#338: The Crossword

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Back in the day, when Alex and I first started dating, one of our best routines was hanging out on a Wednesday night and completing the Hamden newspaper’s weekly crossword puzzle together. I remember buying her a book of crossword puzzles back then, probably for a special occasion as one of our series of gifts, and we still have that book and plan on using it again tonight, hopefully. Being in touch with our former selves is a good way of rekindling past memories, and it brings character and nostalgia to our lives. I strongly support doing as many joint activities like that as you can with your partner as a way of building your relationship and making sure it has special attachments to certain things. Our mug collection, for example, has a lot attached to it and each individual mug could be its own blog post on this. Maybe one day I’ll do something like that… As a way of preserving their origins before we inevitably forget them.

Regardless, completing crosswords is romantic to us. I know that sounds super nerdy, and it is, but it’s the kind of activity we can do together that keeps our attention and uses our brains. It’s perfect for the two of us, and it allows us to collaborate and cooperate on an end goal: that is, completing the objective that is the crossword puzzle in front of us. Some puzzles are notoriously difficult and come down to the wire, where we end up having to look up a clue because we simply wouldn’t be able to figure it out with all the available hints and letters. In those moments, we don’t feel too much shame in completing the puzzle; it’s a matter of our knowledge being limited for the time being. That’s all.

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#287: The Next Birthday

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Happy birthday, Alex! This is my message to you in celebration of you reaching the wonderful age of 25. You are officially a quarter of a century old, which means you are halfway to 50. Remember what it was like when you were born? Well imagine all that but again. That’s what it’ll be like to reach 50. There are so many wonderful years ahead of you, and I’m so lucky to be able to spend them with you. I hope you continue to have fantastic birthdays from here on out, and I will make sure to give you as many presents as are necessary in order to fulfill my side of the deal.

Even though you are a dingus from time to time, and sometimes lurch into dimbus territory when you feel so inclined, you are the smartest, most capable person I know, and I would trust no one else with so much of my life. There’s a reason I believe in you so whole-heartedly when you call about police reports, car maintenance, dentist appointments, and more. It’s because you’re not just my partner in crime, you’re my amazing professional and personal support system, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. That’s for a fact.

Now, this also happens to be the day that I go back to work, which is a bit of a bummer. It kind of puts a damper on the excitement going into this day, but on a positive note, at least it’s the weekend officially. I’ll be back to cherishing the weekends with you fairly soon, and I look forward to waking up and driving you to the train station whenever the next time arises.

Thank you for being a marvelous person both inside and out, and thank you for being so consistently patient and nice through hard times and simple times.

#243: The Group Chat, Part 2

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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

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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.

#241: The Second Sleep

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I get up in the morning when Alex works 10-6, so that I can drive her to the train station on time. It’s a lot easier than having her walk the whole way there, and plus I get to see her rather than not. It’s a positive no matter how you look at it. This tradition began around February or March, give or take, after I started my new job but before I realized it was convenient for me to drive her, too. Now that it’s summer vacation, I have no excuse not to drive her, and I agree. It just works out well, as a way to get me up earlier without inducing too much grogginess. Nothing wrong with waking up at 8am, right? Right?

I still get some anxiety driving, especially after the most recent incident, but it’s worth it so I can drive her to her destination on time. I sometimes miss these days, especially when Alex returns to working 9-5 or 8-4 instead. Those shifts are much too early for me to drive her, so I sleep instead.

But when I get home from driving Alex, I sometimes go back to sleep. It’s my second sleep, you could say. I like waking up early, but sometimes it’s necessary to go back to bed after having a long, long evening playing video games on the couch. Being a teacher during summer vacation means that, after all. There’s nothing better than the feeling of going to bed a second time, waking up a second time, and feeling totally, completely refreshed all over again. Who doesn’t want that?

My second sleeps are reserved for the days when Alex works 10-6, but I revel in them. It’s another great bonus of her working those days, and even though it might seem the same as just sleeping the extra hours, it’s not.

#231: The Real Draft

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No, not using playing cards this time. Still playing Magic: the Gathering, just like normal. Playing Magic is a blast, but being able to draft in person is completely different from drafting elsewhere. It’s like night and day; on the one hand, drafting online is fast, easy, and you can pick up and stop whenever you want, but on the other hand, drafting in person allows you to counter each other’s strategies in a way that’s not possible online, while drafting against computers. There’s competition in drafting against each other, and although I don’t exactly have a set plan in drafting to make matters easy, I love being able to think through my picks in that way. Plus, you never know what cards people are going to play against you when you finally get to play against them. You might have a vague idea, but there’s no way to completely predict a person’s deck, given the randomness and complexity of drafting a limited set with 254 possible cards inside. It makes drafting so much more of a mental exercise.

Earlier today, while talking about something completely different, I referred to Magic: the Gathering as “mental exercise” to Alex (as a way to persuade her to let us play magic before going to the gym, which she wasn’t a fan of, unfortunately). I definitely think it’s like that; apparently, it’s one of the most complicated games ever created, and I can understand why. The sheer number of cards and mechanics and keywords and interlocking plays is maddening and frankly impossible to keep track of entirely. You have to memorize so much in order to truly call yourself a master of magic, or a judge, in other people’s cases. Being a judge would be an interesting job for someone to have, as a volunteer exercise of course.

