Archive for August, 2011

Apes, Rings, & Shields!

Thanks to my particular brand of (pseudo-) nerdiness is that I’ve become a keen observer to detail. I tend notice the little quirks, the subtle aspects of an interaction or environment. This is especially evident when it pertains to film and gaming. But sometimes when I’m dulling my senses watching a movie or playing a game, I’ll come across something that just rubs me the wrong way. Sometimes the litmus for suspension of disbelief for the sake of convenience is flat-out assaulted. Let me clarify that last bit. I’m not one of those douchebags who goes in with the intent of deconstructing a movie (or game) to harp on all its flaws.

Armond White: Film reviewer, music critic, and massive prick all in in one!

The following aren’t really movie reviews per se. But more like a quick rundown of anal-retentive, takeaways from a round of movies I saw recently. So this post will be laced with semi-spoilers. You’ve been warned. But really, anything I put in one of these harping sessions probably isn’t worth your time anyway.

I guess this would be a really bad time to make a joke about him being naked.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: This wasn’t a bad film in hindsight. But I’m definitely puzzled as hell as to why it’s being lauded as a crowning piece of cinema. Starts out with a ton of potential and interesting elements, but then falls apart in the second half when it went full throttle into action movie mode. For a movie about apes being set loose, I was expecting some really wild, action sequences, but it was so tame I zoned out a few times. I was expecting to see some ape-shit craziness but only got a slightly angry version of Curious George, LAME!

The biggest flaw that undercut the entire premise of the movie was not Caesar, but the circus orangutan he befriended. On one hand you have a genetically altered monkey with a genius level IQ. Yet this lowly circus orangutan is able to communicate and understands Caesar perfectly well. Yeah, he’s not playing chess; but a damn monkey that can seemingly understands human interactions and some of the prevailing social dynamics is much more impressive feat in my opinion.

But moving on, then there’s the massive Nat Turner-esque escape. As Caesar explained, there are strength in numbers. So their first stop, breakout the apes n the zoo. Which is good and all, but how in the hell did the zoo apes manage to fall in line with the rest of the now, intelligent apes? I’d reckon the zoo apes would function as cannon fodder so the others could have an easier escape. And if that was the point, it contradicts Caesar ‘strength in numbers’ philosophy and kinda’ makes him look like a major dick. But from the looks of it, ALL the apes were in perfect formation, understood commands and everything. So somehow in the span of being freed and overrunning the city, they somehow become sentient enough to follow the crowd. But whatever, let’s move on.

So now we’re in the Redwoods. Now, I’m no primatologist but something tells me the Redwoods wouldn’t necessarily provide the sustainable environment & resources for the Mesan level apes. Just a wild guess on my part. And let’s not mention how some their mannerisms suddenly became more “human”. Geniuses, some primates do occasionally walk on two legs. They just prefer walking on all fours because it’s more efficient give the anatomical structure of their bodies.

Other than that, it was a decent movie. This was definitely a set-up piece for future films. So I can’t give it too much crap for now. It’s obviously not as clever as the original; but it doesn’t need to be nor was that its purpose. Definitely worth viewing, I just hope the sequels up the geek a bit along with some ape-shit madness.

Hey baby, I got another big head I wanna show ya'.

Green Lantern: Yup folks, the above picture is (one of) the main antagonist in the Green lantern movie: some deformed geek with major daddy issues. You don’t need Green Lantern for this folks. This threat could’ve been handled by two college meatheads who would give him an atomic wedgie and shove him in a locker or throw him in a swimming pool. Then they can celebrate by slamming beers from his test beakers while lighting joints from his Bunsen burner.

I was never the biggest Green Lantern fan. But from what I do remember, Ryan Reynolds is not Hal Jordan. But that’s not even the worst part, it’s practically everything else. The cookie cutter format of the movie plays out just as you’d expect. And that’s perfectly fine, it’s a summer popcorn movie based on a damn comic book; I’m not expecting a Steven Soderbergh masterpiece. But at least bedazzle me some cool special effects. Seeing Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corps was cool for like five minutes but that got old quickly. You know what? I won’t even dignify anymore time to this garbage. It just plain sucked period!

