|I’mma make it happen, I’mma make a way…|

Back in March (when I was days away from getting on a plane to start life on a new continent), my mom and sister were in town and they decided to drop some knowledge on me in their forms of: “we’re proud of you, we want you to be happy, we’ll see you in a little while” type goodbye messages. My mom in specific, mentioned to me that I have always been far too hard on myself. I’m so hard on myself, in fact, that it makes me expect a whole lot from other people and that leads to me being disappointed by people usually, because no one (even the author of this blog) lives up to what I want from them. This was a true read of how I am (of course, it’s my mom, who would know me better than her)?

I’m notoriously hard on myself and that’s just one of my “Justinisms”. Yesterday, the developer bootcamp that I started in April, was supposed to come to a close. The best thing that I could think of was that I would be able to have mornings without having to get up and try to solve algorithms (let’s be real, that’s going to continue, but because of self-imposed desire to get better at them). I considered that I had been working hard for the past 3.5 months and that I would be able to give myself a break of some sort. The very next thing that I thought about was how many shortcomings I had. I wasn’t the top performer of my class, I didn’t feel like I had all the concepts down and I immediately thought of ways (and things) that I should incorporate learning into my daily routine to get myself better for when it’s time to apply for jobs. I thought about the people in my cohort that I think are better than me, how they’d have great times trying to find work and jump into the world of coding. I think that normal people would’ve just been happy at the fact that there was an achievement reached and that would be that.

Let me be clear and honest about one thing. I had a few moments during the past 3.5 months where I thought that I was just not going to be cut out to try this programming thing out and I would have to simply call it, because I wouldn’t be able to push through the workload. I think I had a particularly hard time through the Java stack. Nothing was clicking, I felt like I wasn’t understanding the material, and I thought that I would have to end up repeating that track. Fortunately, the night before the big end of stack test, things all kinda came together and I was able to make sense of them enough to pass the test the next day. The other thing that I should be honest about, is the fact that I never actually considered that I would not finish this thing out, if I didn’t fail.

In my heart of hearts, I have this thing where I feel like I have to perform, because that’s what is expected of me. I gotta get to something, just because I made a big stink about it, or because I’ve talked about it for a long time, but never made any moves on it. When I moved to Oakland, that was something that I’d spoken about for 4 years, before it actually became something that literally did. This coding talk was stuff that I was saying back in my early college days. It was what I wanted to try to do, it only took me about 20 years to actually get to it. I never thought that I wouldn’t, I just knew that I would take my own sweet time to get to it, however, I’d have my chances here and there.

So, before Covid derailed me, a bootcamp was in the back of my head as a back-up option for me if I didn’t get to move. I was going to leave, but I was accepted to one bootcamp and eventually made it into another, which I ended up attending. Right from the beginning, my attitude was one of: “When I finish this thing, it’s gonna feel great”. Not finishing was never an option that I considered. I have taken out a 10k loan to do this, so it’s just what was going to happen. I didn’t waste all that money (that I now need to pay back) did I? That was all the motivation that I needed. I said that I was going to try something and of course, that was going to be achieved. Looking back at this, it made my mentality yesterday seem kinda normal. I shouldn’t be celebrating something that was expected of me. I kinda thought of it like someone being celebrated for paying their bills and not getting kicked out of their residence, or not having the lights turned off. People kinda generally work towards making them happen and it’s not something that folk might consider spectacular.

However, when the graduation zoom email invite came through, I was surprised to see the lack of names that were addressed in the email. When we started, I think I had about 26-30 people in the group, for that first two weeks. The email had a total of 9 people (including me), the whole ceremony was for about 15 people. The significance of this was lost on me until earlier today. Roughly about 50% of the class is going to have to repeat a stack or quit the program altogether. Once I thought about it that way, it didn’t matter that I was not the best person to come out of the group, just making it through was an accomplishment in itself. I was never really behind on anything and I only had one full breakdown (that lasted about 2 days). For some reason, talking through that with Laura made me really feel so good about myself for about two seconds, before I decided that I needed to immediately jump on free code camp to go through the details of Javascript and sign myself up for creating at least one or two projects of apps or app clones to keep things going. HAHA. I may or may not have a problem.

I’m hard on myself and that’s got good and bad qualities about it. I really need to take the time to give myself grace on actually accomplishing things. It’s a real hard lesson, but the reality is that I don’t have to do anything except work and pay taxes. Anything like setting goals and hitting them should not be looked at as a routine, insignificant thing. Especially, considering that it took me about 20 years to get to this point (did I mention that I now feel real old and very slow to accomplish things)? I gotta have grace, in the face of trying to do something new and maybe I should actually grant myself a real break of some sort, before I get back into the grind of learning and trying things. It might be fun or something like that.

| Ain’t sayin’ nothin’ new |

Friend: Oh hi, Justin!
Friend: How’s your week going/how are you doing with things this week?