#229: The In-Laws

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Nothing wrong with meeting up with in-laws every once in awhile. In fact, it can be a fulfilling experience, contrary to common expectation, if you make the most of it. Currently, as I’m writing, I’m listening to my girlfriend’s mom discuss Great Lake’s Crossing and her other daughter’s job and boyfriend and everything else in mind, tax bases, mortgages, loans, future condos, attorneys, dogs, puppy mills, aquariums, job interviews. It’s all blending together in my head and none of it’s really sticking, but that’s normal when it comes to listening to people talk about things that don’t exactly pertain to my life. Having talkative in-laws means I don’t bear the responsibility of having to lead discussions when family events are coming along, and I’m happy to be the silent, awkward listener. Does anyone else feel like they end up reverting their usual obnoxiousness into silence when in-laws come around? Sometimes more powerful voices drown out other voices. It’s the ways of nature.

Normally, when people talk about in-laws, they talk with disdain or sadness or a combination of the two. I understand where they’re coming from, I really do, but it’s not always the case. I guess that’s my point from all of this. In-laws are nice to see, especially when you don’t see them for months and months and then they just show up out of the blue for a few days, upending your schedule and work and making everything hectic and different. You get used to it, though, especially when it becomes a frequent (but still random) occurrence. I like our conversations and I like being able to catch people up on things, after a long time away.

This is also one of the first blog posts I’m writing from home, after making it to summer break. I’ll write about that in another blog post after this one. Stay tuned!

#194: The Free Weekend

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Today, I’ll be talking about plans Alex and I have set for our free weekend
coming up. I usually go to my friends’ places over the weekend for a night, as a way of relaxing and getting away from stressful environments. But this weekend, I have no such plans with my friends and I am completely free to do whatever I want. That means that Alex and I are going to have to figure out something to do together this weekend, and there’s a list of options.

Usually, we get one free day together to do whatever we want, but with the added bonus of having an extra day to do things together, it’ll be interesting to see what we come up with. Maybe I’ll even go back to this post in the next few days and update it with our plans, after we’ve made and completed them.

I’ll start things off with one idea: How about we drive down to New Haven to see my grandma, who just got out of the hospital after her big hip surgery? We can definitely do that. It would be nice to see family after being away for awhile.

Here’s another idea to think about: What if we drove and got smoothies again, considering we weren’t able to get them on Monday when we originally planned on going? Robek’s is life, and unfortunately, after driving specifically for smoothies together, the place was closed and we weren’t able to go in.

I’m not sure what this blog post really is about, so I’m sorry to those of you who spent time reading it. I think this might be my most rambling and ridiculous one yet. Hopefully, by the time this goes up, it won’t really matter. We will have to see!

#185: Forever

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Forever. Sometimes, we get lucky and are able to let the meaning of the word “forever” enter our lives. I’m an absurdly lucky and fortunate person, able to live a life that’s blessed with people I know will always be there for me, like Alex. As I’ve said in the past, I don’t know where I would be without her. Certain things like this connection we have are bound to last as long as possible. When we talk about forever, we talk about Angus, we talk about our lease and the apartment, we talk about getting married and living our lives like this, the way they’ve been lived, forever. We know what it’s like to be alone, especially for long periods of time and when we need someone around us the most. I think that’s partially what fuels our collective need for long-term commitment, because nothing is more reassuring and uplifting in the moment than hearing that the person who makes your life positive and radiant has no plans of leaving any time soon. Having been alone for such a long time, literally and figuratively, sucks.

I mean, it also helps that Alex is a great person who lifts me up when I’m feeling down, and who is beautiful and smart and courageous and wonderful. She is an inspiration for me to look up to, and she takes care of so much around the apartment. I wouldn’t be able to survive in this crazy world without her, at this point. I know that much is certain. It’s one of the many reasons I’m so grateful to be with her.

You know, sometimes people talk about what it means to be in a relationship that lasts, and so far we’ve lasted strong for about 27 months. I’d say I know a thing or two about what it means to have someone’s back while they have yours. And it feels great.

#145: The Reunion

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Reuniting with friends is one of my absolute favorite things to look forward to. I love being surrounded by old friends, reminiscing about old times, discussing past professors and classes and coursework and drama from when we were younger and less mature, arguably. I love having brunch together, exploring the city together, shopping in unfamiliar places together. I love overwhelming and welcoming hugs that last far longer than any other hugs you had experienced recently. I love old jokes, past through time, but still fresh and crystallized in our memories once brought up again. I love walking through living history, through places and settings explored years before, where the streets and coffee shops and restaurants immediately recall what it was like to be 22, instead of 24.

Reunions bring me back. This past weekend, I had a fantastic reunion with one of my great friends, Jac. She’s still just as lively and welcoming and friendly as ever, and we had a brilliant time just reminiscing about life and the memories we weren’t able to share together in the two or so years since we last hung out. It was a reminder of what real friends are like, what real friendship resembles after spending so much time with friends who are perhaps a bit less friendly, outwardly. You sometimes lose track of what that’s supposed to be like when you’re not used to it any more. You lose track of how respectful, how kind, how familiar friendship should be, when it’s at its absolute peak.

Alex also met Jac for the first time. We mutually hung out once online while playing some D&D, but that never amounted to more than just our first session. Our schedules never worked out again after that. It was a bit of a shame at the time, but we still managed to keep in touch after that fell through.