Nothing Special, Really

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Dating Game

I've been unemployed for four months now. I've been rejected several times over, and each time I've been able to handle it fairly well. I think the reason for this is because looking for a job is ridiculously similar to dating someone.

You introduce yourself with confidence & start telling them things they want to hear, whether or not you might actually mean what you say. You talk about things you can do for them & try to convince them that you are the one they want. But you also have to do this without coming off as desperate. You have to play the waiting game, making sure to stay in contact with them without smothering them with attention.

Each time I've been rejected since May, I've been able to shake it off because, well, I've had lots of practice of handling rejection from women in my past. I've handled all sorts of rejections this summer: the no-returned-call or email, the "we've found someone else better" excuse, or the ones where they reject me because I did something weird & chased them off. But it's also been easier to deal with because, while many of those chances were good, none of them were "the one."

Today, I got rejected by "the one."

I started interviewing for a position earlier this month with a big architectual firm headquartered here. It seemed like a good opportunity, but I really got intrigued after the initial conversation with the director. I lacked experience in some areas of the job, but what I had to offer was what they were looking for the most.

I was brought in for an interview the next week with three of the team members & gave my best interview to date. I really focused in on my strengths, and with each person, I was already bouncing off ideas of ways to help them with issues they were having. I sent off a "Thank You" email the following morning, and by that evening, I received confirmation that I was moving on to the next series of interviews.

I found out shortly before the 2nd set of interviews that I was one of two finalists. This time, I really tried to focus on how I was a good fit for the position & the organization as well. I wasn't as pleased as I was with the second set of interviews but I felt that I had still did very well. The director said that they had the other finalist coming in two days later, and that they would try to have a decision by Friday.

Monday passed & still no word. I sent another email to the director, reaffirming to them why I was the best candidate. She responded later that night letting me know she hoped to have more information by today. I was hoping that the delay was because they were still finishing reference checks on the other candidate; I knew they had already done mine.

Instead, they were waiting for the acceptance from the other candidate. I held myself together when she broke me the news, staying composed & professional. But inside, as soon as I head the words, I was heartbroken. I'd been rejected, but not like this, not to come so close, not to feel so strongly about the chance, only to get the professional equivalent of the "it's not you, it's me" line.

I find no shame in admitting that I cried a little bit afterwards. I just sat at my desk for about a half-hour, fighting back the urges to throw something at the wall. Not only was this just a job, this was an chance to be set up financially & professionally in way that I've never been before. Instead, they took the "more experienced" person. I can't help but think back to failed relationships when I was younger, when my "lack of experience" was an issue that I had a hard time overcoming then too.

I thought this was going to be somewhere that I could stay for a long, long time; now, I have to start over, looking for new opportunities when I can't help but think that none of these compare to what could have been. Realistically, I'm preparing myself for taking a lesser opportunity, lowering my standards so-to-speak, just to find something, anything. I may jump into something with one foot out the door already, but it may be worth just to not have to face another rejection like this again.

Sometimes, it's not about finding the one. Sometimes, you just gotta get laid. And sometimes, you just gotta get paid.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Public Service Announcement

We interrupt this series of posts that you may or may not be interested in for this special announcement.

Holy fuck I'm 30 years old now. It's true, I just saw it when I logged into my myspace account.

And I have the raddest girlfriend ever. She's already bought me dinner (twice), one of which included a chocolate & beer tasting, paid for us to spend the night downtown in a swanky hotel, took us to go see Tropic Thunder, AND bought me an 80gb iPod. Did I tell you how rad she is?

It's almost enough to keep my mind off how old I am now. Dang, 30!

Oh well, 30 is the new 20, right?

I'll be back with the finale to all the posts from this past week on Monday or Tuesday. Until then, it's time to party.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Finally, A Bit Of Relief

This is Part 4. The first 3 Parts are here, here & here.


Perhaps it was the sunshine. Perhaps it was just the comedown after the emotional release the night before. For whatever reason, I woke up the next day feeling a bit different, but in a good way. I didn't start off the morning with a panic attack, which probably helped. Of course, anytime after I've had a good cry I end up feeling much better. But I wasn't completely out of the woods, not just yet. Just because I didn't start the day in panic mode didn't mean that I still didn't have other issues to face.

