Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Pain in My Ass

I have to say that I'm fortunate in that I pay very little attention to pop culture, especially in terms of romance. The only time I turn on network television with commercials is on Sunday evenings when I watch "Coming Home." Say what you will about the Lifetime network and me being less of a man for not blocking it in my home, but military reunions is my soft spot. That aside, I've been seeing ads for a movie called William & Kate, which I assumed was just the sappy side of Lifetime and totally fictional. About a week ago, I was told there was some major wedding happening across the pond.

Unfortunately, once my consciousness for this event was awakened, I saw stuff about it EVERYWHERE. From what I'm told, this is happening tonight or today or sometime in the next 24 hours. I'm also vaguely aware of the fact that he's a prince and she's a nobody. Is this news? Wasn't Princess Diana a commoner as well? I could be wrong, honestly.

So all the girls the world over are having their girly wedding moments as this gigantic occasion is kicking off. Even guys, and not just the questionable ones, are getting into this. Frankly, not only does this event not move me in an excited direction, but I'm actually waiting for it to be over. Wait... I do feel something... nope... it was just gas.

At last check, I did still live in America and we won the war and our independence from England. They are just 2 people. Ladies, you never had a shot with a prince so get over the heartbreak. This kid was born into the right family but hasn't accomplished much (yes, I've read up on him), although in 2005 he opened a shelter for homeless people. Yay Prince Bill!

I've seen people, Americans, setting alarm clocks to wake up and watch this. I've heard others try to convince the uninterested masses to pay attention. I've heard people say that we should all use this occasion to find happiness during times of despair. Tell that to the 50,000 tornado ravaged homes in the south without power who couldn't watch even if they wanted to. People find happiness every day, but because you can put a face to a famous name, the world is supposed to tune in? He's semi-important at the moment, she's a nobody. They're across an ocean and believe me... they couldn't give less of a shit about your wedding.

I was initially happy for this guy because he's in line for the throne. After his grandmother passes on, his dad will take over as King of people who eat a dessert called Spotted Dick. And when Charles, and his ears, finally relinquish the big red velvet chair, William takes center stage. So why was I happy he was getting married? Because hopefully that makes him happy and we need less cranky world leaders these days. Hopefully commoner Kate will do her princessly duties and keep Willy's willy in good spirits.

Then I thought further. World leader? He's a prince. Part of the monarchy, which does nothing more than wave their hands and cost their country shitloads on that really big house. They have no power, they don't really rule anymore. I think New Zealand should secede. Did you know that Queen Elizabeth II (the old lady, not the ship) is Queen of them too?

Here's what it all boils down to... a 29 year old kid who has accomplished almost nothing in life that is the heir to the heir of the Queen's throne, that has no real power or no real job decided to marry someone.

Yup, don't care and I'm not sure why anyone that eats fries, not chips, should either.

EDIT: I had totally forgotten to add in my real moral of the story. I spent so much time on the word play and making myself giggle by relating my emotions about the wedding to a fart that I missed out on the real message. As Americans, we are known for getting so wrapped up in silly pop culture and scandals. We always wanna know the details of the private life of people, that we ignore what really matters. Remember Anna Nicole Smith? We were so concerned with what killed her that we stayed glued to the TV pending results of an autopsy, how sick and demented is that. As it turns out, it was drugs. There's a surprise. They found everything in her system except Slim Fast.

Let's go back even more. Who remembers the big scandal that we couldn't get enough of on September 10, 2011? Anyone? It was Gary Condit, then Congressman, and his missing intern, Chandra Levy and whether or not they had an affair and he killed her. That was the big story, America. Our eye was not on the ball. The next day, we came under attack. Good use of our energy? I'd say it probably wasn't. Shortly after the attacks, rather than healing and repairing, some Americans decided to use their energy to claim that 9/11 was an inside job and a conspiracy created by our government. These conspiracy theories were propagated all over the news. Again... good use of our energies?

So, while we're watching the sensationalized wedding of foreigners, who our president has been striving to undercut our relationship with, and stuffing our faces full of comfort food; those who wish to do us harm have been planning (they never stopped in the first place). To make matters worse, they know we're not paying attention.

I honestly feel that we will never learn our lesson. America will always be selfish and live by the credo of "bigger, better, faster, more" while pretending we are interested in our health. We are the 300-pound person that orders a Big Mac and super size fries with a diet Coke to save on calories and still sues McDonald's when their cholesterol goes so high that they basically become a solid.

