Dating in 2018: WTF?

February, 2017 

That’s when my last relationship ended.  It didn’t officially end until the spring, but I was going through some things that made it tough for me to be in the right head-space for a relationship.  In January, I was fired from a career I had put my everything into.  A month later, I went snowboarding for the first time that season and ended up breaking my arm badly.  At that point, I wasn’t a boyfriend in any meaningful way.. I had too much that I needed to figure out.  Bless her heart, she was awesome and supportive the whole way through.  Probably the most amicable breakup I’ve ever had.

May, 2017

One of the relationships I kept reflecting on last year was with Max.  We had dated a couple years prior.  There was so much chemistry between us and so much that we had in common.  It seemed to work on every level.  Except she was bugging to go explore the world and I was committed to my career.  I was also too dominant in that relationship, more controlling than I would’ve liked to be.  There were times where her free-spirited nature was at odds with my career goals and I would try to convince her that my career goals were a higher priority than her being herself at all times.  I wish I hadn’t.

In understanding why I had been fired, I realized that it was a matter of fit.  In trying to understand where I would fit best, I realized that I needed to do a better job of understanding myself.  That journey mirrored so much of what Max had learned leaving a big 4 accounting firm and working for a start-up.  I wish I had done a better job of understanding that story.  She helped inspire a lot of growth on my part, and I thought she might appreciate knowing that.

December 2017

I wrote a blog post about her.  Flushed out every thought and emotion I had on the subject and realized a lot of things I still hadn’t considered.  It was a good experience.  At the end, I figured I would tell her about the ground that I had covered and thank her for her part in all of this.  I made a YouTube video and send it to her on Christmas.  I was clear that I wasn’t looking to get back together, but I’d be lying if I said a part of me wasn’t trying to plant a seed for the future.

January 2018

After about month of radio silence, she emailed.  She said some nice things and asked if I was up for a video call.  I said sure – and then proceeded to hear nothing from her for another month.  I knew she probably had a full plate so I eventually just emailed, “whats on your mind?”  Her reply was more direct this time.  Said she was busy, was happy for me, then questioned much of what I had said, and seemed to have forgotten about that video call.  I replied, tried to explain, but then said it would probably be easier over the phone.  No reply.

March 2018

Another month of radio silence.  All I wanted to do was let her know what I had gone through, and hoped that she would be happy for me.  Maybe I should send her a link to the blog post about her?  At least it would be the full story.  So I messaged her on WhatsApp but before the opportunity presented itself, it became a conversation.  She began to question who I had ‘become’, suggesting that I was still the same person.  It was tough trying to explain how and why over text.  But I tried.  At one point, she even ceded that it seemed like I was a whole new person.  Maybe she was just saying that hoping I would stop trying to argue my point.  Regardless, it was clear she lacked the motivation to invest the time into understanding that person.. and everything that I had felt towards her had shifted.  One of the things I appreciated about her most was that understanding me seemed effortless.  Now, not only was there effort involved, but she had no interest in putting the effort in.  A bummer at first, but it felt good to have clarity.

Right around that time, I was trying to go on a date with a girl named Mia.  Someone I dated for a bit a few years ago, and someone who I had a bunch of fun, nerdy stuff in common with.  She’s all kinds of cool, but she’s also working through some things.  When things get difficult or confusing, she hides.  She tried that with me before and I just walked away.. it’s why we stopped dating the last time.  This time, I was more interested in helping her rise above that.  So we tried to go on a date, but then she got busy.  We rescheduled, but then she got busy again.  I told her I knew this pattern, and I was happy to walk away if she wanted me to, but she didn’t – she was struggling with old habits.

April 2018

So we tried again, but work.  And again, but work.  I was on my way out this time, but did so with a link to a post I had written about her, so she would at least know what my honest feelings towards her were.  She was surprised.  She opened up to me more than she ever had, and seemed that much more motivated to see me.  Seemed like progress.  So we rescheduled.. and she ghosted again.  This time, it was because she had read the rest of my blog and found out about Max.  She was afraid that I was using her to fill a Max-shaped void.  I couldn’t hold it against her, it was a legitimate question that I also had to ask myself.  We talked it through, and agreed that we would make attempt number 6.

Had I been stood up 6 times with no difference in the context, I’d be worried about my mental health.. but that wasn’t the case.  With each time, progress was being made.  And I could tell that these were big steps for someone who didn’t have a lot of opportunities to take these steps.  Unfortunately, it was also creating an imbalance in the relationship which I knew was unhealthy.  She pleaded that work was being unfair, and that she wasn’t leading me on, and how interested she was… but she couldn’t get her actions to match her texts.  The outcome was disappointing, but I’m happy that I treated the situation with compassion and understanding instead of walking away at the first sign of getting hurt.

April 25th, 2018

The very next day, Max texts me.  Said she’s in-town, and would ‘love’ to get together.  Well then.  We book a late dinner for Sunday.  She also wants to smoke a joint together, so we plan to get together later in the week too.  Easy way to get my mind off Mia, I guess.

April 27th, 2018

Arrive to a 3-day self-help seminar on Friday.  Pretty skeptical about what I’m walking into, but doing it with an open mind and the best of intentions.  A girl catches my eye.  Was partnered up with her at the end of the day for an exercise where we’re asked to sit directly across from each other and tell a victim story while looking into each others eyes.  We spend most of that time looking at each other and cracking up, because neither one of us is any good at pretending to be a victim.  A fun introduction.  We shall call her..  Lulu.

On the way home, I text my buddy who invited me to the seminar, letting him know how it went.  He asks if I met anyone interesting.  I say everyone’s interesting if you ask the right questions (holding back from saying I met this really cute girl).  He tells me that he has another friend who’s there doing the seminar and he hopes that we have a chance to meet.. and that her name is Lulu.  As he puts it, we’re two of his closest friends and the ones he goes to for good conversation.  Wow.. that’s kinda cool.  I ask if he’s interested in her, or if she’s in a relationship.  Says he dated her for a bit way back, and he thinks she’s in a relationship with someone.  Well, never mind then…

April 28th, 2018

Saturday’s part of the seminar put me and Lelu back in close proximity.  I do my best to avoid creating interactions, but don’t avoid them either.  Our chemistry continues to build.  I text my buddy again that night, asking if he’s sure that she’s in a relationship.  He says yes.  I tell him that while my instincts around these things are a bit rusty, pretty sure this girl is into me.  He tells me a bit more about her and shows some enthusiasm around us connecting beyond this seminar.

April 29th, 2018

Lulu was definitely the best part of my Sunday seminar.  We sat beside each other a few times and ended up doing a couple of the 1 on 1 sessions together too.  I eventually asked if she knew we had both been invited by the same friend – she didn’t.  She was excited, especially because it meant that there was a good chance we’d see each other again. As the day went by, everything suggested more chemistry and more interest.  At the end of Sunday’s seminar, we were supposed to thank people who we had connected with and tell them what we appreciated about them.  She approached me and opened with “Thanks for being the best looking guy here, it gave me something to look at”, and followed with a few very thoughtful compliments.  I replied, telling her that she was the highlight of my weekend and that I hope to see her again.

Now to go directly from that self-help seminar to dinner with Max.  Along the way, I text my buddy and ask if he’s sure that Lelu is in a relationship because everything that happened that day would suggest otherwise.  He ended up taking her out for dinner and dug in.  Said she’s only been dating this guy a short while, but she doesn’t see it going anywhere.  Tells me not to worry, and he’ll connect the two of us before long.  I have no interest in being the guy that breaks up a healthy relationship, but if she’s already on her way out.. I can’t help but want to see her again.

So I arrive at dinner with Max – fancy sushi.  She gives me a big smile and a big, but not too big of a hug.    We get seated and start talking.  Eventually, she asks me about my aspirations.  I think I say something like creating the most significant positive impact I’m capable of.  She says that’s a bit vague and asks what the most significant positive impact I think I’m capable of.  I may have told her President of Mars.  She called bullshit.  That probably needed a little more explaining.

I guess for starters, I really do think that the upper-limit of the human mind is often well beyond the limits we place on ourselves.  Mars though?  I told her that the bigger the problem, the more motivated I am to solve it and I can’t help but want to find solutions to the big problems we as a species are facing today.  Ok, but why Mars?  Well, I’ve seen well-intentioned people come and go, only for their ideas to fall on the deaf ears of a system which is designed to protect itself from change.  I often think that what the world desperately needs today, is a blank canvas where a new government could be established with modern policies.  If we only had the opportunity to lead by example, how quick would the world be to adopt those good ideas?  Unless I’m missing something, Mars will most likely be our first opportunity to build something from scratch.

I think she made an attempt here to bring me back to reality and asked me to connect that to a real goal.  I told her that while I have these ideas, and they seem logical in my mind, I still need to prove that they can exist outside my head.  I need to take my personal philosophies, my ideas, and my ability to execute, and make something special.  If I could make something special, that something that people can understand as an expression of my mind and my vision, people would notice.  If people noticed, they might appreciate, and if people appreciated, they might just be willing to hear what I have to say.  While that something special can take on different shapes and forms, no form comes more naturally to me than building a business.  So I told her I was working on building a billion dollar company.

