The Trip of the Year

Have you ever felt like a vacation could change your life? I feel like my vacations do more to change the trajectory of my life than any time when I am in the real world. Earlier this month I took 11 consecutive days off and spent some time exploring the world and exploring inside my own head. This won’t be a travel log, I did that once and it was a big failure, this will be more of a way to chronicle some of the things that I did during my time off. Over the course of my trips I managed to spend a few days with my family in Broadalbin, a few more with my fraternity brothers and my uncle in Albuquerque, and then the last few with my brother on Nantucket, but the most productive time was spent lost inside my own head.

I have been at a bit of a crossroads lately. In the week before I left I performed at my first big city comedy club, had a girl who I was really interested in break things off due to my shortcomings, and turned 30, all on top of getting laid off 4 months earlier, planning on moving out of Middlebury, and the normal whirlwind that is my everyday life. It is safe to say that I haven’t been on top of my game lately, but I have found that it is the best time for self exploration.

Every 2 years I attend my fraternity’s Grand Council event in some terrible place like Omaha or Albuquerque. I don’t attend meetings or do much productive, it is just an excuse for me to spend a few days hanging out by the pool and going to bars with my friends, but in the past it has been a catalyst for change. Within 2 months of leaving the 2013 GC I managed to buy a new car, quit my job, and move to a new apartment, so maybe knowing that I was going back to the same event triggered my thinking muscles and made me want to evaluate some of my life choices.

Albuquerque itself was awesome, I had passed through a few years ago and while I was not in a place where I could fathom being surrounded by red rocks but I did fall in love with the high desert. The mix of mountains and scrub are so different from the verdant landscape that I grew up in, and while the sun can be brutal the lack of humidity makes it bearable. This time I was at a conference with 500 other people and was able to hang out with some of my best friends. A bunch of us spend most of the trip in search of craft beer and spicy food and couldn’t have been happier. People often wonder how I can be a responsible professional and spend so much time and effort on my pharmacy fraternity, and in the end it isn’t really about the organization, it is about spending time with the people who have been my friends for the past decade.

I also have family in ABQ, and I loved spending time with my Uncle Andy and meeting his cousin Mark and his family. It was one of those moments where you meet a few complete strangers and because of blood ties you identify and become a family. Talking ancient history about my Great Uncle playing the accordion when I was little and playing with my 5 year old twin cousins was a highlight of the trip. I fully plan on heading back to attend the balloon fiesta some fall, especially since last time I missed it because of weather issues, and when I get there I will be glad to spend some time with my new family members.

Between family and friends it was awesome to spend time with the people who ground me and keep me in line. I was able to have a number of deep conversations and get help figuring out where I want to go from here. I spent a lot of time with by buddy D who as he put it “Had a midlife crisis at 28” where he quit his job and drove the country. While it wasn’t so dramatic this time he was on a month long drive to explore America, which is something that I am extremely envious of. I miss wandering and finding my way as I go, now my life is planned down to the hour weeks in advance, which gives me some peace but leaves me missing the restlessness that my life used to include. Having this chance to see people who I care about and feel comfortable around allows me to let my guard down and explore my life.

After a week it was time to move on and get on with the adventure, I flew back East and drove down to Cape Cod so that I could take a ferry out to Nantucket to see my brother. Once I got off the dock I was surprised to find a strange bearded man waiting for me, which was a bit of a shock since he has never been able to grow a beard in the past, a trait that I have always made fun of him about. Bald and bearded, I guess he really is my brother. After stocking up on food and beer we headed out to Coatue point where his ranger shack is. I spent a weekend at the shack last year and while it is rustic and has no electricity or running water the view is spectacular and it is a really awesome place. I love getting off the grid for a while and relaxing.

The weather wasn’t as nice as it was last year, but I did love the intensity of a storm rolling in. After a week of heavy partying and an early morning flight I was glad to take most of a day to just crash and read. We decided to rake clams in the rain to supplement our dinner, because we are hearty sons of New England who will feast upon the bounty of the sea. We had a chance to talk a bit, and listen to podcasts and see some rare birds, which he was upset that I really didn’t care about. We didn’t have a great relationship for a while, but a few years ago things started to change and I am very glad for that. I had a great few days hanging out with him and am trying to convince him to move in with me once he gets off the island in a few weeks. On top of all that I was able to write a Bernie Sanders joke at the expense of Nantucket rich folks.

Coming home from vacation is always a bit of a letdown, but after so much time away I was glad to sleep in my own bed. Over that trip I spent a lot of time lost in thought while traveling or relaxing. The biggest thing that came to mind was that I am ready for a change. My life has been busy and I have lost touch with a lot of things that make me happy, and I am starting to feel restless. I had a lot of grand ideas pop into my head, everything from quitting drinking, to starting a company, to moving in order to chase a girl who is clearly not interested in me, to shaving my beard. In the end I decided to keep on searching and finding those little changes that I can do to add up to a big change. Simply having the motivation to change is taking the first step toward doing something big. Even weeks later there are motivations and ideas that keep popping into my head, which will hopefully keep the motivation going.