There's the moral of the story. It's not about fairy tale wedding of the prince and his bride, but our obsession with it all when there's so much here that needs work. By the way, did you know that William and Kate were, prior to marriage, related on BOTH his mother's side and her father's side and possibly through a third connection of ancestry? While distant, they are cousins in more than one branch of the family tree. Hopefully, they'll do the right thing and donate their child's extra, incestuous limbs to a commoner.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Order has been restored

For the last two weeks, while I've been convalescing, Ty and I have been talking about doing a sweep of my apartment to hunt down my elusive, and very special, pen. Finally, today we got around to it. With me being laid up, looking under things and moving furniture was not an easy task. So Ty did the lifting and I did the looking.

We started in my bedroom where it was last seen. We looked under the dresser, under the armoir, in the closet and finally moved the entertainment center. We found nothing.

Next was a quick feel under the things in the hall closet, that haven't been moved but could have had a pen slid under them via a mischievous cat paw. We found nothing.

The office proved to be a daunting task with two computer desks, a futon and more than one set of shelves. We found nothing. In the process of combing the office, I looked in the closet and straightened up a bit. While doing so, I found two plastic bags, each containing a handful of newspapers. They were the multiple copies I bought when the the South Carolina paper "The Item" ran a story on me as a 9/11 World Trade Center survivor now serving in the military. The front page sports a three-quarter page color photo of me in old BDUs (the woodland green, black, brown camouflage for the civilian readers). Sure enough, in that photo, my pen is clearly visible. It's probably the only photo that shows it so clearly. It almost felt as though we were being taunted by it.

We took a time out from Pen Hunt 2011, as Ty was never fully aware of my actual 9/11 involvement. He read the article. We did some talking about it. We listened to some audio about that day. Then we went to have a cigarette and recover from the somber mood that topic had put us in. All the talk about that era of my life and the picture showing the pen made me think that much more about it, as that was the time during which the pen came into my life.

On the way in from our smoke we searched the living room. He moved, lifted and tilted couches. We rolled out my large, media cabinet that houses all of my movies. The TV came off the entertainment center and it got pulled out and tilted back so we could look under it. We found nothing.

Days ago the dishwasher was pulled out and today the fridge, which incidentally has wheels, was rolled out and tilted back. Under the fridge we found cat toys and some cheap Bic style pens. In terms of my pen, we found nothing.

The last room was next and it was the laundry room. I was beginning to feel disheartened. They say "it's always the last place you look" which is nonsensical because why would you keep looking for something after you found it? However, this was the last place TO look. There was a washer and a dryer. If it wasn't under there, it would be lost forever. We pulled the dryer out first and leaned it back. I found cat toys, cat hair, laser pointers and a sheath for a Pampered Chef knife. We put the dryer back down as we adjusted it further. Clumsily, I got back down onto my knee because the ups and downs had put my healing leg to the test and I didn't have much left.

He tilted the dryer back even further and as I turned my head, it happened. An unmistakable gleaming black and platinum pen stared back at me (along with several other items pilfered by the cats). I reached in, grabbed it, and clutched it tightly. As I pulled it back out I said, "that's it," but quietly enough that he didn't quite realize what had just happened. He thought it was similar and commented to that effect. I said, "No, this IS it!"

That was just more than I could bear. After all the talk about 9/11 and the associated loss less than an hour earlier and the recent talks about the pen and my former life, I was now holding the last remaining link (that I thought was gone forever) to a life I miss so dearly. All the hope I pour into this tiny, shiny, cylindrical object and motivation I get from it to remind myself that I've been there before and can get there again was right in front of me.

With my eyes welling up and my voice cracking, I eked out a "thank you." I've never understood sentimental attachment to inanimate objects until today. I've always known it wasn't about the pen, but about the association. And whether I ever found it again or not, I did live that life. I was that person. The pen shouldn't have mattered, but when it was in front of me today, it sure did.

I can't wait to slide it back into my uniform pocket and use it every single day as it makes the journey with me back to the place we both started together. I can't thank Ty enough for getting my ass up to find it without giving up hope. As he said to me afterwards, "The look on your face cannot be described in words."

I have a road ahead of me to get back to where I started and that road will require lots of paperwork along the way. I have the perfect pen with which to sign, check boxes, fill out and otherwise mark each sheet that comes my way. I'm still motivated, I'm still driven, I'm still counting the days until I'm home. I'm still not happiest until I'm there.

But now... I found my pen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Glass houses?

