The Moments that Define Us

I’ll always remember the Christmas we received our Nintendo 64.

There was a huge pile of presents on the couch next to the Christmas tree. I distinctly remember most of them being wrapped in red paper, but it was so long ago I can’t be sure. Anyway, we began pulling presents off the top, doling them out to everyone like we always did. Then, we moved one present and underneath a face was peering up at us. It was a cartoon face, with big blue eyes, a brown mustache, and a red plumbers hat. It was Mario.

Now, I’m pretty sure I remember what you said next:

“It’s a Nintendo! Dig faster!”  

We started throwing presents left and right until we finally unveiled the prize underneath: a brand new Nintendo 64. It included a copy of Mario 64, which I remember playing with you while we gorged on the cheddar popcorn from one of those oversized holiday tins. You were struggling with that penguin race in the arctic level. It was a Christmas to remember!

Unfortunately, I don’t remember when Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time arrived in our house and I so wish I did. That was a moment that would define the rest of my life.

The Legend of Zelda franchise shaped my childhood. I spent so much of my youth drawing fanart and trying out new games. I specifically fell in love with Majora’s Mask while I was in elementary school. My friend Shelby and I rented it from Hollywood Video and played it in her garage. It was so fun.

Sometimes I wish I had the power to step back and look at my life from start to finish. I want to step back and appreciate all the moments in my life that, at the time, seemed small, but in reality set me on a completely different course. I remember when we got the Nintendo 64, but I can’t remember the day Shelby and I walked up to Hollywood Video and it makes me a little sad.

In a previous post I mentioned that you were the one who got me into Harry Potter. I don’t remember when you brought the book to me, I just remember we were living in Vancouver and you said I should read Chamber of Secrets because I liked horror stories. Your decision to do that is the reason I’m married to Michael and, at the time, I had no idea that such a little thing was going to make such a big difference.

I vaguely remember the day my professor approached me in my college journalism class and said she wanted to put my name up for an internship with the communications department. If I hadn’t gone for it, I wouldn’t be working where I am today. That internship got me this position. What if I had decided not to go for it? What if I had decided to pursue one of the many other internship opportunities there were? Where would I be now?

Thinking about these little moments also makes me think about the decisions I’ve been making recently and I guess I would say it’s making me appreciate the present more. I want to remember the little things so that when I’m older and in a completely different place, I can remember what put me on this path.

So what are you defining moments, Dan? Can you remember the first time you rented a Mega Man game? Can you remember when you decided to pick up a pencil and start drawing?

-EMS

I’m Mostly Made of Coffee and Self Doubt

I can’t say I watch too many sitcoms nowadays. I have cable at my apartment, but most of the time I use it to watch SyFy original movies, dramas, and reality shows about animals. I absolutely love Dr. K’s Exotic Animal Vet on NatGeo, even if it gives me a mini-panic attack every time they have a ferret patient.

Anyway, I do remember watching a lot of How I Met Your Mother, My Wife and Kids, and According to Jim when we were younger. I also watch a lot of Big Bang Theory whenever I’m visiting the parents’ house, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. So many sitcoms use super dysfunctional relationships as a source of humor and it drives me up the wall. It sounds like Mike and Molly is the same way.

These last few weeks at work have been busy, so recently I’ve been watching even less television. What I have been doing is drinking a ton of coffee and taking quick naps whenever I can find the time. Nowadays I’m mostly living off of coffee, black tea, and stress, which got me thinking about how much has changed about me since I was in school.

In middle school I absolutely HATED coffee. I just hated the taste. I remember one time when I went to the mall with my friend Crystal I bought myself a vanilla frappuccino, the farthest away from coffee you can get at Starbucks, and I ended up throwing it away because it tasted too much like coffee. That’s how much I hated it. Nowadays, I can still barely finish a frappucino, but now it’s because they’re too sweet. When given the option, I go for black coffee these days. When did that change?

Oh yeah, it changed my senior year of high school when I decided to take two AP classes, I was the section leader for the trombone section in marching band, and I was in the middle of my high school exit project. That year was when I really started having late nights and that’s when I really started needing caffeine.

Previously, when I needed caffeine, I would drink Monsters, but Monsters are expensive and in between five hour band practices and massive study sessions I didn’t have the time to go to the store and buy energy drinks. But you know what was always readily available in our childhood home? Coffee.

