Dec 25, 2013

It is always the "season for giving"

Dear Ask A Punk -
I am writing this at 4am. It is about 18 degrees outside. There is snow everywhere. In about three hours my alarm is going to go off. In about four and a half hours I'll be at work. In about five hours I'll be wanting to slap nearly all of my fellow employees. I don't really hate my life but I hate hate hate my job and I can't see a way out of it. I like living where I am, but it is a small kind of place and there are not a lot of employment options for a person with my particular skill set, not if I hope to get paid the same kind of money I'm currently getting. There are always shitty jobs to be had anywhere. I want a change but I don't want that change to HAVE to be two or even three steps backward. I can't afford it mentally or financially. Maybe I shouldn't even complain. A lot of my friends are working worse jobs, for less money and they have to deal with real world things like husbands and kids and sick parents. I have a boyfriend, no kids and my parents are still pretty young-ish and healthy. I am just sick of the status quo and I'm not getting enough sleep. What are my options here? - Likely To Snap.

Dear LTS - 
Just so we're clear here - You don't want to move and you would rather not quit/switch jobs, but you want things to change. Sound about right? ... that doesn't give me a lot to work with, but I'll give it a shot. 

It doesn't sound like you really hate your job, more like you're bored with it and the annoying co-workers that go along with that particular gig, whatever it might be. You don't want to move, but clearly you're not enjoying winter weather. hmmm. Here are some options.

1) Take ALL of your vacation & personal days now, or at least as soon as you can. Book a trip, a REAL trip to some destination you've always wanted to see - a warmer one I'm guessing, and GO - for as long as possible.

2) Beyond even vacation time - Can you take a leave of absence or a sabbatical of some kind? Look into it. 

3) If you haven't accrued some serious time off and are more-or-less stuck with the grind, you could profoundly change how you spend your non-work hours. You're awake at 4am anyway, why not go to the gym instead of killing the pre-dawn hours online? If you have evenings or weekends free why not  pursue other interests? - Take some classes in something you've never done before. Engage in a new, serious and time-consuming hobby. Get a second, part-time gig doing something completely unrelated to your main job. 

...or better yet: 

4) Volunteer somewhere. Seriously. Nothing would make you feel better about yourself, your life and your day job than donating your time and perhaps even your expertise to people who need your help. -- I have no idea what it is you do, but I know for a fact that someone, or some group, out there needs you. 

Being just bored and/or vaguely annoyed with your current life/job means you've still got it better than most people these days. The best way to remind yourself of that, get over yourself a little bit and sleep a whole lot better is to go out there and figure out a way to help other people. 

Dec 18, 2013

Blank Flag

Dear AAP-
Another year is almost over. Last January I wrote down fourteen things I wanted to accomplish this year and now it looks like I only got ONE of them done, and that was the easiest one. I'm not going to bother writing down here what they were, the point is I feel like I just sqandered another year, wasted time and space and air doing none of the things I wanted to do. When I was younger (I'm 32) I could have blamed something else - my parents, or my family in general, or waiting to finish school or waiting to find a real job or anything else, but now I'm just someone who is taking up space and being useless. I hate it, and I'm starting to hate myself, or hate myself even more. I just want to give up, but I feel like I already have. I just know I don't want to bother going through a 2014 if it is going to be just like 2013. It wasn't supposed to be like this, I know that for sure. - Sick of It

Dear SoI -
The Holiday Season and the approach of the New Year can take on a much more negative vibe as we get older. The reality is that life can be more mundane at 30 than we expected it to be back when we were 17 and itching to be 'adult.' That realization can be a blast of cold water to the face and soul. It is called the human condition, and sometimes it blows, no question about it. We are tiny bits of animated matter, a consciousness encased in meat for a few years or decades and it is up to us to figure out why. 

I don't know why either, but I do know this: We're not here to be miserable. The point of existance isn't to suffer through it... The suffering will come to us all sooner or later, that is a certainty (sorry to sound so Buddhist) so believe me, no matter how bad things might seem, they could be much, muuuuch worse. Of the 7 Billion people on the planet, the mere fact that you can type a question and send it to me over the internet is proof that you're having a better time here on earth than at least 5 Billion of your fellow humans. 

