Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Turns out I like math

I took a math final yesterday. It was the first math class I'd taken in about 6 years. All through elementary, middle, junior, and high school (and in college up to this point) I despised math. I always considered myself to be much more of an artistic type; I played music, wrote songs and performed them. I loved my English classes and I loved being creative. I guess I'd always subscribed to the whole "left brain-right brain theory" that we've all heard about, and I just assumed and accepted that I could either be one or the other, but certainly not both. I was right-brained and was therefore not suited for left-brained things. 

But, yesterday I realized something that shocked me. Are you ready for this?

I kind of like math. 

Crazy, right? I was surprised to discover, after I left my final yesterday, that I'm actually kind of looking forward to taking another math class next semester. At first I worried that maybe this meant I was becoming a left-brained person, that I'd have to give up my creativity and become a mathematician or accountant or something boring like that (my apologies to my mathematician and accountant friends). This thought actually scared me for a moment, but the ridiculousness of the sentiment sunk in quickly and clearly, and I realized that for years I had ignorantly clung to the notion that my propensity for creative thought should automatically create in me an aversion to logical thought. I never really hated math, I had just used this idea as an excuse to not work hard in math, which made it more difficult to understand, which made me really not enjoy it.

I'm starting to realize that this foolish idea of naturally hating one thing because I like its opposite has played a much larger role in my life than I thought. 

For example, in high school I was a sprinter and therefore "hated" cross-country running. I thought I had to pick one and dislike the other. In reality I like both, but back then I used my "dislike" for cross-country running as an excuse not to do it, and therefore never developed the endurance for it, and therefore never really enjoyed it.

Of course, I'm not saying that everything I thought I didn't like years ago, I actually did like. There are still plenty of things I genuinely don't like. But, now I wonder what I'm missing out on because I've been too stubborn to admit that I might like it?

Friday, March 25, 2011

I'm going to run a marathon. Eventually.

I'm going to run a marathon. Eventually.

I'm not sure how it happened, but since I got back from my mission a few years ago, I can tolerate things much more than I did in high school. I mean physical things, like pain, cold, and tiredness; I still can't tolerate rap. But, I've noticed that my my own personal comfort just isn't as important to me as it used to be. I think just realized one day that life is too short to miss out on cool little adventures and awesome memories just because it's cold outside or because I'll get wet or I might get bruised up a little. My priorities changed, and making memories and having fun took the place of being comfortable. The way I see it, I can be comfortable when I'm old and sacrifice a little comfort for some memories while I'm still young.

For example, the other day while I was out geocaching, I realized that I was running through a park in the freezing rain in the dead of night wearing only jeans and a t-shirt so I could crawl around in the wet wood chips at a playground looking for a tiny capsule with only my iPod to use as a flashlight so I could sign my name on the piece of paper inside and then put it back. And I liked it.

I've hung from the side of a cliff, 10 feet above my last connection to the wall, feeling my arms giving out, knowing there would be at least a 25 foot drop if I slipped (more if my belayer wasn't fast enough), and being scared out of my mind, but doing it anyway because I knew I was safe, and I knew that although my arms hurt, I'd be glad I did it later.

So, in this same spirit of comfort-abandonment, I've decided I'm going to run a marathon. That's right, 26.21876 miles. I'm gonna do it. Of course, not right away. But, I'm going to work up to it. Hopefully in a year or two I'll be ready. It'll be rough, but so what?

Life is good if you make it good. Sometimes that means being a little uncomfortable.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hair Stylists

Have you ever seen an orthodontist with horribly crooked teeth? Or maybe a chiropractor with a hunchback? Of course you haven't. Not only do they have the means and the knowledge to correct these problems, but I imagine it would be important to their practice to inspire confidence in their customers. If your orthodontist has five teeth that are pointing straight at you, and four more that are growing right behind those ones, and a couple more that are actually growing ON the only two straight ones in his mouth, you're likely to wonder if he even knows HOW to fix teeth.

The point I'm trying to make is this: if you expect people to feel comfortable trusting you with some part of their body, you might want to show them that you know what you're doing.