Me: Oh, I’m just reeling from learning how to work with Python and Django, nothing special, glad to have a rest.

Friend: Oh yeah, you’re doing that bootcamp thing right? I wanted to check in with you about how you’re doing/feeling about the state of things in the world.

OH. THAT.

I feel like I am compelled to get thoughts down on paper at least once a year (I can only stand to write about this so often, even though new offenses and incidents happen SO OFTEN) in response to the latest trending hashtag, representing a fallen African-American person. Whatever new injustice has gotten white people’s chinos wrinkled this week. However these Karens and Tommys get agitated about the affairs of the world and start posting things on social media non-stop. This is not an enjoyable exercise for me, but of course, seeing as I’ve been hiding my head in the sand, trying to improve my situation by learning too many things at once, I guess I have built up a response/opinion about things that needs to be expressed. Even at the risk of uncovering the harsh and unattractive truth that I am a black man who has coherent and important thoughts (THE AUDACITY!). Well, grasp your pearls, readers. It’s about to get real.

It’s no big secret that police interactions with people of color are generally strained. I speak for myself when I say that I really hate police officers. I know they’re not all the same, they’re not all bad, blah blah. When you’re part of an institution that uses death and killing as a way of keeping the peace, you have to know that you instill fear in the hearts of those whom you are persecuting. PERIOD. This is not something that is up for debate, it doesn’t matter how afraid you are of us. The main problem is that we all have this breathing addiction and are trying to keep the streak going. Your kind, are protecting and serving by using excessive and targeted violence. Again, I know this is not ALL the cops, but in the same breath, I don’t care. Just like the bad ones don’t want to take the time to always properly assess the situation at hand before doling out their special fucked up justice, I will not hold space for the conversation about why there are good vs. bad cops. The good cops are not stopping the bad ones from doing this, they’re not supporting their removals from these forces, they’re not trying to get these peers of theirs convicted, so lack of action makes you complicit in their actions in my eyes. I hate interacting with them, I get scared in their presence. I have even gone so far as to work to get myself removed from jury duties where a case involves a police officer, because I am heavily biased against them. How am I supposed to believe that I can be protected by a group of people who are so afraid of my existence that I have to have special rules to follow in order to deal with them.

I heard a thing about a lady that decided to use the cops as a weapon against a dude that was just trying to have her adhere to the rules of the park that she was walking her dog in. It’s SO FRUSTRATING when you’re minding your own business, breaking rules that wont’ affect anyone and someone tries to stop you from doing things the way you want to. I wouldn’t have any idea what it feels like, but I imagine that for that white woman it was like a slap in the face. To imagine the boldness required to tell her to follow the rules that are plainly posted on a sign in front of her own ignoring face! This was apparently enough to rile her up into a state that required her using a threat of calling the cops to get someone to leave her alone. Not that the dude was actually doing anything aggressively. He wasn’t in her face threatening her, he wasn’t yelling, he wasn’t even really invading her space. She basically has tried (the new and appalling trend) of weaponizing the police force. All it takes is one well-dressed or well-spoken endorsement from a white person to create all the suspicion needed to bring the justice, guns-a-blazing. What a gross power to have. To be able to cry wolf and cause so much problems for another human being. It’s just deplorable. However, I always hear about barbecue becky, or that karen that just wants to have her side heard. They’re not bad people, they just want what they want and how they want it.

My new favorite annoyance is white people who are wanting to be allies, posting about how much black lives matter and how disgusting some of these actions are. Now, I know for a fact that many of these are good well-meaning people who really do not like what they’re seeing. I can agree with that, it’s demeaning and frustrating at the very least. However, I just can’t seem to stomach it right now. It has nothing to do with whether you’re a racist or not. I think that the bigger issue in my eyes is that people are saying things from a place of privilege that comes across to me as very trendy. Again, I apologize if you’re one of those people who are generally trying to express your disappointment at what’s happening, but seeing as you are benefitting/have benefitted directly or indirectly from the system that allows this kind of hatred and reckless disregard for lives, situations, and humanity to flourish, I don’t want to hear you talking about this. What I would love to hear is how you’re calling out your friends when they say something flippant and ignorant. I would love to hear about how you’re raising your kids to play with children of all colors. I would love to hear about how you’re voting against people in power who are pushing agendas that spread hate at all levels of government. Pass a few laws that increase the focus on the human condition, no matter what the background is.

The real upsetting thing is that whomever’s death happens to be the flavor of the week, it turns into just that. Just when the “decent” people have gotten used to the idea that these things happen, it’s back to normal for them. Even worse than that, it is probably just right in time for a new injustice to surface. I’m sure that there are many officers or leaders that are cursing the invention of mobile phone sized cameras. African-Americans used to have hope in the fact that there were easy ways to document the injustices that are forced upon us, but of course, many multiple videos of examples of this inhumane treatment have been met with a disgustingly ambivalent response. So you chanting from the tops of your friends pages that black lives matter is kind of like a slap across the face. ESPECIALLY if we happen to be one of the 2 or 3 tops black folk that you have in a friend circle and we have to read this business from you every-so-often. Nothing about these incidents are new, black people have been dying at the hands of white folk in this country since we couldn’t be controlled and domineered as your slaves or indentured servants. It’s kinda like crowd control though right? Don’t let those guys get ahead of themselves, they still remain the lowest of the low and need to be reminded of that when they can be.