Coffee was convenient and I just couldn’t pass it up. I would load it down with creamer and sugar so that it barely tasted like coffee, but the flavor was still there. I needed the caffeine badly so I just had to suck it up. Without coffee, I’m not sure I would’ve survived my senior year to be completely honest.

As you probably remember, I spent my first year of college living at home to save money. Well that I meant I could continue to load my coffee with the expensive creamers mom used to buy.  Creamer is so expensive! Six dollars a bottle? No thank you!

Well I finally had to address my creamer-addiction when I moved out. When I moved to Pullman, I had to foot the grocery bill and, as you probably know, food is also expensive. One of the first things to go was the expensive creamer. I decided I could make due with milk and sugar.

Over the last six years, the amount of milk and sugar I put in my coffee has dwindled. Michael and I eat too much cereal to waste milk in coffee and I’ve recently started baking so sugar has become a sacred thing. To save money and time, I just drink my coffee black. And, get this, I actually like it. There’s nothing quite like a cup of black coffee in the morning. 

It weird how much things can change. When I was little I hated coffee and beer was gross and the idea of going to bed early was repugnant. Now, those are three of my favorite things.

It’s just weird to think about, isn’t it?

-EMS  

My Definition of a Home

Our childhood home was a house in a rural neighborhood outside of Tomah, Wisconsin.  We grew up there, and while it wasn’t wildly populated, busy, or sprawling, it seemed like it encompassed my entire world.  That is why it was particularly painful for me to have to move early in the year 2000.

Until that point, my idea of a home had been “the only place I’ve ever known.”  Our home had my stuff, it had my memories, my few friends were nearby.  We grew up there, I honestly had never considered that things could possibly be different.

Living in Washington was so different I almost experienced culture shock.  Not trying to say things were harder for me than anyone else (it probably wasn’t hard for dad, he located a bowling alley the first day), but I also had to deal with a transition from elementary school to middle school.

During this time I didn’t really think of our new house as a home.  It was our house.  My home was left behind, and I’ve become some weird mullet-ed nomad (NOTE: I had a mullet).

During high school, and after I’d acclimated some to this weird crowd of kids, I had a new definition for my home.  It was my home base, my return trip, “my grand intersection in my life”.  I was busy with school, friends, clubs, girlfriends, and sometimes dealing with my sisters.  I was comfortable at my place but my new definition for home was the place that I always returned to at the end of the day.  It was my finish line.

After graduating high school I moved out with my girlfriend at the time.  We had an apartment and it was pretty cool.  I felt like a grown up.  I was paying some bills, working my job, and asking my parents to fill up my gas tank.  I mean, I was a pretty sophisticated adult.

During this period my home had become “the place I lived in.”  It was as simple as that.  My parents place was still a big intersection for the parts of my life, but now I lived elsewhere.  I had my own place, so that must be my home.

My girlfriend at the time was that type of girlfriend where she kinda, sorta, maybe made me a worse person.  She was very negative, and this negativity spilled over into my personality.  This caused me to get into a fight with our room mate.

One day while I was hard at work, because of our fight, he had his family come over and remove all of the furniture from the common areas of the apartment.  In his defense it did belong to him.

I then learned that my concept of a home could be violated.  My concept of a home could be torn down by something external.  The remainder of the time I lived there I didn’t feel safe, secure, or even comfortable because my angry roommate decided that scorched earth was better than being adult.  He had effectively come into my safe zone, and stole my soundness of mind from me.

After my girlfriend became tired with me, I had to move back into our parents house.  But I didn’t immediately become my new home.  It felt alien and cold.  I was pointedly moving back into my parents house.  I had given up my room to go have my own place.  I had established a home, and it was violated.  Its a feeling I’ll never, ever forget.

Luckily I was distracted with college.  I had classes to slack off in, and tests to ace.  My teachers were frustrated.  I was pumped.  During this time I also worked, hung out with buddies, and had another bitch girlfriend.  I still lived with the parents, and I became more comfortable.  At this time in my life my home was my “retreat.”  When I was tired, overwhelmed, stressed, mad, or sad, I could fall back to my safe zone.  I could pull back from the front lines of my life and feel like I was in a place unassailable by the world.

