#246: The Mask

action art black dark

Photo by Sebastiaan Stam on Pexels.com

Do you find that sometimes you wear a mask around certain people? Do you conceal your true self when around others? Are there people you simply cannot let loose around, for whatever reason, be they your boss, your parents, or what have you? That’s what I’d like to discuss today.

As I write this, the instrumental version of “Beneath the Mask” is playing in the background, filling up my brain with ideas for what to write about on here. It’s a beautiful song, and I recommend it as some good studying or writing music. It also plays on my new PS4 theme background, thanks to the $2 I spent on it. It serves as good inspiration music for my writing.

As a student, I learned that being honest about yourself invites ridicule from others, and that the only way to avoid being ridiculed is to completely hide all uniqueness from yourself, to blend in with the background as much as possible so as to become invisible to those judgmental eyes. That’s why I sometimes have a difficult time expressing my true feelings to others. When it comes down to it, we’re taught the virtues of honesty, but not the vices. We’re lead to believe that integrity, honor, honesty, and other positive values are inherently just, but not how to handle ourselves when those values are questioned and put to task. As a young, impressionable kid, it’s easier to relinquish them and accept defeat.

Being behind a mask means being fake, to some degree; you’re not disclosing your face, where others can see how you feel based on your body language and expressions. You’re concealing that which you have learned to conceal for your own safety and security. I no longer live behind a mask like I did way back when, but occasionally I slip into my old teenage habits because of those days.

Advertisements

#243: The Group Chat, Part 2

man and woman shaking hands

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

This one is coming in two parts!

Two of my friends on the chat are huge anime fans, for example, so I feel like I know a decent amount about Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure just from them, even though I’ve only ever watched the pilot episode with Alex in Boston one night.

The group chat started back in 2016 or 2017, when I was still on Twitter under a different account name. I had an account I used to follow people from hobbies I was a fan of, and I found a bunch of wrestling fans who shared similar interests online. We bonded over the wrestlers we liked, but most of all, we bonded over our shared connections and long-winded discussions about heated topics, such as booking, match results, and video games. There were lots of things to be angry about back when we watched the shows regularly, but also lots of great, memorable conversations involving people I’ve never met in person. These people are some of my greatest friends, and yet I don’t know when I’ll ever get the chance to see them. Does that really matter? Aren’t online interactions just as genuine and worthwhile as interactions in person? I’m not sure, but I’d like to think they are. A person you communicate with, by whatever means of communication are available, can still be a friend of yours. A pen pal from across the country is still a friend regardless of the fact that you may never meet them, either.

When I was in high school, I had a difficult time making friends, so to be able to have access to the internet meant having access to a world of online friendships, too. I knew people on the internet from World of Warcraft, the Rock Band forums, Last.fm, and more, and all of those people I owe so much to. I don’t know where I would be without them, so they definitely mean as much to me as any of my other friends do.

#242: The Group Chat, Part 1

photo of couples smiling while leaning on vehicle

Photo by Ivandrei Pretorius on Pexels.com

This one is coming in two parts! Here’s the first one, about a fantastic group chat I’m a part of.

While scrolling through Twitter, I discovered something worth writing about: the group chat I’ve had for so long, and all the wonderful people I’ve met because of it. I was playing Persona 5 earlier today when I remembered that I could share my experiences in the game with my friends who recommended I play it in the first place, years ago. I remember reading the group chat, also known as “Paige fam” or whatever other title it has on a given day. It usually changes with the season, but that’s one of the more endearing parts of the chat. I’m not going to mention any of the chat members’ names, as I haven’t told them that I’m writing about them and don’t want to spoil their privacy. But it’s a great group of about 9 people, all of whom I’ve spent a lot of time talking with. We’ve gone through stages of allowing more people into the chat, only to have them either spoil who’s in it to others or just not participate very often. Those people aren’t part of the chat any more. There was a time when the chat had 11 people in it, for example.

We’ve talked about and shared opinions on all kinds of topics, from Game of Thrones’s latest season (and its ultimate failure) along with football championship victories in Europe and earthquakes in New Zealand. The people in this chat span across countries; the diversity isn’t just in location, but in gender, ethnicity, and personality. It’s that kind of diversity that makes the chat so great, and so wonderful to come back after taking a few days off from looking at Twitter or social media. There’s always a fruitful, interesting conversation to look at afterwards.