As the day progressed, I still remained panic attack-free. Furthermore, I started thinking about how I could turn all this into something positive. The prior two weeks of anxiety had a significant impact on me, and specifically, my personal philosophy. This confrontation on my philosophy on life forced me to reevaluate certain things that I valued in life. I felt that, if I didn't make any changes to these values, that I was going to be living a life that conflicted with my philosophy on life.

I met with Wac later that morning at a coffee shop with an attitude I wasn't capable of having before. I was speaking in a jumbled mess of sound bits, spitting out thoughts as they came into my head, trying to form them into a coherent statement. I still wasn't personally comfortable with the fact that I will die one day, but I was beginning to feel comfortable about what I wanted to do until that day arrives. I wanted to start traveling more, I wanted to get into better health so that I can enjoy life as long as possible, I wanted to free myself financially, I wanted to start going out more. And as I was speaking, I started realizing that none of these were any new revelations. I didn't come out of this some radically different person. The only thing different that day is that the sun was shining.

So maybe it was all just seasonal depression. I had spent two weeks in the sun not even a month prior, surrounded by family and friends in two states. I left all that to come back home, a city encased in clouds and drenched in cold. I came back to a stagnant job, a constricting apartment, and the same financial struggles I left behind. So maybe all of that triggered some sort of depression inside of me, and that first panic attack was just kindling for the fire.

Whether or not it was depression or some intense philosophical awakening, I really didn't know. What I did know is that whatever caused this, it was unlike any similar experiences before. Nothing really changed that morning; the fact that I will die one day is still an inevitability. But for the first time in weeks, that thought didn't scare me. Perhaps something was ignited in me to start living life differently, perhaps not. All I knew was, for the first time in weeks, I was smiling again. There I was, sitting in a coffee shop with my girlfriend, the sun squeezing between the buildings, talking about how I really want to go to Iceland. At that moment, we could have been blindsided by a runaway truck crashing into the building, or shot down by a crazed homeless person, maybe eaten alive by the Cloverfield monster. I wouldn't have been able to look back afterwards and think "Man, I wish I would have lived my life differently" or "Really? THAT'S how I die?" Nor would I have been able to look back and think that at least I was happy on my last day, enjoying a wonderful moment with my girlfriend.

But I was happy again. I wasn't worried anymore about what's going to happen after I die. Instead, I was thinking about how to enjoy life up until that final day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How I Got This Way

This is Part 3 in a series of posts. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.


Before I continue with the story, I think it might help to give some background on my religious beliefs. As you can probably guess, I am not a religious person. I grew up in a loosely religious family. For a while, we bounced around from church to church until we found one a Lutheran one that my dad felt comfortable in, but aside from the commercial holidays, religion never really found its way into our everyday lives. As a kid, I believed in God, and for a while said nightly prayers to myself, but I never fully embraced the church for two main reasons. One, it was booo-ring. Two, I was never fully convinced. I believed in a god for a while mostly because I wasn't sure what else to believe in.

When I was in college, I took some philosophy classes that really impacted my life. These classes never took the route of discouraging religious belief; instead, it was the discussion of rational thought & theological arguments for\against a god that piqued my interest. From being in these classes my religious views changed, and over time, I became less & less confident in my belief in a god. As it stands today, I don't believe in any god. I don't believe there is a heaven or a hell or an afterlife. I believe that the world we live in is the extent of our existence, and when we die, then that's that. End of story. Thanks for playing

I've followed down this belief path because it's what makes sense to me. Truthfully, I believe that I'm no different than even the most devout Christian or Muslim or Hindu in the sense that we are all believing something to be true when none of us will ever be able to validate those beliefs. I don't believe that we as humans will ever be able to prove or disprove the existence of a god or understand our own existence, nor will we ever really know what happens after we die.