Unless you've been living under a rock (or busy throwing one at a glass house), you know that Donald Trump is an unofficial presidential hopeful in 2012. Lately, the Donald has been garnering lots of attention for preparing to tell Barack Obama "You're fired" and pissing off most of the country along the way. I get it. These guy shows up with his bad hair, not a lick of political experience and attacks the incumbent. Not a way to make friends.

I was ignoring most of this because it's typical political bullshit. Every election (and pretty much every day in between) is a giant smear campaign. Nobody gets elected on merit anymore. It's all about making "the other guy" look more incompetent, inept and generally like a lower class person. Politics are where the flaws meet the magnifying glass these days. Gone are the days of finding the right man for the job. It's always about the lesser of two evils. It's shame that we can't find the right person, but rather, the one who is not as bad.

I took notice today, however, when I saw people attacking Trump's character and credentials to be president over his financial woes in the past. It is true that bankruptcy was a part of Trump's life in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009, but let's keep things in perspective. Trump didn't buy a car he couldn't afford. He didn't run up $30,000 in unsecured credit card debt. He didn't file for personal bankruptcy because he can't manage his finances or balance a checkbook.

In each case, it was corporate bankruptcy and, further, Chapter 11 which provides immediate relief from oppressive debt and allows a company the opportunity to reorganize. This is different Chapter 7, under which the company ceases to operate. What does this mean? It means that in Trump's deals he accrued debt and used Chapter 11, created by the federal government, not Trump, to negotiate debt deals. He's not running a startup company that can be bootstrapped. These are super expensive real estate and land deals with high value investors.

So because we've associated the word bankruptcy with Donald Trump, he's unfit financially to run the country at one of it's peaks of national debt. Has anyone decided to finish the story and realize that after each of those filings, his companies not only survived, but did very well?

If a man can take something on the brink of extinction and successfully negotiate existing US laws (without being fraudulent like, say, WorldCom, Tyco, Global Crossing, Enron, Adelphia) and create opportunity, capital and success, then isn't he actually MORE fit to run the country while it's in financial straits?

I'm not saying I'd vote for Donald Trump for president. I'm not even saying you need to entertain the idea of voting for Donald Trump for president. All I'm saying is that you should spend more time promoting your guy and less time pulling down the other. If you have to be negative, maybe it's because your guy doesn't have any redeeming qualities of his own.

Maybe it's not about your guy at all. Maybe you don't like Trump - fair enough. I, frankly, couldn't care less what you feel about him. The fact remains that the average US household has almost $15,000 in credit card debt at 14.73% for a total of $2.4 trillion dollars in consumer debt. So, where exactly do you get off criticizing Donald Trump about owning these companies, using the laws as they are intended and making these companies even better?

I suppose the Trump thing is a vehicle for the real message. Tell the truth. Don't lie. Tell the whole truth. Don't leave parts out. Tell nothing but the truth. Don't add or fabricate where convenient. If the guy sucks, then let it be known, but don't skew facts to make your point. It undermines your credibility. It strengthens your opponent. Overall, you look like an idiot.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Turn back time

Earlier today I sat on Ty's back porch and we both reflected about my recent blog post about drive and determination and how I refuse to be held down by anyone who doesn't share my vision for my life. Ty told me about the twists and turns in his life, some through no fault of his own and others that leave nobody else to blame. I recounted to him, the abridged version of how I came to be on his back porch on this day.

I started with the rundown of ups and downs in the late 90s and my inability to see past my own feet. I recovered professionally and excelled at every job I ever had, despite my inability to maintain that focus in the classroom of even my local community college. On we went to the days of the NYSE. I'll never forget walking up Broad Street and stopping across from the front of the New York Stock Exchange, flanked by 2 of my closest friends back then. We went from adolescents to adults together and there we stood in suits and ties as working professionals in the financial district of Manhattan staring at the ornate facade of the exchange. We didn't speak much but we didn't have to. What a long walk we had made from those teenagers we once were. I mentioned the collapse of buildings and the economy they brought down with them; and the collateral damage that was my fledgling career. Next was the odd jobs I held to pay the bills before I was sure to be restored to my place in corporate America. That day never came and I enlisted. These last 8 years have come with their own set of challenges but all were personal, none were professional. There's very little that is based on merit in the military. It's easy to show up and just do your job.

We spoke of finding ourselves and deciding what we want to be when we grow up. I can get a paycheck, that's not what worries me. I want to be the man I was destined to become and I think environment has a majority stake in the shape of that. Environment is geography, people, class, job, culture, and everything that creates the ecosystem in which each of us lives.

