I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways

A few days ago I decided to swear off social media. This was for a few reasons. Mostly, I watched the Netflix “documentary” The Social Dilemma, in which the creators of social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others explain that these programs were built to be addictive but no consideration was taken as to the long-standing effects of this addiction. How the algorithms used to mine your personal information also channel different kinds of information. According to the show, if you are using social media, you are the product.

I don’t like that.

I think that the creators of social media applications are no better than tobacco companies, quelling any controvery or research that their products are actually killing people. So I dropped off. Fittingly enough, I got a little bit of pushback from my friends who are on Facebook. Things like “You do this about every six months, you’ll be back.” So supportive. I wonder if AA meetings are like this. I know that bars are. That is why it is hard to quit drinking when all your friends are at the bar.

That being said, I have been a full on Facebook/Instagram addict, spending upwards of six hours a day scrolling through my feed, sometimes just staring at the same crap I’ve already looked at, hoping somehow that it will somehow refresh and I’ll either get that dopamine bump for getting a like or a notification, or something new will appear for me to comment on. Life for these last several months has been lonely. As with many of us, these might be our only outlets of social interraction. I think it’s time to get off that bender.

For the last few days, I have had a lot more time to work on my book. Last night, I finished a 10,000 word chapter. Written in around two or three days. It’s hard to determine how quickly I got it done, since it was a hard chapter and I wrote some other scenes. The writing for the last few days was hard, and sometimes it nearly broke me. But I’m pushing on ahead.

Sometimes I get the doubts that there is no reason for doing what I’m doing. Who will actually read it? Who will care? Then I’ll have moments like the other day when I was buying coffee and the barrista asked me what I was working on. When I told her, she said she had a similar experience. Even just the idea of it resonated with her. So, maybe what I’m working on is important. At least it might be important to at least one other person.

No, it’s not Harry Potter, though some have told me I should write something like that and get rich. Which is a myth. I’m not interested in writing stories for children anyway. There is enough of that out there, and God knows I’ve tried my hand at fantasy and nobody cared. This story is writing itself right now and I’m just holding on for dear life.

Without social media, I’ve been reading more too. I re-read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and recently I started reading Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” Hemingway really wasn’t a novelist. He was a short story writer and all he did to get that novel length was to string a lot of pointless short stories together. But I have enjoyed the language and the glimpse into 1920s Paris.

I have a first edition copy that I’m working through. The smell of old paper, vanillin, the feel of a hardbound book in your hands. No eReader can compare to it. I’ve decided I dislike eBooks. Everything that I have read on a tiny screen fades quickly from memory. I can’t hold onto it. With a book it is an immersive experience. Much like how I got through college, you participate. You turn the pages, you hear the clock on the wall, you can associate what you are reading with what you are doing at that time. I can pick up some books and turn to a page and know approximately in the story where I have landed. I’ll also remember what was happening around me when I was reading it last. I don’t get that from an eReader.

If I want content, I’ll read an eBook. If I want a reading experience, I’ll read a real book. There is a difference.

Too long didn’t read for this one: I’m learning how to use my time better. Sometimes I get lonely. And I guess I’m still a little old fashioned. I’m still moving forward.

2019. Not exactly like Blade Runner

What a year this was.

Each year, I think about many of the events that have formed my life during the last celestial swing around the sun.  At home, I have a bulletin board on the wall where the kid(s) and I post mementos from our adventures.  Ticket stubs, birthday invitations, wristbands, postcards, etc.  Sometimes it is drawings my son has made or even jury duty summonses.

We start off each year with a blank board and a bunch of thumbtacks and at the end of the year, the whole thing is covered with souvenirs. I also tend to write about my experiences, though this year, I have been keeping up with them as they happen on this blog as well as Gettingoutmore.org.

Here is a list of highlights and low points that comprised 2019.  I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…

I started off the New Year horribly certain about the path my “relationship” at the time had taken.  I had been ghosted.  It’s not a nice feeling, and it speaks very much to the character of the person doing the ghosting. When you get a 2am response to a Happy New Year text you sent at midnight, and have no idea where they are, this is an indication to give the hell up.

