A few months ago, my parents disconnected their home phone line. When I dialed “Home” from my contact list after this had happened, I was informed by a pleasant robotic female voice that the number had been disconnected. I called my mom’s cell phone and she told me they had it disconnected because it cost too much money and it wasn’t all that necessary to keep. It all made a lot of sense.
I’ve never been much of a talker (or listener), so I almost never used the home phone growing up. I never liked answering it; I’d always try to pass it off to my mom or dad or brother when I had the misfortune of being the one closest to it when it rang. When I had to answer it or my parents made me, I would hesitantly press the green button on the phone and bring it to my ear and listen to the quiet buzzing static for a moment, then mumble a timid hello.
More recently, up until it was disconnected, the home phone was what I’d dial to check in with my parents. I’ve been in college and away from home for over two years now, so I have called the home phone quite a bit as compared to before. It was a little odd for me when I dialed Home and a cold automated voice picked up my call. Lately I’ve been thinking back on this. Somehow I’ve developed a small feeling of loss when I do. Today I discovered that I hadn’t deleted the contact “Home” from the contact list in my phone. Of course upon finding this I deleted it. It made a lot of sense.
It seems that the home phone really was a part of home for me. I didn’t feel all that attached to it, but now that it’s gone home is different. Now if I were to dial Home I would get a robot telling me Home is disconnected.
I’ve slowly been accepting that home isn’t what it used to be. Pets die, people move, furniture gets rearranged. But there’s something about “disconnecting” that bothers me. Nothing I could say to that robotic voice would get through to Home. What if I was suddenly “disconnected” from a friend? Second chances aren’t a guarantee. One moment everything is the same and your second chance waits for you to pick up that phone and the next moment it’s gone.
When those second chances are stripped from you, what can you do? Choke on all the words you should have said? Think on all those things you should or shouldn’t have cared about? Just accept it? Perhaps some people can live without second chances. Maybe they don’t believe in second chances; maybe every moment for them is all or nothing, every action a carving in stone. They are few and far between, but they’re more alive then the rest of us. They hold themselves accountable for every second they spend here and for them regret isn’t even an option. I’m not one of those people. They could even be fictional. Yet somehow I believe they’re out there. Somehow I think one of those people is hiding somewhere inside fogs of paranoia and false pride.
The key lies in these second chances we hold on to. Every opportunity should be a new one. Every second should hold a new way for your existence to leave a mark on your world and your life and those of others. You only feel these second chances creep into your conscience when your actions and thoughts lack their full integrity, when you water yourself down or just drown entirely.
The next time the phone rings, I might hesitate to answer. When I want to call someone, I might stop and think I could just do it later. It’s comfortable to live this way. And when the phone gets disconnected I’ll curse my luck and my choices and miss my second chances. But is that really living?
I think therefore I am.
Some like to say that this is all we really actually know. They say that since all of our information is given to us by our brain, we have no solid proof as to whether or not our world actually exists. Sure, we can reach out and touch something and ‘feel’ it, but all we are doing is receiving an interpretation of what our brains have received from our nerves. Who’s to say life is not an invention of the mind, that reality is as real as a dream or a nightmare?
But we think, and that means that we at least exist; we are some sort of entity with an active conscious. There is also a gut feeling we all have, something else we ‘know.’ At some moment in time, my mind, or whatever drives my conscious, will critically and absolutely fail; I will die. Being a conscious, all I have ever known is existence, so no amount of evidence or speculation will reveal to me without a doubt what will occur when this failure happens.
Maybe religion has the right way of it. Perhaps there’s some conscious greater than mine which is the origin of everything I have ever ‘known’, a conscious that created me out of its own righteous ‘goodness’, or maybe just curiosity. When the body I have been given fails, a spirit from within me will rise to meet this great thinking entity that floats outside of reality and I will be judged on the quality of this spirit or ‘soul’, which is actually me, my conscious. I will be helpless and powerless to control the fate of my after-life.
Maybe everything is in fact a dream and death will just be the end of a story. I will just be borne onto another reality or my life will repeat like a broken record, and I will never gain awareness of this. I will just go on existing and re-existing until the end of time, entirely oblivious of what is really driving my reality, if anything at all.
Maybe just before the light leaves my eyes my conscious will become acutely aware of its mortality and frantically fight to revive its dieing engine: my brain. My life will flash before my eyes and I’ll see everything I’ve experienced, every person I’ve known. But this will not last, and I will sink closer and closer to non-existence. Finally my conscious will be reduced to a child-like state, crying and crying and crying for the comfort of life or just someone I love. Then I’ll lose all grip on thought and it’ll be as if I never existed and pain and love and everything else won’t matter anymore.
I would like to hope that in my last moments my mind will cling to my conscious, that I will fall into an everlasting shelter frozen in time where I will know that I am dead, where I can reflect on my life and create any new world or scenario I care to imagine. I will be able to fondly recall everyone I have ever loved. A perfect dream. A heaven where I am my own god. Everything I could ever want.