People are upset about rioting and about looting/violence/etc. I don’t know what kind of response we’re allowed to have in the face of grave injustice that lets you know how little worth you have in society. We get in trouble for complying. When people kneel or protest, it’s annoying, it’s happening out of being too sensitive about things. this drives people to anger of course. Since we’re being shown no regard when we try to do things the right way, we lose the desire to play by the rules. There is deep hurt and anger that will be expressed however people feel like they can do that. It would be great if we had someplace to call, or some group that would help us to feel protected and would guarantee us some semblance of the feeling of security. Unfortunately for us, that’s not the case. I can’t pick up the phone and call any police officer for help, for fear that I might be the one that ends up paying the price somewhere down the line, for engaging with the enemy.

My long-winded response to the question of how I’m doing is that I’m broken. I’m broken inside, in my heart, because I can’t really handle what these repeated messages mean for me. I am expected to pay taxes and be a contributing member of a society that wants me mostly dead or in some kind of suffering, because I’m taking the space of someone who really deserves to be here. Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but the feeling is the same. I have this restless worry about what will become of people who try to live good lives and want to just exist without problems. I feel numbed to the fact that a new name will be running across my varying number of screens. Feels like there will never be rest and ease from the pain of having to watch another video full of evidence of the hatred that boils towards me for no reason other than being alive. It is really deflating to try to do the things with the same freedom that my neighbors enjoy, that I cannot quite fully grasp or enjoy for myself. I hate that I get to live in a country that is like this and is flaring up in hatred over the last almost four years. I don’t want to talk about it with you. I don’t want to help you explore ways that you can help the cause. You should be able to see it for yourself. It’s all over the place and it’s upsetting to be asked about how it feels to be me. I used to appreciate the check-ins, but they’re slowly becoming just as annoying to me as the events that are causing them. It just serves to remind me that I am an outsider in some circles and in a lot of ways, the only connection that some people have to real life things and that’s enough to depress anyone.

| Workin’ Day and Night |

Here’s a live look at our protagonist, live from his apartment in Oakland, CA:

Captain’s Log… Day 2485202421 in lockdown…

I’m well into my 3rd week of the full-stack development bootcamp offered by Coding Dojo, here in Oakland. Here are some of my preliminary thoughts about things so far.

  • People are really interesting. Folk come from all walks of life.
  • You never know what you know, until you’re tested (wait, now school makes so much sense, dammit!)
  • you never know what you’re capable of until you do it
  • man, my fingertips are sore.
  • I need a new computer.

In all honesty, I would not say it’s back breaking, but it’s definitely not something that you should step into lightly. My general schedule is getting together with my cohort on zoom at 9am and then working on all kinds of assignments and making things until the wee hours of the evening a lot of times. I have rarely seen my bed before the hour of midnight since starting this thing. I mean, last week alone, I think I fully coded up at least 6 webpages alone. This does not include fun jquery things like this madness:

https://justinvsmith.github.io/dojo_assignments/Web_Fundamentals/jquery/pokedex/pokedex.html

However, you might be asking yourself, Isn’t this something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time?! Are you not enjoying yourself?

To that, I’d reply, STOP JUDGING ME.

*AHEM*

I mean, thanks for your concern friend. Yes, I have been wanting to jump into this for a long time. Yes a CRAZY word circumstance was all it took for me to go ahead and make the jump. I would say it’s a great time. I know that sounds kinda weird. I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve had great a many evenings, being stuck on some permutation of how to re-order pieces of data in an array. I’ve had many many choice words for Python, that have me feeling grateful that I’m living by myself (who wants to hear a stream-of-consciousness rant laden with curse words?). I have definitely had moments where I felt like I was never going to be cut out for another 12 weeks of this kind of madness. If i had to fail at one more algorithm challenge, i might just have to ask for a refund, because I’m not going to get very far this way.

The really funny thing is that I can’t actually imagine myself doing anything else right now. As frustrating as computers can be, I constantly wake up wanting to see what’s next. I am excited to figure out the problems for the day, or to see what kind of algorithmic alchemy I’m going to be asked to perform that day. Sometimes, the days go amazingly (today was a reasonably good day!), sometimes, they’re not exactly what I’ve imagined they would be, but it’s all just good experience. I really have to learn to be in a place where it’s ok to learn.