It's not dissimilar to my fish tank. I have a tank full of beautiful fish in my aquarium. They are all tropical community fish. They get along and thrive when the environment is perfect - water temperature, pH balance, food, oxygen, etc. There are other beautiful fish that thrive in their own environments, that may be vastly different. People love Betta fish (aka Siamese fighting fish), for example. Their native habitat is made up of puddles and rice paddies. Murky water that houses fish of fantastic and vibrant colors. You would think that if those fish can live in that, they can live in anything, but they would not flourish in my tropical community tank. My environment isn't made up of terrible people and the environment itself isn't awful. It's just not the one for me. I've always known this. Anyone who knows me has as well. I cannot flourish here.

It all started because we were talking about finding my pen, that is lost in this apartment. To everyone that borrows it, it's just a pen. It's an overpriced pen. It's another one of Jason Viglione's grandiose possessions that no normal person should own. Those are not people who have taken the time to understand why I clutch that pen so tightly. What they don't know is that inside that pen is not just ink, but a life once lived. Inside that pen lives perfectly tailored suits, the energy of the city, the feel of brisk winter winds through narrow downtown Manhattan streets, the smells of the multi-cultural cuisines peppered throughout the city, and the entire ecosystem that was my dream. With every stroke of that pen, memories of the life I was meant to lead and on my way toward doing so, spill out on the page.

I was given that pen as a gift by my employer, as was every new employee at the company, on the day of my arrival. I opened the single breasted jacket of my first suit and slipped the pen in the inside pocket. It cost a mere $150, the suit not the pen, and was bought for me by my dad before the interview. (As an aside, that man is about as modest as it gets. He's never bragged about his intellect, finances, accomplishments, fatherly vision or just the person he is; although given his outcomes of all, it would be well within his right to do so. Yet, it didn't take much for him to speak of his pride for me when I got that job). The moment the pen went into that pocket, the suit tripled in value. See... it's a beautifully crafted $300 Mont Blanc pen that is all black with highlights of platinum. It's a status of your value to this small, elite IT consulting company that keeps only the top financial companies as customers. My daily home in which I represented the company was, of course, the New York Stock Exchange.

It was the late 90s and Wall Street was riding high still, despite the dotcom implosion. Corporate IT was the new technological royalty. We were what was called "geek chic." Then came the infamous Tuesday morning one September and it all evaporated. By the time the dust settled in my life it was 2004 and I was in South Carolina as an Airman First Class in the US Air Force. My pen was with me, nestled in the pen pocket of my desert camouflage uniform that was issued to me. I'd complain about ironing my uniforms that were built by the lowest bidder because the seams didn't line up just right. It was a far cry from the Brooks Brothers suits taking up space in my closet, known in the military as a wall locker, most of which cost me in 2000, the same as I made in two weeks in 2004.

What a tumble I took. I've always felt that if I had worked just a little harder, been a little more focused, smoothed out the rough edges just a little more, then none of this would have happened. I'd be home with my family. I'd be doing what I love near the people I love. Sure, if none of this happened, I'd have lost out on some great experiences and excellent people. But that's a sacrifice I'd have made, given the choice, if it kept me at home with the most important people.

It's 1am in Mississippi, where I'm currently stationed. I'm recovering from my fourth leg surgery, induced by the strenuous workouts over so many years as required by the military. I'm not as well off financially as I could or should be had I stayed "up north" (as the southerners like to call it). I just missed Easter Sunday with my parents, my brother, my grandmother and some extended family. I'm divorced and I'm alone. I'm counting the days until my magnificent and triumphant return home. I'm unhappy.

And... I can't find my pen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My approach

I find that I'm often careful about what I say and do because I feel judged by many people around me. This causes me to act against what is in my inmost nature and is, therefore, difficult. I live a certain way. I have always lived this way. Surely, years ago, I was different but when you think about it... not truly. I was... more of me. I haven't changed but rather, toned down a bit. I was more stubborn, angrier, less yielding and less likely to own up to my mistakes. I'm still pretty sure of myself, bordering on arrogance, but leave room for doubt and sway. Maybe I leave less than the average person and maybe I'm more pragmatic than I should be, but this is who I am through and through.

I grew up with a tight knit, open, honest family and group of friends. My closest friends in the whole world have been with me for 20 years, some longer. In all those years, we've never had serious beefs or fallings out - aside from high school generated nonsense indicative of excessive hormones, finding our ways in the world and overall rites of passage.

