The Floor Is So Lava

My nerdy musings on life

The Legend of Doubt: The Reaper of Positivity

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I wrote a couple of weeks ago in my first post that I’d discovered a cheat code for the video game of life. I’ve been trying to start a new job. Well, I’ve started a new job, and I suck at it. I sell insurance. After being pushed as hard as possible by my girlfriend to do as much work as I can as often as I can do it, thus turning me into an Ogre, we came up with a better plan that I would only make calls (yes, I’m one of *those* insurance salespeople that call you when you least expect it and try to force a script down your throat) on my days off from my other job as a butcher (which I technically can’t call myself since I don’t have the title nor the pay scale but I’m still expected to do the requisite work.) So that was the cheat code: have a workable plan to get my ball rolling on this exciting and fortune-filled career.

The problem with that is now I have to actually use the cheat code. Which I was doing just fine, I was happy and motivated and making calls (Hi! This is Bradley and I just know you want to hear what I have to say!!) This past weekend, though, I turned a corner and came upon one of my oldest and strongest foes: Doubt, the Reaper of Positivity. I didn’t know it was Doubt at first, he takes many forms, and this time it was the form of a small seemingly weak little pest. I got into a tiff with my girlfriend over the weekend, nothing work or financial related, we simply couldn’t decide on where to go to eat. I let my emotions get the best of me over this small dispute and since then I’ve been nothing but unhappy and unmotivated since.

I thought I could handle the small weak demon but before I knew it, Doubt revealed its true form. Doubt casts the Spell of Second-Guessing which implants tiny creatures inside your head that do nothing but whisper evil thoughts, “You’re doing it all wrong,” “You can’t sell insurance,” “You’re not good enough for her,” “Your friends and family are laughing at you,” “Why don’t you just stop breathing?” Doubt also wields the Sledgehammer of Self-Loathing. A direct hit with both and I am reduced to a sad angry little boy crying in the shower in the fetal position. Doubt had struck again and now, two days into this work week, my confidence meter is on empty and those little creatures in my head are keeping me from doing the work I need to.

It’s amazing how such a small disagreement can effect me so. Doubt just has to hit me once and my brain falls apart and I’m in his trap. I will go from disagreeing on where to eat, to feeling like no one listens to me, to wondering why I don’t have any friends, to being a failure in everything I try to do, to thinking it would be better if I didn’t exist. Every time.

I’ve fought Doubt all my life and I still haven’t beaten him. He knocks me out and tosses me on his depression-fueled roller coaster that corkscrews down the Abyss of Eternal Suffering where I am currently taking up residence (it’s actually kinda nice, once you get used to it.) But if anyone has some Happy Thought Potions to spare, I sure could use a few.

On Bees and Efs, Part 2: I Danced That Bitch Off Stage!

On Bees and Efs

This is a good one. Especially as a follow up to my previous post. I didn’t mean for this to get so long but it did so I’m breaking it up into three parts, each about a very important person in my life. Some stories will be good, some bad. Everyone’s names have been changed because defamation is, you know, not cool but I’m sure most people who know me who read this will know who I’m talking about.

Read the first part here!

My next BF was also a scrawny little guy. Scrawnier, even. We grew to become best friends over a long time. We worked Summer Camp for years, we were both in Hitchiti, we were thick as thieves and nigh inseparable. Einstein, as he will be called, is the damned smartest person I know. The only way he would lose that title is if I met Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye. He was my first true nerd friend. And I loved it. I had not yet embraced my nerd-self in high school or even college but I could appreciate when he would make reference to über-nerd things like math equations and science terms; for example, referencing linear and exponential growth and decline to illustrate how he felt about the food in the Dining Hall on a particular night. Not everyone got his jokes but I did and I think he appreciated me for it. We knew each other for a few years before we got close. But what made us best friends was a thing that usually drives two guys apart: a girl.

I honestly don’t remember his ex’s name so any name I come up with could or could not be correct. We’ll call her Bitch for the sake of the story. So Einstein starting dating this Bitch. And I was happy for him. From what I remember, this was the first girl he’d really fallen for. I think he might have even lost his virginity to her, it was that deep (pun totally not intended, but accepted.) I supported it because she made Einstein happy. He was bringing her around to hang out with the guys and he even got her a job on Summer Camp Staff the next year. We were at camp one weekend. We had left to go to the movies, like ya do as a teenager, and Einstein and Bitch were in the backseat of my car as I was driving us back at night. That was the Summer that the RENT movie came out so we were listening to the soundtrack and Without You came on. I played romantic chauffeur for them as we made the turn down the dirt road that led to camp. I dimmed the lights inside the car, shut off the headlights, and crawled along the road blasting the sad melodic song so their last romantic moment before having to get back to staff stuff could last as long as possible. Einstein was very appreciative and our best friend status was being forged. Little did we know that not long after that night, the shit would hit the fan.

