When Your College Roommate from Nearly 16 Years Ago Reaches Out to You to Tell You He’ll Be Visiting in Nashville and You Actually Meet Up

I live in the Nashville, Tennessee area. I will occasionally see on Facebook or Instagram where people I went to college with were recently here and I’ll think, “I wish I would have known they were coming. I would have tried to meet up with them!” Perhaps too, it’s that people I knew from my twenties don’t realize I’ve lived here since 2005.

After all, Nashville truly is a cool city. Having just watched both seasons of Netflix’s Master of None in less than 7 days, I am freshly familiar with there even being a pivotal episode named after the city and that was filmed in the iconic spots downtown.

A month ago, I received a message from my college roommate from Liberty University from the 2002-2003 school year. It was Chris Haley, who introduced me to the concept that the state of Delaware actually exists, with its “no sales tax” and just 3 counties. (I visited his family one weekend with a car load of other students.)

He informed me his wife’s friend would be getting married in Nashville, and having learned that I became a stay-at-home dad 6 months ago, he figured I might be able to find a way to actually meet up. He was correct.

So this morning, we met at Legacy Coffee Co. and had a great time. I even talked him into being a special guest star on my YouTube channel with nearly 4,000 subscribers.

Back when we first met in Dorm 15 at Liberty University in the fall of 2002, he was 17 and I was 21.

Something we talked about today is just how much you don’t know about anything when you’re that age. So it’s really interesting to see how much we’ve changed, now that we’re ages 33 and 36 (though I turn 37 in a week).

What we learned is that despite not being around each other in about 15 years, after having lived in very close quarters for that entire year, was that we actually grew more alike having been apart so long.

We both are proud Libertarians now. And we both love playing our Martin guitars.

Of course I couldn’t not bring up that (in)famous picture from 2002 where, as a joke, he bought a fake silver shirt and fake leather pants and wore them at an event at our college. For the rest of the year, people who had figured out he was my roommate would come up to me and ask, “Was he serious about those clothes?”

I always loved to respond, “I’m not really sure…”

So yeah, it’s a pretty cool thing when you make plans to catch up with someone from back in the days when Creed and Nickelback were still kind of cool, and then you actually catch up with that person, and you genuinely have a great time.

And selfishly, I’ll admit as a stay-at-home dad, it was nice getting out of the house and hanging out with another guy!

Advertisements

I am Not Returning My Diploma to Liberty University, Nor Did I Vote for Trump

Perhaps the truly most rebellious stance to have these days is to be neutral… about anything. We live in an undeniably polarized culture where being “outraged” by the behavior of other people is all the rage.

Meanwhile, my goal is to remove myself from a predictable system where I am forced to choose one side (and their ethnocentric agenda), then demonize the other side (along with their own ethnocentric agenda). I refuse to maintain a mindset in which I have to constantly have an emotional response ready for the half of the population…. who is perceptually wrong.

In case you are unaware, a growing number of Liberty University graduates are choosing to return their diplomas to Liberty University, on the basis that the current chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., has been openly supportive of controversial President Trump’s policies and responses.

The “Return Your Diploma to LU” movement, which currently contains more than 700 members, even has its own hashtag; which is #grandstander.

This is a buzzing story.

Journalists from secular publications have been quick to reach out to the members of the group. I know this because I’ve been keeping up with the comments on the closed group.

Meanwhile, I personally am proud to have graduated from Liberty University in 2005 with an English Degree. My attendance at Liberty University helped shape my views, my identity, and my future. I am proud, not ashamed, of my diploma from Liberty University.

Of all ironies though, the fact I did not vote for Donald Trump goes back to Dorm 15 at Liberty University back in 2003. It was during my years at LU that I secretly converted from a Republican to a Libertarian.

My friend Ryan, who lived in the dorm room next to mine, was able to convince me through his emotional intelligence, that America will only continue to be more divided and polarized if we continue to only choose one of two popular political sides (with its own non-negotiable agenda), opposed to the other side.