Right now I’m in another transition.  Things have changed.  I do not currently have a definition of home.  I would not confidently say that I have a place I call home.  This isn’t a bad thing, but for me home is a place that has been left behind, taken from me, and violated.  I’ll have to find somewhere that can be all of the previous things, but with something new.

I’m sure my next definition will have to be “where I have built my life.”

-DTM

My Quarter Life Crisis

I am a firm believer that brevity is the soul of wit. Most of my writing is short, sweet, and to the point. However, last week’s was a little too short even in my opinion because I didn’t write anything. Technically, I did end up writing something, but I completely missed the deadline therefore I will accept my punishment. I will use my wit to slay brevity and write a post that is 1,800 words or more.

Here we go.

Happy Birthday to Me

To write a long piece you have to pick a big topic and the biggest topic on my mind right now is my age. I turned 25 on Tuesday and have been joking with my coworkers for the last month that I have to gear up for my “quarter life crisis.” Of course it’s silly to think that I was going to have some type of crisis after turning 25. Nothing would change. I would feel exactly the same as I did when I was 24 and even if I was suddenly hit with this gut feeling that something needed to change, I’m young enough that it wouldn’t be entirely impossible. Quarter life crisis, what a silly idea!

Then my birthday actually came around and maybe it wasn’t such a silly idea anymore.

I wouldn’t call it a “crisis” by any means. I didn’t panic or feel trapped or scared, but I did realize that maybe it was time to start thinking about what I wanted to change in my life and where I wanted to go. It was the same level of consideration one would give to a New Year’s resolution, so don’t think I’m about to go out, buy a speed boat, and start dating people ten years younger than me. I don’t have the money for a speed boat and dating 15 year olds isn’t the best idea.

Speaking of New Year’s resolutions, I think it was a combination of turning 25 and my newfound obsession with social media celebrity, Big Cat Derek, that prompted this change. Big Cat Derek is the operations manager for the Center for Animal Rescue and Education (CARE) down in Texas and he regularly posts photos and videos of the tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, and bob cats that live at the Center. In one of his videos he was asked what his New Year’s resolution was and he said something along the lines of “I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. If I want to change something about myself, I just do it.”

His attitude about life is just one of the many reasons I am so obsessed with his social media accounts. That and the adorable noises big cats make.

Big Cat Derek’s statement, coupled with my already existing thoughts about turning 25, spurred me to really start thinking about my goals over the next year. Like I said, this is far from a crisis though so maybe a better way to describe this would be my “Year-Long Birthday Celebration.”

Let’s kick off my 25th year on this planet right.

The Plan

I’m a project manager at heart and by trade. Despite the fact my working title is science writer, I actually do a lot more than writing. I manage websites, coordinate meetings with clients, help plan events, and more. To do so much you need to be organized, which means you need a plan.

I love making plans. I adore spreadsheets, checklists, white boards, and anything else that helps you keep your thoughts in order. So of course I had to make a plan for my Year-Long Birthday Celebration.

The first step in making a plan is identifying your goals. More often than not goals aren’t measurable or actually tangible, they’re more abstract ideas that you would like to make a reality.

My goals for my 25th year are:

Be happier.

I like to think of myself as a happy person. I have a job I love, I’m happily married, I have friends I adore, and I’m financially stable. When I say I want to be happier, what I mean is be happier day-to-day. I want to easily bounce back from stressful days at work, arguments with my husband, or hard financial decisions. Carrying that stuff around with me for days can be exhausting and it’s time to change.

Be healthier.

I would not consider myself a healthy person. Yes, I run three times a week, but there’s more to being healthy than just exercise. I run, but I also skip meals, drink too much coffee, stay up too late, and go to work despite feeling sick. This is something I definitely need to work on and it will help me achieve goal one. Being happy means being healthy.

Be more ambitious.

Ever since I graduated from college I haven’t been as ambitious as I used to be. I kicked ass during my last semester of college, handling a full course load, working part-time, interning with the university communications department, and helping lead an on-campus club. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that being busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive and that you can challenge yourself without killing yourself. I want to be more ambitious this coming year, but not at the expense of goals one or two. I’ll need to work on that.

So there’s my motto for the coming year: Be happier. Be healthier. Be more ambitious.