This, to me, is common sense, a sort of unspoken rule in the health/cosmetics world. At least, it SHOULD be. But, what about hair stylists? Have you ever seen a hair stylist with bright pink, unevenly cut hair that's all in their face and everywhere else, giving you the impression that either they tried to do their hair themselves in the dark while they were drunk or they were letting their FRIENDS experiment on their hair in the dark while THEY were drunk? Of course you have. Anyone that's ever had their hair cut at a hair college has.

So what makes this profession an exception to the rule? The answer: I don't know. Some how I keep going back there to get my hair cut. I sit there waiting for my turn, watching stylists walk by. There's a guy that looks like he could be in a Japanese cartoon, and a girl with half of her hair blue, and the other half gone. But, I'm not freaking out. I don't know why. The girl behind the desk, with what looks like a green and purple porcupine on her head, calls my name. She introduces me to Medusa and I follow her obediently to her chair.

But, despite all the craziness, 99% of the time I'm 100% satisfied with the haircuts I get at hair colleges. The other 1% of the time was the time the power went out and my stylist was drunk. But, I like the color green, so it's okay.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tortoise and the Hare

I've always appreciated the morals that accompany fables like the boy who cried wolf, the ugly duckling, and the Lion and the Mouse. But, there's one fable that I've never been able to get on board with: The Tortoise and the Hare. To me it seems like "slow and steady wins the race" is too generalized. Whether the tortoise wins the race or not, depends completely on the hare. In fact, the only reason the tortoise DID win, is not because of the whole "slow and steady" thing, it's because the hare was an idiot. Because, honestly, "fast and steady" would have beat the crap out of "slow and steady," if the hare hadn't fallen asleep.

Don't get me wrong, I love the moral. I love the solid, reliability of the tortoise, and I would much sooner trust him with my life than I would the hare, but I've always found the story a tad unbelievable. Because, honestly, I don't care how slow and steady you are, when it comes down to raw ability, the hare will win every time. Slow and steady isn't what won you that race, Mr. Tortoise. You got lucky. So, stop gloating.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Life is Hard, but Beautiful

About 10 months ago I started a new life with a wonderful woman who has profoundly changed me for the better. I thought I knew what to expect when I got married, but it turns out my expectations were only a fraction of it. I guess I expected an incredible first year where we could just love each other and be best friends all the time and have fun and laugh and go on adventures and finally not have to say goodbye at the end of the night. Well, this part of my expectations was correct. But, what I didn't foresee was everything else. I consider myself a reasonable person. I knew there would be hard times, too, but I guess it's like most big challenges in life; they always end up being way harder than you could have prepared yourself for.

And honestly, sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in the responsibility of it all. I find myself wishing there was an easy way out of financial struggles, an easy way to juggle 34 hours of work a week and 12 credits in school, and still somehow find a few hours to spend with my wife in the week. A shortcut would be such a relief.

The hard truth is that, for the future I'm hoping for, shortcuts don't exist. Anything worth striving for, any dream you may have of becoming something great requires work, sometimes even pain, tears, and suffering.

Tonight, as I sat in the little room in the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, the principles of diligence and patience hit home and brought a familiar, intense understanding, the likes of which I've felt many times before. There are so many things that a person can be; so many things a person can accomplish in his or her lifetime. But the kinds of things that are actually worth being and accomplishing often take just that: a lifetime. The things that will really make you happy take work and thought and loads and loads of self-discipline. They require sacrifice.

And sacrifice, if done for the right reasons, doesn't have to be unbearable.

I guess I kind of already knew all this. I mean, I'd been told all of this. But there's a difference between being told something and learning something, and recently I feel like I've been learning. And I like learning. So give it your best shot, life.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Morning Routine

I work as an international customer service agent. And, because the Earth is round and rotates on an axis and Germany happens to be on the other side of it (thanks a lot, science), I have to get out of bed at 4:00 am every morning. Somehow, I've been doing this for 2 years now, and I consider it a miracle that I'm not brain-dead from lack of sleep. The typical morning in my apartment plays out as follows:

4:00 am: Alarm goes off, playing a simple tune that fills me with groggy confusion and mild annoyance. I reach for whatever it is that's making that sound (my cell phone), stare at the screen for a moment, trying hard to remember what I'm supposed to do now. I wish that noise would stop. I finally manage to unlock my phone and push snooze, at which point I instantly fall asleep. 

4:05 am: Alarm goes off, playing a simple tune that repeatedly pokes my brain like an annoying little kid trying to piss me off. By now I know what's going on, and I'm determined to win this little game. Snooze again, sweet relief.