She said back up the “B”.  What?  Back up the “B” in billion.  What do you mean?  She asked if I knew how hard it was to build a billion dollar company or how rare they were.  She didn’t take kindly to what she thought were grandiose exaggerations of what I was really up to.  She knew that I was working for a cannabis retail start-up, but I don’t think she understood the potential behind it.  I told her about the awards, and the industry growth, how visible our founders were, and how ahead of the curve we were.  She didn’t seem to care.  I said that if you had to pick an early winner in cannabis retail, it would probably be us, and to say that wasn’t an opportunity to build a billion dollar company was untrue.  She still didn’t believe me.  Or maybe she didn’t believe that I would do it.

I did my best to ask her about what she was up to throughout the evening.  She sounded like she was dealing with a lot, but persisted that she was happy.  She certainly valued all that she had gone through in the last year. I asked her what her goals were and she said to land a job this fall.  It looked like she was lined up for a fancy title at a mid-sized private equity firm doing some level of analytics.  I asked if she had any big goals.  She seemed less sure about this… maybe something to the effect of using big data in driving HR policy, limiting inequality in the work place.  Sounds neat.

Despite all my efforts to guide things in a positive direction, we kept finding our way back to my aspirations, and her lack of confidence in my ability to accomplish them.  I wish I had been able to tell the story of how I got from being fired to wanting to set up camp on Mars.. pretty sure things would’ve made more sense that way.

The night largely seemed like an exercise in her trying to cut me down.  I was used to her being an optimist, a big thinker, open-minded, and supportive.  Now I wonder if it’s her that’s changed or if it was just my memory of her.  I was all but convinced that who I had become was a better fit for who she was.  But as soon as I realized that, I also knew that who I had become, might not be a fit to who she is today.  I think that’s what I was facing.  Somewhere between her big corporate gig in silicon valley and her MBA, her mindset seems to have changed.  Where she was once about possibilities, she was now about limitations.  There’s probably also an element of trying to stick it to your ex-boyfriend… and I probably deserved it.

At one point, I said, “This is unexpected, you’re usually more..”  I cut myself off, and apologized, saying that it wasn’t my place to say something like that.  It threw her off, she knew what I was getting at.

It was getting late, we asked for the bill.  We hugged again outside and she apologized for being less supportive than she used to be be.  We said goodbye.

April 30th, 2018

Knowing that we had made pseudo plans to hang out later in the week, I sent her a text.  I basically thanked her for dinner (she insisted on paying), then thanked her for challenging my goals.  I said that I’m steadfast in dreaming big, working relentlessly towards those goals, and being at peace with where that takes me (I’m all about shooting for the stars and landing on the moon).  I said I’m rarely challenged on these things and if nothing else, it was good exercise.  I also said that based on our conversation, I had the impression that there were probably other people in town she’d rather spend time with and that if I was right, it was all good with me.  No response.

The day before she left, I sent a text saying I hope I didn’t upset her with what I had said.  I told her I was happy for her, and wished her the best of luck.  She responded back saying she had been busy and yes, lots of people to see.

May 1st, 2018

Speaking of radio silence, Mia messages me the next day.  Apologizes for the incoming wall of text, and the proceeds to say some very nice things.  She talks about how strongly she feels about the potential between her and I.  Then talks about her struggles and the progress she’s made.  Then she talks about her feelings.  Then she says something to the effect of, ‘and I won’t hold it against you if you never want to talk to me again’.

I agreed with a lot of the things she said about the potential between her and I, and I appreciated that she recognized and appreciated the progress she had made.  So we get into a text conversation where I thank her for opening up to me and we get into the possibility of trying one more time.  I ask her what the difference this time would be, and she says a strong effort.  I ask if that means that the last 6 times weren’t strong efforts.  She says that this time, she’s just going to go for it – be less cerebral about it.  I told her it didn’t sound all that convincing.  She reminded me that she wasn’t very good at explaining this stuff over text.  The conversation kinda fizzled after that.

Went to bed, had a dream that she had made an effort the following day to make something happen between us and I was happy about it.  Woke up to no such effort.  Decided that I was being unfair.  Told her that if she wanted to explain things to me in person, I would make the time for that.  My ask was that it was on the weekend and at my office (so if she pulled a no-show, that I could just keep working).  She was receptive.  She planned to come by on Saturday but on Friday she asked if she could move it to Sunday.  This looked familiar.  She didn’t come by on Saturday or even get back to me about Sunday. And that was the last I heard from her.

May, 2018

A friend of mine cracked a joke a couple months ago saying that I should jump on Tinder with a bio that says something to the effect of, ‘Dating is confusing, anyone wanna blaze and hang out?’  Dude is sounding like a genius right about now.

Ironically, back in April, I was talking with a couple female friends about the challenges of dating and I suggested this was why dating apps had become so popular.  One friend was in her 50s and had been married for 27 years so she had zero interest Tinder.  She said that people need to get outside and engage each other in real life.  I asked where that might be appropriate these days given all the tension between men and women.  Every answer she gave was immediately turned down by my 20-something friend.  At the gym? Nope, don’t be gross, I’m just here to work out.  At a book store? Just because I’m here buying books doesn’t mean I wanna be hit on.  In-line at a cafe? Nope.  I told them I found it all very confusing and hoped they would find some empathy for the other men out there feeling the same way.

Only a few weeks ago, my sister and sister-in-law were in town.  I asked them about the dating scene and the tension between men and women.  I get that some men are shitty people.  I’ve even lost friendships over that kinda stuff.  But this general negativity towards men seemed unhealthy.  They responded with an analogy which they were quite eager to share: Think about men like a bowl full of skittles.  One of them is poison, but you don’t know which one.  Why would you risk it?  It wasn’t the right time to tell them that they’re using the same logic as those who avoid Muslims in fear of Muslim extremists.

My mind is searching for a connection between all these interactions.  Considering the rise of neo-feminism and the #metoo movement.  Considering the impact of social media.  Considering the heightened levels of anxiety, stress, and drug use.  I’m trying to see through it and to the other side… and I can’t.  I’m not saying we won’t get through it.  I would bet that we do.  I just don’t yet see how.  I think this gets worse before it gets better and that concerns me.

Some men have learned the advantages of identifying themselves as an ‘ally’.  Some have learned that you can improve your odds by dating multiple women at the same time.  Some have learned that it’s easier to get turned down if you turn into a giant asshole afterwards.  There’s even a sub-culture of men who are downright confused and losing hope of ever figuring it out.  Everyone’s dealing with it in their own way… but none of these are about how we make it better.

This is a big problem, and I have a swell of motivation to find a solution for everyone out there that’s struggling to find meaningful connections.  I think much of the solution is based in honesty and real communication.  Not just honesty with others, but honesty with ourselves as well. We’ve also romanced the concept of love since we could first tell stories, and it’s warped our expectations of what it is, where to find it, and how long it lasts.  If we would only make the effort to understand ourselves and then to understand one another, I can’t help but think that things would get better.  To get there, perhaps we need to be reminded of why we should be courageous when facing those we fear.  Or why we should be compassionate towards those who have hurt us.

… or sex robots for everyone?

Dating: Navigating Good Intentions

I dated a girl for a couple months a few years ago.  We shall call her Mia.  She was lots of fun to hang out with and a very cool person, but was hung up on a few things.  I tried to encourage her to open up, hoping that she would feel more comfortable around me but it just wasn’t happening.  At one point, she offered to volunteer with her friends for a big event I was hosting.  She ended up having to go out of town for work and couldn’t make it.  She assured me her friends would still be there.  None of her friends showed up.  At an event where I was supposed to be socializing and enjoying myself, I was a full time janitor.  The event was a big success, but I wasn’t happy about how things went between her and I.  I told her that I was frustrated with what had happened.  She didn’t bother to reply.  After a few weeks of radio silence, I asked her if that was it.  She said something to the effect of the sex was good, but we didn’t really have much in common and it wasn’t worth pursuing.  I walked away and didn’t look back.

3 months ago, Facebook reminded me that it was her birthday so I sent her a cake emoji.  She crossed my mind from time to time, always in a positive light.  The girls I date seem to be into me for a variety of reasons… but I think it usually has to do with being a good person, driven, career minded, with a good group of friends.. that kinda stuff.  Connecting with my nerdier side happened happened much less often.  She was the exception.  Anime, cosplay, reddit, video games.. all that fun stuff was something we had in common.  These days, I really like that side of me, and it would be nice to be able to share that with someone.  Maybe that’s why when that cake emoji turned into a conversation, I was optimistic.