Now, after you figure out your goals next is your actual tactics. Tactics are the measurable parts of your plan, the tangible accomplishments. I can measure my happiness or my ambition, but I can measure the steps I take to get there.

The question is, what steps should I take? I guess it all depends on what makes me happy, healthy, and ambitious.

The Things that Make Me Happy

Lots of things make me happy: reading, writing, crocheting, baking, running. playing video games, and more. However, what I want to focus on is being a happier person in general, not just how to make myself happy for an hour or two. So I have to think bigger, broader. I have to think of things like:

Stop relying on others for the things you want.

Like I said in my post about how being selfish can be selfless, sometimes you have to put yourself first. You can’t be happy if you give all of your happiness to other people. I can talk the talk when it comes to being selfish, but I just can’t seem to walk the walk. What I want to work on this year is doing more things for myself instead of waiting for people to give me things, if that makes sense. To put it in super simple terms if I want some candy, I’m going to go buy myself some candy instead of waiting for someone to decide I deserve candy. I need to start treating myself like I want to be treated.

Be more positive about my life.

It’s okay to complain about your life. If anyone ever tries to tell you to stop complaining or tries to make you feel bad by saying other people have it worse than you, you tell that person to go fuck themselves. Everyone has problems and they all suck. On the other hand being down about your life all the time can be draining and keep you from enjoying the good moments. I want to be a happier person overall so over the next year I’m going to be more mindful of how often I complain. Happier thoughts mean a happier person.

Spoil my friends and family more.

I’ve always been a giver. I like to spoil people and make them feel appreciated, but in the last few years I’ve kind of let that habit slide a bit. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own life and miss birthdays or anniversaries or just forget to show someone you care once in awhile. So I’ve decided over the next year I’m going to be more proactive about making the special people in my life feel special.

The Things that Make Me Healthier

Most people when they come up with the idea to be healthier immediately jump to exercising. I, however, already exercise on a fairly regular basis, so what can I do to be healthier? Maybe things like:

Drink more water during the day and less coffee.

Being dehydrated sucks and it makes functioning throughout the day difficult. Time to start drinking more water.

Go to bed earlier.

I haven’t had a regular bedtime since elementary school and I miss it. I want to feel well rested again.

Eat healthier and more often.

I need to stop skipping meals and eat healthier meals when I do eat. Having a donut for breakfast is okay once in awhile, but man I fall back on that option more than I care to admit.

Expand your exercise routine.

I like to run, but there’s more to the exercising world than running. I want to start lifting weights and trying different types of cardio and now’s the time to start exploring.

The Things that Make Me More Ambitious

As I said earlier being busy doesn’t equal being ambitious. Being ambitious means challenging yourself to go farther and believing that there are better things out there for you, you just have to keep looking. I want to be more ambitious about my career, about my health, and about my life in general. So to feel more ambitious I am going to:

Set running goals for myself.

Right now I can run about 5 miles without stopping. I’d like to continue to push myself and see how far I can go. Who knows, maybe there’s a marathon in my future.

Craft more.

Making things, whether it be crochet, origami, or painting, is a surefire way to feel more productive and maybe spur your creative juices.

Less time online, more time reading.

I waste way too much time on Facebook, Reddit, and Tumblr. I’d like to read more and all the time I waste on the internet would be better spent finishing my reading list.

Try more baking recipes.

I used to hate baking when I was younger. Now that I’m older I find baking to be relaxing and very productive. It falls into the same category as crafting more. It just makes you feel productive.

Look for more avenues to continue my education.

As I said I’m happy with my job, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more out there for me. There are so many doors left for me to open and one way to begin opening doors is to continue my education. And there’s no better time to start than now. I don’t have any children and I work for a university that will give me a tuition discount. Better get on this now before it’s too late!

So there you go, those are my goals for my 25th year on this planet. I’ve spent a quarter of a century on this planet and would like to make some changes now before I’m halfway through this century and actually have a midlife crisis. It’s hard to suddenly realize you want things to change if you’ve been addressing your wants all along. Who knows, maybe I’ll do a Year-Long Birthday Celebration plan every year. Then again, I don’t need to use my birthday as an excuse to make changes so maybe this plan with turn into a living document that changes and updates with me. My own personal constitution.