I just don’t get why DC can’t capitalize on their franchises. They have a stable of cool characters to work with. The Superman franchise alone should be as popular, if not moreso, than Batman. There’s no reason we why there isn’t a good Flash movie in the works, or Wonder Woman, or the Green Arrow, or something. Yet Marvel continues to get it right. Even when they fail, they turnaround time for remakes is incredibly short. And it’s not as though DC is hurting financially, so what the hell? Get better DC!

Movie cliche 13: Surround your enemy, but DON'T kill them. Take them to your leader instead!

Captain America: This was the most enjoyable of the three movies. And surprisingly, it wasn’t as campy as I expected. And as always, Hugo Weaving was amazing as the red Skull. I do feel it’s a bit bloated in some areas and they could’ve easily chopped a good 30 minutes. That aside, it was fairly decent. I wouldn’t put it up there with Ironman or even Thor, but this was a decent set-up piece for the Avengers movie.

But since this is a nitpicking session, I gotta’ pick out something. This criticism is more of assessment of the character himself, not the movie. And I’ve had it for a while. Yes, Captain America represents everything that is good and wholesome about American values. But his origin is a huge endorsement for drug use in many ways. Don’t roll your eyes just yet; hear me out. One of hard truths of life is that anything worthwhile takes a lot of hard work and pain. Young Steve Rogers was able to bypass all of that thanks to modified steroids; scratch that, I mean a serum that was developed to create super soldiers. What kind of message does that send? “Hey kids, don’t worry about spending countless hours in the gym sweating it out in the gym, watching your diet, avoid those nasty scraps and sprained body parts, or even going practices & training classes even though you pulled a full day at work / school. All you need is a little help thanks to this government approved serum.

Yes, I realize that is a huge stretch of an argument given the circumstances. But there is some validity in it being that the ends justify the means. In this case, the end being taking out the Nazi regime. How is this any different than athletes who wants to use performance enhancing drugs to increase their abilities and career livelihood? Sports, war, it’s all about dominance in the end. But that’s a post I’ll explore at a later time. Again, it’s a just fricking comic book and fun, little movie.

That’s enough kvetching for one day. By now, I’m sure a lot of you are under the impression I’m a massive movie snob I’m really not. I actually find a bit of enjoyment in crappy movies due to their pure (unintentional) comedic potential. Case in point, I love the Fast & Furious franchise based purely on laughably terrible they are. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call is easily the best comedy of the past decade. At the end of the day people like what they like, simple as that. I may think less of your tastes going forward. But, hey tomato-tomatoe, right?

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Plight of the Pelican

Whenever someone asks me to recount a story from living overseas, the following incident immediately comes to mind. Now, nothing terribly crazy happened and it’s not particularly germane to my experience abroad. It does, however, top the chart on my WTF scale due to its freak occurrence. It’s event like this that stick with us and make life so interesting; where something so alien suddenly plants itself into what should be ordinary situation. The brain just can’t comprehend what’s going on and checks out momentarily. This is prime example.

During my post-grad tenure in Australia, I decided to learn some Mandarin. Thankfully, I was able to strike up a language exchange partnership with a few people. Skip forward to one fine sunny day in St. Lucia, I’m off to meet my Mandarin tutor at one of the cafés on campus. The usual routine would be that we eat, do a little catching up, and then get to work. Simple enough, right? We were seated at a modest round table outside by a makeshift pond designed to look like a waterfall in a rain forest. Again, nothing strange about that right? Now what you need to know is that the University of Queensland is right on the edge of the Brisbane River. So naturally, there’s a modest about of wildlife there that freely roam around. And I’m not talking about your garden variety type of animal like a snail. No, we’re talking large lizards, giant rats, 2-3 foot long snakes, etc. It’s just part of their natural habitat and they want to keep it that way. Today’s guest came in the form of an Australian Pelican! And I use that word guest in the most literal sense.

It started out fairly cute, seeing this bird swimming in the water then waddling along the edge. Then cute quickly became strangely curious when he decided to situate himself right by the edge of our table. Stares at my friend, looks at our food, and turns towards me. Here is when the “WTF” dial starts to kick in. Something was definitely not right. And he was quick to confirm that when he suddenly hopped on the table, puffed out his chest slightly fluttering his wings. We are now officially in WTF territory. And thus begins the tale of how a bird systematically destroyed my manhood.