I’m going to have these same feelings when I get to starting a new job. I hate the feeling of not being in control/on top of something that I’m working on. It makes me feel so small or stupid when I am not able to quickly grasp things. However, I have a track record of being ridiculously hard on myself and thankfully, I have friends that are checkin’ up on your boy, to make sure that he’s not tearing his hair out. One of my favorite friends has reminded me that it’s just like being in college again. I have to be patient to learn the things I’m supposed to be learning. If I already knew these things, I wouldn’t have to be paying for the knowledge that I’m getting. Oh friends, such wisdom.

I find myself thinking about those days where I would sit with my wide open HTML book, back in the days ( I think I was about 13). I would stay up into the wee hours of the night, figuring out the tags and trying to get a page made. I’m still that silly lil nerdy boy, excited about creating things on the web, now it’s just a little bit more serious, but all the fun is still there (Even when making pages from 2013, like this one:

https://justinvsmith.github.io/dojo_assignments/Web_Fundamentals/html/portfolio/portfolio.html

All in all, I’m having some ups and downs, but I’m learning a lot and this could be the beginning of some real interesting things. I guess we’ll see what happens.

| Déjà Vu |

A few months ago, everyone was into this whole decade challenge thing. As far as I could understand it, it would be as simple as posting a picture of yourself 10 years apart. It was supposed to be a silly/interesting look at how you’ve changed over the past 10 years and maybe give yourself (or others who might still think you’re just as cool as you were back then) some hope for the next 10 years. CAN WE SAY GLOW UP?! Yeah, that’s a thing and I know about it! (WHO’S TOO OLD TO BE COOL NOW?! HMM?!).

This being said. I had great joy yesterday, when I was able to have the same movers that I’d just seen 2 weeks before, to bring me my stuff from my soon-to-be-abandoned storage unit. They felt like familiar figures, passing me onto the next stage of my life journey, with dollies and a huge truck. I’d spent those previous two weeks with the bare minimum of things (seeing as I was supposed to have a totally empty apartment and be strolling along some random canal in Amsterdam by this point). Once all the boxes were moved, it was almost like Christmas morning, picking a box at a time and being surprised by what had been packed away instead of given away (you might find this strange, but c’mon! I’d been living for weeks without this stuff! I put it away literally and mentally).

The big thinking came when it was finally time to unpack and replace things where they were supposed to go. I realized that I was unpacking much of the same stuff that I had unpacked in the same apartment that I had been unpacking things into for the first time, a little over a year and a half ago. DOUBLE MOVE-IN DAY! Usually, people don’t pack up just to come back to the same place that they’d left. I had a similar feeling of things when it came time to change my mailing/residential address. For some reason, this was embarrassing to me. I found myself feeling like kind of a failure, because I had set myself to be a phantom roommate of my friend Laura and here, two weeks later, I was moving back into my previous physical address. Normal folk would understand the situation and tell me that it wasn’t really a big deal, but for some reason it stuck with me.

It wasn’t until I was explaining to friends how excited I was to be getting my things back (champagne always tastes better out of a proper flute, I know it sounds crazy, but I’m not here for your judgement guys), that I realized that my current situation was very reminiscent of my situation 4 years ago. Almost exactly this time of year back in 2016 I was dealing with a recently failed trip to Costa Rica, I was unemployed, and I was thinking about doing some classwork to up my technical skills. I’d previously stated that my initial 2 weeks of lockdown had thrown me back into the type of bachelorhood that I though I had left behind in college. Back to the days of minimal furniture, eating out of disposable (at least now compostable) cutlery and dishes. There were a few initial moments of fear and shame around this. I’d worked for 4 years just to come back to where I’d already been. How in the hell was I supposed to be finding myself, when I was just in a cycle of perceived failure?

The truth came really quickly. It was less than about 10 minutes for me. Thankfully, 4 years ago, I tried out going to therapy. That was significant in being able to jump into what I was thinking and explore why I felt the ways that I was feeling. I also gained the ability to appreciate what was happening, instead of just feeling like things were happening around me without my consent. There were certain things that I could control and then there were all the other things. So, my response was to think of the ways that I am different than I was those 4 years ago.

4 years agoPresent year Justin
– Felt alone and misunderstood.
– Had very little faith about what I could accomplish.
– Had no motivation or vision.
– I recognize that I have family and friends who are invested in me, whether things are good or bad looking.
– I have seen myself jump through many hoops and I believe in my ability to come out of the other side of problems victoriously.
– I have a goal in mind, that I will fight to make happen.

Instead of being led to some magical life-altering solution that will fix things for me, I recognize that I have the ability to shape my present, despite anything in my past, by how I react to things. Instead of being afraid for life and feeling overwhelmed by the idea of being laid off (like I was prone to 4 years ago), I knew before anything happened, that this was a possibility and I got a clear idea (with some courage, finally), a plan of attack, and peace from the thought that nothing is permanent. No thing that you go through is for nothing and opportunities are only wasted if you allow yourself to get stuck.

