — as much as my capitalist brain wants me to believe when I constantly dream of freedom from paid labor.

As a result, I’ve strived to invest 50%+ of my earnings in the pursuit of retiring in my early fifties.

Honestly, I don’t think I can wait; that’s a quarter of a century from now. So I looked up an early retirement calculator on Networthify.com and plugged in my numbers. It said I have 7.4 years until retirement, assuming my expenses stay the same (though that is super unlikely with inflation unless the calculator compensated for inflation). That made me heart calm. This calculator seemed a bit lean, and I definitely think I need more money than it calculated I would need, but the encouragement was exactly what I needed.

Even with the horizon closer than I had thought, last year, I started this blog, I decided to self-publish my YA novella The Friendship Ruse, and I just put out my debut chapbook you think I’m serious, but I’m joking. I’m pursuing my retirement goals now.

I’m extremely future-focused, but the only guaranteed time is right now. Imagine if I got to retirement and died the next day? I need to enjoy the destination, in addition to the destination.

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a great computer answered the question of the meaning of life with “‘Forty-two,’ said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.” The author, Douglas Adams, apparently had just meant for it to an ordinary number, but the explanation I liked was that it was a reference to the 42th ASCII code for an asterisk, which in programming language is sort of a wildcard and ultimately means whatever you want it to mean.

As a result, here I am! Pursuing all my dreams right now, because even waiting 7-8 years is too long for your passions.

*Fun sidenote: I was once in a writing class in which I had to write my own obituary. I wrote that I would die at age 42 — before ever reading Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Review of “Pillow Thoughts” by Courtney Peppernell

Pillow Thoughts, a book of poetry about love in all its stages by Courtney Peppernell, made me feel empty — probably not in the way one might imagine though.

Let me clarify, that I did enjoy it. It was grandiose and unabashedly gooey. I didn’t think anyone could be so dramatic about love. For example, this wonderful poem:

Of all the maps in the world, the only one I will follow is the map to your heart.

It’s cheesy. But it made me want to write love poetry, and I wouldn’t say that romance poetry is my cup of tea. I asked my fiancée, and she affirmed that I am very much a pragmatist when it comes to love.

That’s why, faced with Peppernell’s outpouring of promises and assurances, I felt inadequate. Is my love not deep? Is it not full, because I wouldn’t make such promises? I hope to explore this in my own writing.

Another short poem that I adored was:

But the world is exhausted, and the only wealth we have left is love.

I want to feel this way. So I’m going to endeavor to write more love poetry. Here’s to being inspired!

As a sidenote, this book of poetry and prose felt more like a big group hug than literary poetry. I had to alter my expectations when reading the book. At times, I felt like I was getting to the essence of the author, but other times it seemed she was spouting saccharine prose to boost the reader’s self-esteem. I didn’t need to do a deep reading of the poems to really understand their meaning. That doesn’t make it bad, just a different kind of poetry than I was expecting. I like it when a poem makes me think, when the words sink into my brain and stain the wrinkles. This book does not do that.

History Today – June 20, 2018

This History Today series aims to document what life is like in this period of history. I update whenever I feel like it.

Aspects of daily life:

  • I daydreamed about coming into a windfall. I’m middle class, but money still feels so elusive.
  • Because of the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy in relation to illegal immigration, there are children separated from their asylum-seeking parents who illegally crossed the border and immediately turn themselves into border patrol. A lot of people that I’m friends with on Facebook are donating to help — though I’m not sure who to — and posting about it in outrage. Apparently, the outrage is working. This is being compared to concentration camps and fascism. I see posts about who to call/email and annoy. It’s amazing to see so many actually doing things. Public pressure will accomplish things, if enough people are taking action.
  • I’ve been watching ASMR videos on YouTube. It doesn’t put me to sleep, but I get the tingles.
  • I visited a Sanrio store, and it reminded me of childhood. Gudetama — a depressed egg cartoon who has given up — is my favorite. Apparently, I’m not the only one who revels in the nihilism. I think that says something about the culture of today.
  • I recently spoke with a family member who expressed incredulity that I’m depressed but also not “seriously” doing anything about it. I’m actually doing a lot about it. Maybe I’m too relaxed about it. I couldn’t survive though if I didn’t laugh about it and downplay it. Maybe that’s folly. I don’t know. But it’s similar to the culture on Tumblr. I am an amalgamation of the social media platforms that I regularly frequent.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fixing problems. And I’ve come to the conclusion that solutions are different for everyone. There is no right answer.

