Weekly Rochester Events #295: Think Mex
Thursday, September 2, 2004So here we are at Labor Day weekend week and I started thinking about the little 'uns going back to college. (I feel officially allowed to use the term "little 'uns" because I graduated college in 1993, and when I was hanging out with a group of kids at Java's last month, one of them was 15 years old, and therefore born the year I graduated from high school.) I have always thought that it would be really swell to give some good advice of things I've learned. Either that, or I'm trying to plant seeds of dissent that will ensure that people grow up more like me. Probably both.
For a little snippet of background, I recently finished Quirkyalone : A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics by Sasha Cagen (thanks Jennifer) which attempts to document what she believes is a "quirkyalone" personality type — essentially, preferring singleness to dating someone otherwise unacceptable just for the sake of being part of a a couple. The book is fairly good, but after perusing the message boards at QuirkyAlone.net, I'm reluctant to assess myself "quirkyalone" just because of all the "me too" people who just want to be something new to make them feel special. However, if you search well enough, you'll find that I'm quoting largely from an article I posted several months ago.
As you may have read from last week, I also finished Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. Long prior I also read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig which documents the narrator's motorcycle trip across the United States and parallels his psychological and spiritual journey with Zen Buddhism. The latter two books are in direct philosophical contradiction but I like to seek the common ground between the two.
If you like reading books, you might want to check those three out. If not, don't worry about it. I guess there's other important influences, but I don't want to write a complete bibliography so I'll just leave it at that.
Anyway, after high school (when that kid at Java's was born) I followed the advice of societal pressures and went to college, got a job, got a car, and planned to get married, get a house, have kids, and retire. Somewhere in the middle I realized I wasn't going to do things quite according to plan, so I adapted and did things out of order: now I've got the house but made no progress toward marriage, kids, and retirement. What I've learned was that there is no rulebook for life and that path was just a suggestion. Now that I have been not employed for almost a year, I feel I've been marginalized by society and fit in even less than before. On the other hand, I sit at a vantage point with a few others where we can watch the people buzzing through their "normal" lives and ponder the value and importance of it all.
So let me get to my advice for the young (well, really for anyone, but it's supposed to be useful to the young:)
First, about relationships and falling in love. I guess I should start with what I think is the most important thing: nobody really knows anything about relationships. Essentially this means that no matter how far you get, or what you do in your life, or how many relationships you've had, or what you think you learned, you still really only know as much as anybody else which is basically nothing. Well, except that you learn stuff about yourself and the other person, but it's really difficult to make the definitive separation between what you learned about yourself and the other person and what you (falsely) think you learned about relationships and about people in general. Despite my advice to not listen to anybody's advice, let me just say that it's really hard to tell if you fall in love with somebody. Whatever you think you feel is what it is: don't worry if the words don't fit exactly what you feel, just let yourself feel whatever you feel.
Second, I guess, is to be true to yourself. I throw around a phrase about people that they "say what they want and do what they do." Most people seem to speak about themselves as if they have actually achieved their idealized self, so if you took people at their word, everyone is charitable and polite, and nobody is mean or prejudiced. The goal I've had for a few years is to look at what I do and feel, and to admit everything that is both good and bad so I can go about making changes in myself. For instance, I have racial and socioeconomic prejudices — not something I'm proud of — but I know that is true and I am working on trying to change those behaviors. And by change, I don't mean to deny they exist, avoid situations where they might be exposed, and declare myself cured, but to really dig in and understand why I feel that way and hopefully be able to change my underlying behavior.
Third, and related to being true to yourself, is to think honestly and selfishly. Feel free to say nice things and not-so-nice things to people if you want to. (Keep in mind that if you say lots of mean things all the time, people will not want to be around you, but that's a choice that's up to you.) Always consider what you want when you make decisions in your life, and make those desires known. The modern definition of courtesy implies we should all act like we're selfless, but it's a self-defeating state of mind. It's really not too hard to be considerate of others and let them know what your opinions and desires are.
Fourth, be aware of which possessions are important to you. I'm in a rut right now where, due to a good run of well-paying jobs, I would buy new toys to try and fill a void in my soul (uhh ... or something) and now I've got all this junk lying around. I feel it burdens me to constantly assess what is important, or what is okay if it gets broken, or what's okay to throw out, or what's okay to sell or give away or be stolen. I look back and wish I had been more diligent at not acquiring so much stuff, and whatever I did acquire, I wish I'd determined how important it was to me — to have put all the personally valuable things into a pile (physically or mentally) so I could pay attention to the important ones. I'm now going through things to get rid of some that aren't really useful to me, and to note others as being not valuable but convenient. It ends up that there's not a lot of things I do care about, and with those things I tend to protect them more. Essentially, this is not-so-unusual advice to not let your possessions own you.
Lastly, figure out what you want. Learn to trust yourself by thinking about what you want to do right now and do it. Just make sure the sentence starts "I want to ..." and not "I really should ...." It's a very easy trap, particularly as Americans and/or Christians, who are notoriously susceptible to feeling guilty if they're not doing what they think they're supposed to. If you have trouble separating "want to" from "should," try to just sit and think about all the senses you experience right now ... try to drown out any thoughts of the future or the past with stuff happening right now, and then see if you can think of something else you would want to do right now. Maybe you'll want to eat something, or go for a walk. It does actually get more natural after a while and you can start working on bigger things like calling your mom or finding a job you like. Bigger things are definitely harder: you have to trust yourself that you're doing what you think is right and you might still make a mistake, but that's okay because you're actually living.
Other than that, focus on having fun, do things, and just live. Although we might get other chances, I think it's a safer bet to bank on the idea that you only live once, so make the best of it now.
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Internet Movie Database
On this day ... September 2
Store at CafePress
Buy some JayceLand junk at sky high prices!
Rochester Music Coalition
Rochester Goes Out (D&C)
Rochester Punk Rock
WGMC Jazz Calendar
Delusions of Adequacy
Mystery and Misery
Kids Out and About
Movie links courtesy The Internet Movie Database. Map links courtesy MapsOnUs. Some movie synopses courtesy UpcomingMovies.com
About the title ... Mex is at 295 Alexander Street.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including Monroe County and occasionally the Western New York region) from Thursday, September 2, 2004 thru Wednesday, September 8, 2004.
It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
The musical styles listed can include punk, emo, ska, swing, rock, rock-and-roll, alternative, metal, jazz, blues, noise band, experimental music, folk, acoustic, and "world-beat."
Events listed take place during the day, in the evenings, or as part of the city's nightlife as listed.
Copyright © 2004 Jason Olshefsky. All rights reserved.