So. Four years later. The situation looks similar, the variables are all familiar (Look at me already talking like a developer!), but this time I walk into things a little wiser and a lot less stressed than I previously thought was possible. Apparently, I needed the last run at this, to show me some things and I’m ready to apply the lessons learned and make something great happen. Nothing will be easy about it, but it’ll be something that I’ll be proud of, because I did it and it didn’t just happen to me.

| He Won’t Go… |

Hi and welcome back to Future Watch, the show that goes deep, interviewing the silliest people on the web, for special insights into their lives and affairs. This week, we have our guest Justin! Justin is in the middle of a life-changing time in his life and after making a huge decision to relocate to a different country, is in a waiting pattern about what’s going to happen. Let’s jump right into this one, hope you enjoy!

FW: Hi Justin, thanks for taking the time to sit with us today. We’re excited to chat with you and hear about your journey so far. How are you doing?

JS: Hi guys, thanks for taking interest. I am not sure how you figured out who I am, or what I was doing, but in the middle of a shelter-in-place, I’m willing to talk to anyone (even if I have to make it all up).

FW: How modest of you! Of course we’re a real show and we have nothing but the best intentions of hard hitting questions to get people into your head and give them a good picture of your situation. Let’s start shall we?

FW: Last time that we were able to catch up with you, you’d been sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic. You were supposed to be headed out to Amsterdam, what’s the status there? Do you have an updated time of travel?

JS: Ah yes. I was sidelined here. The latest update is that the big move has been cancelled. Or, maybe I should say that it has been postponed indefinitely.

FW: Oh no! What do you mean? You were so close? What happened?

JS: Well, the short version is that I was laid off by the company that I was supposed to be moving and working with. Our main customers were hotels and of course, this pandemic has hit he hospitality industry HARD. Hotels not being open, meant that the company wasn’t getting paid, not getting paid was problematic for the bottom line. They had to make the hard decision to let people go, to give the business a chance to survive with less incoming revenue.

FW: WOW! We did not see that coming as an answer. So are you going to be able to rejoin this company at a later date, or are you permanently done?

JS: I would never say never, but yeah, it’s not a furlough or anything like that. I will be fully unemployed.

FW: Are you doing ok?

JS: I’m doing great! Really, I just see this whole situation as an opportunity. Nothing happens for no reason, so it just tells me that this was not the time for a move. Kinda weird that it was because of such a bunch of crazy circumstances, but it is what it is.

FW: You’re just kidding right? You have had a crazy month and a half trying to prepare for this. What are you going to do? How are you going to make it?!

JS: Good question. I am doing well. There are many worse things out there happening. For goodness sakes, brunch across the country is on hold. WHAT’S A MAN TO DO?!

JS: Honestly, I have already secured my apartment, so it’s back to life as normal with the lease. I have applied and been accepted to a Developer Bootcamp, so I’m going to attend that starting in April and try to give myself over to a dream that’s been FAR TOO LONG deferred. I’m gonna get my stuff out of storage and restart my life in the Bay Area.

FW: Anustart?

JS: I see that someone is an Arrested Development fan… Yes, I’m going to finally try to make a living doing what I am truly interested in. This bootcamp will hopefully open doors to me that I’ve only been talking about for years. Hopefully, I didn’t wait too long. It seemed like the best backup plan, that I have always been afraid to try.

FW: Wow, what a crazy story! Seems like one journey is ending and another is starting. Well, we can only wish you the best of luck in your adventures!

JS: Thanks, I’m going to need some good luck for the next 4 months!

That’s our interview! What a shocker! We certainly appreciate Justin for taking the time to sit with us. Boy, sounds like he’s in for a challenge in the coming months. Join us next time, when we sit with Craig, who just got fired on his day off. We’ll find out what he plans to do to appease his father and impress his secret crush, without a job!

| I. Must. Go on standing… |

It has been pretty entertaining to recently catch up with friends over text or over phone calls. Usually, they’re quite surprised that I am still in the U.S. I was not able to break the borders before they all were getting shut down and barricaded, to keep from spreading a crazy flu variant that I will not name, just for the sake of anyone who is reading this silly blog and might have name fatigue.

So, in the sake of being ridiculously tired and having no better ideas for something to write (not to mention, trying to be regularly updating this business for funsies), I’ll try to give a brief update of how things are going for your ever-adventuring (in his mind, at least), boy Justin.

Yes friends, I am still here. No, the plans to move to Europe have not changed yet. As far as I know, I’ll still have the chance to hit up Amsterdam with my company. Unless we fall to the operating costs of being up and running during this lockdown and the hospitality industry fails to pick itself back up. In the fanciful case that it doesn’t, I could well be out of a job and just searching for things to do here in the good ol’ states!

As I previously mentioned, I was able to stay in my apartment for at least another month or so, I assume that this won’t be too much of a problem for extended stays. We shall see how that situation plays itself out. For the time being, I am quarantined in my (mostly) empty apartment and surviving (YASSS KING)!