Over the last 8 years, I've met many people. I've made and lost friends. It's always hard to let go of what you thought was an amazing friendship, but one change I've certainly made is that I no longer hold onto friends just for the sake of holding onto them. It is all about value added. I don't care if we've been friends for for 24 hours or 24 years... if we have nothing in common, see the world differently, want different things, approach things differently, and generally don't get along then there's nothing left to say. This seems to happen more often than not in my military world. For so many years, I thought my life was the norm - united, unbroken nuclear family, long standing friends, upper middle class, big home, dad worked, mom raised the kids and it was all steeped in heritage and tradition which intertwined amongst our family values, faith, and ethnic background. To put it simply, I'm a pasta eating, family loving, do anything for my friends, stop at nothing to do well in my life, Italian Catholic from New York. As it turns out, I'm the exception, not the rule. I can count on one hand, my friends who have parents that are still married. It takes less than that to pick out those who grew up the way I did financially and with opportunities afforded us. The unwavering parental support - despite my best attempts at self-sabotage - is nearly unique to my folks.

These traits seem to be passed on to my generation. The world at large has changed, leaving current relationships in a constant state of confusion and disarray, requiring management. I don't know if it is a function of time or location or background or both. I'm not sure how much of the nature vs nurture debate comes into play. The fact is that I'm different than a large percentage of those I'm surrounded by. Notice I didn't say better or worse... just different. It takes all types to make the world go 'round or different strokes for different folks - pick your cliche. The point is that I feel out of place.

I notice it more and more with each passing day. My dwindling patience is inversely proportional to my longing to be back with people like me. Maybe my home area is insular in that as worldly as I am in some ways, I'm sheltered in others.

I guess it all boils down to the fact that I'm tired of making excuses for the man I've become and I'm tired of being judged by people who don't know me to my core because I don't see eye to eye with them. There are certain people who have earned the right to sit me down, look me in the eye and tell me I'm being a dick. Dr. Jim is one of those people. He is my brother in every sense except DNA. Yet, he is the last person to do so. He accepts me as I am, for better or for worse. I suppose after 20 years of friendship, he knows what he signed up for and is ok with it.

There are days I love my job but it is not my career. It is not long term. I get great satisfaction from being part of something bigger than myself but I get greater satisfaction from being near the most important people in my life... despite how close you, the reader, may think we are; I can guarantee you that I'm closer with my mom, dad, brother, grandmother, etc. Going "home" to be with them lands me in an area intolerant of mistakes. There are more people than jobs, quite often, and a cost of living that requires people to strive at all moments. I took that for granted years ago and learned from my mistakes. One morning I was on top of the world. That afternoon, I was packing my desk. These things happen - once.

I won't be caught with my proverbial pants down again. I'm driven. I'm motivated. I'm focused. I want certain things for my life and not getting them is simply not an option - at least not through any fault of my own or lack of trying. This is why I work my full time military job and go to school and do my research, write my articles, do my videos, create content, interface with captains of industry and stay plugged in. I'm often looked down on by people as if I'm trying to be better than them. That is where they are wrong. Those people and their lives don't even rate. I'm trying to be better than me. Better than the me I was and better than the me I am. I'm trying to improve my circumstances, enlarge my territory and enable my life for more opportunities. Some say it's materialistic to want more money and stuff and maybe it is but in the USA in 2011, stuff is what it's about. I don't want money to have money (like I used to); I want money to do the things I love with the people I love doing them with. I want to ski with Alan, watch football with Mark, make wine with Dad, take vacations as a family. I want to have a large home with the nicest things that I'm proud of and I can have these wonderful folks in my in life visit and not be disgusted by squalor or be cramped. I want to see and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

I don't think that's too much to want. I don't want a free ticket. I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I have no trust fund. There was no dowry when I got married. My parents provided for me and they did it in abundance but rarely as a free ride. When my dad bought my car first car, it wasn't fancy. Our conversation looked at my finances and realized that teaching me a lesson by letting me buy my own came with a cost... safety. It was more important to him to buy me a car that would be safe without going over the top than to teach me the value of a dollar and let me struggle. Plus he'd be up worrying that I was stuck somewhere. When he bought my second car, it was a loan. I paid him back for it. In truth, he didn't buy it. He laid the money out and gave me an interest free loan. I had to budget my money and make payments, without helping the banks get rich in the process. When he paid for my school, it came with a clause on grades. As and Bs or I was to owe him reimbursement for my tuition. I worked for it. It wasn't a gift, it was my future.