We made plans to go see a movie, but the day before, she went radio silent.  I don’t remember what her reason was.. maybe something about work.  So we rescheduled.  And she did it again.  I was disappointed, but never mad.  I tried to figure out what was going on and she replied with ‘why did you want to reconnect?’  Considering that our relationship before was mostly physical, I thought it was a fair question.  I wish she had asked that question before she ghosted on me twice, but these are her defense mechanisms so I did my best to be understanding.  I told her why I wanted to reconnect, that it had to do with the chemistry between us that we never had a chance to explore, the things we had in common, and just being in a place where I might be ready to take that step with someone.  I think she was happy to hear that, said she really wanted to hang out, and teased herself realizing it was a bit circle back to a date.  I was optimistic.

We made plans again, she got scarce the day before and the day of.  Something something, work ran late.  Something something, I’m really sorry.

*deep breath* 

I saw progress though, so I was willing to keep at it.  Then it happened again.  Pretty much the exact same thing.  And again, she was really sorry, acknowledged that she had issues around these things, reaffirmed that she absolutely wanted to see me, so we rescheduled again.  I was 0/4 over the course of 2 months.  I recognized that a younger me would’ve stoned-walled her after the first or second disappearing act as a function of my pride, or a need to protect my ego.. but that’s not who I am these days.  These days, I’m big on self respect, but small on ego and pride… if nothing else, this was a proving ground for that perspective.  My priority was understanding the situation for what it was, not using assumptions to protect myself from being hurt.  She continued to open up to me about things over text, saying that she missed me, that I was the only guy she was even talking to, that she really did want to spend time with me, and all the other things you would expect to hear from someone who you think wanted to go on a date with you.  And I don’t think she was lying.  I think she was very well intentioned.

After the fourth time she stood me up, I actually shared this blog with her as I had written about her earlier.  It was a window into my mind, to give her everything that she needed to know to make the best decision for her.  There was nothing more that I could do than be honest, transparent, and communicate my intentions.  She responded well, saying that she didn’t realize how much I had going on in my head and that it gave her a new appreciation for who I was.  Progress.  She seemed more motivated than ever to see me.  Progress.  So we rescheduled again.  This time she said that she would take the initiative, plan something out, take the lead.  I was cautiously optimistic.

The night before, I actually had a dream that she ghosted again.  I sent her a message that morning saying that.  I heard nothing back.  She ghosted again.  0/5.

FML.

I sent her a message saying that there’s a difference between someone who is good and someone who is nice.  Someone who is nice tells people what they want to hear and sometimes, they even mean it.  But when it comes to doing something inconvenient or difficult, they choose the easy path at the expense of others.  Someone who is good tells people what they need to hear, even when they don’t want to hear it.  And when it comes to making the hard decisions, they do what’s best, not what’s easiest.  I was fully ready to walk away at this point and was leaving her this message hoping she would reflect on it and not put someone else through this nonsense.

She responded saying that she had read more of my blog than just the most recent article about her.  She read my posts about a previous girlfriend (Max) where I had put her on a pedestal.. I think I even called her my north star.  The truth is I had a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for what I had learned from our relationship and was letting it inspire me to be a better person.  Perhaps I should’ve also written a follow up post about the whatsapp conversation that I had with Max where I realized that she no longer understood me the way I had remembered, and that our connection was no longer there.  Mia had read those entries, and had a very real concern that I was using her to fill the void that Max had left.  Even though Max and I hadn’t dated in a few years and she was on the other side of the planet with no plans of coming back, I understood that concern.  Truth is, I had that same concern when things were starting up with Mia.  But the more I connected with Mia, the less I thought about Max.  Max became an ill-fitting memory while Mia represented an interesting path forward.  But she didn’t know that.  We talked about it over text, and even had our first phone conversation since reconnecting.  I got stood up, but there was progress.

There was a wide disconnect between Mia’s actions and her texts.  Her texts showed someone who was making a very real connection with someone who she was genuinely interested in and wanted to explore a relationship with.  They showed that she was growing, overcoming her issues, and opening up in a way that she never had with me.  Her actions were of someone who was willing to lead me on who would then look for every excuse to not actually have to show up.  I never assumed that her finding these excuses was a reflection of her interest in me, but I also had to be real about her not being honest or open about what was really going on.  She knew that my love language was action, but it didn’t seem to matter.  But I saw progress, and growth, someone who did want to spend time with me, and someone who I still really wanted to connect with.  I told her that if I walked away now, I wouldn’t feel good about it.  I asked her what she thought we should do.  She still really wanted to see me… so we rescheduled.

That was last week.  Again, she was a bit scarce during the day.  I had seen this pattern before.  There was nothing to indicate that she was taking the initiative like she said that she would.  But then a glimmer of hope.. she texted back and said that she was still on for tonight and thought that she would wrap up work around 5-6.  I was never confident that it would happen, but I was optimistic.  Then she sent me a message saying that things were running behind schedule.  I was a little frustrated, but kept that to myself, doing my best to make sure that when we saw each other, it wasn’t dragged down by all the baggage of what it took to get here.  According to the texts, she was delayed because she was doing the tear down at a convention and her team had basically bailed, leaving her to do it all herself.  Had she asked, I would’ve been more than happy to help her out.. I like being productive and helpful, and it would’ve been an excuse to spend time together.  Instead, she said that she would probably be done closer to 9.  I said no worries, a late dinner it is.  9 came and went, still nothing.  In an act of optimism and committing to making this happen, I even drove downtown to make sure to when she was ready, I wasn’t wasting what precious minutes we had left on the road.  She messaged me closer to 10 saying that she had a couple things left to wrap up, I asked jokingly if that meant midnight.  She joked back and said no, hopefully not.  I should’ve known.

At 11, I told her that I still hadn’t eaten, most restaurants were closed, and we both had work in the morning.  I was done.  I had no interest in rescheduling again.  No interest in going through the motions anymore.  No interest in going above and beyond, when she wouldn’t do the same.  I told her that I would stay downtown (sitting in my car) until midnight, and she had until then to make something happen.  She was sorry.  It was a work thing.  She didn’t expect it would be like this.  She really wanted to see me.  Etc. Etc. Etc.

I told her that her words were hollow.  All that she had said showed me that she cared, that she was into me, that she wasn’t leading me on, and was genuinely interested in exploring a relationship with me.  Everything she did showed the complete opposite.  If someone was only able to see her actions, you would see someone who lacked integrity, who was self-centered, and incapable of being respectful towards others.  I don’t think that’s her.  I think she’s very well intentioned, but doesn’t understand that there is a wide gap between intentions and actions.  Most abusive relationships are between people with good intentions.  When a man beats his wife, he says that he does it out of love.  But he still beats her.  I don’t think she understands this.

I told her that I had gone above and beyond for her to get us to the point where we could spend time with one another, but that I had no interest in being in an unbalanced relationship.  This was her opportunity to go above and beyond for me, to show me how much this mattered to her.  To restore some balance.  She said that she had some ideas, but nothing that she could do within the hour.  The truth is, all I needed was to see her make the effort.. to see her in person.  Whether that meant staying up late after a long day of work, or taking a bus to my house at 2am.. if she was willing to make an effort to see me, I would’ve been good.  But she didn’t.  Instead, she told me that I was a priority, that she wasn’t leading me on, that she had opened up and communicated with me, and complained that work was getting in the way.  I disagree.  I’ve worked a more demanding work schedule than anyone I know, and that is an excuse.  If she wanted to see me, she would’ve found a way or made a way.  But she lacked the motivation.

My last two messages to her were:

“No matter what you’ve said, it’s always amounted to the same thing.  We make plans, and you bail.  Literally 6 times in a row.  Had I been in your shoes tonight.. I would’ve done everything I could to see you tonight.. even now.  It’s even why I asked you where you were.. but I can’t help but think that on some level.. you’re relieved to not have to”

“… I guess I’m heading home now”

She never replied back.

Had the situations been reversed, I would’ve made the effort.  I would’ve said fuck sleeping tonight, I need to see her because this is worth saving.  I would’ve driven, taxied, or bused or walked to her house.  Even if it was only for a moment.. to show I was willing to make the effort.  Even if she didn’t come outside, I would’ve taken a picture and sent a text showing that even if she was gone, I made the effort.  Maybe that’s why I stayed awake for an hour after I got home, looking over at my phone every 10 minutes.

Nothing.. And I’m done.

My most honest understanding of the situation is that she cares about me, wants to explore this relationship, and is genuinely positive about where it could go.  She’s well intentioned.  But intentions are only worth so much to a person unable to act on them.  A man who intends to love his wife but beats her instead is still a wife beater.  A woman who intends to be loyal to her husband but cheats on him is still cheater.  A girl who keeps telling a guy that she wants to spend time with him but bails every time.. is leading him on.  I don’t know if she truly appreciates that dynamic.  Maybe she’s not used to facing the consequences of her actions.  Maybe I enabled this by letting it go as long as I did.  Maybe she’ll think that it’s her job that held her back but if she does, she’s overlooking all the things that led up to this.  Had that happened once or twice, we would probably be in an awesome relationship right now.. but it didn’t happen once or twice.  It happened 6 times.  It was literally 3 months of texting with 6 attempted dates, and her finding a way out of all of them.  At some point, I hope she appreciates that.