This time last year, I had bronchitis, depression, and I was struggling to make ends meet because my child support had doubled at the end of October.

In January, the “relationship” officially ended.  Anywhere between four and six months after the real end had begun.  I read several books on Boundaries, Dating, emotional pain, stress, co-dependency, and over the next several months, those words percolated and allowed me to be much more functional and sure of myself.  Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them.

I took a roadtrip with my cousin to take him to Tuscon to be a ranch hand.  The trip was 16 hours one way.  We started off in -5 degree temperatures and at the destination it was 45 degrees and rainy.  Unfortunately his employer turned out to be an ex-beauty queen psycho bitch who was using him for slave labor. I’m not exaggerating. He has since escaped (by literally jumping a fence and hitchhiking the hell out of there).  Glad he is off to better places now!

On the way home from Tuscon, I decided to work towards my goal of travel writing, which has been an interesting and yes, fulfilling experience.  I talked with some friends and family about it while walking around downtown Santa Fe at night.  Most of them tried to discourage me from doing it.  That’s not something you hear about much.  hahaha!

I booked tickets for the UK in May as well as an AirBnB.  I had grand plans for where I would go and what I would see.  Then the State took over half of my tax return because of the aforementioned child support increase.  Undaunted, I trimmed back some of my plans.

I took several road trips, dealt with an HR nightmare at work over a review from a supervisor who just flat out doesn’t like me, and enjoyed time with my son.  My insomnia waned.  My depression thawed.  I weathered a series of layoffs at the day job. I reconnected with an old friend at the end of 2018 and we parted ways once again midway through this year.  In other words people come into your life and they leave.  It’s just part of it.

I took my son to church, and afterwards, decided I didn’t want to go anymore.  My faith wasn’t shaken really.  I just don’t believe that God lives in a building.

I went to the UK and had an amazing experience.  It was my first international solo trip.  I have been doing solo trips around the state for years.  The learning curve was sharp and steep, but at the end of my ten day trip, I got a handle on everything and affirmed my desire to travel write.  The first day I landed, I had no idea what I was doing.  At the end of my trip, I was giving directions to Austrian tourists on how to get around in London.  I met myself and let go of a lot of crap.  I was happy with being by myself.  Content for maybe the first time in my life.

I spent the next month writing about it.

At the last minute, I bought a ticket to the 1940s Ball and made new friends and enjoyed the experience without the trepidation I had the year before by myself.  I met my girlfriend at Rick’s Cafe, at the end of World War II.  She appears in many of my adventures and I couldn’t be happier.  Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, I am glad she walked into mine.

My son had a lot of fun with Cub Scouts and we experienced winter camping…in June.  We hit Renaissance Festival again, this time with company.  It’s always a great sight to see someone’s face light up when they walk out of that changing room in a new costume for the first time. ❤

Trips to the grandparents, lots of hiking, bike rides, summer camp, video games, cigars on the back porch, road trips and carousels, Fuzzy’s Tacos, nervously meeting the parents for the first time, people watching, sad choices watching, T-Fury shirts, fire-pits and wine, innumerable stops at Dutch Bros. and so many points in-between filled my summer and fall months. The end of the year was met with a feature article in the UNC student newspaper from a fan of my travel blog.  I picked up a couple copies to include in the box which holds the contents of the bulletin board.  I reconnected with one of my best friends from childhood after 20 years.  It was like we hadn’t seen each other in just a few weeks.  As Dre would say, “we dippin’ again.”

My birthday was a wonderful experience, unfortunately because of some asbestos abatement done by a fly-by-night crew in the building at work, it turned into pneumonia, which I fought all September. Happy 44th.  As a result, I got behind on writing, work, and life.  But today, I am healthy again.  In mind, body, and spirit.  Things continue to grow and opportunities to write keep coming. I’m working on the novel still, but lately I am more focused on this.

Money is tight, work generally sucks, but for the most part, I am happy.  I sleep well.  I am grateful.  And for the first time in maybe my adult life, I am sure of myself.  Confident.  Ready to take on the rest of my days.