As the Summer went on, we got to know Bitch more, she spent more time around us, we all had to stay in camp after all, and she really started to get on my nerves. Ho-ly-crap was she dumb! And I was not quiet about it. Einstein and Bitch both knew that she was driving me nuts but they were too in love to be upset about it. They just shook their heads, said “Oh, Bradley!” like it was one of my crazy antics. After a while I lightened up for Einstein’s sake but I knew there was something off about her. A weekend break came during the Summer and a bunch of my buddies and I, and the Bitch, volunteered to stay the weekend to help get ready for the next week of campers. I forget why but Einstein couldn’t stay that weekend so he did possibly the dumbest thing a teenage boy could do, he left his weirdo girlfriend with a group of guys. We went to the movies Saturday night after our work was done and, lo and behold, Bitch was getting really friendly with another staff member.

At this point, I’d like to say that I really wish I could tell you this staff member’s name because it is one of the most unfortunate names ever created. But alas, my hands are tied by the forces of anonymity. I looked up synonyms for this staff member’s name and Philistine is one that came up, which is not too far off from his personality, so I’ll roll with that.

So Bitch and Philistine were getting really friendly and sat next to each other at the movie theatre, separated from the rest of the group. Firstly, the rules laid down at our Summer Camp were that males were not allowed alone with females so that should have never happened. Secondly, as Einstein’s friend, I should have recognized what was going on and tried to get to the bottom of it. But I didn’t want to stick my nose in others’ business and my other friends were lackadaisically sitting by so I didn’t think much of it. Einstein gets back from his less than 24 hours away from camp and Bitch is totally being a Bitch to him. She’s ignoring him and openly flirting with Philistine. Einstein finally confronted Bitch and she explained that she wanted, “Philistine with a little Einstein on the side.” It broke him. And I was there for him. It was late at night and I was consoling Einstein on the steps of the staff dorms while he cried it out. That was the cement that sealed the deal for our friendship.

Now, the story of Einstein and Bitch does not stop there. Bitch had also joined Hitchiti and, like a Bitch, stayed involved after they broke up just to make Einstein suffer (I can’t substantiate that but that’s what I’d like to think.) Bitch took to Indian dancing quite well, as a matter of fact, and soon her parents bought her an $800 hand made Women’s Fancy Dance outfit. There was much contention over this because Dancers usually make their own outfits or have someone they know make them for them. Sure, some stuff is too difficult to make, like bustles or a roach, and can be bought. But when you have a workforce of parents doing nothing but sewing and beading every week at dance practice, there is no reason to get a whole ready made outfit on eBay! So just like that she became the flashiest girl dancer in the group. And to feed her ego even more, she was elected as the female youth Chief.

We had this dance called the Roller Coaster that we would sometimes end performances with. The dancers form a line of guys and a line of girls and run through the audience for one last cheer with a quick pow wow jam for a about 30 seconds. At which point, dancers are supposed to file out leaving the youth Chiefs of the Hitchiti alone to take the final bow. Bitch was a Chief, yeah, but she was only part of the group for less than a year and she frigging bought her outfit! She didn’t spend the years of practice to perfect her dance or suffer the sore fingers it takes to painstakingly sew those sequins on, damnit! She hadn’t earned that outfit or the right to be called a Chief.

Now, I don’t remember how I devised this plan but one performance we went into the Roller Coaster and I was on a mission. We’re in the final pow wow and I’ve got my eyes on her like a hawk. Dancers start to file out and it’s just me, her, and our male Chief left. I dance up as close as I can to her. She takes a jaunting step toward me and I put up my arm to block her from knocking me down. I yell, “Get off the stage!” and we move off together while the male Chief takes the bow he’s earned. I danced that Bitch off stage!! Einstein and I celebrated and I was scolded by our adult leadership but it didn’t matter. I avenged my best friend’s broken heart that day.

Einstein and I stayed friends for a long time after until we split for college. Not that anything bad happened, we just grew apart, like a lot of friends do. He’s off being smart all over the world now. He gives speeches and lectures on his research in mathematics but I’ll always remember that night he cried like a baby about a Bitch who broke his heart. I miss you, bro!