I have expectations from my friends and those I keep company with. Not for them, but for us. I don't care if they rule the world or pick up trash for a living, truly I don't. But regardless of who signs their paychecks I have expectations for OUR interaction. They MUST accept me for who I am because that's the only person I can be. They must view our relationship as a partnership. I will not chase someone to be my friend. If you are important to me, I'll call you and I expect the same thing in return. I do not deliver unrequited love for my friends. I expect honesty. I expect to not be held accountable to my friends' standards because my life is my own.

You don't have to like what I do, who I am or how I approach things, but to be my friend you have to accept it. I don't change for people. I carefully weigh and measure every situation (a tactic learned after years of rash, impulsive decisions). I adapt and overcome as required. Something may look like a sound investment in my life and upon further examination or new information, that may change. That may conflict with your outlook. I'm sorry if it does. Until you're prepared to pay my bills and create a life for me (one that I want), your say will not sway me in a way I'm not willing to be swayed. Input is valued and will be internalized for its merits and implemented as it makes sense. If it doesn't make sense to me, then I appreciate your advice but respectfully pass on utilizing it.

If anyone ever, at any point, speaks negatively about my publicly, belittles who I am as a person, makes me feel to be of no value to them or creates situations in my life that make it more difficult, stressful or otherwise problematic, then we will, more than likely, part ways (accidents, unintentional situations or things beyond one's control notwithstanding). Life is hard enough as it is. In the past 10 years I've dealt with loss in more ways than most people deal with in a lifetime. Some is permanent, some is not - none is easy.

The bottom line is that I was on my way to being somebody and took a wrong turn and tumbled. When I lost family, job, finances, education and opportunity I also lost part of me. After a decade of struggle, therapy, medication, reflection and work I have found it again. My personal stock is on the rise. I know my value. I'm not a slouch. I'm far from unintelligent. I have the support of wonderful people. If you're a supporter, I welcome you. If you're a detractor, take a hike. If you don't like my attitude, I'm sorry but this is MY life. Not yours, not ours. I'm not perfect. I'm as flawed as anyone, in some ways more, but I'm accountable only to myself and those I choose to let influence me - if you don't share my last name or bloodline, chances are you aren't one of them, at least not entirely and certainly not in terms of my life plan.

You may help me with individual situations or introduce me to a new music or food. You may help fine tune parts of me, but the core of my being? It is not for sale or up for negotiation. It took me a long, damn time to realize my worth in the world and to not be afraid to be me and reach for the brass rings in life. Nobody has the right to undermine that work or erode the results.

So... where do you fit? That answer is unique to each reader. I will tell you one thing... if you don't like how I handle my business; cut me off, walk away, say goodbye. I won't fault you for it. I won't think less of you. I'll think we're different and that's ok. I'd hate all 6 billion+ people on Earth to be the same, anyway. What you are NOT permitted to do is to pass judgment on me publicly and to others. You cannot call me out or cryptically point out what you consider my flaws to be. You have yours. I have mine. Have your opinion of me, but don't dare tell the world that I'm wrong for living my life as I see fit.

At the end of the day, I know I'll be educated, successful and happy. I'll have the support and warmth of my friends and family. I'll have all the material possessions I'm interested in. I'll be financially sound. I'll never reach a goal because there is no goal. There is always room for more. You know why I'll do all that? Because I'm focused. Because I run MY race. Because with my blinders on I don't see the negativity, I'm unaffected by my detractors, I rise above the nonsense. You're not wrong if you're different, you just have no place near me.

One last time, your life is your own and I wish everyone well on their endeavors, whatever those may be. Mine are clear in my mind and in the map of my life and I choose to surround myself with people who work in concert with my plans, not in opposition to them. I apologize to anyone offended by any of this, as it is not my intention. I don't apologize for being me. It is working out pretty well for me overall right now and better than it ever has before.

My life is good and certainly on the way to getting even better. Join me or make way, but do not try to steer this train or block this path. It's not yours to block.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Things Change in a Year

No matter how much we stomp our feet and scream, "I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys 'R' Us kid," we can't fight it. Growing up will happen. It's a necessary evil. Most times it happens without us knowing it. We wake up one day and realize this change has taken place. Hopefully not so much so that we keep our inner child locked away and become curmudgeons, but enough to help us adapt to the adult world around us and excel.

I'll be the first to tell you that I strive, and sometimes, struggle to maintain this balancing act. I'll work on developing myself as a professional and interact with CEOs of startup companies around the world all morning and spend the afternoon shooting the heads off zombies with a shotgun on the Xbox. I'll laugh and joke with my friends and then put on my "game face" when I hit the classroom and face my students. Even in the classroom, at times, I let my guard down and have just a hair more fun than I rightfully should with students. Balance is such a key facet to life.