Where things go from here… I’m not sure.  It would be easy to say fuck her for wasting my time.  Fuck her for every day that I spent excited to see her, and every night that I spent on my couch feeling shitty for being stood up.  Fuck her for making me think I was a priority and fuck her for making me think that there was something here.  But I don’t do easy.  The truth is those emotions barely register… it’s just not me anymore.  Instead, my mind is always open to the possibilities of the future and if anything, I’m compassionate to the struggles she has with being open, honest, and communicating when things get tough.  But the reality is that I’m no longer motivated to pursue this.  It’s not because I don’t think we have great chemistry.. or that there’s the potential for a great relationship.. but because I’m not capable of helping us get there.  That’s not something I can do on my own.. it takes both people to get there, and as far as I can tell, she’s just not capable.  Whether that’s a function of her job.. her communication issues.. her social anxiety.. maybe all of the above.. I don’t know.  What I do know is that I would’ve been happy to support her in figuring that stuff out, but she needed to make the effort and never did.

I mentioned the situation to a friend this morning, a friend who knew what had happened leading up to this.  The first thing out of her mouth was you gotta get away from that girl.  From any outsiders perspective, especially without scrolling through the hundreds of texts over the last few months.. it’s clearly an unhealthy relationship.  But with context, probably much less so.  I wouldn’t have put myself through this had I not been capable of doing it without taking damage.  I showed my friend her last couple text messages from last night and asked if I was missing anything.  She said that if work was such an issue, dictating whether or not she can have a social life at the drop of a hat, why is she working for these people?  A valid question, but with good jobs hard to come by these days.. not always a fair question.

This is when my friend echoed where I think my head is truly at.  I’m done investing time and effort into making something happen and if she disappears because of it, that’s unfortunate, but ok.  But that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be open to her changing my mind.  Just because she’s demonstrated that she’s incapable of making me a priority, doesn’t mean that she’ll always be incapable.  The problem though, is that the list of things that she could say or do to change my mind is shrinking quickly.  At this point, it would probably have to be an action.  A big one.  My friend joked and said showing up to my office with flowers.  Why not.  The truth is I don’t really care what the action is… I just need it to show me that she’s capable of stepping outside her comfort zone and capable of having her actions reflect her intentions.

The ironic thing about writing this blog post is that there’s a chance she’ll read it.  I write things like this first and foremost as a therapeutic way of flushing out my thoughts on a subject.  It forces me to be honest with the situation and honest with myself, while putting an honest experience out there that others might resonate with.  That said, I knew as soon as I started writing it that she’d probably see it.  Whether she sees this and decides to return to her comfort zone, or sees this and finds motivation to finally have her actions reflect her intentions… that I do not know.  But I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope it was the latter.

 

Max just texted.  She’s in town for the week and would ‘love’ to see me.  Well then…

 

Dream Analysis: My First Dream in Months

Every so often, I take a break from cannabis.  I recognize that I use it as an escape, and take advantage of the fact that I can be a very high functioning stoner.  So when I want to shift gears, I reach out to a friend to hold me accountable.  I did exactly that to start April and after a couple weeks of staring at the ceiling until 4am, I was finally starting to sleep well again.  And with good sleep, I had my first dream in months.  And a weird one it was…

I’ve been reading some Carl Jung and after having read and reread his writings on dream analysis, I couldn’t help but take a crack at what was a very interesting dream.  As with most dreams, I’m not quite sure where it started or ended, but there were certainly some moments that were quite clear.  I couldn’t help but share them with that same friend who was holding me accountable for going cannabis free.  Here’s my text message to him:

“Finally had a dream last night.. first proper dream in a long time.  Got shot 6 times helping stop a bank robbery.. then got a questionable doctor on commercial drive (a street I used to live by in my early 20s) to help patch me up.. then helped stop a serial killer after she tried her roofie bs on me.  And somehow the Russians were involved.  Putin was very impressed that I did all this with these bullet woulds lol”

Here’s my best recollection of the details:

The bank in my dream was the bank that my dad used growing up.  I’ve actually been in there a few times over the last couple years and they’ve remodeled it.. but in my dream, it was the older layout.  I can’t remember too many details about how things went down but something to the effect of armed bank robbers and me having an opportunity to stop them.  I’m calm and rational enough to know that when someone just wants the money, it’s in everyone’s best interest to just give them the money and let them be on their way.  In this instance, it was more violent, and I felt that had I not stepped in, others would have been hurt.  I remember getting shot a couple times while trying to disarm one or two of them and then diving behind a piece of furniture for cover.  The robbers then shot through the furniture and I was hit a few more times.  I think they either ran away at that point or the police arrived, I’m not clear on that part.

I remember still having my wits about me and thinking none of my vitals were damaged.  I also remember thinking it absolutely sucked to have that many bullets in me, but that I was in good shape all things considered.  I collected myself, got up, and did my best to walk it off.  Knowing that I needed medical attention, I walked across the street to some sort of pharmacy or doctors office for medical attention.  From that point on, I was aware of the damage my body had taken, but I was back to being functional.

For whatever reason, the dream shifted at this point.  There was a woman of some sort, short and stout if I remember correctly.  She had some type of drug which she had attempted to use on me, the kind that would’ve left me completely vulnerable to whatever it was that she was trying to do.  I’m not entirely sure, but I think that she was able to get that drug into my system.  Somehow I was able to resist the effects just enough to maintain my awareness.  This is when I realized that she was a Hannibal Lecter type and that my life was in danger.  Remembering my training, I was able to escape the situation.

I must have gone to the authorities because the next part of the dream was a weeks long pursuit of this person alongside law enforcement.  She was a full-blown serial killer who was leaving mementos behind after each kill.  It was something to the effect of her drugging them, killing them, and leaving some crafts made from their bones behind.  I don’t think I was leading the task force which was pursuing her but I was very much involved.  I’d like to think that we caught her, but I can’t remember that part of the dream at this point.

The last part of the dream took place in my old room at the house I grew up in.  Someone else was there with me and it was either Vladimir Putin or someone well connected to him.  I was being commended for my work in capturing(?) the serial killer and was told that it was extremely impressive considering the bullet wounds I still had.  I appreciated the compliment.

And now, let’s try to unpack this:

I often ask myself how I would react in situations where my life was at risk.  Would I remain calm under pressure?  Would I have the courage to act?  Would I be selfish or selfless?  I think the scene in the bank was looking to explore that experience.  I’m not sure what to make of what happened though.  It’s nice to know that in my dream, I was who I thought I was, but I still don’t know how that would translate to reality.  I’m also slowly wrapping my head around having a hero complex.  I’ve been fascinated with super heroes since I was a little kid.  I learned values which resonated with me deeply, like integrity, perseverance, and sacrifice.  I don’t think this hero complex drives me to be the center of attention or anything like that, but I do think it’s shaped my idea of the standard of person I want to be.

I remember being shot 6 times specifically.  Part of it is because 50 cent got shot 9 times and I was a little bummed out that I wasn’t able to exceed that number.  I think this shines light on my deeply rooted competitive drive, but also my drive to overcome.  The bigger the obstacle, the more motivated I am to rise above it.  I saw that I was able to take 6 bullets and ‘walk it off’, so I was left with some minor disappointment that I wasn’t shot a few more times.  I know, I’m weird.

Something this does illuminate for me though is my sense of invincibility.  Starting in my early 20s, as I continued to rise above the challenges I faced, I started to feel more and more like an unstoppable force of nature.  I remember confiding in a few friends about this as it wasn’t something I was entirely comfortable with.  I was concerned about why it was happening, and what parts of myself I was giving up to get there.  I no longer have those concerns, just an awareness of who I am.  Like a super sayain, every time I was literally and metaphorically beat half to death, I came back stronger.  And stronger.  And stronger.  Eventually, I realized that the universe was running out of challenges which I was not able to overcome.  These days, I’ll joke and say that I’ll be invincible until I’m not.  It highlights someone who has learned to move through life without fear, but with a simple understanding that my life is not permanent.  When my time comes, I’ll cease to exist.  Until then, I’ll continue to move forward with the confidence of someone who can’t be stopped.

I think the visit to the doctor’s office to treat the bullet wounds was somewhat of an homage to Todd Orr.  That badass survived two bear attacks in the same day, with significant damage to his head and arm, and still managed to walk it off and drive himself to the hospital.  I’d like to think that I would have that same toughness and presence of mind but that’s some next level shit and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be tested to that degree.

The next part, with regards to the serial killer, I think it’s combining two elements which I think about often.  The first is the roofie and rape culture which I hear about so often but have never really seen or experienced personally.  I dated two girls who told me about times where they basically came to during sex with a guy they had met earlier that night, with no recollection on how they arrived there.  With the increased awareness and hyper-sensitivity about it today, it’s something which does cross my mind from time to time.  In this dream, a similar tactic was being used, except by a woman who was also killing her targets.  Perhaps this was an effort of putting myself in their shoes.  The second element seemed to be a function of justice and adventure.  Every so often, I think about the world going to shit and having to navigate some kind of post-apocalyptic landscape while surviving and protecting those around me.  Sometimes that seems like it would be a much more meaningful and fulfilling existence than spending a life behind a screen.  This dream was not post-apocalyptic, but it did fill that void of a justice filled adventure.