4:10 am: Alarm goes off, sending me into a silent rage. I curse the world, but only in my head so I don't wake my peacefully sleeping wife. I attack the phone ferociously, accidentally knocking it off the desk. I follow it to the floor with more efficiency and determination than anything you’ll see out of me in the next 4 hours. I hit snooze, and triumphantly return to bed.

4:15 am: Alarm goes off, my eyes open slowly, and I stare at the phone. It's over. I've lost. I resign myself to this fate. I sit up, turn it off and sigh, head hanging low. Why am I awake? Because that's just the way my life is. A few sad thoughts creep into my head to match my mood, like crying kittens or three-legged puppies. When will our suffering stop, little puppy? No one knows. I slowly put on my clothes in the dark, all the while staring forlornly at the warm, empty space next to my wife. I try to make myself feel better. It's okay, I think. Maybe we'll run into each other again. It's a small apartment, after all. But I know, deep down, that we won't be seeing each other for a long time. 15 hours, at least, but it seems like an eternity.

4:30 am: I'm dressed and ready to go. I collapse on top of my wife in a sort of farewell-hug/body-slam. "I don' wanna." I mumble, my face pressed against her cheek. She just kisses me and says, "half a gouda, funny," or something, then falls back into the one thing in the world I want more than anything else at this moment. Beep. I mean Sled. I mean sleep and bed. But, alas! It is not to be. I stumble out the door, and hope I don’t fall asleep on the way to work.

4:59 am: I sprint through the doors at work, clock in, sit down at my desk, and start watching the clock. Only 2 hours and 15 minutes until my 15 minute break: a nap in the middle of a hallway on the unoccupied second floor, my coat acting as pillow and blanket. 

7:30 am: Alarm goes off. Silent fury. I curse myself for staying up so late AGAIN, and tell myself I'll be smarter next time. 

7:35 am: All is right with the world. The sun is coming out and I realize that life is good. 

11:02 pm: I make a sandwich and tell myself waking up won't be so hard tomorrow. 

I know that going to bed earlier is an easy solution, but when the time comes for me to put the solution into action, I've already forgotten there's a problem. What is this post about, again?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In which Jeff's dream of being an explorer prepares him for hobohood.

Since my wife and I moved into our apartment 8 months ago, I've begun to develop some strange habits. One of them is that everywhere I go, whether on foot or otherwise, I notice places. And by "notice" I mean look for, and by "places" I mean possible areas in which a homeless person could sleep overnight without being mugged or stepped on by another human being. Now, you might think this is kind of strange. You'd be right.

I'm not exactly sure when or why this habit of mine started.  Maybe it stems from my child-like love of exploration. I love hiking off of the designated trail just to see where I'll end up, or the idea of exploring buildings that haven't been entered in a very long time.

But, since I've gotten older and moved away from the mountains and into the city, places where no one's ever been are harder to find. They have become necessarily smaller: behind that bush in the obscure little corner of my apartment complex or that little space beneath the freeway overpass.

It must have hit me one day that these kinds of places would be perfect for homeless people or drunken/stoned teenagers, because I no longer see them as places that are "untouched" or "mysterious" but rather, a place where a person could go about his secret business without being seen; where I could potentially hide from the world if I needed to. I'll glance at a place and think, "That would provide good cover from the rain, but the ground would make for an uncomfortable sleep" or, "that corner is dark enough that people would avoid it at night, plus it's close to several food establishment, which will offer a chance to obtain sustenance."

Or course, the Boy Scout in me likes to justify this strange habit: I'm being prepared. I'm observing my surroundings and preparing myself for the moment when I'm on the run from the law after being falsely accused (boy scouts shouldn't actually do bad things) of some terrible crime, or for when I get evicted from my apartment and every family member and friend within 200 miles is on vacation at once and I have no place to stay and no money to pay for a hotel.

So, you may think this is weird, and maybe it is, but we'll see who's laughing when the sun is setting and the zombies will be out at any moment and you don't know where to go. Don't come running to me, Mr. "Normal." Seriously, don't run. You'll just attract attention to our secret hideout. Just casually approach the overpass and caw like a crow so I know it's you. We'll need to stick together if we're going to survive.