There were a couple of instances, recently, that caused me to realize that this natural self-evolution has been happening over the last year. Last November I was given a promotion, of sorts. No more pay, no change in rank, but a positional raise. Rather than being a regular instructor, I was also made an "Instructor Supervisor" or IS. This means that in addition to teaching, I'm responsible for running the shift, which is comprised of roughly 110 students and 20 staff/faculty. This position is, by and large, reserved for people 1-2 pay grades above me and further seasoned by about 4-5 years.

Naturally, assuming this role was aggravating to me peers who felt that if I could do it, they should be able to as well. First of all, everyone can't lead. That's the point of being a leader - one person does it (or a small percentage, anyway). If everyone is leading, then nobody is leading. Secondly, not everyone is cut out for it in their nature. Lastly, the loudest complainers didn't even want my job. They just didn't want me to have it because they felt I snuck my way in. Yes, it was a private conversation between the big bosses and me. I was approached about it and agreed pretty much. I did nothing to sneakily secure this spot for myself. Frankly, I don't have the energy to be manipulative. It takes lots of time and I have enough to keep me busy.

One of my detractors actually asked me about it and I explained my position and particular methods/styles of leadership/management. Although he appeared satisfied by my answer, that I neither micromanage nor rule with an iron fist, it was lip service. He ran to MY boss, complaining about me and my qualifications; effectively questioning her judgment for selecting me. His line of reasoning was that when we last worked together, an entire year prior, I was not this motivated. I'd leave early if not busy. I'd joke around. I'd do the bare minimum. I was different. You're damn right I was. It was a year ago. Truth be told, there was truth to everything he said, albeit to much smaller levels than he claimed.

That was her response as well. Something to the effect of - first, I don't care what went on then. That was then, this is now. Is it possible he changed or grew up in a year? He's older, he's been through a divorce. Maybe his approach and/or goals have changed. Is that possible? He agreed it was possible.

Somewhere along the way, leadership decided to bring an IS to nights as a full time position so I could teach a larger class load. I'd enjoyed doing both but was insanely busy on a daily basis.

Last week or so, it reared its head again, however. It was, apparently, time for a practical joke at work with students. It was on a topic that we had been joking about amongst ourselves. So he stages his joke and involves the students. He did it in such a way that it s entirely disruptive. It created confusion and congestion in our halls. The students he involved are known for being unprofessional in their attitudes. This all took place on an evening that the full-time IS was home ill.

On a break he comments about his joke and asks me what I think. I replied that I wasn't amused. He doesn't understand how some things are funny to some people and others are not. The conversation ties up angrily as he calls me hypocritical for laughing about it amongst ourselves but not with students. I told him that the environment plays a part. He makes a face and that was, presumably, that.

I was mistaken. In my absence, he took up the cause of attempting to align others with him to garner support for his joke, which was truthfully not funny under any circumstances - I was annoyed it involved students, but it was really just a lame joke in the first place. As part of his recruitment pitch, he references a practical joke I played once and, again, mentions my hypocrisy. There a 2 defining differences. My joke was random where his was about a topic that had everyone already stressed, worried and upset - some things you just don't joke about with subordinates. The other difference was that mine was a year ago.

And now we are back to the fact that people change, or at least they should. Apparently, he has not. If that works for him, that's fantastic. But he holds others in lower esteem for being progressive with their lives. I did nothing in particular to mature a year's worth - I just lived another year. Other people specifically fight the natural personal evolution. As it turns out, these folks are left alone; and the must be exhausted trying to maintain in the process. I know one thing is for sure - people like that are the exception, not the rule and while being a child was carefree and fun, being an adult is full of opportunity that these people will miss out on, both personally and professionally.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Treatment has the word EAT in it

The video above shows some horrible behavior and cruel treatment of animals. I'll admit it's hard to watch. It sucks that animals are treated this way. Keep in mind that I am a carnivore. I'm not against eating animals. Truthfully, I'm not even against these slaughterhouses. It sucks and I feel bad but I'm not on some crazy crusade to shut them down. PETA = People Eating Tasty Animals, doesn't it? I'm all for ethical treatment where applicable. People beat their pets and that's insane. I have cats that are like my children. I'm often equated to the male variant of the proverbial crazy cat lady.

So if this is horrible, yet I love meat; saddened by this, yet not opposed to it; why the hell am I here talking about it? Well, I'll tell you why.