The final element of the dream, engaging with the Russians, is most likely a reflection of  two things.  First, the sheer amount of hours I’ve put into understanding Russia’s role in American politics.  I told a friend last week that trying to keep up to date and wrap my head around all the elements in play is like trying to drink from a fire hose.  I’m often on Reddit and while some of the reads from subs like r/The_Mueller are easy and mostly informative, reading through r/The_Donald or watching Fox News in search of valid counter-points can be extremely wearing.  This is a remarkably important inflection point in history though, and I can’t help but think that being able to understand what’s happening as it happens will provide me with a much deeper understanding of our world as this moment becomes a moment in history.  That doesn’t really explain why I felt good about getting a compliment from Vladimir Putin though.  In reality, I think he’s one of the most toxic influences on global democracy and prosperity.  His greatest accomplishment will likely be poking holes in the American democracy and in American culture, forcing us to face these hard truths of who we are and how we conduct ourselves.  All that said, Putin represents all Russians about as well as Trump represents all Americans.  Russia produces some tough bastards.  Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the first people that comes to mind.  Individuals like him are born different.. raised different.. and it’s through a tough life that these individuals become remarkably strong and resilient people.  As much as I’m not a fan of Putin, I have a great deal of respect for the collective toughness of the Russian people.  To be complemented by them on my toughness was a compliment of the highest level and validated a quality which I value greatly.

Finally, something I just realized is that it’s been years and years since I’ve had a nightmare.  I used to have a recurring dream/nightmare where I was fighting a monster which I couldn’t identify.  One which I couldn’t attack.  One which I couldn’t run from.  It was always some version of the same experience, trying everything that I could with nothing working.  I don’t know if this corresponded with another life event, but eventually, I had that same dream where I was able to overcome.  I was focused, went straight at it, struck it with everything I had, and cracked it open. A bright light beamed out from inside and it was vanquished.  That was the last time I faced something in the dream world that I didn’t see as a challenge I was able to overcome.  I’m realizing that while this was a dream for me, for others, it could’ve been a nightmare.  Perspective, I suppose.

Well.  That was interesting… if anyone with a background in dream analysis ever comes across this, feel free to pick it apart.

Starbucks: Not Discussing the Complexity of Racism

Not long after it happened, a friend of mine posted the viral video of the two black guys getting arrested and taken out of Starbucks.  I had a few initial thoughts.

  1. That sucks.
  2. This is going to trigger some serious outrage from the internet crowd.
  3. I wonder what actually happened here..

As the story goes, two young black men entered into a Starbucks waiting to meet a friend.  Without buying something first, one of them asks to use the washroom.  A Starbucks employee says that washrooms are for customers only.  Instead of making a purchase, the men simply grab a seat and wait for their friend to arrive.  At this time an employee, possibly the manager asks the men to leave.  They decline, saying that they’re waiting for a friend.  Whether or not they said something to the effect of we’ll buy something when our friend arrives isn’t something I’ve been able to track down.  After refusing to leave, the manager calls the police to remove them.  The police arrive a short time after and ask the men to leave again.  They decline again, saying that they’re waiting for a friend.  After the police ask multiple times without success, they’re placed under arrest.  As they’re being walked out, their friend (who happens to be a middle aged white guy) shows up and this is pretty much where the viral video starts.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and I can’t help but think that very few people are having a meaningful conversation about this.  It’s becoming formulaic at this point.  Minority is marginalized, video goes viral, internet produces outrage, company goes into damage control and *repeat*.  This isn’t how we make progress.  We have to make the effort to understand what really happened here if we want to avoid things like this happening in the future.  I’ll make that effort here.

I’ve spent plenty of time in Starbucks and I don’t even drink coffee.  When I used to work in finance, most meeting were coffee meetings and about half of them were at Starbucks.  I’ve also studied the history and operations of Starbucks quite closely for a variety of reasons.  Consider me a Starbucks pro.  I have a thing about being punctual so if I’m doing a Starbucks meeting, there’s a good chance I’m there 5-10 minutes early.  More often than not, I’ll grab my drink order when I arrive rather than waiting for the other person to avoid the perception of being a non-paying customer.  That said, on more than a few occasions, I’ve waited for the other person to arrive before placing an order and have never been approached by the staff.  I’ve also asked to use the washroom before making a purchase more than once and have never been told that it was for customers only.  This is where we need to start asking why and being honest with the answers we find.

Most of the Starbucks I’ve been to were in the finance district or in nice neighborhoods, the areas without much crime and where Starbucks employees generally felt safe.  I think that when you feel safe, you tend to care more about the well-being of others and are more likely to let things like this slide.  The neighborhood that I grew up in was different.  Washrooms at local gas stations or McDonalds would have special lights installed so that you couldn’t see your veins; preventing heroin addicts from using those washrooms for shooting up.  Employees at these establishments were much more guarded in how and when they would allow washroom access.  I don’t know Philadelphia that well, but looked up the crime rate in that area and it received an ‘F’.

Something else worth mentioning is that about a year ago, there was a robbery at a different Starbucks in Philadelphia.  In the early afternoon, a man walked up to the register with a gun and told the 19 year old female Starbucks employee to empty the register.  She quickly walked away from the register towards the back room and the man left shortly after.  The security footage shows a black man in his 30s, wearing a black hoodie.  Was this person the same person that refused to leave the Starbucks a few days ago?  Definitely not.  But I think it would be a mistake to assume that this incident has no relevance to what happened last week.  I would guess that word of this robbery probably spread quickly through the Philadelphia Starbucks scene.  I would also guess that there was some kind of message to those employees about following procedure around these things.

A year later, two black men, both dressed mostly in black and appearing to be in their mid-30s enter into a Starbucks in a rougher side of town.  After declining to make a purchase and declining to leave, what should the Starbucks employee do?  Follow procedure?  Procedure likely suggests to call the police.  The call to the police was simple,

“Hi, I have two gentleman in my cafe who are refusing to make a purchase and refusing to leave.”

The message from dispatch was also relatively simple, “We have a disturbance there, a group of males refusing to leave.”

When the police arrived, they calmly and politely asked the men several times to leave.  It was only after refusing over and over that they were arrested.

Unless they’re withholding parts of the transcript, this wasn’t as much of a racial issue as it’s being made out to be.  Mostly, this was an issue of two people refusing to make a purchase and refusing to leave.  Mostly.  There is an element of racism here which needs to be discussed.

I actually began writing this entry a couple days ago but wasn’t able to return to it until now.  I’m happy I had that time as I was able to learn an important detail which hadn’t been mentioned in the dozen or so articles I read about this.  The men entered the Starbucks at 4:35.  The police were called at 4:37.  2 minutes?  Really??  That smells heavily of prejudice.  I’m having a hard time not jumping to the conclusion of racial prejudice… but for the sake of discussion, I’ll carry on.

The first question I ask myself in these situations is how would this played out had we swapped black for white?  Two white men enter a Starbucks, refuse to make a purchase and refuse to leave.  Police are called to enforce company policy and the law, and the two white men still refuse to leave.  The two white men are arrested and removed from the premises.  Would the internet have reacted the same way?  Would we have considered this normal?  If that’s the story I had heard, my first reaction would’ve been “why didn’t these dummies just make a purchase?”  Because these gentlemen were black, we dare not say it.

My understanding of racism is not discriminating based on the color of someone’s skin.  Instead you judge someone based on the merits of their actions and the contents of their soul – good or bad.  I’m a big fan of Trevor Noah and he said something interesting about this situation, “I bet from now on, they’re going to be more careful when it comes to dealing with race.  You know what, I was thinking what black people should do?  I think we should see just how far we can push Starbucks now.  Just to mess with them.  Like, ya, now we go back after they’ve done the racial bias training and just use the bathroom but take all the toilet paper home with us.  Ya, y’all have a problem with this? No? No? No? No? You don’t? I appreciate your sensitivity, ya I do.”  He went on to give several entertaining examples of ‘how to mess with them’.  The beauty of good comedy is that it communicates hard truths in ways that people don’t mind hearing them.

When I see incidents perceived as racially charged, I often ask if it’s strictly a skin color thing.  I say this because I often wonder what has a greater impact on prejudice, skin color or dress code?  How would things have played out had these gentlemen been wearing suits?  How would it have played out if it was a couple of thugged out white guys with neck tattoos?  What if it was a well dressed white guy and a thugged out black guy?  What if it was a suited up black guy and a thugged out white guy?  What if it was a couple of Latinos wearing exactly what these black guys were wearing?  When does the color of your skin just become just one variable in your appearance?