...and I know none of this is going to make you feel any better because the simple truth is this: You sound like you're clinically depressed. Nothing bizarre or unique or exotic about that, just a plain drag. The pain you're feeling is real, on a deep psychological level - I'm not going to tell you to get over it. I'm not saying it is all "in your head." I am saying that there is no reason to suffer the whole downhill slide to it's likely end. Seek help. Pick up a phone, or search the internet or call your family and tell someone that you need some assistance. Now... seriously, right NOW. Don't even read the rest of this post/answer first... Go. Google 'depression' or 'local psychological services' or something.    ....I'm also guessing that I'm not telling you something you don't already, on some level, know, am I? Reach out. Immediately. You'll be stunned at how many people want to help you.

I know things are looking bleak (perhaps even dire) on levels from the personal to the global, but I also know this: THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN... don't be so sure 2014 will suck as badly for you as 2013 did. Get some help and you might just be surprised. The Universe stretches out infinitely in both directions of time and space, but we're only here for a few hundred thousand heartbeats (if we're lucky.) ...meaning: We're all going to be dead for a long, looooooong time. No matter what might or might not come after this, odds are that THIS is the good part. Go. 


Dec 11, 2013

The Future is Unwritten, but...

Dear AAP-
I just recently discovered your site; I've read a few submissions and responses. You seem like a pretty intelligent guy. One of your recent one's was cringe worthy to say the least in the phrasing as well as lack of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and general lack of understanding from the poster. Which got me thinking, as a not that old of a female in the united states (a mere 25) I find I am more and more frustrated by people younger than me either by a few or more years. I am not saying I am perfect by any means, far from in fact. We seem so preoccupied with what's next, politics, technology, etc. we seem to have left our children in a lurch. When I was growing up there was music, art, sports a plenty in schools and affordable at that. However I also came from the "you" can be anything you want generation with little to no work, which led to a lot of well what the hell do I want to do for the rest of my life?" Which now has grown into what can I see myself enjoying forever and won't be obsolete in 15 years, while still being me? This is equally scary in this day and age. What I am getting at is our children's futures don't seem to matter like they once did. My question(s) is/are - Do you think we are missing the big picture by focusing too much on one small piece of it here and now or worse dwelling on what once was? Have we lost our will to rebel and fight back? Are we dooming ourselves by producing a less intelligent (not all) youth who aren't armed with knowledge in the struggle of it all? Thanks for reading ~ SW  ps: I apologize if this seems scattered it's 6:23am here and I am nearing the end of my shift at work. I am a bit tired.

Dear SW-
Thanks for the kind words. 

Your question is the sort that, a few years ago, would have sent me on a multi-thousand word rant about why and how (in my opinion) things have gotten to be so much more difficult for the vast majority of people who just want to have a decent quality of life. The rant starts with the election of everyone's favorite puppet/stooge - Ronald "Trickle Down" Reagan in 1980, then builds to include the increasing influence of money in the political process, the "corporate political donations count as free speech" insanity and the I-give-up madness of cable channels being allowed to call themselves "News" channels when their own program guides describe their shows as either "Opinion" or "Commentary."  ...then I start drifting into the demonization of facts, science and education, the clearly on-purpose destruction of the public education system and the rise of the defiantly ignorant, yet loud "true" American...

...but I won't subject you to all that today

When I was about 25 I too was working a "3rd Shift" job from 11pm to 7am, five nights a week. I was working in a blood lab, doing medical tests... a job I had ZERO qualifications for, but since it was mostly just running machines and inputting numbers into spreadsheets, I didn't exactly need any prior experience. At first the gig was exciting because it was my first post-college full time employment and my first regular job since moving to the big city (Boston.)  ...but it quickly grew tiresome. The vampire hours disconnected me from my friends (this was all way pre-internet), my (admittedly shitty) band broke up and I obviously had to leave shows early (and sober) to get to work.