Wow! Where in the world did my train of thought go? See? This is why I enjoy brief posts, this one turned into a ramble pretty quickly. I started out beautiful a poetic and ended up blabbering about baking an exercise. But there you go Daniel, I used my wit to slay brevity and ended up well over the requested 1,800.

Enjoy reading this 2,000 word post.

-EMS

Overwhelmed by What I Want to Learn

I really enjoyed your post about acting on impulse.  I feel its a lesser known wisdom that people don’t take advantage of more often.  Being an artist I work on deadlines that are sometimes absurd.  In this line of work, sometimes you need to grab whatever appears to you first and just sprint.  The toughest part is learning to ignore or overtake your doubt.

You were a pretty studious and organized kid.  It was the family joke for a while that you don’t actually need friends or loved ones as long as you have books!  Hilarious!

Then you got married and we all had to begrudgingly shut up.

As for me as a kid, I was definitely distracted.  I wasn’t a bad student, or a bad kid, or even just unfocused.  I use the word distracted because I spent a lot of time and energy finding and utilizing the path of least resistance.  I had other priorities!  There were like, video games to play, Thundercats to watch, and weekends to look forward to!  Who on earth has time for reading, school, books, and planners?

I got middling grades throughout elementary, middle, and high school.  Even the first half of college I spent a lot of time just treading water.  Not really falling behind, and never really sprinting for any finish line.  I didn’t want to fail, but I didn’t care enough to get that A.

And now, long after school is over and college is finished, I kinda, sorta, maybe resent my past self.

Its really unfair and unrealistic to expect a kid to try and please their future selves.  It takes away from being a kid.  We’ll blame the parents for this one.  But looking back I skipped a lot of interesting classes and picked easier topics so I had more time for dumb things in my evening, like bad girlfriends and Kingdom Hearts.

I’m a 3D artist, and as any artist can tell you there are always more techniques to learn and skills to practice.  I’m also a college graduate, and as any college graduate can tell you, you almost never learn as much as you needed or wanted to.

So now I’m an adult and now I have found the drive to not tread water, but to run and climb the enormous mountain of stuff I need to learn.  Not even need, I want to learn.

There is a list of crap I can list for what I want to learn in 3D.  I’d list it all here but it’ll seem like I’m picking words out of the dictionary and turning them into verbs.  I need to learn to skin, rig, deform, animate, bake normals and all sorts of other stuff.  The techniques I use in my work are what I found work the best in my workflow, and that is fine!  But I watch movies like How to Train Your Dragon and Ratatouille and I can only think to myself “I want to learn how to do that!  I want to tour these places and work with them to create amazing things!”

Meanwhile I’m building just an insurmountable amount of store fixtures.  I’ve made so many fixtures that they could fill a Wal-mart.  I’ve built the fixtures that actually belong in a Wal-mart.  That’s how my cover letter would go:

Dear Dean Dublois,

I heard that How to Train Your Dragon 3 was announced and I want to be an artist working on the movie.  If you have need of someone to create, say, a Wal-mart full of store fixtures for your movie about vikings and dragons, I am your guy!

Regards,

Daniel

I want to create these amazing things!  I already get to create super cool designs for specialty sports stores and those are cool, but I could make Toothless.  The big problem is that I don’t know how.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I’m doing in my career, but I think it’s human nature to want more.

And this is just my rant about my career!  There is so much about the world I just don’t understand.  And I’m trying to learn!

Seriously though, I didn’t understand the financial crisis in Greece, and I don’t understand the refugee problem in Syria and Europe.  Why did we go to war in Iraq?  People try and give these things really succinct causes and effects but the reality is that humans simplify because generally they are too large to fathom.

I fundamentally don’t understand the pros and cons of immigration in America.  I live here.  I should know, shouldn’t I?  Politics, man.  That’s its own little wormhole.  The police situations in Ferguson and other similar situations.  The internet and the media hype it, but is there a bias?  Am I getting the whole story?

If only we had some sort of institution in place that would educate a kid from age 6 to 18 about all the goings on in the world.  Man that would be handy.

I want to be well educated individual.  I don’t want to be manipulated by bias and agenda.  I don’t necessarily believe that everything is trying to trick me, but I think there is value on being able to teach myself and form my own unique opinions and ideas.

Its just so much.  Its so intimidating.

I’d better go relax myself by playing games, watching Thundercats, and thinking about the weekend.

-DTM