The uncomfortable side effect of my belief is the conclusion that one draws from it. If it hasn't been clear so far, it can be very unsettling to believe that, when we die, that is the end. No afterlife, no heaven. In religion, one often finds comfort in their own death by viewing it as the beginning of a pathway towards a new, better afterlife or rebirth. My beliefs don't offer that kind of comfort. I've made the statement on a couple of occasions that I don't think people like me are given enough credit. What I mean by that is that the beliefs that we choose to live our lives by are sometimes difficult to keep. The fact that I believe that our death is the complete end of our existence on any level is sometimes downright frightening.

Instead, the comfort I derive comes from my view that the belief I hold is correct. That might sound egotistical, but we all believe our own view is correct. Beliefs are shallow without the confidence in one's own belief, right? So, essentially, I don't believe in God, I think I'm right, and I find comfort in believing that what I consider the truth to actually be the truth. I believe that the view that I've chosen is the correct one when all options are considered rationally. That might make me sound like a pompous asshole, and so might this next statement, but all things considered, I just can't place my faith in, using Christianity as an example, a thousand-plus year old book that tells stories that could rival any Spielberg\Bay production as the next Hollywood blockbuster. I don't mean that to sound as some kind of smug bastard, nor is it meant to put down anyone who is Christian. But, again, that's just how I feel.

I've felt this way for many years, and I've always felt that I was comfortable with these beliefs, but apparently I wasn't as comfortable as I thought. I'm not completely sure what triggered me to start having these panic attacks so frequently, but I do know that what it did was force me to fully confront my religious beliefs and truly understand the philosophical consequences of them. I can imagine that what I went through is probably similar to many others who become "born-again" Christians; there were a couple of moments during this time where I thought about the notion of becoming Christian again, but those moments were quick, fleeting, and never seriously considered. After finally breaking down after my last panic attack, I realized that the best way to get through all this was to come to terms with the consequences of my beliefs & find a way to reconcile them with the life that I want to live.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Go Crazy? Don't Mind If I Do!

This is Part 2; Part 1 is here.


Several years ago, when I was living in Arizona, I stopped in a Borders bookstore while I was waiting to meet up with some friends at a sushi bar near the ASU campus. At the time, I was still in pursuit of a degree in Philosophy, so being the nerd that I was am, I hung out in that section of the store to pass some time. While there, I stumbled on a book that intrigued me: The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. My fascination & problems with dwelling on death were something I was going through back then as well, and I thought maybe this book would help me understand why I was so caught up in the subject. I never made it more than a couple of chapters in the book because reading it conjured up those same thoughts that would freak me out & lead me to purchase the book in the first place.

Back in January, around the same time I was having the panic attacks, I got caught up playing the Wikipedia game and eventually stumbled across the entry for Ernest Becker, which was a really bad idea, kind of on par with going to WebMD to find out why you have a strange cough. Anyways, you can click above for his entry if you're interested. Furthermore, Wikipedia summarizes his book with this line:

"The basic premise of The Denial of Death is that human civilization is ultimately an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of the fact that we are going to die, which in turn acts as the emotional and intellectual response to our basic survival mechanism."

Although I've never made it through the whole book, what I have read has been very interesting. I'm not saying whether or not I believe this or not, but it's a fascinating idea nonetheless. Anyways, from that, I continued playing my Wikipedia-degrees-of-separation game, bouncing from link to link, stumbling on other interesting entries such as Terror Management Theory, Existential Psychology, and so on. This probably wasn't the best idea either, considering my mental state, but I couldn't help it. In fact, I was reading these articles the same day that I had my panic attack in the middle of class, so you can probably make the connection.

So the day after attack in class, I tried to shake off what had happened but I couldn't. No matter what I could be doing, my mind kept interrupting me with these interjections of bleakness. At work, in the shower, eating lunch, whatever the case may be, I'd think "what's the point of this" about anything I was doing. The next night, I was trying to watch Broken Flowers with Wac, but couldn't help to think about how insignificant things like movies, our apartment, even love & relationships had become. It was impossible for me to fixate on anything beyond the fact that everything in my life & my life itself was ultimately meaningless. Literally, it felt like I was going crazy. I finally broke down into tears that night and tried my best to explain to Wac what was going on in my mind. Even as I was speaking it, I was trying to laugh at how silly it sounded, but at the same time, I was seriously concerned. I felt myself making some revelations about my life that were downright terrifying. What began as just another panic attack, one like the many I've had over the past several years, had become a slippery slope into an existentialist dilemma that, at the time, felt like it was consuming me.

