On his auspicious return

•January 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Fast forward to 2013. There’s something about every New Year’s Day that affords me an extra margin of vision. Let’s be brave, focused, disciplined and forgiving. Let’s accept that I already have everything I need to fix my handful of small problems. Let’s recognize and celebrate wholeness, which has always existed. And maybe let’s stop being so insufferably neurotic.

Well, hello.


The lustre of youth, the ocean at my feet

•December 31, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The pre-Christmas drive back to Chicago was without incident. I committed a rare act of wisdom and took the southern Kansas-Missouri-diagonal-thru-Illinois route, which was dry and sunny, with snow and treachery appearing later, at about Bloomington, IL, only 2 hours from my destination. All told, this decision added 140 miles to my trip, but was totally justified given the cold and snowy roads on my usual northerly route.

Arriving home, the first order of business was – well, to eat. A lot. You cannot understand the fervor with which my mom feeds guests in her home, especially when it comes to her sons, and – as I can only imagine – even moreso when it comes to her 1000-mile-away son. Simply amazing and wonderful, yet at the same time numbingly dangerous and sinful, technically.

At any rate, the intended first order of business was to finish some revisions to a paper draft I’d been working on, which happened over the course of two mornings at local strip mall coffeeshops. Remember folks, this is the Chicago suburbs. Then there was the Christmas shopping I’d yet to do, and more strip malls. All purchasing was executed within the famed four corners of 75th and Main/Lemont in Darien, IL. The hairiest of it involved the acquisition of materials for a crafty shadow box thing I made for my nephew, involving 1) the shadow box, 2) a bunch of scrapbooking and calligraphy items I dare not mention, 3) a blank CD and 3) a song I’d written for the little guy, recorded with my band here in Denver, backed with an alternate, jangly, acoustic version featuring myself and singers Emily and Jenn, all in a real studio with a real engineer. Spent an entire evening on the final, physical product, mostly on perfecting my penmanship.

Christmas Eve was tame. Now that my brother has a family of his own, we get a full house only on Christmas Day. So the night before, it’s me and my folks bumming around, watching James Bond movies. Kind of nice, in that slovenly, gluttonous kind of way. On Christmas Day proper arrived my fantastic 20-month-old nephew, as well as my younger cousins. Pretty golden and blissful, albeit eye-opening in terms of life events and the family dynamic. I’m taking the opportunity to reflect on issues related to the family, and my role in it – as it is easy for me to blow off such things given the geographic distance I place between us. I’m learning, clumsily, that there is yet much room for kindness and understanding – especially when such brief visits home demand that I make things really count while I’m there. Far too easy to fall back into the trappings of adolescent detachment and disdain, back in that old house, sleeping in that same old bedroom. How lame.

But there’s also a joyful side to being reminded of oneself. On this trip, I had my own car, meaning I was completely mobile and able to roam Greater Chicagoland freely. Uncharacteristically seizing the opportunity, I set out for drinks with a cast that spanned my entire adolescence and adulthood: in the city with my junior high best friend; in the suburbs with high school folks I’d not seen in years, as well as the ones I usually keep track of; and then all over to see old college roommates and our associated cohorts and comrades. Kee-rist, I even drove down to Indianapolis to spend an evening catching up with a dear grad school friend, with whom I’d lost all contact since leaving there 7 years ago. In turn, each of these fine people afforded me glimpses of myself in more optimistic and innocent times. Yet, I am still very much the person they knew back in the day, and in these reconnections are glints of my own optimism and innocence, still vibrant and true. Renewal.

Often I’ll get to thinking that I’ve managed to spread myself too thin, without having much to show for it in the way of…well, accomplishments. While others have taken what they had going for them, and dived into one tidepool or another, I’ve chosen instead to comb the long shoreline, knowing that the sea exists, but failing to recognize it. Has the lustre of youth given way to a dull and silent agnosia? And is this confusion merely the logical outcome of an elegant self-sabotage?

But that’s the good thing about renewal: such questions are rendered meaningless. What, really, did I learn my from my visit home? Not sure, but perhaps it’s better to talk about the things that I really liked about it: that I was reminded of myself, perfect in my many flaws, and that I am indeed alive, which means anything’s possible.