I do not condemn anyone participating in the “Return Your Diploma to LU”.

Nor did I actively support President Trump being elected; in fact, it was during my attendance at Liberty University that I retired my allegiance to the Republican Party.

But who knows, maybe had I not gone to Liberty University, I would still be a Republican today and would have voted for Trump?

Maybe the ultimately irony, though, is that in my attempt to remain neutral in a polarized society, I could still end up causing someone to be outraged.

 

 

Movie Guy, at Your Service: The Social Network (Plus, Which Actors are Jewish)

Why this movie guy proclaims it to be “Movie of the Year”.

I am extremely picky when it comes to movies.  Extremely. Very seldom do I finish seeing a movie and say, “There’s nothing they could have done to make that any better.  It was perfect.”  But that’s what I said to my wife as I left the cinema on Saturday afternoon after seeing The Social Network.

For a person who hasn’t seen The Social Network yet, and especially for a person who hasn’t even seen a preview for it either, it would be easy to think of it as Facebook: The Movie, some light-hearted movie about how facebook got started.  Fortunately, the movie’s title doesn’t contain the word “facebook” in it.  “The Social Network” is the best possible title because the film retraces all of the random people it took to invent, expand, sustain, and make a confirmed success out of the website.

I always assumed that Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg himself was the responsible for it all.  Played by Jesse Eisenberg, facebook creator Zuckerberg comes across as an obsessed college student with Aspergers (he’s just extremely intelligent, instead), so consumed with his website idea that despite making facebook about socializing with people, that his last concern in the world is actually having real friends.

It’s interesting to see how Zuckerberg journeys through the entire movie, constantly finding ways to improve facebook, plowing through real-life friends along the way, collecting and adding their ideas to his growing snowball of a website.  I had no idea that Napster creator Sean Parker, cleverly portrayed by Justin Timberlake, at one time played an important part in it all.

A key factor in The Social Network‘s success is its dark and sophisticated tone. It’s not just Trent Reznor’s musical contributions going on in the background.  I can confidently state that the movie can’t be described as “fun” or “trendy”.  It’s not quirky in the ways that made Garden State a comedy as well as a drama.  The Social Network is simply just a drama, but an infectiously interesting one.  I was impressed how they could fit the coolness of an R-rated movie into the limitations of a PG-13 rating.

When the movie ended, I came to terms with the fact there was no real climax or truly resolvable plot… just like facebook.  In the movie, Zuckerberg compares facebook to fashion, in that it never ends.  The Social Network, from start to finish, is an ongoing, constantly evolving entity.  For me, the whole movie was a continual plot line and climax. This offbeat formula captures the idea of facebook so well.

For me to say that The Social Network is the movie of the year is to say that it’s better than Inception.  So just to be clear, for me, it was better than Inception. My guess is that most people who have seen both movies will disagree with me. But the cultural relevance, perfectly executed acting, and snappy pace of The Social Network kept my mind from ever wandering.  And in age where things like facebook only encourage ADHD behavior, a movie that can keep my attention for a solid two hours and one minute deserves a prize for that alone.

Ethnic Backgrounds of the Main Cast

The Real Mark Zuckerberg

 

Major Nerds and Super Geeks: We Become Specialists in What We are Naturally Good At and Love to Do Anyway

In order to be cool these days, you have to embrace your inner dork.

By a college student’s junior year at a large university, there is no denying what he or she is majoring in.  Because by that point, there are certain undeniable quirks which have been weaved into the way they speak, how they spend their free time, or most importantly, who their friends are.  So when I chose the term “Major Nerds” as part of the title for this, it’s a play on words with a dual meaning like the classic TV show “Family Matters”.  It seemed to me that while in I was in college, a student became a nerd or a geek for whatever their college major was.