Being hung up on trying to do something the “right” way might not be right way for every single person.

History Today – June 4, 2018

This History Today series aims to document what life is like in this period of history. I update whenever I feel like it.

Aspects of daily life:

  • Facebook ads have always been a successful medium, but today was the first day they were able to successfully lure me into clicking on not one ad, but three. Technology knows me better than I know myself. It inclines me to clear my cookies and my cache, but I don’t think that would stop Facebook from knowing me.
  • I have a desire to share more of myself than ever in my life. Especially to strangers on the internet.
  • I heard a recap of the Hookup Hotline segment of 97.1 Amp Radio this morning on my drive to work. The date between a forward woman and a conscientious man went well, without a vocalized complaint by either party; they went to Malibu and had margaritas (or at least she did). I wondered how I would be on that segment, even though I’m currently engaged and not looking. Maybe it’s my love of adventure (and books) that has my mind twirling in maybes.
  • I replied to a poetry contest that I did not win, but was earnestly encouraged by. I said I was already editing. It’s the truth. I still wonder if I should enter more contests or self-publish. I love the idea of winning, but I love the power of doing it myself.
  • I did not hear about a school shooting, but I suppose that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one.
  • I’m practicing a tighter budget again, not necessarily because I need to, but because I want to challenge myself.
  • I went to Disneyland yesterday. The tickets are $117 for a single park, per person. In high school, it was way less. They take pictures of you when you enter the park, instead of hand stamps. It’s to help with fraud, I believe.
  • You can’t seem to win on the financial front unless you’re lucky, smart, or hardworking. Pick two, minimum.

I saw more than three ads today about starting my own business. I know ads are targeted, but someone has got to be running these ads, which means there’s clearly a community for this sort of thing.

I once bought the book of one of these people. While there was some good information, there was nothing that I didn’t already really know.

Perhaps we need to be babied and told stuff we already know to break out and be the people we want to be. This includes me.

Currently, I’m going through changes in my life: a move, a slight change of jobs, and launching into the completeness of my being.

I’m going to try to make part-time work sustain me while I pursue things that I need a kick in the ass to do: write more and build an unrelated business. It’s interesting that trying for things that will benefit me are so hard to get underway.

Successful people in media seem to have a gusto that I don’t think I possess, but I’ve lately been coming to the realization that they are as lost as me. I just am a bit more obvious about it. My friends and loved ones do not have as perfect lives as their social media leads me to believe.

It’s actually a breath of fresh air when someone posts a negative thing about their life on Facebook. We are not perfect, though there is this instinct to curate ourselves until we are. I have it too.

History Today – May 29, 2018

This History Today series aims to document what life is like in this period of history. I update whenever I feel like it.

Aspects of daily life:

  • I have my smart phone with me everywhere, even the bathroom.
  • I’ve started buying more feel-good items lately like jewelry — something I’ve never really done.
  • My commute is 35-45 minutes one-way to work, but I go the opposite direction of traffic, so it’s not that bad. I take a car.
  • I heard a radio program this morning about lesbian radio dating. It was recap of how a date went that the radio hosts had set up that previous Friday. The date went well. I smiled the rest of my drive to work. I’d listened to the radio segment before, but this was the first lesbian date that I’d heard of. It was the Hookup Hotline segment of the New Guys morning show on 97.1 FM.
  • The only news I heard about was that the lady from Roseanne said something terrible — a racist comment I believe — and had her new-old show cancelled. The people I discussed this with thought what she said was deplorable. I did no research.
  • I went to the movies using my MoviePass — a service that lets me see “unlimited” movies for a flat monthly fee. It costs me less than one ticket would cost me. The lady in front of me in line at the ticket line commented to her daughter that her movie cost $16. “When did that happen?” she asked. I don’t know. When I was in high school in 2010, movies were at least $4 cheaper. I saw “Life of the Party” today. I enjoyed it.
  • I used my Dictionary.com app twice today, to look up words and confirm definitions.