Better understanding racism is something that’s very important to me.  This past weekend, I took a friend of mine out for breakfast and we had a great conversation about this stuff.  He’s Wesley Snipes black, originally from Somalia, but has spent most of his life living in major cities here.  As he put it, nobody second guesses him when he’s wearing a suit.  But once he goes out with a hoodie and fitted cap, people start making assumptions.  The truth is, I could probably go out wearing the exact same hoodie and cap and people wouldn’t make the same assumptions about me.  And there’s no way around it, that’s racism.

And after all that, I’ve now set the stage for what I think the real issue is:  Tribalism.

I grew up tribal just like many of us, but my tribe wasn’t based on race, it was based on where we were from.  We were from the hood.  We were proud to be from the hood and dressed like it to make sure people knew.  We wanted to carry the tribal markers of thugged out gangsters, making sure people knew that we were not to be taken lightly.  Getting looks from old white people was a point of pride.  Knowing that we had made them feel uneasy humored us.  Especially because we were also raised with good morals and values.  Despite the way we dressed, we weren’t the type to cause trouble.  Ironically, we were much more the type to hold doors open for others and walk old ladies across the street.  Maybe that’s why we got such a kick out of it.  But how were the old white people supposed to know this when all they had to go on was the way we dressed?

This is where I think it’s important to discuss what I’ve started to call tribal markers.  I had a conversation with a co-worker yesterday which I found to be illuminating and extremely impressive on their part.  We’ll call this individual Taylor.  Taylor has had a tough go of it, having been bullied excessively in school for being different and not having a strong support system at home to help rise above it.  Now in his 20s, Taylor’s navigating his sexuality with what seems to be a lack of clarity and certainty.  From what I understand, Taylor’s not quite sure where he falls on the spectrum of gender or even which gender he’s attracted to.  He’s exploring those dynamics and I truly admire it.  Around me, Taylor’s always been fairly soft spoken, and very kind.  At times, I would even notice him going out of his way to be nice to me.  Picking up on some subtleties in body language and how he interacts with me, I could tell that Taylor was struggling with something around me.  I had some ideas as to what it was, but didn’t focus on it since he had always made a clear effort for things to be positive between us.  Yesterday, he apologized for being weird around me.  He told me he was dealing with a lot of misplaced hate as a result of being bullied when he was younger.  With most of that bullying coming from straight white males, Taylor learned to identify them as the enemy, and that had unintentionally extended to myself.  He apologized because as he put it, in a way, that was a form of racism.  I thanked him for bringing this up, complemented the courage it took for him to do it, and told him I genuinely admired his weirdness.  It was my most honest answer and I’m very grateful to have had that conversation.

For the record, I tried to write this without using the word ‘he’ or ‘his’ and it’s just not how the English language is built at the moment.  I’m not big on compelled speech or having to memorize 50 new pronouns, but I certainly see the value in introducing a single non-gendered pronoun.  Anyways, I’m pretty sure he’s identifying more with the male side of that gender spectrum right now so I don’t feel like a total ass.  Carrying on..

I really appreciate the perspective Taylor shared with me because it helped me confirm part of my theory around tribalism and tribal markers.  Growing up, Taylor was bullied, I assume predominantly by straight white males.  As a result, Taylor saw a pattern that was worth being protected from.  Of course not all straight white males were bullies , but if he perceived that all the people who bullied him were straight white males, where do you draw that between us and them?  Here, he was faced with someone who carried all the tribal markers of someone who would harm him, but who has treated him with nothing but respect and appreciation.  I can’t understate how much I appreciate him facing this the way he did.  Not only does it show a tremendous amount of personal growth on his part, but it gave confidence to my strategy of just being a good person and waiting this kinda stuff out.

I’m familiar with what discrimination looks and feels like because I grew up as a minority.  For the most part, that discrimination faded away in my teens and 20s.  Now in my 30s, it’s back.  This time, it’s because I’m a straight white male.  Add the fact that I have a background in finance and drive an SUV, I seem to tick all the boxes for an oppressor.  Yet I’m not oppressive… and in reality, I’m big on liberation.  I’m big on exploring and embracing our weirdness, whatever that may be.  I’m big on supporting others in their pursuit of happiness and do my best to bring positivity to the world on a daily basis.  So why is it that in the age of open-mindedness, progressiveness, and acceptance, that so many are so quick to assume that I’m such a shitty person?

Tribalism.

Throughout history, when times get tough, people get tribal.  The United States was probably never more united than they were during WWII.  Times were tough, but they had a common enemy.  My friend from Somalia said that as bad as racism is here, it’s nothing compared to the racism back in Africa.  In Africa, almost everyone’s black but there are different kinds of black.  As he put it, they’re super close with one another when they have a common enemy, but once they lose that common enemy, they go back to being racist towards each other.  In many ways, times are even tougher today.  But without an obvious enemy, we’re drawing lines in the sand for the sake of protecting ourselves from an enemy we can’t identify.  The rich vs. the poor.  Men vs. Women.  LGBTQ+ vs. Cysgendered.  Religious vs. Atheist.  Black vs. White.  Liberal vs. Conservative.  Democrat vs. Republican.  Left vs. Right.  Seriously…. when we get to the point of drawing the line between left and right, especially without any real or consistent definition of what left or right is, we need to take a second to think about what we’re doing to ourselves.  We’re picking a team and turning the others into our enemies in the pursuit of emotional safety, but in the process, we’re tearing ourselves apart.

When every major media outlet has that video of the black guys getting arrested at the Starbucks set to auto-play as soon as you visit the site, of course the video goes viral.  And when you don’t include the context of all the things that led up to it, of course people will assume that it was an act of egregious racism.  And when the internet outrage machine goes into maximum overdrive, of course Starbucks will overreact in hopes that their overreaction is more significant than the public’s overreaction and that this somehow puts everything back in balance.  This is all craziness, and doesn’t provide a solution to the problem, only more hostility towards a situation which people don’t seem to want to  invest the time into understanding.

Those two black men had every right to be the color they are and wear what they wanted to wear.  Starbucks had every right to enforce a policy of asking someone to leave if they weren’t willing to make a purchase.  The police had every right to ask them to leave and to remove them when they wouldn’t.  And those two black men had every right to choose this as a moment to make a stand.   What happened here is rich in details and things that we should be having real conversations about – but we’re not.  I wish we were..

Had I been in the shoes of the manager, I would’ve let them use the washroom and probably would’ve let them hang out even if their friend never arrived.  Had I been the black guys, I would’ve bought a coffee.  If I was the dispatch, I would’ve asked for more details and had I been told that they weren’t being violent, I would’ve suggested waiting a few more minutes before sending anyone over.  If I was the police, I probably would’ve bought them a coffee and hung out with them until their friend arrived.  But I’m not one to follow policy when it doesn’t make sense.  I’m one to try and understand the situation for what it is and act like an intelligent and compassionate human being.

… but that’s just me.

Infinity War Prediction: Soul Stone

I’m a nerd, a recognizer of patterns, and someone who’s constantly trying to predict the future.  I just watched a clip on YouTube ‘What you need to know before watching Infinity Wars’.  Pretty sure I’ve watched each marvel movie six or seven times leading up to this so I’m probably not missing anything.. so I was surprised to know that the location of the Soul Stone was still a mystery.  Really?

I’m pretty sure the Soul Stone made its appearance in Black Panther.  I actually thought it was pretty obvious.  Unless I’m mistaken, it was the soul stone is what allowed T’Challa and Killmonger to visit the ancestral plane.  The MCU is big on keeping things within the scientific realm, even explaining in Dr. Strange that magic is simply science that we don’t yet understand.  As advanced as Wakanda is, I doubt that they would have been able to develop the technology necessary to visit the Ancestral Plane.  I think the most likely source of that ability would be the soul stone.

The other part that stands out to me is the potential connection between vibranium and the soul stone.  The infinity stones are demonstrated to be so powerful that they can’t be handled directly (for the most part).  The power stone has that ball thingy, the mind stone had Loki’s staff, then Vision’s forehead, the space stone within the tesseract, and apparently the reality stone is somehow in that floaty liquid.  So if the soul stone was in Wakanda, there had to be some protective casing: Enter vibranium

Once upon a time, vibranium was the metal that Cap’s shield was made from and what made it special was that it absorbed vibrations.  In Wakanda, it’s reintroduced as perhaps one of the most versatile materials in the known MCU.  What would be more fitting to contain an infinity stone?  I’m pretty sure that at one point, the soul stone was contained within a large mass of vibranium and it’s this vibranium mass that crashed into Wakanda.

The last piece I’ll speculate on is what that mass was.  The fact that it came from the cosmos aligns with it containing an infinity stone, but I’m curious about the origin of vibranium now.  Every other infinity stone was contained within something small and highly portable.  If I’m right, the soul stone was contained in something massive.  Considering how durable and versatile vibranium is, it seems like containing an infinity stone in something that large would be overkill.  If it wasn’t a natural rock formation and if it wasn’t a purpose built container for the infinity stone, what was it?  My first thought would be a ship of some sort that experienced a crash landing in Wakanda.  Reverse engineering of that ship could’ve led to the advanced technologies seen in Wakanda, but there wasn’t anything in Black Panther which would’ve indicated that.  So if not a ship.. what else?