For me, the easiest ones to spot were the drama majors.  When a drama major walked into a room, they basically sang everything they said.  Their private conversations were never private; instead, everyone else in the room was an audience member for their traveling play production.  Of course they were also some of the most sincere and friendliest I knew in college.  Or were they just acting?  I guess I’ll never know.

I earned my degree from Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world.  So it’s no surprise that in addition to every typical degree you could think of, they had a few peculiar options as well.  In particular, I’m thinking about the Worship majors.  These were the students planning a career in leading worship music at large churches… I guess.  Because every time you saw them, they were carrying a guitar playing “Shout to the Lord”, somewhat successfully drawing in a crowd of people singing along.

And if they weren’t doing that, they were inviting people to their “Night of Praise”: As part of their graduation requirements, the Worship majors had to entice an audience to come to a worship service in which the Worship major ran the thing.  For me, it was the most random thing someone could major in at our college.  I just couldn’t understand why a person would be willing to limit or brand themselves with such a specific degree.

What if after a few years of leading worship at a church, they decide they’d rather work in a bank?  And during the job interview, the employer says to them, “So, I see you have a college degree in… worship?”  And too, it’s just a weird concept to me that a person has to learn to worship God or lead others in worshipping God.  It makes sense, but also, like I told my friend James Campbell, whom I recently lost contact with because he evidently “quit” facebook: “Is that really something that you have to be taught?  Isn’t that comparable to having to take a class on ‘how to make love’?”

Then again, I’m not the one who feels I was called by God to work in the ministry.  So of course I can’t relate.  As for me, as if it wasn’t blatantly obvious, I was an English major.  To caricature us, I would say we were a strange hybrid: Decently liberal and very artistic on the inside, yet pretty conservative and sophisticated on the outside.  In other words, baby Literature professors in training.

Our heads were in the clouds, yet our feet were on the ground.  We were trained to dissect and diagram every situation into literary components; we were the Grammar Police to our dorm mates (see I am the Human Spell Check).  We were the only students who actually enjoyed writing papers.  In fact, I didn’t start out as an English major- I became one my junior year when I realized that if I enjoyed writing term papers, and all my friends came to me to proofread theirs, that maybe I should stop looking at some big dream of a career and just to what came easy to begin with.

And though those last two paragraphs about English majors were written in past tense, I can’t say that any of those characteristics about me have changed, simply because I graduated.  In fact, they’ve only increased in intensity.  In my office, I’m still the guy people come to when they need a letter written or an important e-mail proofread.  Obviously, I still enjoy writing- you know, hence the website and everything.

And really, that’s the way it works.  Most people end up majoring in whatever comes most natural for them anyway, for however they are wired.  Is it true that Finance and Accounting majors love working with numbers?  Sure, but it also comes easier for them then it would for me.  We all still like being challenged in our particular field.  When we can succeed in the difficult tasks of our specialty, it furthers us in becoming a locally recognized expert, equipped with knowledge and experience that impresses and possibly intimidates those who in different fields than we are.

I can tell you why the “k” in knife is silent and I can spell any word correctly without thinking about it, but I can’t do numbers.  I can’t do science.  Nor am I a computer whiz.  There are so many things I’m not good at and that I know little to nothing about.  But when it comes to the English language, literature, creative writing, and any kind of written communication in general, I’m your guy.  In other words, I was an English major nerd.  And always will be.

I use the word “nerd”, but I could say “expert”, or “go-to-guy”, or “whiz”, or even “buff”.  It’s all the same.  We all like to be good at something.  And when we can, we like to THE person for our niche.  Which often means we all have a bit of quirkiness attached to us.  Everyone’s at least a little weird.   Even the people we think who are the most normal.

The Naked in Public Dream: Subconsciously Feeling Vulnerable, Underprepared, or Inadequate

You’re not the only one.

I have a rare ability.  When in a dream that I don’t want to be in, I often can tell myself, “This is a stupid dream.  You don’t have to keep dreaming this.  Just wake up”. And I do.  I wake up.  Usually.