A new year is about to start, and it’s looking like I’ll welcome it alone. But I’ll do so feeling a bit more whole than I have in recent times. I begin to remember myself, just as the ignorant beachcomber is reminded of the living sea beneath his nose. And maybe – this fine, new year – maybe someone shall love me for it.



•December 15, 2008 • 1 Comment

Apologies for this way tardy update: it’s done. The thesis defense last month was an oddly pleasant experience and the committee passed me with a handful of revisions to the paper. They asked a few tough methodological questions, which I handled decently enough, and – in the end  – they were rather complimentary of the biostatistical and data managerial depths I went to for this project, as well as the off-the-cuff handling of the epidemiology quiz questions thrown my way. Thanks, all, for your support during this angst-ridden and overdrawn process. Perhaps, now, when you ask me how I’m doing, you’ll hear something else come out of my mouth besides, “Oh, school stuff…” – like maybe, “Oh, job hunting stuff…”

Anyway, since the defense I’ve been spending a lot of time with friends, and with my damnself, reflecting on a few things. The upshot of which is something I’ll now refer to as resigned optimism, which should be distinguished from the cautious and blind varieties of optimism. Resigned optimism, as I’m experiencing it so far, has to do with exhausting your reserves of doubt to the point of accepting optimism as one would accept death. Hit me, Dr. Kübler-Ross:

  1. Denial – “There’s no way I’ll fashion a satisfying career out of these two mildly related master’s degrees.”
  2. Anger – “WTF, optimism? I’m in my mid-30’s and I’m STILL talking about fashioning a career!”
  3. Bargaining – “Okay, just let me devote a couple more years to finishing that doctorate I started 10 years ago, then it’s back into the doubt-free pipeline!”
  4. Depression – “What’s the point, expectations are premeditated disappointments.”
  5. Acceptance – “Maaaaan, if I can’t carve out some awesomeness for myself, I’m truly a moron.”

I guess that last one assumes that I don’t really think I’m such a moron. Certainly, I criticize myself for a lot, but it might be a stretch for me to adopt ‘true moron’ as a personality characteristic. Errrr, how about I close out with another list.

Ten things that have made post-thesis resigned optimism all that much better:

  1. Amazing night of bad sweaters and acoustic music with extended band family
  2. Another great Thanksgiving weekend in L.A. with Jeff and Liz involving late evening gang-walk of Hollywood Hills, Brazilian lunch next to Casey Affleck, Venice Beach clusterfugg, my first Wii-ing, and hysterical pictionaries
  3. Insanely fun rehearsals and bombastic performance with Andrew, Trevor and Colin as backing music for local fashion show
  4. Re: local fashion show, being amongst some beautiful hipsters for a night of laughter, flirting and escapism
  5. Finally figuring out how to get my ailing bass rig to sound good (i.e., put a good speaker in the old cabinet, ignore the impedance ratings and let it roll)
  6. Driving stick in my German automobile (hecho en Mexico)
  7. The internet: streaming TV, epidemiology/statistics/science writing blogs, Huffingtonpost, Slate, Economist, New Republic, BoingBoing, Lifehacker and associated Gawkery, FunnyOrDie, the Onion…
  8. The return of lost roommates and felines
  9. Movie nights, beautiful friends
  10. Feeling like myself again

Not bad; I can think of worse ways to close out the year. In store the holidays: road trip to my homeland, Blagojevich territory, for nephew-time and old friends.


On feeling like all that education was worth it

•November 18, 2008 • 2 Comments

I’m defending my thesis next week. And though I can have only a measure of confidence about its outcome, I’m more certain that any remaining analyses and revisions to my paper, from this point forward, will be done little more lightness, and little more breath. The job hunt has begun; so for posterity’s sake, allow me to make another list:

Things that really should be part of my next work situation

  • More reading, analysis and writing
  • Less computing and data managing
  • Social value
  • At least as much time spent working with people as is spent in front of a computer
  • The absence of others doing the same job, but with way fewer credentials
  • Being sent places to talk about the work we do, and to learn about the work of others
  • Some meaningful supervisory duties
  • A hot salary and benefits
  • Some sort of realistic career advancement infrastructure

Oh, and a couple of things that would be nice, but are not absolutely necessary…

  • Funny, smart, loud people
  • And more dudes…who are somewhat close to my age
  • International travel
  • Not a cubicle farm
  • Some sort of realistic career advancement infrastructure…that doesn’t involve going to school AGAIN

And a couple of things that are likely in my head…like

  • Knowing I’m not too old to be where I’m at
  • Feeling like all that education was worth it

Let’s just see.