After about a year and a half, I knew I had had enough. Working in a blood lab was definitely not why I moved to Boston. One night, I just told my supervisor that I couldn't do it anymore and I quit. No "two week notice," I just finished my shift and then walked out the door, knowing that something better had to be in store for me, and there was. 

Flash forward to late 2013 -The way things are now, if I was 25 years old again and in that same position, I don't know if I would (or could) quit that job - I wouldn't have the same optimism that there has to be "something better" out there. ...and that is where we're all at, as a culture, after 33 years of The Rich getting Richer and the Poor getting fucked.

...and you can't even say that sort of thing these days without some ignorant douchebag calling you a socialist and a communist. Somehow people have gotten the idea that "Capitalism" and "Democracy" are the same thing. They're not. 

Anyway. dammit. I was ranting again. Sorry. Let's focus on you and your questions. 

First of all, yes, I do think we're all missing the big picture as a country (and, with a few exceptions, as a species) but I often think it is because while we might 'dwell on what once was' we mostly completely fail to learn from our past mistakes - and again, I'm talking about us as individuals and as a species. Each new generation hits the ground running, thinking they're going to live forever and worried that they're not going to "get their share" so greed and avarice takes over their thinking and then, after decades of "me" oriented life, they finally, usually on their deathbeds, figure out that they got it all wrong and should have pointed their focus outward, been more empathetic and thought more about the negative consequences of their actions - on their fellow man and on the planet.  --- egods. I sound like an old hippie now, don't I? ... I'm just coming to the realization that, after (approx) 40,000 years or so, our species might be coming to the end of it's run - mostly because we haven't figured out a way to really tap into our collective unconscious. 

Secondly, yes... the "will to rebel" is weakening in the new generation. ...and I'm not saying that in a "kids these days!" way. Studies are already showing that the Millennial kids (which almost includes you) generally assume that authority-figures DO have their best interests in mind and at heart... this is probably because they grew up in an environment of involved and evolved parenting - The shit is going to hit the fan as they get older and find themselves baffled by the petty tyrants, unhinged cops and equally faceless AND ridiculous bureaucracy/authority that will have real control over their lives. It'll be ugly for sure - but once the penny drops and they (you) as a generational group realize that they're getting fucked over, maybe THEN some fundamental things will change... unless it is too late - and given the surveillance state that is being created around us, it might be. What I'm saying is - maybe "the kids" aren't as prepared as we were to "Question Authority" ...but we were so negatively primed, we weren't  surprised by it all... They are going to be shocked, and hopefully shocked into action -they'll also (hopefully) have the technology that we lacked and might actually make something good happen. I'm hopeful. 

Basically, I'm saying you're right: As bad as I thought my generation had it, today's kids are going to face challenges (economic, spiritual etc) that'll be much tougher to surmount. Sometimes, like when my hip, shoulder and/or knee seize up for no apparent reason and stop working correctly, I wish  I was 25 again... but then I'm struck with the terror that I would then probably have to live until 2070 or something... and I'm not sure that would be a good time. 

There isn't much you can do to prevent your possible obsolescence in 15 years either. Industries change, shift and crumble at the drop of a hat these days. Even if you're one of the gold-rush types who learn a coding language and flock to some high-tech hotbed... in a few years, you'll spend as much time keeping up learning NEW coding etc as you'll spend working (or sleeping, or trying to 'have a life') ... The truth is: you could graduate #1 from the top engineering school on the planet and you'll still be behind the curve within five years, ten tops. The helping professions are always an option - nursing, doctoring, that sort of thing... until the robots start filling in those positions... and even THAT social contract got voided just this week: The old trade-off was: Work these hard, largely low-paid and thankless, but ESSENTIAL jobs and you'll at least have a decent retirement pension... but just last week a court ruled that Federal bankruptcy laws over-rule state pension laws meaning: After rich corporate interests have sucked the blood from a city (through tax breaks and other concessions) and then skated off with bags of money, the cities (or even the states) will now be able to raid pension funds when they go bankrupt...and that pension money will go where? .... to the same people who helped cause the bankruptcy in the first place. Say it with me: USA !  USA !  USA !