That emotional release helped me a bit, and I woke up the next morning feeling a little bit better but still pretty unsettled about what I had been through over the past couple of days. What I did know was that I didn't want to keep living my life in the manner that I had the past couple of weeks. I couldn't live life in fear of my own death, nor could I live life under the pretense that it was meaningless because I will die. I lived the past several years of my life with the idea that my death is the end of the line, and I was finally coming to terms with what that belief meant. In terms of Becker's book, I had become aware of my own defense mechanism against death, and over the past couple of weeks, it was like my mind was trying to tear it all down. I had to find someway to build it all back up or continue the path that my mind was leading me down.

Part 3 tomorrow....

Monday, August 11, 2008

Two Weeks In January

I'm really not sure how this is going to come out. I've been working on this post off and on for a long time now. This is about something that happened to me back in January, so of course, a lot of the emotion that I experienced back then has deteriorated, and the intensity of what happened may be lost now that it's 7 months past. But a post like this isn't just something I can write on the fly, and I don't think my head has been straight enough until now, nor have I been in an environment where I can clearly write what went on. So now, 7 months later, sitting in a coffee shop, I'm going to try to write a post on what may have been the strangest period in my life.

How's that for a buildup? Ready? OK, let's go.

Back in early-mid January, I fought with a bit of mild depression for a couple of weeks, although that description isn't entirely accurate. It wasn't depression in the sense that I was constantly mopey or unmotivated, and it certainly wasn't serious enough that I was a candidate for some kind of self-inflicted bodily harm. But if it wasn't depression in the clinical sense, it was certainly depression-influenced.

It all started in the shower. I was doing my showerly business, half-awake, with my mind still off in some stream-of-consciousness daze. Bouncing from one topic to another, my mind got fixated on one thought in particular. I suddenly broke out into a sense of panic & anxiety, intense enough that I let out some sort of weird whining-moaning noise loud enough for Wac to hear from the kitchen. I had to physically shake my head to break my train of thought. This happened for a minute or two before it finally went away. Still emotionally shaken, I finished up my shower, and headed on my way to another day at the office filled with reading various poker blogs &

I wasn't really too concerned with what happened that morning. The truth is, that wasn't the first time it happened to me. I've experienced that same sensation many times before. In fact, I can trace it as far back as elementary school. I can remember sitting on the bus during a field trip, just drifting off in thought as I stared out the window, when my imagination would get the best of me and I would freak out, albeit for just a brief moment.

What made this episode in January so significant & worthy of starting off a blog post with is that it was the first of many episodes within a two-week period. Usually, I experience them every couple of months, or if I'm lucky, once or twice a year. But for some reason, that episode in the shower triggered something within me, and for a week, I continued to dwell on the same topic over and over again until I had the worst episode I'd ever experienced, right in the middle of class.

It was a Wednesday, so that meant it was the more boring of the two classes, and it was easy for my mind to drift off. Instead of taking a round-about way, my mind almost immediately started thinking about that topic again, and I broke out into a panic that was so intense, I very nearly walked out of class.

So what is this thing that induces such panic in me any time I think about it?


Or specifically, my own death. Or even more specifically, what happens, or doesn't happen, after I die.

What is bothersome to me isn't a fear that I'm going to die or that I feel like I am dying (although, being a hypochondriac, I certainly have feared that at times in my life as well). Instead, what's so troubling is the thought that, at some point in the future, I will cease to exist. And really, if my mind wants to, it can be any topic that sets off the series of thoughts that leads me to this. For example, that day in the shower started like this:

Thinking about Guitar Hero 3>thinking about how DragonForce is a silly band>thinking about the idea of dragons & how that idea came about>thinking about the fact that dragons never even existed>thinking about life in Medieval times>thinking about how long ago that was & all those people are dead now>thinking about how one day I will die>thinking about how one day I will cease to exist>thinking about what that will be like>thinking about how scary that is...