A Celestial

I’m going way out on a limb with this one, but assuming continuity, it’s my best guess.  The events leading up to that crash landing are beyond me at this point, but I’m sure that if this is the case, it’ll be explained in Infinity War.  We know that the infinity stones have a close connection to the celestials and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that a celestial’s body could’ve been made from Vibranium.  In the first Guardians of the Galaxy, they’re introduced to Knowhere as the severed head of a celestial which has been harvested for all kinds of rare bio-organic material.  Vibranium was never mentioned, but then again, vibranium is a term which was coined on earth.  Who knows, maybe it’s the body of this celestial, containing the soul stone, which eventually crashed into earth.  Wouldn’t that be neat.

Struggling with Isolation

I was in bed at 11 and have been up since 3am.  Dove into reddit for a bit.  Then some clash of clans.  Can’t sleep.  Thought about going for a run.. but I hate running.  I’m struggling here.  Grabbed my laptop thinking maybe I would work one out and de-stress.  Ended up here instead.

I grew up surrounded by friends.  Whether it was me and a best friend adventuring around the city as kids, or me and the crew hanging out at my place on a Friday night playing video games over beers.  Not so much these days.

Normally I’m good with alone time.  But this has been different.  I separated my shoulder a couple months ago so I haven’t been able to play sports.  For the most part, basketball twice a week was the only time I would still see the crew.  The cost of living has kept them living with their parents, and me on the outskirts of town.  Even eating out is too expensive these days.  I miss those guys.  Those guys understood me through and through, never held anything against me, or I against them.  I could always be myself with them and not have to stress about it.  Times have changed.

Earlier this year, one of my closest friends (I was the best man at his wedding) decided that I had pissed him off enough to stop talking to me.  Never even told me why.  Just stopped texting me back or taking my calls.  The last interaction we had was when I had invited him and his wife over for dinner.  He called me a couple hours before hand and said he and the wife didn’t feel like driving out to my house and suggested that I bring the supplies over to their house and cook for them there.  I laughed it off and said that I wasn’t a personal chef and that we could reschedule for another time.  Eventually, I told him that my business was starting the process of hiring a new GM, a role which I had lined him up for since the beginning – and that if he still wanted to be involved, he and I needed to sort our shit out.  He responded quick enough, but basically said that I had pissed him off by disrespecting him and his wife (who’s also a close friend).  He started to make it sound like she had been upset about something and he was upset that she was upset.  I racked my brain so hard to figure out what it was that I had done, and the best that I could come up with is that they were upset that I declined to drive to their house and cook for them when they declined to drive to my house to let me cook for them.  We’ve since hung out a few times and things are mostly back to normal.. but we still haven’t tackled that topic.

Being injured and not being able to play sports and then having one of my closest friends pull that shit was tough.  It made me feel isolated.  I had also reached out to an ex-girlfriend back in December which didn’t go all that well.  I was excited to show her the ways in which I had grown since we dated last, as she was part of what inspired that growth.  She was working on her MBA in Singapore and kept saying that she would love to chat in real-time and catch up.  I kept saying sure, that would be great.  She kept not getting back to me after that.  In the process, she made it clear that she had assumed I hadn’t changed, and wasn’t all that interested in changing her perception or reconnecting in any way.  Fuuuuck me.

This is all along the backdrop of work, where I’m dealing with two founders who are under a level of stress that they’re not dealing with very well.  One founder snapped at me for not letting him proof read an email to an investor.  He’s never proofed my anything to anyone, nor would he have even understood the subject matter of the email even if he did.  Not to mention I told him specifically what would be in that email a few hours earlier at our weekly meeting.  He’s bugging out for other reasons, but this is how it’s showing up.  Then you have his wife, the other co-founder who, at times, almost looks for reasons to be upset with me.  With her, I can’t help but think that I carry all the tribal markers of someone she’s learned to feel threatened by… straight white male with a background in corporate finance who drives an SUV.  I’ve probably experienced more prejudice in this relationship than any other I’ve experienced.  Ironic, because she’s very far left.  Or maybe that’s not so ironic these days.  Both are good, decent people who with a clear and positive state of mind are very, very good to me.  But those moments can be the exception when they’re under the stress and pressure of a company which is growing beyond their ability to run.  Fortunately, that’s why they brought me in, but now they’re struggling to give up that control.

I find myself craving to be understood and accepted.  And connected.  I’ve always been understood and accepted by the crew, but they’re not around so much anymore.  I had that with my buddy, until he decided that whatever I did was enough to cut me out of his life for a few months but not enough to talk to me about what had happened.  Initially, I had that with the co-founders who had brought me into their start-up, until they started to let their stress levels get the best of them.  I had a deep sense of acceptance and being understood with the ex-girlfriend, but since we had dated and then stopped talking, she seemed to have lost all interest in showing it.  My dad would’ve been my go-to in these situations.. would’ve gone to his place for dinner.. told him what I was going through and he’d feed me, give me some advice, and send me on my way.  I miss him.  Don’t have that relationship with my mom.. siblings are in another country..

*deep breath*

When I see this happening around me, the first pattern I notice is that I’m the common factor.  It must be me.  It probably is.  I often joke around that I’m an ass, but I know I’m a good person who treats others well, even in the worst of conditions.  The harder life gets, the more I focus on not letting it affect how I treat others.  If anything, I let it motivate me to treat others better.  Asking the cashier how her day has been, striking up a conversation with the disabled guy who handles the shopping carts at my local grocery store, or hitting the pedestrian crossing for a car stuck at a flashing green light.  If life is going to be shitty to me, at least I can still brighten up someone else’s day.

The other pattern that I’ve noticed is that the people are running from the ideas that challenge their reality, and I do that often.  I know the value of having your reality challenged, it keeps you accountable to the truth and helps you avoid the bullshit in your life.  But it can be uncomfortable.  It can make you feel shitty when it happens, even if it’s what you need.  I’m all about delayed gratification so I’m all about embracing the shit.  But I’m starting to sense that I’m one of very few who’s interested in taking that approach.  As the world has become more challenging and confusing, I can’t help but think that people are retreating to their comfort zones and someone like me is not welcome there.  I live perpetually outside of my comfort zone and I embrace the challenges and growth that come with it.  Do I keep encouraging others to venture outside of their comfort zone?  Or do I allow them to be complacent within their belief system?

A few weeks ago, I reached out to a girl I had dated briefly a few years ago to wish her a happy birthday.  We started texting a bit and with us both big into super hero movies, I asked if she wanted to go see the new Black Panther.  She was pumped.  Until she ghosted.  She apologized, something about her schedule.  So we rescheduled, and she ghosted again.  When we dated the first time, she did something similar with a big event and I wasn’t having it.  My pride let me walk away from that in a hurry.  This time around, I was frustrated, but wanted to understand what was happening more than I wanted to punish her for wasting my time.  We spoke about it more candidly.  She asked why I had messaged her beyond the happy birthday and I was honest.  I had done a lot of growing up, but it left me feeling more awkward and misunderstood than ever.  Life was a lot easier when I was set on being the person that everyone wanted me to be.  Turns out being me was not so easy.  As beautiful as she was, she was no stranger to being awkward and misunderstood, and I thought maybe we could be awkward and misunderstood together.  I figured it was at least worth a date.  Had it happened, it would’ve been my first time being anywhere near a woman in more than a year.

She liked the idea, said that she understood and had decided that she really did want to spend some time with me.  So we scheduled another date.  This time she was feeling under the weather.  Fair enough, so let’s reschedule for a few days out?  Yes please, until she cancelled again for still being sick and heading out for a work trip in the morning.  0/4.  Fuuuuuck me.  Trying to be understanding.  Trying to be considerate.  Asked her what was going on, and not from a place of anger.  I told her that it sucked, being excited to see her and spend time with her, only for her to cancel over, and over, and over.  I told her I don’t think I can keep this up.  She assured me that she was very, very interested in seeing me and spending time with me.  If someone were to read our text conversations, you’d be optimistic this would go somewhere.  But it hasn’t.  She had some reservations, and some social anxiety… things I wanted to support her though.  She wanted me to support her though them as well.  But maybe I’m missing something.

She took off for her work trip Thursday morning, and we’ve texted a bunch since.  But as she got closer to coming back, the texts dried up.  Pretty much nothing on Saturday, she was driving back for most of Sunday, and yesterday was a quick text in the morning and nothing all day.  Even typing this, I feel like it comes off as needy but there’s more to it than that.  There are patterns hidden within styles of communication.  This is not the pattern of communication of someone who wants to spend time with me.  Or maybe I’m jumping the gun.  This is remarkably frustrating and confusing.