Waking myself up is the easy part; the hard thing to do is to realize it’s actually just a dream.  And there are two dreams in which I never seem to realize it’s all my imagination.  1) I’m back in high school or college and I’m about to graduate, then I realize I was scheduled for a class that I forgot about and never went to, meaning I can’t graduate on time.  2) I’m naked in public.

Of course, the classic “naked in public” dream is quite popular among the general population.  Supposedly the dream means the person feels vulnerable and may be afraid that everyone will see that person for their true self.

Do I feel vulnerable?  Do I feel afraid everyone will see me for my true self?

I guess if anyone might feel vulnerable it could be me, since I’ve been journaling my life on the Internet for five years now (first on MySpace, then on facebook, now on here).  That’s a vulnerable situation.  I could unintentionally offend a reader, or embarrass myself by exposing too much about my personal life.  But as far as I know, I am indeed exposing my true self to people.  If not, this whole website is a sham.

A whole website which generally 400 to 500 people a day visit.  If all my writings are written from the perspective of a person I wished I was, instead of who I really am, then I am impressed.  Because that means I am talented enough to write daily from a created character’s narrative perspective, not my own.  Like the plot of Fight Club, or the dumbed-down version: Secret Window.

While it’s easy to feel frantic in a “naked in public” dream, it’s also easy to laugh once you wake up.  Because from a logical point of view, like many dreams, the chances of the events of the dream ever happening are so impractical that they’re basically impossible.

The question I never asked myself in the naked in public dream is, most importantly, “how did I lose my clothes anyway?”

Often I am at my old elementary school (as a grown 29 year-old man).  Conveniently, no one else seems to care that I am naked, covering myself with whatever random object I can pick up off the ground.  And that’s supposed to mean that I don’t care about people seeing me for who I really am, including all my personalities.  That must be true, since I’ve written about that exact topic before in The Personality Pyramid, which is currently my 10th most popular post of the 310 on this site.

Seriously, it’s not easy to lose your close in a public place, and then have no one notice or care.  When I have these dreams, I’m not victim of violence.  I just simply flat out lost my clothes in public.

But I imagine that in real life if I ever took off my clothes (or they just took themselves off) in public, and couldn’t find new ones, I would gladly settle for one of those barrels with straps to go over my shoulders.  I always thought those looked cool.  The problem is, I only see them in caricatures or cartoons.

If I wanted to buy a wearable barrel with shoulder straps, where would I begin?

If I could get a barrel or normal clothes when naked in public, I would settle for a long black trench coat.  Because I would already be creepy for being irresponsible enough to lose my clothes in public, I might as play the full part.  Then I could only expose myself to people who deserved it:

People talking loudly in public on their Blue Tooths.

http://www.meaningofdreams.org/dream_themes/beingnakeddreams.htm

Adventures in Thailand: Live Monkey Show

Everybody’s got something to hide, except me and my monkey.

After our curiosity was peaked from seeing several signs for “live monkey shows” while driving motorcycles through the mountain city of Chiang Mai, Thailand (during the summer of 2004), my college roommate Josh and I decided to drive further up the mountain to put ourselves in a vulnerable situation: to venture into whatever a live monkey show was, up in an isolated village where we were indeed the only “white people”  (or “farang”, as the Thai natives called us, which simply translates “foreigner”) for possibly hundreds of miles.

The anticipation rose in my mind like the dust on the unpaved road leading the site, having just turned at a hand-painted wooden sign with a picture of a monkey putting his hand in a jar with the words “LIVE MONKEY SHOW”.  I imagined a sort of a toned-down Floridian Sea World time of venue, with possibly even a hundred people in the audience with us, as was the case with the live elephant show we saw (where the elephants played soccer and painted pictures).