I’ve always been curious about what it was like to live in a certain period of history. History books show only a limited view of society. So why not add my screaming into the void as a form of documentation.

For example, my grandma escaped a communist country during the 1960s. She and my grandpa failed a few times — landing her in jail, much to her amusement. And I do mean “amusement,” she actually laughed while she was in jail. It just goes to show that ordinary people have extraordinary lives. There is so much that doesn’t land in books, so much that is lost when the person who experienced it dies.

What is life like today? Keeping in mind that I’m a white, millennial, upper-middle class lesbian in California, it’s odd. I scroll Facebook so many times a day, seeing other people screaming into the void, and I feel both connected to and disconnected from them. When it comes to politics, I don’t know what to think. I don’t want to be wrong. But it’s so hard to truly care deeply about everything that happens when so much happens. Every single day, Trump has started up a new controversy. At this point, it’s gotten to the point where I feel like there’s a devastating school shooting every month. I was in high school less than a decade ago, but it wasn’t something we worried about. We all knew about Columbine — a school shooting in 1999 — but it felt far away. Now I see ads where high school kids hold up signs about how it’ll be for their parents if they die in a school shooting. These kids have to go through so much. Is every high school student thinking like these kids in the ads? Are there kids out there that were as oblivious as I was back then?

I don’t know.

Has every period of history always felt so tumultuous for the people experiencing it? Or is this period of time especially rocky?

I don’t know.

And yet while all this happens, I float through my life. Going to work everyday, slowly chipping away at my goals, because can I really just stop my life? Can I be paralyzed by what seems to be ripping apart modern society? It’s not shreds yet, maybe I should just hope for the best. Maybe life is a tattered but comfy blanket that you’ve had since you were born, and it’s all you have. Make do and do some darning when you have the time and energy.

I kiss my fiancée in public. I speak loudly when I go to restaurants. I post sad poems on the internet. I’m living, but I can’t shake the feeling that everything that’s wrong with the world is my fault for not being more vocal. I grew up being told that every vote counts, so I’m a registered voter. In college, I was a part of LGBT organizations, contributing to activism. I try. Is that enough?

I know people my age who feel the same. Who feel like they’re failing the world for not exhausting every bit of energy they have to making it better.

I’ve got to imagine that helping when I can is sufficient. One of my favorite sayings is the safety spiel when I hop on a plane: “put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you.”

When I can’t do more than go to work everyday and then straight to bed when I get home, what use am I to the world?

 

*Hopefully this is a good level of detail. I’ll figure out more of what I want to write about as I do more of these.

Why It’s Okay — Maybe Even Great — To Be Average

I’ve had a revelation. I think I just figured out the key to success as a moderately smart, moderately hardworking person who doesn’t really want a normal job.

The key is diversification. I’m always trying to find that one thing that’ll allow me to be my own boss or the intense amount of work it takes to crank out novels like I’m a rabbit popping out babies.

I’m not expert level at anything, as much as I would like to be. I’m not a genius. And while I’ve been bemoaning that fact for years, internally, it suddenly became clear to me just now that I don’t need to be a genius. I just have to be passable to get the life I want.

I’ve always heard that you should go with your core competency and stick with it — that’s my business school education. If I was great at corporate things, I should focus my energy on that. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine focusing all my energy on one thing, and I think that I’m like the typical person in that aspect. In essence, I don’t have the passion in any one field to have the patience for expertise. I am truly a jack of many trades.

And this might actually be a good thing in some ways. The single most impactful thing I learned in my finance class when I was in college was that if you had a monkey pick 40 stocks and put him up against a professional fund manager, the monkey will win most of the time in terms of long-term profit. That’s why so many people invest in index funds. They’re mitigating risk and reducing workload by spreading out their investment across an index.

But if I did that with my various hobbies that I would like to turn into income streams, it would essentially be the same thing, except instead of money I invest my time. The good thing here is that I’m only pursuing things that I find interesting, like: personal finance, investing, crafting, writing, real estate and education. I already like to research and do things in these topic areas. So my time would be investment but also entertainment.