For 11 days I was able to turn my brain off from work mode and enjoy the things that I normally don’t have enough time to do. I was able to read, relax, eat good food, drink good beer, all in the company of my family and friends. Having this time allowed me to think and plan for change, which I am sure will come in time. It was one of those vacations where I was happy to come home and excited for the next trip, which fortunately will come soon enough and well allow me to spend even more time with these people and hopefully start the cycle again.

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Putting Yourself Out There

I am not an expressive or emotional person, and I genuinely don’t like people, so why is it that I am constantly compelled to put myself out there?  Despite being a guarded and private person I can stand in front of a microphone and joke about the things that make me feel terrible to total strangers, or write essays about the worst things that have ever happened to me.  I never understood how I could be such a contradictory person and move between expressive and private mindsets so easily, but it is something that I would like to take a bit and explore.

When I was younger I was always dying to express myself.  I would constantly write poetry and songs, but I was always too afraid of letting other people in.  I suppose that I wanted people to naturally know that I was talented and insightful while also showing depth as a human being.  I desperately wanted someone to stumble across my writings and have the revaluation that I was important and deserved to be loved, but instead of doing anything to facilitate the exposure I just sat there and was disappointed when things were not discovered and thing’s didn’t magically get better.  I could chalk it up to being young and stupid, but there are still many times in my life today where I expect people to read my mind and make my dreams come true, fortunately I have become more inclined toward action on my own behalf.

I love to write.  The idea of people reading my thoughts and identifying with things that I say is almost like a drug.  I could say that I am selflessly putting words to the thoughts that others are unable or unwilling to say, that I am the potential martyr who is willing to fall on the sword of public opinion for the greater good, but that would be bullshit.  My writing is a way for me dictate from my own platform and say what I want to without any interruption while also garnering feedback.  I don’t journal, or keep logs, I just pontificate on the internet, and it makes me feel good.

When I first started writing Facebook notes styled as blog posts (or Flogs as one of my friends termed them) I thought that it was a way to connect with my friends.  Pretty soon I was hearing about how my thoughts resonated and how they were passing it on to others. It created a cycle where I was inspired to write more so that I could have that opportunity to get that adulation.  I started writing more and more, and while some things hit others completely missed and much like my jokes I was able to identify patterns that allowed me to write things that would have a greater hit percentage.  My writing style is very formulaic and many of my essays follow a very similar pattern: Topical introduction>Deep history>Growth over time>Demons that I need to face>Current feelings>Closure paragraph that is supposed to resonate, hopefully ending with a line that makes a callback or statement that closes everything off nicely.

I struggle with terminology sometimes.  I feel that “writer” is too pretentious of a term for what I do, and “blogger” is not pretentious enough.  I prefer the term essays over posts or articles, but “essayist” is too arcane of a term.  What you call yourself often determines how you feel about yourself and since starting this blog I find myself more and more confused as I progress through the system.  Confusion isn’t always a bad thing because when you get confused you have to ask questions and questions beget answers, and we are all searching for answers.

I often wonder why people care about the things that I write.  I know that I have a decent writing style, and I address issues that generally have merit, but why do people seem to identify with my writing.  The only thing that I can come up with is that they are interested in the vulnerability that my writing provides.  I am generally not a vulnerable person, but when I open up and put myself out there while discussing issues that matter to me it allows people a look into my life.  Vulnerability is scary, it exposes my weaknesses and gives people written evidence to use against me.  At the same time it is exhilarating to leave everything on a page and walk away.  I generally don’t read my essays for more than a quick proofread, mostly because it is almost as painful as listening to a recording of a standup set.  Anyone who creates things thinks that they can do better, and that unequivocal pursuit of perfection is painful and drawn out so that if you don’t establish boundaries to stop yourself from fiddling with tings then you will never actually release anything.

I have found that no matter what I think of something there is no way that I can predict how it will be received.  A joke that I love gets nothing but blank stares, or an essay that I think is a joke gets more than 500 page views in 12 hours.  The key to becoming a better writer or comic is to keep doing it in order to increase your ability to identify the things that will resonate with others.  By continuing to put myself out there and find new ways to express myself I will be able to hone those skills, making it easier to identify with others, which will give me to motivation to keep putting myself out there in a self perpetuating cycle.

Pharmacy is my dream job, something that I decided that I wanted to do when I was 11 years old and have dedicated myself toward for 2/3 of my life. I realized a few months ago that as important as my job is to me, it is only a part of my life.  After a dozen years of identifying myself as a pharmacy student or pharmacist I started describing myself using other terms.  I started thinking of a future that included things other than pharmacy and dreams where I could be something else.  I know that I don’t have the dedication to every move in order to pursue comedy, but I certainly think that I can focus on writing whenever I can.  I have been experimenting with my writing style and process and trying to identify the way to write better and more frequently, but I think it will be a long process to figure myself out, but I have plenty of time.  All I can hope is that I can continue to tweak, change, adjust, and put out some quality pieces while continuing to put myself out there.