#239: Social Media

apple applications apps cell phone

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com

Social media is funny. For starters, it allows us to connect across the world with friends we might never hear from otherwise. Without Facebook, I probably wouldn’t know a damn thing what my friend Rachel, who lives in Australia currently, is up to. It’s nice to see updates from friends who mean a lot to me, even though we don’t talk super frequently. I also have friends on there much older than me, people I met and became acquainted with during my various internships, and whom I owe so much of my professional success to. It’s nice to see them comment on my professional updates, especially when I’m really trying to take care of myself more. Social media is what allows all this flourish, and I’m thankful for it in that sense.

Though, social media also gives me anxiety from time to time. Sometimes I think life would be simpler if I didn’t constantly see updates from people I went to college with, telling me what they’ve been up to since then. Some of them are completing their second year as teachers, and while that’s very exciting for them, it leaves me with a feeling of emptiness. Not everything I do needs to be compared to other people’s lives, but social media almost encourages us to compare the two. It’s a part of social media’s DNA. Every post you make, every story you upload, every status you write, every like you share, every click you make, everything eventually is tied to someone else, and it’s connected to your online profile, either through Google, Facebook, or what have you. The people who “like” it, the people who ignore it, the people who are online but have better things to do. It’s tough not to take personally.

Was social media a mistake?

#237: The Fireworks

photo of fireworks display

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Today is July 4th, which means today is fireworks day. Fireworks all night long, across the city skyline and heard from our apartment regardless of distance. Fireworks blaring upward into the air, exploding in an instant or in bursts, and then descending quickly back to the earth, to pollute the streets with firework residue. Imagine being on the streets of Stamford watching the fireworks at 8pm, only to then be a sanitation worker the next day, forced by the city to clean up the endless parade of messiness on the ground. I would hate to be that person, but I can relate to them very much so.

When I was younger, my father loved the fourth of July. It was probably his favorite holiday. We used to have a large house together, with a large backyard where we invited pretty much everyone we knew to come over for a large party. Hot dogs, bounce castles, outdoor pool, radio music, tents and food and more. They were a lot of fun, and I got to hang out with my friends over the summer so that made it all worth it, but perhaps the biggest waste of all was my father’s incessant need to fill up the sky with fireworks. He bought thousands of dollars worth of fireworks every year, every fourth of July, just to impress his friends with how much money he was willing to throw away into the sky for big explosions. Imagine if he had saved that for our college educations instead? What if? Hmm.

It seems self-serving, but ultimately it was for us, too. We wanted the fireworks just as much as he did. It represented something special to us, a sort of familial tradition passed through time. It doesn’t happen any more, for obvious reasons, but when it did, it was special.

#235: The Playstation

yellow plush toy

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today, it’s time to talk video games again. I’ll be talking more in depth about the specific games I’ve bought for my playstation in a future blog post, but for right now, I’m gonna discuss the playstation itself, my history with Sony products, and everything in between.

I used to own both a PS2 and a PS3, though I didn’t play either console very much. I remember playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the PS2 when I was young, and I definitely put tons and tons of hours into Kingdom Hearts (both the first and second ones) when they first came out in the early 2000’s. Jimmy and I had a race to see who would beat the second one first, and I won even though I was on a higher difficult level than he was. That’s one thing I pretty much always lord over him to this day, and will continue to for a long, long time. That’s just how our friendship works.

On the PS3, I remember playing a few hours of God of War 3, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Little Big Planet, and a couple other games that I can’t totally remember. That about sums up my whole experience with the PS3, in a nutshell; I can’t totally remember much of it, and I regret asking my parents to buy one for me. In reality, it was because Kingdom Hearts 3 was on the horizon, or so I thought, and I knew Sony would ever release it on a Playstation console. Unfortunately, they skipped a cycle and released years and years later on the PS4. I also haven’t played any of KH3 since buying it, although I do plan on getting into that at some point in the future. Just not while I’m still rushing through Persona! That’s my top priority!

#221: The Techie

black dslr camera

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Being technically literate can be a strength and a burden at times. I know the ins and outs of computers, I know how to handle a SmartBoard, and I know how to troubleshoot problems involving audio and visual equipment. Basically, knowing how to troubleshoot is the crux of the issue; you immediately become an expert in the field of technology, just from knowing how to diagnose a problem and potentially address it using the computer’s intricate menu systems. You become your coworkers’ favorite technical friend, even when the school has someone else for this purpose. Resulting from this, I’ve been called into classrooms on a few different occasions to help people figure out their technical problems. Whether it’s a broken speaker, a phone that won’t upload pictures, or anything else like that, it’s my job to help out whenever I can. So there’s a bit of anxiety associated with this; I never know when I’ll be called into someone’s room to work on something with them.