What played out next was essentially the Jules Winnfield / Brett scene from Pulp Fiction. In fact, I’ve come to call the bird Jules ever since. You know that glazed over, empty look some animals have? That wasn’t happening here. No, Jules (the bird) takes his ballsy-ness a step further and begins to peck away at my food. Here’s where the Pulp Fiction bit comes in. During this whole incident, Jules maintains eye contact with me the whole while he’s eating. You know that glazed over, lifeless empty look some animals have? Naw, that wasn’t happening here. Somehow, this bird embodied the essence of Samuel L. Jackson and bitched me out right there. All of this happened within a span of less than 10 seconds. Ambivalence doesn’t even come close to the jumble of thoughts that were running through my head. Let’s walk through some of the things running through my mind.

What are you gonna do bitch?

Please don't peck my eyes out!

............

I drink your milkshake!!!!

That's what I thought...pussy!

  • Bewilderment / Impressed : This bird must have king kong sized balls to be bold enough to stand up to another animal that’s not only twice its size, but do so when there are ton of other people present. I’m pretty sure if there were any female pelicans witnessing this heroic feat of dominance, he got laid. Seriously, demonstrating that kind of gall should be rewarded with a pass to sexy town.
  • Keen Curiosity: Aside from being publically humiliated. I was just genuinely curious how far Jules would go. I’ve never see a large bird like this up close. It was fascinating to see how it was able to get my half sandwich into his oblong beak and eat it. So there’s was a bit of a cool factor to it all, minus the whole making me look like a bitch aspect.
  • Gender / Social / Ethnic complex: Am I really seeing this? What if the damn thing attacks me? If I try to wave it away will it attack me? Will I come off as some ignorant, thug? Will make my friend her more threatened? Is she ashamed of being here right now? Dude, I must look like the biggest pussy right now sitting here. What kind of man sits here and let’s a goddamn animal just walk all over them. Wait, I’m a damn American. I should be going “Don’t Tread on Me!” all over this bird. But I don’t want to perpetuate any false stereotypes racial or culturally as well. Arrrgh, what is the damn proper protocol here. WHAT THE F*CK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?

Fear not, coming to my pathetic rescue was none other than Jeff Foxworthy!!!

Redneck Humor: Terrible enough to kill even large animals

Well, not it wasn’t the Jeff Foxworthy, but more like his Australian knock off. Book in hand, he merely waved the bird off sending Jules into a slight frenzy of chest puffing before retreating to the pond. After my sheepish thanks, he just waves it off without even looking at me. Great, so not only was I humiliated by a Toucan Sam, I had to be saved by another man. And on top of that, he was so disgusted with me that he couldn’t look at me. And I’m pretty sure that feeling resonated with everyone else watching. Needles to say, we parted ways and never went there again. Just multiple levels of FAIL! I failed my country, I failed my race, and I failed as a man all at once in a matter of seconds.

Sorry dude, no amount of reflection will restore your manhood.

This emasculating experience did teach me a very valuable life lesson: It’s better to make a bad / stupid decision then no decision at all. In hindsight, doing anything would’ve been better than nothing at all. Even if Jules did go into Alfred Hitchcock Birds attack mode, I’d at least have some cool battle scars to show off. Taking that further, I could even swing it into a nice, pick-up story with the ladies showing how much of a badass I was. Even if I severely injured or killed Jules, I could always play the ignorant American / foreigner card because I didn’t know any better. In either case, I would be able to explain the rationale behind my actions. Passiveness / indecisiveness is just another way of rolling over and letting life take whatever sh*t sandwich it gives you, even in extreme WTF moments. And men, it’s definitely not a trait women find sexy or desirable in a guy.

I’ll never make that mistake again. Should a similar incident ever happen again, I’m going into kamikaze mode. At least let me go out with some shred of dignity.

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Gaikokujin Abroad (or Things I Learned from Living Overseas)

I love Cracked, but it’s also a black hole of all productivity. I can’t just read one article. One article, turns into five, which turns into twenty, which ultimately results in a whole evening wasted reading sarcastic humor. Never the less, I came across this article: 6 Reasons Why Your Plans to Live Abroad Might Not Work. Surprisingly, the article’s fairly spot-on to a certain degree. And it made me reflect on my own time as an expat.