I don’t working on things I love doing. And since I’m not an expert in any of those things, why not do them all a bit?

I made $37.95 from five months of having my book out and self-published. That’s about $7 a month for one book — the sales have been relatively spread out. If I write 7 more books, I’d get $56 a month — assuming that is a conservative rate. At 1/40th of what I need to survive, it’s not shabby. That’s a week worth of groceries if I’m frugal.

I see so many people saying that writing books isn’t worth it unless you’re going to be super prolific and an amazing marketer, but why? I write because I love it. Why not continue self-publishing? And working on all the projects I love? It’s fun, I’m not planning on quitting my job until my side projects can generate reliable income anyway.

There’s something to be said for pursuing your passions, even if you can’t strike it rich. Maybe all my passions can collectively support me one day. I’m aiming for it now!

Poem in Invisible Ink

The words are aching to explode from my chest. Instead, they leak in invisible ink. I want to read them, but I can’t see them, even with glasses.

I write this while I sit on a full-sized bed in a small room with nearly thirty other beings. The only way I survive is focus, focus on other things. I am a master of focus. Focus. Focus. Focus.

But that focus can create this never-ending loop in my brain. An anxiety loop worsening until my bones are about to shatter from the shaking. More power than a jack hammer. More oscillation than a “back massager.” More danger than an earthquake.

I’M LIABLE TO EXPLODE!

… except quietly. Softly. No one will notice that my heart seized up in the frenzy. No one will notice as I fall to the ground.

I am as invisible as the words I cannot put to paper. I am a writer who cannot write. I am a poet who barely uses adverbs.

Even this is short, though I can feel the rhythm of those superfluous words in my chest. They waltz. They are beautiful, I am aware. But I can’t see them.

a life well-lived – Poetry Video

After taking a poetry class this past fall, I’ve really wanted to make a poetry video. I love that we can take a traditional form and update it. It can really help to expand the meaning of a poem or just make the consumption of it more palatable. Either way, enjoy!

a life well-lived

blood-swollen mosquito flies into windshield
the wipers smear red across the glass – a blip on the dash

Appealing to All Audiences: Humor in Children’s Movies

After years of not watching children’s movies because my younger sister has been an adult for a while now, I watched two children’s movies this week (thanks to my new MoviePass subscription which I just started trying out). The first was Early Man — a claymation movie like Wallace and Gromit in which Stone Age people attempt to win back their land from Bronze Age colonizers by playing soccer. The second movie was Peter Rabbit — a live action continuation of The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter that is considerable more bold and wild than the book.

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember ever reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit as a kid, so I’m definitely not an original purist. I loved this modern continuation. I went to see Peter Rabbit by myself since everyone else was busy, but it was so funny that I was laughing louder than the kids in the theater with me.

I did not love Early Man. It made me want to cringe. It wasn’t a bad movie. By most standards, the plot was fine, not too simple (which is something I problems with in a lot of films). The animation was what one would expect from a claymation film. The humor was lacking though. I’m sure it would’ve made children laugh (though my fiancée and I were the only ones in the theater when we went to see it). It had really good messages (girls playing soccer, aw yeah!) and was super wholesome (except a little theft).

What was the main difference between the two films? The fact that the humor in Peter Rabbit could be funny to two different generations for two different reasons. Both movies had slapstick humor — like when Dug and his tribe run away from the giant, toothed duck or when Peter and his family assault the young Mr. McGregor with a classic rake-to-the-face bit. However, the jokes that Peter cracks throughout the movie speak directly to internet humor today. Maybe it’s because I’m a millennial, but I thought it was hysterical. When I have children, that’s the movie I’m more likely to choose.

If you think about all the super popular children’s movies, the hugely popular ones featured humor that would amuse both children and adults. The Incredibles, MinionsFrozen? They were all great, because as an adult I can watch them and still enjoy them, for different reasons. Well, some of the same reasons too… who doesn’t love animated movies?

I, however, have never seen a Veggie Tales movie in my life. The reason? My mom didn’t want to sit through that, even though she’s an incredibly kind and giving woman. The one with money wins when choosing the movie. Probably why I was brought up on action movies and psychological thrillers — my dad’s choice.

Feel free to add your take in the comments!