Or perhaps it will be like dreamless sleep. I’ll close my eyes and my conscious will simply wonder off into oblivion, hoping against hope that the darkness will end and I’ll wake up to the morning sun of a fresh new day.
I should probably just stop thinking and go to bed.
There’s a certain uneasiness when you’re the only three patrons in a 24 hour establishment, watching the staff lazily clean up nearby tables or loudly wonder why you’re still there.
It’s kind of hard to ignore when you’ve been there for a good chunk of the day, shooting the breeze with a revolving door of friends that make the whole experience feel like a drawn-out talk show taking place within the confines of a restaurant booth stocked with books, board games, and various other time wasters. It’s hardly a bad thing, but suffice to say that there isn’t much to do when you’re sitting around on worn brown vinyl with literally a couple of your friends, whiling away the hours and waiting for a visit from either a somewhat irate waiter trying to close out their shift or the next in the line of visitors who decided to stop by. It’s a time to get to know someone you’ve met only hours ago. You can exchange war stories, take a walk around the parking lot to aid in digestion and prevent diabetes from setting in, or you can watch as an errant bead of syrup coalesces and hardens on the table.
And that’s exactly what we did. We talked of life, traded stories of vary degrees of hilarity, pondered pseudo-philosophical quandaries and the latest goings on while the sun was bright enough through a window to cast starkly contrasting shadows from coffee mugs. That shadow would slowly shift as the conversations progressed, partaking in the natural ebb and flow of lulls and laughter that comprises most interpersonal exchanges. The sun would listlessly progress its way across a perfectly azure sky about as listlessly as we played cards or talked about the opposite gender, all in the pursuit of some more well wasted time.
That day, for the first time in a very long while, the sky was that shade of blue that told you everything was pretty much okay. There was nary a cloud in the sky, and the wind blew in such a way that told you to at least put on a light jacket, for chrissakes. That doesn’t happen very often in this town, where the weather tends to range from “Fuck the world, It’s fucking hot!” to “Thanks Climate Change Cold” with periods of intermittent “Vaguely moist, sort of cold, and definitely dreary”. But for us, that day when it was none of the above was spent within the confines of a booth. You don’t get stir-crazy, you get bored and too full for your own good. It is, however, a perfectly novel idea and a perfectly good reason to have people visit you, which is worth the price of admission. Only the greatest of conversation can start with “So, how long have you guys been here?” or “You guys are absolutely insane.”
A twenty four hour restaurant’s name isn’t meant to be taken seriously. But I and some friends tried to take it seriously, and we almost made it. I’m going to wait for the day when I can stare down a a sign that says “Open 24 Hours!” with a stern expression and say, “That shit is completely true.”
About a few weeks ago, I made the somewhat bold statement that assumptions were mucking up the world.
I’m pretty sure the verbatim of it all involved a greater deal of profanity and the egregious use of the word “shit”, the phrases “fucked up” and “you know?” as well as the occasional tangent to “words that are fun to say” (among those, irrevocably, quasimodo, and hullabaloo). There was banter exchanged on how assumptions lead to misunderstandings which eventually lead to world conflict, which of course, leads to various degrees of a kinda-messed up world. The most distinct example I can remember was an oversimplified, most likely sort of offensive interpretation of the conflict in Israel, (very controversial, very touchy subject), tracing the roots of it to assumptions both groups made. Needless to say, I was both trying to be both incredibly stupid as well as at least a little bit insightful on the machinations of the world, and I’d hoped there was some degree of merit in what I was saying.
Probably the worst mistake someone can make is assuming everything is absolutely, perfectly normal, that everything will go perfectly, absolutely, according to plan. And this happens a lot. A few months ago, I was accused of a crime I didn’t commit. I expected, nay, I assumed that day to be over within eight hours from when I woke up, and, within nine, I would be taking some sort of nap. Things like Google Maps are freakishly useful, but as any savvy person knows, assuming that the twenty-three-minute-and-five-second route that the computer told you will take twenty-three-minute-and-five-seconds is a pretty bad idea. Sure, you can get there sooner, but you can sure as hell get to wherever you’re going an hour late. Here’s something else to consider. The mind is a sick son of a bitch, and I mean that in the best way possible. The parts of it you don’t control like to play tricks on you: hearing your name when it hasn’t been spoken, seeing a friend in someone that you don’t even know; and that is one of the main factors in the wondrous unpredictability of life. You see the traits of a close friend in a complete stranger, perhaps the hair color, tiny little idiosyncratic inflections in voice or expression or even personality if you manage to speak to the stranger, and this tells you to try and get to know them. Either way, you’ve met someone new that you otherwise wouldn’t, incited only by a tiny spark in your mind that tells you, “Why not? Looks like someone decent enough.” You assume that they’d be at least a little similar to the person they so remind you of, only to be proven so happily right or so dreadfully wrong. And there lay the crux in my neat little package of why assumptions are pretty much a hassle; though most often you’d be disproven, there are those special moments when it all turns out alright.