So, it looks like I'm ranting after all. I sound pretty negative don't I? ... not quite full of youthful hope and vigor. I realize this, but the truth is, I do have some hope, even if it feels feeble at times. The pendulum swings one way, then the other... as bad as things seem, times HAVE been darker, but that isn't much consolation when you're young and experiencing the dark for the first time. 

So how do you manage to navigate all this stuff and "still stay you" ?? The best you can do at the moment is to not buy in to the current system, don't acquire a pile of debt by buying a bunch of crap that you've been (falsely) convinced you need. Don't buy into the bullshit. Keep things simple and inexpensive. Once you start incurring debt, you'll be wearing their collar for a long time. We all have to face the fact that whatever we're doing now we likely won't be doing in 15 years, no matter how solid we think the ground beneath our feet might be. you've got to stay flexible and adaptable. You have to keep an open mind and, even more importantly (and more difficult) you have to keep an open heart. 

Good luck.

Dec 4, 2013

Lunch, Actually.

dear Ask A Punk
I'm working a day job and a weekend job and trying to keep a band together, which lately feels like trying to GET a band together. When I'm not at work or not working on band stuff, I like to go out and see shows and be part of my small city's music scene. The main thing is that I'm busy, ALL the time. I don't mind it and really staying busy keeps me more or less out of trouble, mostly. It also means I don't have much time for dating. I see plenty of guys out at clubs but, as a "girl in a band" I have to be careful who I date or even hook up with. There is still a definite double-standard when it comes to that kind of thing here. So I don't have a lot of time to meet guys. I know there is always online and dating sites. Done plenty of that and I don't care what people say, they don't really save all that much time, you just get to make mistakes quicker and with more people. I do miss good "company" though. So a guy at work, that I only deal with occasionally, because he is in another department, asked me out to lunch. I'm not 100% sure why, unless he IS into me, because he doesn't seem like much of a music-type. I'm tempted because he seems like he might be interesting, but a loud voice in my head is telling me not to go along with this. My girlfriends are no help on this, because they're mostly scenesters like me, but moreso because they aren't in bands, so they can hook-up with whoever they want. I know there are pros and cons to this. I'm usually pretty decisive about things like this, but this time I don't know. What's the best course? - Singer. Not a Torch Singer.

Dear SNaTS -
Go to lunch. You know you want to, otherwise you would be "decisive" about this. ...and it is just "lunch" as they say. 

There are always potential issues when/if we get involved in office romances, but you didn't really sound specifically worried about that sort of thing. It sounded more like you were worried he wouldn't be your type or you would have trouble explaining him to your scenester friends if you were to progress past a lunch date. 

And did he use the words "date" or "take you out" ?? Or did he half-ass it and say something like "We should grab lunch sometime" ? ... You might be overthinking this whole thing. Maybe he likes you, maybe he just wants to learn more about your department for reasons you couldn't even guess at. I'm saying it all sounds pretty low-stakes to me. He didn't ask you out for a Friday night or suggest "getting some drinks" or coming over to his place to play videogames or whatever. He just asked you to join him for lunch... He might not even buy your sandwich. 

What you really have to figure out are the reasons for your own ambivalence... Since you're usually so "decisive" about these things. Are you afraid he will be into you, or are you afraid he won't be? I know that being in that 'not knowing for sure' grey area can be the toughest part. Did he ask for your email (either personal or intra-office)? Did he suggest a specific day? Or was it a vague invitation? Either way, he doesn't sound especially smooth so, it sounds like the ball is definitely in your court now. Next time you see him, it'll be up to you to say "hey, how about that lunch?" It is an even money bet that he was trying to gauge your general interest in him. Don't think for a second that you're powerless in this duet. 

Maybe he is into you, maybe he isn't. Maybe you'll dig him, maybe you won't. Only one way to find out for sure - Go to lunch.