Rather than go point / counter point with the article, I think it’s best if I summarize my experience and call it issues that impacted me the most. Being the globe trotter I am, I’ve visited my fair share of countries. But for the sake of brevity (somewhat), I’ll just focus on where I spent the bulk of my time: Japan & Australia. However, I will make reference to incidents from other places.

Living overseas was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Playing in pick-up rugby games, going to my first obon festival, stumbling in the streets of Akihabara, lounging around the Gold Coast, taking dip in to a real onsen I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. But if there’s one thing I always tell people: My time living abroad has given me a much better appreciation for America.

When visiting another country, tourists tend to wear rose-colored glasses. You take the good with the bad and move on. You’re just there for a short time anyway. But when you actually try to weave yourself into the infrastructure of that economy; then it’s a whole different ball game. You’re no longer the affable, jolly American. You’re now the obnoxious, arrogant prick who poses a threat to their jobs (and women). And if you’re like me, you got another thing to consider: having dark skin!

Japan
Ahhh, where do I even begin? Let me give you the trimmed down, Wikipedia version. I spent roughly two years in Japan teaching English mostly. My whole intention for Japan was into improve my fluency so that I could parlay that experience into a “real job”. That obviously didn’t happen. Let me break it down for you. There are three types of people who teach English:

     

  • The World Traveler: These people are more concerned with seeing the world. And this is one of the cheapest ways to do. And some actually come because they love the work. I have many friends who’ve become established & respected instructors in foreign universities. So it’s not a total cop-out sometimes.
  • The Mid-Life Crisis / Retired guy: These are the Lester Burnham’s of the world truly living out the whole American Beauty experience. I worked with one fellow who was a top level exec at IBM for 25 years. He just decided he had enough of it and quit on the spot. He started teaching across the globe that year and couldn’t be happier.
  • The Washout: These are essentially the people who couldn’t hack into back in the real world. As harsh as it sounds, it’s entirely too true. They lack any valuable skills that can be applied to the general work force. The jock with the debilitating injury that ended his scholarship, the liberal hippy white chick who think she can change the world’s negative perception of Americans through one person at a time, or the English jerk-off who just wants to nail as many Asian women as he can. Sadly, the English teaching pool is comprised mostly of these kind of people. Hell, even I was one of these people. Come on, what kind of job would I ever get with a degree in philosophy / communications, seriously?! But I digress.


It took a good couple of months to adjust to life in Japan. But once I opened myself up to experience (going to dinners with Japanese friends, studying language groups, visiting quirky little town, going to live shows, etc.), it was akin to drinking water from a fire hose. In many ways, it accelerated the crashing culture shock I endured much later. For a homogeneous society, the Japanese are a curious, yet insular set of people. Curious in the sense, that wasn’t uncommon for people to come touch my hair, or have a gang of kids come pull my pants leg up to see what kind of shoes I was wearing, etc. Yet insular, in the sense, they can sometime become skittish if you approach them. But once they learn you are somewhat fluent, their whole demeanor usually changes and the wall goes up.

Now, I could have fallen into the usual expat lifestyle only associating with other English speakers. But what would be the point of that? To be honest, I found talking to a group of expats a bit more socially awkward than with my Japanese colleagues. It was easier talking to them since our meetings were on a common basis (speaking Japanese and learning more about Japan). In the expat crowd, you have to consider different cultural, racial, and sometimes generational factors. Besides, many of the expat gatherings were just huge gripe fests about their frustrations of living in the society. One guy lived there 10 YEARS and could not speak a lick of Japanese. And had the nerve to wonder why he had such a difficult time getting around. It’s for reasons like this I avoided expat havens like Roppongi and certain spots in Shibuya & Harajuku. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly natural to be drawn to these circles since. It’s one thing to maintain with your own cultural identity; but completely isolating yourself within those circles defeats the purpose of the experience. However, I’ve also seen the inverse occur as well. These people completely assimilate to Japanese culture under the false sense they belong there. To me it’s all about finding a balance that works for you. And that’s what I did….or so I thought.