In a nutshell, trying to comprehend things like the end of my existence, or sometimes things as grandiose as existence itself, or future existence - things that my personal philosophy has deemed incomprehensible - are too much for my mind to handle, and ultimately, I panic when I think about them.

When I was younger, if I would I poke someplace on my body that I injured and it hurt, my dad would say "then don't poke it!" I can imagine him, and maybe many of you, thinking "if you know it's scary, then don't think about it!" And for the most part, I don't. Like I mentioned before, I'm usually able to work out of these panic attacks within a couple of minutes. And they're not so debilitating that I feel like I'm in any kind of physical danger; it's all mental for the most part. So I'm not really bothered by the fact that I have these attacks every now and then, I just accept it and deal with them the best I can.

But these attacks in January, these were different. First, they were more frequent than before. I had never experienced them so close together, and rarely more than one a day. Secondly, they went beyond just thinking about my own existence, or inevitable lack of existence. Specifically, the episode in the middle of class went something like "blah blah blah...I'm going to die one day. All of us here in this room are, and once that happens, that will be the end. Everything we do, everything we're doing, everything we will ever do is meaningless because all this is just temporary."

That last part....that was something new. All of my previous panic attacks ended with just the idea of not existing. It was all future based - freaking out about what would happen in the future. That night was the first time I ever made an inference in my own mind about how that impacted what was happening now. And at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I haven't been the same since.

To be continued...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Run Fatboy Run

Last weekend, while we were spending most of the time drinking it up in Bend, Oregon, I took time out on Saturday morning to make sure I got my 3 mile run in. I couldn't miss out on this run; I was on a very aggressive training schedule for a half-marathon in October and any missteps could severely affect my preparation for this run.

Prior to the run, I had been doing all of my training indoors, on the treadmill at our neighborhood gym. I started off with a mile, working my way up to 2 miles by the end of the week. I got there, but I was still out of shape enough that I had to break for a short walk at the 1.5 mile mark. Last week, my training started off with a 1.5 mile run, working up to the 3 mile run in Bend. I struggled that week as well, and by Saturday's run, I was already questioning whether or not I was going to be able to do this.

I didn't want to admit defeat. I really wanted to be able to run the half marathon in October. It was going to be a weekend where Wac & I take over the world by running, me & my half, her and her full marathon the next day. I was feeling more motivated to run a half marathon than I had ever felt before. But each day, as I struggled on the treadmill, I felt myself becoming more and more discouraged. I was struggling to get to 2 miles - how was I going to be able to get to 4 miles in two weeks? And 6 miles by my birthday?

When I met up with Wac on my run that Saturday, we stopped by McDonald's to use their restroom. When I came out, I told her what had been building up in my mind the past couple of weeks.

I wasn't going to run the half marathon in October.

First, I felt like I was really struggling to increase my distance so quickly. I was basically trying to run 13.1 miles in 3 months from scratch. As motivated as I was, I started thinking that was going to be too much, and each day that I trained, the mental aspect of running became more & more difficult to overcome.

Secondly, being unemployed, I didn't want to run the risk of pushing too hard & seriously injuring myself. Although this was much less of a concern, it was still a concern nonetheless. Most of the injuries I could get as a runner are solved by simple things like rest or ice packs, but if I happened to tear a ligament or something just as catastrophic, I would be seriously fucked.

Anyways, it all boiled down to the fact that I didn't think I'd be ready in time for a half marathon in October. Even she had several months of training & a couple 5k's under her belt before she started training for the Vancouver half-marathon. What I was attempting to do was even more drastic than that, and I wasn't confident that I could. Part of me felt like I was giving up too soon, but the sensible side of me reminded the rest that this wasn't quitting, it was just a postponement.

So, despite what I said before, I won't be running the Leavenworth half marathon on October 4th. Instead, I'm going to finish what I originally started 4 years ago.

January 18th, 2009. The P.F. Chang's Rock & Roll Half-Marathon in Phoenix, AZ. The very first half-marathon I ever started training for...just four years late.

This time, I'm for real.