The Class of ’92

•October 25, 2008 • 3 Comments

A confluence of high school friends online lately. It’s comforting to see how established and stable everyone seems to be as adults. There are teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, businessmen, parents, husbands, wives and the like. There are even a couple of rogue single people. Hot stuff! Also, that thing I’d expected where everyone evolved wholesale into overweight, complacent and unhappy adults, to the best of my knowledge, did not happen – thank goodness – preserving the overall soulfulness of my cohort. Used to be that I thought I was born a year too early. That there was a pronounced generational rift between people my age, and those just one year younger than me. That a snapshot taken today would depict the former as resigned, clock-punching suburbanites, and the latter as vibrant, clever adventurers. I hypothesized some sort of cultural, technological, and likely spiritual split that somehow placed itself definitively between classes of ’92 and ’93 nationwide. And though I suspected such a dichotomy to be grossly oversimplified, which it is, I never really sought to refute it. Perhaps my problem was – and is – that I just don’t hang out with enough people my own age.

Yes, then there’s me: over-educated, under-experienced, and ever so slightly out-of-focus. Nevertheless, I can say in earnest that I’m satisfied with the kind of person I’ve become, which is no small thing given the state of affairs back in 1992. Back then, there was certainly much potential, but there was also a complete lack of identity and vision, which I’ve often attributed to the distraction of an unwelcome betrothal. Easy for me to blame it all on a girl, right? At the very least, I can say the dynamics of that doomed relationship set in place some strange cognitive and emotional barriers that took me far too long to clear away. Lesson learned.

For my part, I’m working once again, this time as an epidemiologist for the state. A two-month period of joblessness afforded me the time to finish my thesis analysis and do the bulk of the necessary writing. The layoff, really, was a blessing. My previous job, while gainful and often challenging, distracted me from the mantle of ‘radical careerist’ I’d ostensibly taken up when I decided to obtain these various graduate degrees (this is bit of revisionist history, but indulge me for the moment). Turns out I needed something to cleanse the palate, as it were. So here I am, thinking of crosshairs and big game. And getting down with remembering how dangerous I am when I’m focused.

So it is with both great nostalgia and anticipation that I welcome old friends back into my daily consciousness, because they remind me that the 18-year-old me has some unfinished business.

Go Hornets!


p.s. A fall afternoon at home in Colorado beats just about anything.

Dream: the ticket

•July 8, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I was with my ex on the grounds of a large private estate, near a concert venue. Some other people were wandering about, but we were alone, for the most part. So she confided in me about something distressing about her current life (I can’t remember what) and, sobbing, crept into my arms to be comforted – which never happened in the real world. This made me fall back in love with her. Suddenly, it was time for the group to board a shuttle to go the show, but I could not find our tickets. Searching frantically among my belongings in one of the rooms inside, I found only one and ran outside to give it to her. She took it from me, but handed it to a nearby stranger who did not have his own, saying that she wanted to stay there with me.


July is a pivot

•July 2, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In store for July 2008:

  • Completion of thesis data analyses
  • Write-up and defense of paper
  • Interview in Milwaukee
  • Investigation of neuropsych work in Denver and Chicago
  • Vacation planning and logistics
  • Completion of final two songs for Army of Summer
  • Recruitment of drummer (almost there!)
  • Booking of August 9th show
  • Hellacious and efficient practices and awesomeness
  • Reuniting with little-man Kz
  • Lots of riding, including the Courage Classic
  • Cute girls and other miscellaneous bad-assery

I go about this town, already nostalgic for it. And, lately it seems like I’ve recaptured some of my former self. July is a pivot.