I used to own a camera, in fact I still do, but I haven’t used it in ages. I’m not sure I would know what to do when fixing one of those, to be honest. But when it comes to computers, I’m your guy. I’m not enough of an expert to join a Nerds2Go group, but I know my way around the technology. I earned a few brownie points with students when I told them I’ve built a computer before, and they seem to respect that I know more about these things than most other adults in the building. Just knowing that I have a computer at home that I use in my spare time is probably enough to figure out what’s going on when there’s a problem brewing. This is what it’s like to be technically literate.

#219: The Traffic

aerial photo of railway lines

Photo by Leon Macapagal on Pexels.com

Doesn’t everyone hate traffic, to some extent? I know I do, and I experience traffic pretty frequently, to varying degrees. Traffic is definitely the worst. I hate it so much. Today I’ll be talking about a very specific type of traffic, the traffic that follows you no matter where you go. That’s what I experienced on the way home on Saturday, continuing the same misery I had because the car wouldn’t start and its battery seemed to be shot.

Here’s what happened: the highway was closed from exits 11-7, and unfortunately, I needed to get off at exit 7. I knew this in advance, but I forgot about it on the way home with all the stress going on because of the car troubles. So as soon as exit 11 hit, I needed to get off the highway and onto some backroads home. It took a while to get there, though. Unfortunately, there was traffic on the way to the exit and traffic as soon as I got off the exit, because everyone and their mother were using Google Maps just like me to figure out where to go next. So everyone was holding up backroads and everyone was flooding the streets endlessly because of the traffic and road work taking place, during the day too! The traffic followed me wherever I went, and it added an entire half hour to my commute home that day. I was worried that my car, in all its battery-draining misery, would stall out somewhere because it ran out of fuel or something. Thankfully, that never happened, because my anxieties don’t know a damn thing about how cars work and probably never will.

At the very least, they know how to jumpstart a car now. That’s something I wouldn’t be able to say earlier, but I can say now.

#217: The Alternator

five bulb lights

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

The alternator is dead. The sequel to my most recent blog post is, of course, about what happened next. That’ll be about $400 dollars, out of pocket. Alternators are so unnecessarily expensive. I wish we didn’t also have to contend with the repair bill, too. If only alternators were easy to replace by yourself, then the manual labor would cover the repair bill.

Well, I drove home for about an hour after my friend jumped the car. I made it home safe and sound, and being the eternally exhausted person I am, I went to bed within a few hours after getting home. We didn’t test the car again on Saturday because of that. Maybe we should have, considering what we discovered afterwards, that the alternator, not the battery itself, was to blame for this whole mess. We called Alex’s dad, only to find out that it could be anything at fault with the car.

We waited in the garage for someone to arrive to jump our car. The first person to come help wasn’t able to reach our car, because of how we parked and the fact that there was another car next to us. The second person reached us, jumped us, and got us to the AutoZone in Stamford in time for us to figure out what was wrong. That’s where we discovered that the alternator was to blame. The guy who helped us took his time looking at the car while I sat in it and Alex talked with him about it.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any mechanics at AutoZone to replace the alternator for us. So, I had to contend with figuring out how to get to work the next day. Alex changed her shift from 8-4 to 7-3, to allow us to get to a mechanic in time together. Alex also bought a manual jumpstarter so I could get the car moving enough to get it to work and back. Here’s hoping that it works on the way back, because it worked enough to get me here!

#216: The Scare

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Nothing like trying to start your car in the middle of nowhere, only for it to buzz, beep, creak, and stop in its tracks within a few seconds. Nothing else will set your mind at ease or make your feelings of anxiety any better in this moment than a complete and total fix to the situation, but you know in the back of your head that nothing will fix this quickly, let alone easily. You’re afraid of what to do, considering your state of mind and everything else going on the night before. The only way out is to phone a friend and hope for the absolute best.

A few seconds later, your call is answered. You wait in your sweatpants and sweater in the sweaty, steamy heat, amplified by your steel automobile, for your friend to arrive in time. You wait and wait and wait, hopeful that eventually the heat will die down or your air conditioner will turn on after twisting the knob to the left over and over. It never seems to turn on.

That’s when things start to take a turn for the better. Your friend arrives about ten minutes after you called him, and you wait in the car while he jumpstarts the engine. Nothing feels normal any more. You wait until the heat disappears, but it never does. Sooner or later, the engine is up and running, and your car is ready to go. You know that you’ve just been exhausted by stress, so you turn the car off and go back inside the house, only to realize that turning the car off ruins the whole ordeal you just went through. You call your friend again to come back, realizing how much of a nincompoop you are.

It happens. You never know what to do in a situation like this until it actually happens to you.