I’ve set up camp in my living room, primarily. I have a nice air mattress (that was better than I was expecting, quite honestly…), I have a semi-reclining chair that I purchased many years ago from Ikea and I have my bedroom television, my sonos soundbar/speakers, and my lamps! I still need to barely hit any light switches, as my google home can still automate my major lighting. I do most of my work in the chair, and can free roam around the perimeter of my place. It’s kinda like I’m squatting, although I’m paying rent still. What a weird thought.

I have not ventured forth to take anything out of the storage unit that I am renting. Why you might ask? Well, I don’t know that I feel like digging through a 10 x10 room of boxes that hold everything that I once knew as the main elements of my life. Also, It’d suck for all this to blow over and have to spend another $400 to get that stuff back into the storage unit. For the time being, I have purchased some new/temporary things:

  1. A new chef’s knife
  2. A saucepan, a sautee pan, and a frying pan
  3. A cutting board
  4. A cookie sheet
  5. Minimal spices.

Thankfully, for most of this year, I was really into meal prep, so that just continues easily through this solitary confinement mode. Lunches are easy and dinners are made for the week in one fell swoop! Although, I don’t have to be the most efficient (let’s be real, where am I actually going?), It’s kinda comforting to know that I don’t have to be scrambling for what i’m going to eat all the time.

I’m in full minimalist mode and at least for the last 10 days, it’s been reasonably cool. I mean, I do feel like I’ve gone back to the peak of my college-aged bachelorhood, replete with plastic bowls and compostable cutlery, but things could be much worse. Meanwhile, life is in a holding pattern, while we try to keep our distance from other people and hope that things really settle down.

The worst thing, I would say, is that even though I am an introvert, I haven’t had human contact/real life interaction in almost 2 weeks and I am going kinda stir craaaaaaazy! A good hug would do wonders for me! Other than that, life continues and I’m still hopeful that I’ll be able to start things anew in a new place. Just think of all the fancy blog updates I’ll be able to do once THAT happens!

🙂

| This is how it starts |

The sun rises on our hero… T-minus 2 days until the flight that will take him on his next adventure. He goes over the last 2 weeks’ worth of activities in his mind.

  • Phone calls made
  • Movers acquired
  • Change of Address filled out
  • Storage unit acquired
  • Packing handled
  • Belongings moved
  • Visa approved
  • Viral Pandemic ensues
  • Goodbye meetings began
  • Final bash BASHED

Things had moved quickly, but he was readying himself. His mom and sister had come up to the land of the oaks to visit him before he was going to make his final departure. We join him while he works, with CNN on in the background. Wolf Blitzer has just announced that the European Union has suggested that they tighten down the borders across their countries. One of which, is Amsterdam (the final destination of our hero). He happens to have a good friend on the front lines in The Netherlands, who assures him that things are not as bad as they are sounding.

To quote Marshall Mathers: “So what the hell is a fella to do?!”

The last week had been full of apartment hunting (assigning said friend to check out places and answer questions ahead of the blessed arrival). Scheduling the appointment that would finalize the Visa and setting things in motion to get the BSN (think social security number + tax id) that would allow him to get the ball rolling. The numbers and the scenarios flash through his head as he finally begins to think that it after all of these positive signs, he might not get to board his plane on Wednesday, heading towards new adventures. Suddenly, a newsflash hits the screen: “Shelter in place ordered for San Francisco and surrounding areas!” His only thought was: “What the flip does shelter in place actually mean!?”

What it meant was that only essential travel is going to be allowed. Otherwise, please stay in your homes, unless you want to challenge the free world to a winner-takes-all battle for toilet tissue supremacy! This was the moment that he knew, he’d have to make a tough decision. It looked initially like the UK would be open to travel long enough to enable him to beat the odds and the sanctions. In this moment, he realized that this was not going to be the case. With a whimper, he turns to his mom and utters the words for the first time: “Looks like this move is not happening on Wednesday”. His mother replied in shock, but realized the truth when she read what was on the screen.

The shelter in place lockdown is set to go until April 7th. 3 weeks of solitude?! What are the next steps? Where will he stay?! What’s going to happen about work?! OH THE HUMANITY (sorry, dramatic elements are hard to include before the Stephen King workshop concludes).

*Ahem*

Immediately, his mother instructs him to call the rental property management, to see if they can renege on the move out date and keep things going for at least another month. MIRACULOUSLY, the management company puts up no resistance and graciously allows this situation to have a happy fix for the time being. The next step is to alert the powers that be, in his office, that he will have to push things back until there is an all clear for travel to happen. This goes mostly smoothly, with everyone being in agreement about the course of action. The next piece of action is to have the flight (which has not been canceled by the airline) canceled, so that at least the value of the ticket can be salvaged. Lastly, with a 3 week lockdown ahead of him, there is the question of whether or not to get things back out of storage, or to try to minimalist live it (spoiler alert: minimalist living wins).