Culture Shock
After my first year, my Japanese was fairly conversational. And my social etiquette game was on point. Remember that fire hose metaphor I used earlier? Sometimes you reach a bursting point. I was watching the Japanese Movie “Trick” and suddenly halfway into it. Everything went from Japanese to sounding like gibberish. This was so disorienting that I had to leave the movie before it ended. The next thing I remember is just breaking out into tear right in the middle of Hachiko Square. My poor little brain must have hit maximum capacity and couldn’t handle anymore. Everyone who’s been abroad for an extended period of time goes through it. Some handle it better than others. Me? No so much. After that little episode, I had to take some personal time for myself before I could even go back outside again.

It was also during this time, I changed jobs.Not only was I just teaching classes, but I was learning about managing head count, P&L’s, coordinating marketing campaigns, etc. I enjoyed that aspect of the job more than the teaching. Thus, the seed of business was planted. After a few months, I had my share of the teaching business and was dead set on going back to school to pursue my master’s. One adventure chapters ends and another was about to begin. This time, in Australia.

Quick tips
Before we go there, let me provide you with some helpful tips should you ever visit the Land of the Rising Sun. This should help you not look look like a total, obnoxious tool.

     

  • Learn a few phrases: Even though you can get around Tokyo speaking only English. Your experience may be a bit richer if you learn a few courteous phrases, and questions.
  • Don’t sip your soup!: I don’t care what Lonely Planet tells you. It’s incredibly rude to sip your soup like an uncultured clod.
  • If you want to share food, use to the opposite end of your chopsticks: Sharing food is usually reserved for good friends, but sometimes it happens in more social gatherings. Should you find yourself in this position. Turn you chopsticks around using the opposite ends to grab food. No one wants your mouth ridden ridden germs all in their plate.
  • You’re NOT Japanese! You’ll NEVER be accepted and will always be a gaijin!: This is aimed more toward the otaku, yellow fever nerds whom are obsessed with everything Japanese. No matter how much anime you watch, how many immersion classes you endure, or even marry into a Japanese family. You will never be fully accepted. Koreans who’ve live in Japan for generations are regularly discriminated against. Hell, even American born Japanese are looked down upon with a bit of disdain. So why in the hell do you think they’ll take a lily-white foreigner into their fold? Once you learn to accept this fact, it will make your experience that much easier and better.

Australia
After my experience in Japan, transitioning to Australia wasn’t all that bad. In many ways, Australia is pretty much a mirror image of America just set a few years behind. That’s not to say it didn’t come with it’s own set of quirks. Bats fly out in the open, hang from light post, etc. Don’t believe me? Look here. If you ask for a lemonade; you’ll get a glass of sprite. Voting is compulsory. BBQ there is nothing like BBQ in the states. Tipping is not expected but it’s greatly appreciated for exceptional service and so on. But that’s just scratching the surface. My biggest issue with Australia came in the form of its social dynamic.

Race (a.k.a. The whole being black thing)
My race was never really an issue on contention when I was in Japan. If anything, I would say many of the incidents I experienced were spurred by sheer ignorance on their part. For example, people changing seats if I sat next or too close to them on the train or arcade. Or constant inquiries about if I was a rapper or basketball player, etc. But in some cases, it can work in your favor. For some reason there’s this weird, exotic fetishism with black men ( especially African-Americans) I’ve noticed across the globe. Take it for what you will, but it does occur ever once and awhile. In any case, I’ve come to understand the mentality to a certain extent. Japan’s an isolated nation. And their relations with African-Americans (and Africans in general) is extremely limited and based hugely upon media perception. So I can understand the level of ignorance I’ve encountered or the hesitancy to engage in conversations.

For all our flaws as Americans, we are one of the few nations in the world that is willing to be completely self-critical about ourselves, full-frontal warts and all. You won’t find that kind of bluntness down under. Australians are incredibly kind people, but you sometime have to treat your interactions with kid gloves. Case in point, don’t ever bring up the topic of the Stolen Generations. Most (white) Australians are incredibly reluctant to discuss the long lasting social & cultural damage it caused and the remaining fallout from it. Any attempt to do so is usually met with an indignant rant about how Australia is not a racist society anymore, talks about moving on to an egalitarian nation and whatnot. Which is strange considering my whole time in school I did not encounter one ingenious student the entire time. I did see more than a few living in poverty or on the street. And that’s not even scratching the surface of numerous other recent examples I could pull out the hat. Now I wouldn’t mind this hush-hush etiquette if it was a blanket policy and not so hypocritical. But Aussie humor can be very racist. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard words like, “nigger, Abo, Gin jockey, coon, wog, etc.” thrown around in conversations. Now, I won’t lie. Given my perverted and dark sense of humor, I find a lot of inappropriate things funny. Jokes are jokes to a certain point. It wouldn’t bother me so much if their prevailing attitude and perspective on race wasn’t so naive and blindly insensitive. You’d think given the history and how they shockingly mimic problems from the U.K. and the U.S. they would know better….not so much.