On Bees and Efs, Part 1: Childhood Schemes

On Bees and Efs

This is a good one. Especially as a follow up to my previous post. I didn’t mean for this to get so long but it did so I’m breaking it up into three parts, each about a very important person in my life. Some stories will be good, some bad. Everyone’s names have been changed because defamation is, you know, not cool but I’m sure most people who know me who read this will know who I’m talking about.

I was lucky enough to have a good number of close friends when I was young. But there was one that I always made time for. He lived about 30 houses down the street from me. Esquire, I will call him, was a scrawny little runt of a kid. He was picked on an awful lot because of it which made him tough but brittle. He could take jokes here and there and roll with the punches but when enough was enough, you’d better clear the area for the a-bomb strike. I could relate to him, I was a fat kid and had similar outbursts. I don’t remember meeting him but my first memory would be from Tiger Cubs (the youngest iteration of Boy Scouts, 1st grade.) His mom hosted one of our first meetings where we made first aid kids (that’s a lot of firsts.) His mother was a nurse so we had tons of supplies to create a well stocked kit. Esquire and I connected instantly. There was hardly a weekend or summer day we didn’t spend together.

Esquire was always scheming, always planning. I’m positive if he had not become a lawyer, he would be currently running a very successful Ponzi scheme and the king of an island in the Caribbean. Who knows, that might not be off the table yet (cue creepy, dramatic tones with a shot of shifty eyes.) Anyway, he would plan large-scale events with all the kids we knew, like games of manhunt or capture the flag, that would span our entire neighborhood. He loved it. He loved to be the ring leader and I was his sidekick. I was his lackey. I went along with all of his plans. I was happy just to be involved because Esquire was always good to me. He even taught me how to ride a bike in 3rd grade just like Arnold taught Gerald. Now, I’m not saying it was all daisies and rainbows. Being best friends, we really knew how to get under each others skin. We would get into fights like you wouldn’t believe! But we always managed to make up and he would start work on our next plan… For World Domination!! Maniacal laaaauuughh…

Then that thing happened that happens to a lot of childhood friends that changes the relationship forever: Middle School. I went to our local public school, Christa McCauliffe Middle School (Yes, *that* Christa McCauliffe) and he went to Roosevelt Middle School, some private or honors or gifted school, I don’t know which. From then on our friendship dwindled. We would still hang out on the weekends but not as often. I grew closer to another friend in our neighborhood who went to school with me but he ended up moving to a different county. Then we moved and I had to change schools. I didn’t move far away from Esquire but it was far enough to be inconvenienced by bike. Another thing happened at the time. We crossed over from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts and even though we were still pretty good friends, things were changing. I’m not going to go into details here because I don’t know all of the facts but Esquire’s father was suffering diabetes and, from what I understand, taking care of him was putting a strain on everyone in his family. Esquire’s toughness waned and his fragility began to show more.

It was at Summer Camp one year that made me start to really feel differently about him. We had a tradition that if it was a scout’s birthday at Summer Camp, he would be brought up in front of the camp at a meal and staff members would give him a throttle  on the bum with an oar for each year the scout was celebrating. The Order of the Oar, it was called. Usually the scout’s Scoutmaster or parent, if they were there, would be called up to hold the oar while the staff (not always so) gently laid the scout down and lifted him up to the paddle for a tap. It was always meant in good fun. Esquire’s birthday happened to fall on a day at Summer Camp and he hated the fact. When the Order of the Oar came to get him, he ran because he was convinced a senior staff member was going to put a nail in the oar. Another overzealous staff member ran him down, had him in a headlock with multiple others and Esquire was lead kicking and screaming to face the oar. I don’t remember if he ever made it to the stage that day but it sent a weird rift through my troop. Now, that overzealous staff member was called out for how he handled the situation, but Esquire was also labeled as a weirdo from then on and, in the time of middle school, to be seen hanging out with the weirdo was a social death sentence. The next Summer Esquire and I were hired for staff. He was in the kitchen and I was out at Shooting Sports. Esquire was still picked on and he didn’t handle it well. He didn’t make it through the whole Summer and complained about how the Camp and Council screwed him for years after.

We kept in touch through high school, seeing each other at troop meetings and such but we were never good friends again. People talked about him. He was the punchline of my friends jokes. Even I talked about him, just to fit in. In the fragile social structure of teenagers, I was too scared to stand up for my friend. Which is something I regret to this day. So, if you read this, Esquire, I’m sorry. I should have been a better friend to you and not let my concern for the crowd get in the way of a truly good friendship. But in spite of everything, he’s doing very well for himself: he’s a lawyer, he’s engaged, and he has super hero-themed sock days at work and for that I raise my glass to you, old friend!