So. here we are. Our hero is now in a lavish spread in his mostly empty living room. A queen sized air mattress, a tiny bedroom tv, his cable box, and of course, his Sonos soundbar/speaker system (because even with no big furniture, music MUST be at his fingertips, these are not the days of yore). The sun has set and what has promised to be the adventure of a lifetime, starts out with a fizzle and a wait. Our hero is not daunted. He is safe, has a place to stay, and fire in his heart, waiting for the chance to get on a plane and make moves in Amsterdam.

Someone once said that the journey of a thousand steps begins with a 3-week shelter-in-place, right? (I’m pretty sure that’s how that went down).

This is just the beginning of his great adventure! All to (hopefully) be chronicled right here. LET’S GO!!!

| Happenstance. |

Everything seemed to perfectly line up. Is this thing over before it has started?

I realize I’ve been quite silent about life recently (I roll my eyes as I type this, for cliché sake, OVERUSED SENTENCE IN NEGLECTED BLOG PAGES MUCH?). Allow me to catch you up in the form of a story (the success of the storytelling is going to probably be low. DISCLAIMER).

In the summer of 2019, my good friend My got married. It happened that his wife-to-be was Dutch, and his family is in France, so Europe was the preferred destination for the nuptials. I spent about 3 weeks there, wandering about. Starting my travels in Amsterdam, where he and his wife lived. I got off the train at the Centraal station and adventure began! I spent a week traipsing among the canals and meeting up with coworkers and generally enjoying myself. As I worked, I was told that it would be cool if I ever decided to come live in Amsterdam for any period of time and work out of that office. It became kind of a thing. I thought about it long and hard, people were willing to make moves to get me out there. I brought it up with the fam, surprisingly, they were ok with the idea of it. Although, I came back to the bay area and figured it was just a pipe dream.

Once I was back in the bay, I was already scheming about how/when I would be able to get back to Amsterdam (mostly in a visiting capacity), but didn’t know when I’d be able to jump on the chance to follow up on that. My opportunity came about 4 months later! My birthday last year was Black Friday and as a gift to myself, I decided that I would check out flights. To my great surprise, I saw that I would be able to get a round trip flight to Amsterdam for about $412 bucks! WHAT LUCK! I went ahead and bought tickets, then planned to hit The Netherlands hard. The vacation was planned to go from March 18th to April 1st. Everyone was stoked and plans were set in motion.

Near the very end of January, I was given some interesting news at work that would set into motion a very curious series of events. A decision had come down from the top brass: “We are going to consolidate your department under your current manager, and move the position to Amsterdam.” I was given the choice to be relocated, or we would part ways at the end of March. The desired start date, if I were to move, would be April 1st. Interesting, no? I immediately thought that this might be my chance… Everything kinda lined up too easily. Eventually, I said yes to the opportunity to go and basically took about a month to get my affairs in order and a storage unit ordered and pushed through with things.

Everything was perfect right!? I was getting the chance to start something new and opportunity was knocking. T-2 days until my trip was to begin, we learn that we’re all being susceptible to a pandemic that will possibly de-rail all of my plans… That really interesting little flu virus that started really far away has started blowing up on this side of the pond and could rear its head in a very ugly way…

|I just can’t keep living this way… So starting today, I’m breaking out of this cage|

If I’ve ever wanted something, I very rarely let it be known. I’m definitely more of the “let-it-happen-and-adjust-accordingly” mindframe. Unbeknownst to me (until now, duh) , I’ve been minimalizing all of my feels since I was a young kid. I’m definitely a victim of feeling like giving into feelings was a weakness, unless I was mad. Anger was the only acceptable feeling to show regularly. Not that it was ok to act out in that anger, because that anger was seen as strength. It was ok to be mad, because it showed focus on something and supposedly made you more dangerous, or made people take you serious while you were in such a state. Ahh, the subtle joys of being conditioned as a young male in the American cultural tradition. Prove yourself through your own mettle and be either indifferent or upset at the world. There is no in-between, right? Anything else would make you a moody or sensitive dude, which of course is not manly at all. Of course, because I’m black, I have to also have a chip on my shoulder, because that’s also acceptable.

I mostly bought into the mentality of not being too happy or too sad about anything as a self defense mechanism. If you’re not expecting very much, then it won’t hurt as much when you’re disappointed. If you expect to be disappointed, then nothing should really bother you. You just end up being right all the time when things inevitably go wrong. Curiously, I kept myself from being happy and feeling happy things. I also ended up self fulfilling my own prophecies by seeking the hitch in people’s best laid plans (“where’s the poop, Robin?”). It gives me some kind of small, fleeting satisfaction to be correct a lot of the time, but I’m operating under the wrong pretenses, wouldn’t you agree? If you’re not doing something because you like it, then why be wasting your time?! Seems counter-intuitive to me, but that was exactly the headspace that I found myself examining and being quite surprised by.