I know she has some social anxiety issues, I know she was super awkward around me when we dated before and while I adored her anyways, it’s still on her mind.  I know that she’s a good person with good intentions, but I don’t know if she’s capable of actually making this happen.  After she asked to reschedule date number 4, I did my best to help us figure things out.  I gave her every out, and she was still 100% determined to try and make this happen, and appreciated my understanding.  I told her that I still don’t know what that means.  It could mean what I hope it means, but it could also mean that as much as she’d like this to happen, she’s just not ready.

If I was in her shoes, and really wanted to see me, I would’ve tried to put something in the calendar for as soon as I was back.  She’s barely texted me at all in the last few days.  Normally, I wouldn’t overthink this but the messages she stopped responding after are not the types of messages that you leave hanging.  It’s probably the biggest reason why I couldn’t sleep tonight.  I told her I was under a fair bit of stress right now and while I was probably handling it well, it was tough.  Later in the evening, I sent her a video game meme.. still nothing.  In an age where people check their phones more often than they look at the time, seeing those messages and not responding is a message in itself isn’t it?  It was a pattern of reduced communication the closer we got to seeing each other… It’s a big part of why I couldn’t sleep tonight.  I wanted to send her a text that would basically say…. I don’t know what it would say.  Something to the effect of this sucks for me.  I keep putting myself out there and you keep running away.  I don’t want to keep doing this.  But I weigh that against being understanding of what she’s going through, and the possibility that if we could just get within physical distance of each other, the dynamic would shift and it might be everything we wanted it to.

I avoided sending anything her way, especially out of a state of frustration.  Maybe she lost/broke her phone, maybe she’s playing catch up with work, maybe.. maybe.. maybe. It doesn’t make sense to assume I know what’s going on here, but what’s my breaking point?  I know I’m not compromising who I am, nor am I allowing myself to be played.  I’m very aware of the situation and the younger me would’ve let his pride dictate my actions.  It’s exactly why she and I stopped dating before.  But had I allowed my pride to dictate my behavior this time around, I would’ve saved myself a lot of grief.

I often hope that my tendency to put myself through these things, and my ability to survive them will leave me a more balanced, humble, and appreciative person for when things do go well.  But my patience is being tested.. perhaps now more than ever.  My entire life seems to have been an effort of delayed gratification.  It’s not easy.  Down right shitty when I have to go through it alone.  But I refuse to let the situation define me.  Instead, I choose to define my situation.  It is not her who is standing me up, but me who understands and appreciates the challenges she is going through, and me who chooses to be patient with how she’s working through this.  But even so, at a certain point, I need to start respecting the impact this has on my emotional state and accept that she’s just not ready.  I’m right up against that edge right now and I guess the next 24 will reveal the rest.

 

 

I made a point of not putting this entry up when I wrote it.  It was an incomplete thought being pressured by my emotional state.  I didn’t have enough information to understand the situation at the time and I’m happy I waited.  She texted me back the next day, saying that things at work had become quite challenging and that she had been ignoring her phone almost entirely as a result.  We’re heading out for that date today.. probably some Ready Player One and some homemade sushi.  I’m cautiously optimistic it might actually happen.

Mindset of a Champion

I’ve been a big fan of mixed martial arts for a very long time.  I even had a brief career as an amateur fighter.  I credit so much of what I’ve learned about life to what I’ve learned in the gym.  Including the mindset of a champion.

Before I pat myself on the back too much, it’s important to concede that I was never a champion-caliber fighter.  I did well on the local scene, won a few tournaments and probably could’ve gone pro, but I knew that wasn’t my path.  When I refer to the mindset of a champion, I’m referring to a mindset that can be learned in or out of the cage, and applies to champions of any walk of life.

I was watching the fights last night and I was reminded of this dynamic again in the rematch between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Thug Rose.  In the first fight, Joanna thought she was unstoppable.  She thought that she was the boogy-woman, someone who was so far above her peers that she could not be beat, and that she was destined to retire undefeated.  Then you had Rose, who had losses, been through a tremendous amount of adversity (personally and professionally), and had found her calm within that storm.  In their first match, Joanna did what she could to get in the head of Rose, but Rose stared right through her – reciting the lord’s prayer no less.  That fight ended up in a first round knock-out for Rose

(Thug Rose! Thug Rose! Thug Rose!)

When she gave her post-fight interview, I instantly became a big fan.  It’s one thing to throw bombs in the cage, it’s another to do it with the presence of mind of being a good human being.  In the age of inactive fighters throwing dollies through bus windows, Thug Rose shines bright.

Leading up to the rematch, I was very curious how things would play out.  Joanna was one of the most accomplished and dangerous strikers in her class.  She also had incredible takedown defense.  If she was able to make adjustments for the second fight, and not get knocked out in the first round, things could play out differently.  In the fight game, anyone can get clipped, anyone can get caught.  If you run the same fight back 10 times, you’ll get 10 different results.  Predicting how fights play out is something that I’ve done for a long time and I’m not half bad at it.  While there’s a lot to consider in making those predictions, few are more important than state of mind.

After Joanna lost the belt, her reality had fractured.  Before that fight, she had an *absolute belief* that she was the best in the world and that she could not be beat.  It was this supreme level of confidence that helped her get into the head of her opponents as well as helping her perform as well as she did in the cage.  But after that fight, where she had been viciously knocked out, she had to find a way to reconcile these two opposing realities.  One in which she was unstoppable and would never lose, and one in which she had been defeated, by knockout, and where she was no longer the champion.  I find that how we face these hard truths largely determine what we’re able to learn from them and what we learn from them largely determines how we grow as individuals.

Coming into the rematch, Joanna kept saying that she was still number 1, that she was a dominant champion for a reason, that it was a bad weight cut which left her susceptible to the knockout, that she needed to replace her nutritionist, and that it was a fluke KO.  She had a choice of embracing a new reality in which she was no longer champion and had been beat by a fighter who was better that night, or rationalizing why she could remain in her own reality where she was still the best.  One reality provides the raw materials for an exceptional moment of growth while the other provides the comfort of not needing to change.  One is the mindset of the champion and one is the mindset of someone who has peaked.  Rhona Rousey might know a thing or two about this.

This is one of the reasons why I’m such a fan of Thug Rose.  Coming off that win, coming off becoming a 25 year old champion in one of the world’s most unforgiving activities, she was just as humble, aware, and open-minded as ever.  She entered into this fight with the mindset of a champion, who was competing for a belt she didn’t yet have.  Some might say, ‘but she was the champion’.  Well, what is a champion?  Someone with a decorative belt?  That’s just hardware.  The best?  Anyone can be beaten on any given night.  The one who everyone perceives as being the best?  Public opinion is fickle.

So what is a champion, and what exactly is the mindset of a champion?

A champion is someone who has been given the title of champion.  No more, no less.   It’s borderline arbitrary.  What’s meaningful is the path it took for the person to get there and earn that distinction.  Rhonda Rousey earned her first championship belt without a fight.  Khabib Nurmagomedov earned his first championship belt after a career of being undefeated, multiple injuries, and 5 opponent changes in 7 days.  It’s about the people.. it’s about the journey.

If a champion is someone who’s been given the title of champion, and it makes more sense to focus on the people and journey, then it’s really the mindset of a champion that deserves our attention.  There’s a dynamic here which cannot be overlooked and it’s a dynamic of confidence.  A fighter who isn’t confident in their abilities will be hesitant, and it’s those split second differences that separate the good from the best.  It’s why so many fights are won and lost in the minds of fighters before they even enter the cage.  If a confident fighter has a distinct advantage over a fighter who isn’t confidence, it starts to make sense why so many championship caliber fighters think they’re god’s gift to MMA.  It’s almost like a trick you play on your own mind, saying that you’re the best before you ever knew you were.  But then you win, and you win again, and for the 0.0001% who become a UFC champion, you’ve almost validated the lie you’ve been telling yourself for years.  And then that lie becomes your reality.  And then your reality becomes fragile.

My question is why does one have to draw confidence from a lie, when the truth is that much more powerful?  Why would you tell yourself that you’re undeniably the best when you could look at your competition and let them inspire you to be even better?  Why would you think that you’re incapable of losing, when a loss would give you more to learn from than any win?  And so I would suggest that there is a difference between someone who is a champion, and someone who has the mindset of a champion.

A fighter like Rhonda Rousey had the skills and confidence to be a dominant champion for many years, but lacked the mindset of a champion to overcome her losses.  Reconciling a lifetime of thinking she was unbeatable with being brutally knocked out in back to back fights was enough to break her.  She lacked the skills necessary to use those losses to evolve, and instead retired into another fantasy, the WWE.  At least she can be a champion there right?  Then you have fighters like Demetrious Johnson, or George St. Pierre, or countless others who have let their losses inspire greatness from within.

Realizing your place within the universe, being able to understand your situation for what it is (and what it isn’t) has to be one of the most important important qualities any person can have.  It requires a tremendous amount of courage at times, to see yourself or the world as it is, especially when you see something you’d rather not see.  But when given the choice to ignore it, rationalize around it, or rise above it, the choice should be clear.  If you can back that up with the skills to pay the bills… that’s a real champion.