The Quest for Adulthood; or, How I Became an Ogre

Adult Visions

This is quite a prompt for me to start this blog with. I’ve been struggling with my thoughts on adulthood and growing up for some time now. I’ve also been struggling to come up with a first post for this. Childhood was a lot of play for me. I worked hard at play and not necessarily at work. I lived my childhood in denial of adulthood. Anything I could do to stay young and happy, I’d do it.

I remember being in Sunday school, for the very short time I was in Sunday school, and we played charades with what we wanted to be when we grow up. We were six or seven so we all chose the jobs that we knew we were supposed to: firefighter, doctor, policeman. I took a similar path with EMT but I recall thinking of it as ambulance driver and “person who puts people into ambulances.” Not because I wanted to be an EMT, you see, but because I thought it would be the most interesting to pantomime.

I discovered theatre in Boy Scouts when I was in middle school. I always loved to be a part of the skits and songs and be on stage and get noticed. I also discovered Weird Al in middle school and I forced my family to watch me sing and dance along with his songs (and fifteen years later, he still cracks me up!) When I went into high school I signed up for a drama class and the ball started rolling. I was in drama every year and I starred in My Favorite Year when I was a junior.

I also joined our local Boy Scout affiliated Native American dance group, the Hitchiti Dancers. When I tell people this, the follow up question is always, “are you Native American?” The answer is no, I’m your average honky with the special privilege of being born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The culture there is amazingly entrenched with Native everything so it’s always been a part of my family. I joined Hitchiti and I got pretty darn good at it. I placed first in Grass Dance three years in a row at Section Conference (nerdy Boy Scout get together, state level) and almost made top ten at NOAC (nerdy Boy Scout get together, national level,) if I didn’t overstep my last dance. In addition to individual competition, Hitchiti performed all over our community. We had a repertoire of highly honky-fied versions of native dances. We had a reserved spot at the South Florida Fair every year until recent unfortunate times struck the group. Being a Grass Dancer, I usually started off the shows by doing a dance to bless the ground. I would never have admitted it but I loved the fact that I was always the first person on stage.

When it was time to go to college, I picked the only major I wanted (theatre) and the only college I knew I could get into without much of a fight (the cheapest and closest.) When I told people of my decision, I was either met with positive “That’s so you!” responses or polite smiles and nods with an unspoken “Why would anyone do that to themselves?” I didn’t care. I loved it. I did what I loved. I was in shows, I studied acting, I built sets, I made great friends, and I never listened to anyone who ever remotely suggested that what I was doing was wrong. I submerged myself in theatre and performance and I was simply happy being there. I usually never thought about my future or how I was going to pay bills or even what I was going to do once I was no longer in school. I was just happy to be with like-minded people working on projects together. I didn’t want to grow up. I would always say to myself that I need to figure out how to get paid to do the things love but I never thought about how to get there.

When I graduated in 2011, I entered the work force and took my place in the rat race. I worked my bum off with no time any longer for theatre fun and barely time to spend with my friends. Then I fell in love and moved to the theatre mecca of the world, New York City, and I just kept up the race. I got myself into thousands of dollars of credit card debt, I work the wonkiest hours and don’t get the sleep I need to function correctly, I lost a lot of my friends, I constantly let my girlfriend down because I can’t keep up with my responsibilities, I haven’t been on stage in almost three years, and now I’m 26 years old and I’m still in denial of adulthood.

When adults tell kids about growing up, they often neglect to mention that the final requirement is to pass through a rigorous journey of fire and brimstone, of fighting dangerous beasts and scaling great mountains with nary a princess to save or a feast in your honor at the end. That’s your 20s. Or least that’s my 20s. I feel that every thing I’ve done since leaving school and being faced with growing up has been a laundry list of stupid-hard quests on the text-based video game of life that you only have the floppy disk for and are left to figure out how to play on your own. You go right, a giant spider attacks, you die. You go left, a treasure chest!… Full of spiders… You die. You go forward, some son-of-a-bitch wizard turns you into an ogre and you fall into a deep depression, alienate your loved ones, and bash your head against the computer screen until it bleeds.

But there is hope. I found at least one of the cheat codes to this game recently and I’m feeling better about my situation. Hence the reason for starting this blog. Today my future looks a little bit brighter because of people who believe in me. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with this degree in theatre but at least there is *some* hope. The hope that I will find a treasure chest full of actual treasure some day. And not die.