People go on tirades about the disgusting behavior and treatment at slaughterhouses constantly and tell us that it isn't fair. I'd say that it isn't fun or funny, but not fair? I'm not a bible thumper and I don't preach, but I'm pretty sure it is said that God gave us dominion over the animals. As a matter of fact, Genesis 1:16 says specifically, "The God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the Earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground'." People argue that it doesn't include terrible treatment.

Alright, we'll fast forward many, many years to 2011. Let's have free range farms and humane treatment. Is it ever humane to kill an animal? Nope, so that means we're all vegetarian. Let's say we'll do it in a way that's at least MORE humane. Who in the world is going to pay the prices that come with that? It takes more time, workers get paid more, they have less yield (meat, eggs, etc) and that non-savings gets passed onto the customer. If you want to take better care of the animals that are raised expressly for the purpose of being eaten, that's fine. However, if the prices to me in the store go up astronomically, I'm coming to you for subsidization.

How many people bitch and moan about the treatment of animals over a breakfast discussion with a bacon, egg and cheese omelette? They slaughtered a pic, over milked a cow and caged a hen for that breakfast, but it sure is tasty isn't it?

I guess watching this video let me see just how horrible it is and I certainly wasn't munching on sausage links while watching. However, I'm going to a barbecue in a little while and I'm gonna have a burger for sure. I think videos like this one create a level of hypocrisy. Anyone who has ever thought about a slaughterhouse, has to know it's not the nicest place in the world. It's a volume business and Americans do everything in large amounts of volume. 

That being said, it wasn't a fun video to watch and had some real disturbing images in it. So my solution... watch less videos about it, eat just as much meat. 

Friday, April 08, 2011

Doesn't say for WHICH people

I recall some document somewhere that says something along the lines of by the people, for the people. Does that ring a bell for anyone else? Today there was confirmation that government services are shutting down. This is the beginning of what could be a systemic collapse and create a dangerous environment in this country. The IRS is shutting down, the Smithsonian is closing its doors and most importantly, the military stops getting paid. I don't care what your views are about the war, the military cannot stop getting paid. This is all coming from the fact that the assholes in Washington cannot agree on budget cuts to be made. Party lines and ideologies are creating an impasse and our president has said there will be no more stopgap measures taken.

I love my country. I chose to serve it and put my life on the line for it and today I'm ashamed. I'm embarrassed. I'm disgusted. I'm let down. My country failed me. It's not about the money. It's not about the actual dollars. It's the reason why. It's how this came to be. It's the greed, the unyielding attitudes, regardless of the cost. It is pure shortsightedness and blind pride that creates this scenario. And yet, it is the uniformed servicemembers that are left holding Herman.

What about the people who are deployed? Do you think I have NO friends in a down range location getting mortared at the moment and doing it for free? Risking leaving behind a family as a volunteer. I'm one of the first in my building and the last to leave. I don't do it FOR the money but I sure as shit would not do it for free. There is so much pride in what I do, but pride doesn't keep the lights on. Apparently it does for congress because they'll keep getting paid through all of this.

I have an enlistment contract. If I stop showing up, I'm AWOL (Absent WithOut Leave) and I'm violation of that contract. Breach, if you will, and could be removed from duty. If they stop paying me, are they in breach. Can I quit? They don't have to hold up their end of the bargain. And believe me when I say they're getting a bargain. For almost a decade they've had my service and paid me a hair above the poverty line and well below my worth. I've missed births, deaths, weddings, holidays and more. I've grown apart from some and purely lost others. I did it for my country. I did it because I made a difference in the world. At no point has the military cared about MY world. I accepted that because I volunteered. I was compensated with love and pride and benefits and education and experience. The day our leaders care so little about us as to not even pay us the measly droppings they say we are worth is the day I lost the love and pride. As for the education, I can imagine the money the military pays for my school will dry up for now as well. I have the experience. Try as you may, Congress, you cannot take that from me.

I have my pride. My pride to hold my head up and do my job, for free, in the face of adversity.

You know why? When I enlisted I took an OATH. I VOWED to defend this country from all enemies both foreign and domestic. Congress, you may not take that vow seriously, but I do. I'll do my job 110% all day, every day, just like I always have, but know this - I'll only do it while I'm beholden to you. Today, you gave me a new mission... to ensure my own personal freedom and safety and that begins in a world where I can move and change and get promoted on my own merit. And it begins the day you release me from my vows. Until then... if you need me... I'll be the guy in uniform risking it all for you.