Why is it so hard to vocalize what we want? I should re-phrase that. Why is it so hard to vocalize what I want? A self-taught lesson that I’ve realized in my life is the philosophy that if I don’t let people in on what I’m actually passionate about, then they cannot use those things against me. I’m instantly reminded of my elementary school years, where I would regularly keep a journal (not a diary, I was a boy, sheesh). That regularly updated journal was regularly terrorized by my sister and she, in turn, would bring up little snippets of some entry that she’d read recently, in the worst of circumstances.OF course, this taught me to just keep things close to my chest (except I have a proven track record of relaying my innermost thoughts through public mediums like blogs. Interesting, really), in hopes that I could steel myself against invasions of privacy. Or maybe I fancied myself a 13 year old version of Poppa Doc in 8 mile (yes, I know he’s not the hero in that movie, just go with it). I could keep all my secrets to myself and craft an aura for myself that would only include what I wanted people to know about me. Actually, that’s quite possibly the premise for any social media account…

Unlike Clarence (whose parents, I hope still have a real good marriage), I cover my tracks nicely, by never starting beef with anyone. Of course, I do have some choice people that I definitely try to stay away from, but generally, you won’t be catching any revelations about my life from someone trying to freestyle battle me in a dark club (sucks to be you). I’ve always said that I dislike eye contact, because I have never wanted someone to be able to read me and ask about whatever secrets I’m hiding. I have conditioned myself to always hold back from people. I used to be pretty good at being super interested in people (to throw them off my trail). Now I think it’s more about being genuine with my intentions. I have been spending lots of time alone, which keeps me thinking (way too much) about things like interpersonal interactions and the real effects of how I act/how my actions affect relationships of many sorts.

Having hope in a thing or in a person is one of the joys of being alive. I don’t want to live such a life of insulation. That was ok with me for a while (while trying to get my life together), but it’s no longer a sustainable or reasonable way to attack this one life that I get. I keep listening to people who are asking questions about men and how/when we’re going to be able to move past old hurts. Not only moving past them, but really doing the work of introspection and fleshing out our feelings about things/coping methods that are helpful and do not leave us depending on our partners for resolution. This is me trying to recognize that I want to have stuff to look forward to, or get excited about and I don’t care who knows it. I don’t have to have a facade of unaffected existence (that’s ridiculous). I am allowed the space to be a real person, through and through. Real people have ups and downs, real people need others, real people know to ask for what they need.

So, as is so often for me, I’m writing this down to document the truth in these sentiments. I want good things for myself. The first step to getting those things, is to admit them, then set goals towards them. The growing pains are going to be uncomfortable. This is how I get to be a better me. Time to start living, instead of just existing.

| C’mon Bro… |

Lemme preface this entry by saying that I made a terrible mistake and nothing I can say actually excuses me from it, but I’m also not asking for any excuses. I messed up and I’m opening up to it.

Once, when I was younger, I spread a rumor about being gay. People thought that I was a little weird (which I was). I thought that being controversial would be a reasonable way to live up to that perception. Once it got back to my mom, she asked me about it. I denied it and she asked me if I knew what it meant. I told her and a apologized for lying to people.

I had no idea how damaged that way of thinking was, but I just wanted to give people a reason to think that I was different.

Tonight, I decided to pull something similar. In a response to my own discomfort around not being a dater in this society. I’m the last of my super close friends to not be married/getting married or be in a serious relationship. I’ve heard lots in the past week about how people wish I’d meet a nice girl. I also had about how I might be gay and denying myself, because I’m not even trying to date anyone. I didn’t think about how much this might have bothered me until after I got called out by my friends for being an ass.

I got the idea to play an April fool’s joke on them by telling them that I’d realized recently that I don’t want to date because I’m recently realizing that I didn’t like women. Yes, not my best move. Yes my friends called me out immediately (as they damn well should have). It’s not a joke to be gay and that should not be how I decide to erase any discomfort for myself.

I apologize to anyone that I know who I am offensive to. It’s totally a reprehensible thing to do. No matter what I say, I gotta live with the fact that I did that. What’s interesting to me is that it’s my eat if responding to some internal shortcoming. The way many of us fall short of something in our hearts and decide that we have to be strong against or because of.

It’s really easy, as a male, to just dismiss something as an effort to cover up something that we feel inadequate about. That’s not cool. Not the way I want to operate in life. I need to learn how to care less about what people think and just live for me. You would think I would have learned this by my 36th year on Earth, but alas, I’m still in the learning place.

Also, I realize that I can only be responsible for my reactions to things and this was a failure. That’s it. No other words for it, besides my bad.

I always have this idea that living a comfortable life is boring. That night be true in many ways, but there is also no reason to try to look about who you are/why you things. Tonight, I painfully learned that lesson.