That beetle-minded mentality has caused me a lot of personal anguish courtesy of Queensland astute, police force. While I was in school, I worked in a nightclub as a “glassy”. A glassy is responsible for picking up empty glasses, cleaning up shit & vomit, delivering drinks, changing kegs, and all other kinds sexy, custodial work. Naturally, I worked late hours. And sure enough, my trips home were peppered with random stops by the local bill. the most humiliating incident actually occurred right outside my apartment where I was subject to a thorough pat down and search of my belongings. Never in all my experience with the police in America have I felt so violated as I did that day.

Racial double standards and frustrations aside, I really did love my time in Australia and had an awesome time. The educational pursuit was superb, and it was added benefit to study with such a wide range of people from various countries and socio-economic / career backgrounds. Met some great people and contrary to popular belief, some of the food was pretty awesome ( and no, kangaroo meat does NOT taste like chicken). Plus, Aussies are pretty grounded, down-to-earth people, at least the folks in Brissy (Brisbane) are. They have a real (U.S.) mid-western vibe to which I can relate. If I couldn’t live here in Seattle, Australia is actually one of the few places I could see myself residing. I really look forward to day I can go back to visit (or possibly relocate).

Quick tips
Again, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind should you make a trip to the Land Down Under.

     

  • Don’t ask for a Foster’s: Just don’t even bother. They don’t even stock the damn stuff. No one drinks it, nor should they. Unless your goal is to look like a ultra prick, just don’t ask. Take a Stella or whatever is on tap. In fact….
  • Don’t attempt to use Aussie slang or make lame Crocodille Dundee references: Again, doing this will make you come off an incredible douche-bag. Not to mention, you’ll most likely use many of terms and slang in the wrong context anyhow. Just stick yo your dumb, American vernacular and enjoy the trip.
  • Guys, play a game of Rugby: Take off your training bra and play a real game of rugby. Sure, it’s not a gentlemen’s game like Cricket, but it really is badass. Having 10-15 guys come at you full speed with no pads will really help you understand how much of a pussified American Football is in comparison. I knew guys that played pick-up game with broken toes, twisted fingers, and other insane injuries. Now that’s gangsta’.
  • Plan your visit around the October – December time frame: Our season are flipped. Summer here is winter there and vice versa. Do keep in mind however that, this also falls in line with their school year. So you’ll have to contend with lots of kids on their summer break.

The Return
Fast forward to a mild winter day in the middle of December 2005. After being abroad for roughly five years, I finally stepped back onto America soil. But I’ve never fully integrated back into American society. Many of my mannerisms, vocabulary, food preferences, perspective on certain topics, etc. have obviously been influenced based upon my time abroad. I still cling onto these things and I’m perfectly fine with that; it’s just a part of who I am now.

Closing Out
I know I’ve thrown a crap load of information at you. And honestly, it doesn’t even scrap the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say. I could write a ton more posts on the racial dynamics alone. But this will do for now. That said, I’ll try to sum it up as best as possible.

I love travelling, meeting new people, trying new ethnic foods, etc. I really try to embody a cosmopolitan lifestyle. I never understood how people grow up their whole life in one city. I can understand having roots to your hometown but never venturing outside your hometown is a concept I can’t jive with. The world is so much bigger than your own sandbox. Go out and be part of it! But I do love America. It is easily one best countries in the world, flaws and all. And I say that without any ethnocentric bias. Too many times have I heard some American rant about how their lives would be better if they’ve lived in XXXX. Many times, they’ve never visited the place or it’s based on some mini vacation they’ve become infatuated with. Not the slightest clue about how the the rest of the world really works or lucky they are to live here. At the end of the day though, you gotta follow your heart & pick to your poison. Just keep in mind, you’ll face a whole host of new problems, especially if you’re of a darker persuasion. Not to mention, the process for relocating is a lengthy & expensive process. And even if you manage to get through all that, is it really worth it? Unless you’re living under some dick-ish military regime or stuck in a long distance relationship, are things really that bad in your country that you need to move and start over again? But hey, what do I know? I’m just another dumb American.