However, if there was one thing I’ve learned about assumptions, it’s that they make an ass out of you and me.
Let’s call this one “if pictures are worth a thousand words then consider this a photograph with a caption (an essay on missed opportunities).” I guess this means I’m taking a break from fiction? I’m not sure, yet.
“That’s a choo-choo train of death heading your way!”
In this context, that sentence, or rather, that statement, makes very little sense. It made very little sense when it was uttered a few days ago, and upon the realization that it was uttered a few days ago, I noticed that time has been going very slowly. I’ve been watching a great deal of television, lately, mainly because I finally sprung for cable and I’m slowly learning the all-encompassing benefits of a DVR, but also because there isn’t a great deal of things to do when you’re young, semi-isolated, and jobless. I’m at a juncture in my life where I can safely say there’s going to be a veritable maelstrom of change, opportunities, experiences, and all of those things that I’m supposed to talk about when interviewed by someone who could potentially offer me some sort of job or activity to while away my time with ahead of me, and all I can really think about are things that are inconsequential, minuscule. Among other things, such as the kind of food I’ll be eating tomorrow, I’ve been thinking about the opportunities that I’ve missed. Above all, those give me the most grief.
There are a few benefits to having a selectively good memory. The cons, however, include such great things as split second moments where you sit, or stand, or in rare cases, hang upside down, and are completely in the dark as to what you were doing at the moment you were sitting, standing, or hanging upside down (reading a book, talking to a friend over fresh-from-the-oven frozen pizza, partaking in Cirque Du Soleil-style acrobatics) The good parts, though, include the ability to remember precise statements and details made either in passing or in emphasis from months back. The night before I went on a road trip and permanently cementing my despise of automated calling services, I was sitting at the same computer that I am sitting at now talking, or rather, exchanging typed words with a friend I’ve known for half a decade, but have known for the better part of a few months. The conversation meandered from pleasantries to what one could vulgarly describe as some pretty heavy shit, about life, about the paths each of us were taking and so on, and so forth. I remember a certain point where we were discussing the same matter I’m trying to discuss in this post, or essay, or whatever you want to call it. There was a certain statement that stuck mainly because of its sheer blunt succinctness:
“It’s why I fucking hate child prodigies, man.”
That makes a little sense. We spend our lives trying to accomplish certain tasks, master the guitar, play a certain sport, be knowledgeable (note how I use that word and not wise; two very different things) and not only to see someone a quarter of your age do it with less time, considerably less life experience, and do it while being way, waay shorter than you. I won’t go as far to say it’s emasculating, because it is indeed a petty little hatred, but it’s understandable. (“Why, Professor Rambling Buffoon?”) It’s understandable because it brings up the fact that you could have probably been using your time for something useful, like gaining knowledge, instead of spending it with whatever “little thing” captured your attention for a good few years and distracted you from the more “important things”. It makes you, or at least, it makes me, realize the opportunities missed because of decisions, or lack thereof. It makes you think that you might have been wasting your time. Your talents.
And here we are at the point of all of this.
I told myself (and, for honesty’s sake, the person I was talking to a few hours ago) that my latest post for this blog would not talk about that fickle son of a bitch that people call “love”. However, I tend to lie. It’s a habit I’ve been slowly breaking in favor of more entertaining ways of fooling people, I promise. But let’s mention it for a smidge. I was recently in an automobile with one of my oldest, closest friends and he was telling me the tragic story of himself and the one perfect girl who was back in town for a few days and who was to leave for parts known but not much cared for, never to return again. The mind couldn’t help but wonder if there was something he missed in the past that could have led him to knowing her better, or something along those lines. The voice was quick to tell him that he should go and at least say hello to her one last time.
That’s how it goes, I suppose, with missed opportunities. There are the ones that you reflect upon in the future and kick yourself for not realizing, or, for whatever reason, didn’t take, and there are those that are rapidly approaching and demanding your immediate decision. Before I’m branded as a Captain of the Obvious, I’ll add some more. I am, in the grand scope of things, quite young. The opportunities that I look back on and explicitly say that I kick myself for not taking are comparatively petty to those that are older, more far along in their paths of life but it doesn’t stop the fact that I missed out on something nag at my general mentality. I could have spent my time with something more productive, instead of writing for my audience of few. I could have gone and done something stupid, instead of sitting around with a few others, saying stupid things. Cliche statements such as “I should have kissed her,” or, “I should have been there,” come to mind. There are things you just forget, things that just slip out of your mind, things that you assume, or hell, things that you didn’t even notice that come up later to point out the fact that you could have done more, or that you could have done things differently. But what then? There wouldn’t be a nice little memory of a funny thing your friend said; it would be replaced with something entirely different. And even then you’d think, “Man, I should have stayed back with the others instead of going off to wherever.”
It’s a fundamentally human emotion, regret.