We cautiously marched up to the front window.  With the ticket girl basically speaking no English whatsoever, she called out the manager to help answer the question, “How much does this cost?”  We were expecting around $5 per person, based on the elephant show price we paid earlier.  Instead, he grunts to us, “Ten dollars per person”.  While that may not seem like a lot in America, that’s more like fifty dollars in the U.S.

I began walking away, only half-way caring about seeing the show, partly out of the mindset: “What are we getting ourselves into, anyway?”  Josh stayed behind as the Thai man was eager to negotiate a better price.  It worked.  We got in for $4 per person.

We hesitantly paid our dues and asked if we were late or early for the next show.  The man’s response: “On time.  Show begin soon.”  He smiled.  We walk in.

Cement bleachers.  Enough seating for about 5o people.  And there was only one other person sitting there with us in the audience.  A Thai guy.

We looked around for signs of activity.  About twenty feet in front of us (we were setting about halfway towards the back of the venue) was the flat cement “stage” and a Thai girl standing, happy to be there, looking at us.  By the time I had the chance to say to Josh, “So we must be pretty early, huh?”, the other audience member began walking up to the stage.

The Thai girl simply said, “Welcome… to live monkey show.”  Then the Thai guy who was just moments ago a fellow audience member, was indeed the show’s leader.  He brought out a monkey.  An impressively trained monkey, who did push-ups, sit-ups, could find the hidden key in one of five cups turned upside down and rearranged, and who dove off a small diving board into a miniature pool of water to find a coin, sometimes while blind-folded.

Of course, to make sure it would become a memory we would not forget, we both had the chance to become “volunteers” to help in the act.  It’s the only time I’ve ever had a monkey in my lap.  Fortunately, he didn’t bite me.

After forty-five minutes of live monkey antics, the show was over.  We knew this when the Thai girl walked back up to the stage and said, “Thank you” and did her Thai bow to us.  Then she walked back to the ticket booth, returning to her other job.

So that’s a Thai live monkey show.  The Thai guy who runs the place serves as an audience member and ring leader, and the Thai girl is the ticket booth operator and announcer.  And a trained monkey with a metal shackle on his foot is the star of the show.  And evidently, two white guys sitting in the bleachers constitutes as a full audience.

When does the live monkey show begin?

As soon as you show up.


Being Your Own Life Coach

Some people hire life coaches; the rest of us keep that kind of stuff in the closet, serving as our own life coaches, with a little help from the model citizen.

What is a model?  My definition: the best case scenario.  Something we’re least likely to exactly duplicate, yet it’s a poster we hang up in the back of our mind to inspire us, whether it’s of a person or simply an abstract idea.

And in the process of possibly never reaching that near-impossible goal, the irony is that we likely become the model for someone else.  And I must strip away any emotion or sentimentality that may try to attach itself to this idea.  I must erase any memory of some lame e-mail forward I received in 2001 that said, “To the world, you may not be anyone.  But to one person, you may be the world,” complete with a picture of a glossy, sparkly kitten with angel wings.

Simply put, I have “life models” that I keep track of.  I always have.

The guy friends I wanted to be like in college, the ones that appeared confident, yet not cocky, the ones that were gentlemen, not agenda-minded tools, those people life models to me several years ago.  While holding true to myself, I took special notice of their demeanor, behavior, and actions and made then my own.

And it worked.  Without directly knowing it, they helped shape me into the guy I needed to become, the guy that would later be able to captivate the attention and affection of the girl that previously I wouldn’t have been able to; that being my wife, of course.

By keeping watch of several life models (as I still continue to do, especially now specifically of other young fathers) I in turn become a better person.  Because I surely don’t mature and advance in life simply by my own direction.

Who are these life models I collect in my mind?  To anyone else, they appear as average-looking people with no attention-grabbing talents or obvious life accomplishments.  But when I think of them, as they serve as motivation to get me through any major or mundane task, I think to myself, “If they can do it, so can I”.