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The Unemployment Experience: Part Deux

A little over a year ago I wrote a piece about my unemployment experience. Looking back, it comes off as a very angst-ridden, frustrated (yet precise) account of all the various dead ends I encountered despite my ample efforts. While I still believe many aspects of the post are justifiably sound, I have come to realize that maybe my focus was a bit….obtuse.

That said, is it ironic that I find myself in the very same situation a year later? However, the situation is different now. Another contract has come to an end, and I find myself out of work again. But this time around, I’m not worried about where my next paycheck will come from, where I’m going to find my next opportunity, or wringing my hands pondering why employers aren’t flooding my inbox / voice-mail. Maybe it’s because I’ve been around this particular block a few times already. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and grown tired of worrying needlessly about things I can’t control. Or maybe it’s due to a recent revelation I’ve had. It’s really a mix of all those things.

A week back, my contract was cut shorter than anticipated. Usually when you’re hit with this kind of bomb, people wig out. And to be honest, I did as well….for about 10 minutes. But after that, it all clicked together for me, “I need to make a change and do something different.” Because whatever it is I’ve been doing this past decade hasn’t been working out. All it’s gotten me is more stress, more debt, two failed relationships, and routine disappointment & misery from playing ‘catching up with the Jones’. Now that’s not to say the past decade has been a waste. If anything, it has been an incredibly awesome ride: I’ve lived in many countries across the globe, received a post grad degree, worked for a few major companies, developed some valuable skills, and met some extraordinary people along the way. So yes, it’s been an experience that fascinate many people. The downturn would be that I focused so much on trying to succeed in the rat race without giving much concern as to what I truly wanted to do. Professionally, I’ve worked across a few industries. And to my credit, I’ve always been able to contribute and deliver some notable accomplishments in all my job roles. But that’s all they were to me: jobs, not careers. I enjoyed them initially. But ultimately, they weren’t jobs that gave me any sort of fulfillment. I didn’t have any desire to build them into a long-lasting career. Now, I’m the sort of guy that thrives on change. Taking on new projects & tasks is right up my alley. It’s my spice of life. But looking back, I should have been more honest to myself about some of my endeavors. I partially forsook some of my professional deal-breakers for a bigger paycheck or the company name.

10 minutes goes by and I come to something along the lines of a road to Damascus moment. That epiphany being: I need to make some changes and do something different. What sort of changes? That’s what I’m going to find out. Unfortunately, I don’t have a time machine that will allow me to go back to college and switch back to my psychology major and become a psychiatrist like I wanted. Nor do I currently have the time or money. So that pursuit will have to sit on the backburner for the time being. The good news is that I have other pursuits I’m currently exploring. And given my curious nature, I still remain open to exploring new opportunities wherever they may come. But that’s a whole other blog post for another time.

A few things have dawned on me during this new development. For the first time in a long time, I feel…”free. I know there’s a fair degree of naivety in this considering my circumstances. Outside of keeping my dog fed and my ballooning student loan (ugh!), I’m not really tied down to any other dire commitments. I’m pretty much free to choose whatever I want. It’s just a matter of picking a direction and sticking to it. And more surprisingly, I don’t feel burdened or worried anymore. I wasted so much time worrying and wallowing in bouts of self-pity that it made socializing and networking a genuine chore for me. Furthermore, I failed to appreciate all the great things and people I had in my life. It lead to me making incredibly, stupid decisions resulting in failed relationships and strained friendships. That’s a period in my life I will never, ever revisit. So now, I take time to smell the roses while I forge the road ahead. I’m in the city I love and always wanted to live in. And I love every-single-day of it (even if I’m not part of the standard rank-and-file workforce).

That said, I just know everything will work out somehow. Contribute that to dumb luck, or surviving past streaks of unemployment, or my latent religious upbringing. Whatever the case, things will get better just as long as I put in an honest effort and maintain a healthy focus. Wherever I end up, I know it won’t be a cakewalk and will require a fair amount of hardships. But that’s what makes the journey worth it in the first place, right?

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