How to Escape Salem

This is the short list Miguel & I compiled about how we’ve managed to leave and never really come back.

1. Visit Europe.
2. Never enroll at Chemeketa.
3. Build strong relationships with family nearby; it lessens the likelihood of anticipated regret.
4. Spend most of your free time somewhere you have never been.
5. Always dress up.
6. Never take someone’s advice unless they have done exactly what you want to do.

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Something quick

It dawned on me, while looking at the pictures I’d taken, while looking back on the situations of the last few years, while learning the true meaning of following a dream, that I had indeed become that 22-year-old boy — the one I would have never thought I could, with his smarts, his oblivious nature, his good looks, his third car, and his surface-level fear for his life.

Things I’ve Learned Traveling

What do you do when it doesn’t work out like you planned? Try again. What do you do when it doesn’t work when you try? Try harder. It’s a lot easier to say this than it is to do it, and that’s probably my great big life lesson so far this year.

I’m writing this from my parents’ house in Oregon, only a month after having left the state, not planning to return for a while. I had everything lined up as best as I could – or at least, as best as I knew how. The job thing, the living thing, the budget thing, it was all completely put into place as carefully as I am capable. We know what they say about the best-laid plans. Job prospects got quickly thrown aside the closer I got to Los Angeles. My living situation, by no fault of my own, and thankfully with no real punitive monetary effect, completely fell apart. You just can’t assume everyone is honest, and I suppose that would be the only mistake I made in regard to where I had planned to live. There are, however, quite a few things I gained from my tumultuous month out and about.

First of all, I have now seen, with the exception of San Diego, every single city, beach, hotspot and destination on the west coast, including Phoenix and Las Vegas. The course of my adventure made me realize just how different a city can be from another, and I think I finally have come to recognize the value of local communities, regardless of how big or small a city is. If there is no sense of connectedness, the city will be tossed to the side once the next best thing comes around.

The next point: Las Vegas is not somewhere I would ever really care to go again, save for business or an excess of money that I somehow need to dispose of. The same goes for Los Angeles, and most of the surrounding area around it. The West LA / Santa Monica / Culver City / Hollywood area is wonderful. It is, by far, the most interesting part of the area, although my favorite beach town is still Newport. The catch is, everyone knows it, and none of the desirable areas are best-kept secrets anymore. Rent is sky high and competitive, the traffic is worst along the northern coast thanks to the 405 and the 101, and once again, there is no community. There probably is if you dig hard enough, but it’s not appealing to me to live somewhere that the whole city is making money off of people passing through and using it as a toy, then leaving their messes behind. It’s municipal prostitution.

Number three: I don’t really think the beach is compelling enough to live near. As someone who isn’t the type to go jump in the water (especially considering I saw a shark as soon as I arrived), I’d probably rather live near a rocky beach than a sandy one. The view is prettier and there aren’t nearly as many people clamoring to get there. Although, admittedly, it’s the sunshine I find myself chasing in general.

Number four: Phoenix is dreadfully underrated. Maybe it’s because people think John McCain will be their neighbor. Maybe it’s because they think it’s completely backward and right wing. It is a conservative state, this is true: but the conservative states are the easiest ones to live in. You’re less likely to find yourself swimming in taxes for programs you never wanted in the first place. California, for example, subsidizes the tuition of illegal immigrants, but not out-of-state students. Did you catch that properly? As a US citizen, I would pay more to go to school in California than someone who swam across the Rio Grande illegally. Doesn’t really sound like the kind of state I want to pay taxes to, if they plan to treat me worse than a criminal.

Number five: You need to be on your own at some point. Go drive down a desert highway sometime soon, I dare you. By yourself, music is optional, Red Bull is encouraged. I can’t express in words how helpful it was to drive from LA to Phoenix, then Phoenix to LV, all by myself, passing by all kinds of nothing in the ninety-degree heat. Escape the noise for a while and see what your mind does on its own. Listen to what you find yourself thinking when you are truly by yourself, and see how well it lines up with what you thought you knew.

Number six: until you actually leave, you will never realize how much your hometown is dragging you down. If you’re the type of person who has an excuse at the end of every sentence, if you’ve got a reason why not but never a reason why, you need to leave. I don’t care about your house and your marriage and your leases and pets and dying siblings and disabled granduncles and bills out your nose and your friends who will miss you. You will find just as much misery to feel awful about in any place you go, so why rob yourself of the opportunity to feel awful about a whole new set of excuses? Anyone who truly, genuinely wants the best for you will be waving goodbye with a big smile underneath any tears they may have as you drive away. You can always come back if things get rough, but don’t ever let someone else’s life stand in the way of you living your own. I mean it.

There’s many more things I’d like to share, but as much as they keep coming, I am slowly wasting precious hours of sunshine. My plan is to leave Oregon as soon as the sun goes away. That gives me about a week to find my next city. Wish me luck, and I hope to speed past some of you on our way out of town.

I hate it.

I hate how when I wanna step outside for fresh air I feel like someone thinks I’m lying, trying to sneak in a cigarette. I hate how I’ve got this crazy head of mine, it’s telling me I’m accountable to everybody I don’t know. I hate how I’ve changed my résumé so much I probably wouldn’t hire me. I hate how the dumbest little thing is all it takes to keep me from doing what I wanna be doing. I hate how I’m so goddamn nice I assume that I can’t smile at a girl because she’s gonna think “creep” or “fag.” I hate my ability to see the things I hate till I’m blinded to the things I love.

But I love to make people smile, and that always makes the hate okay.

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And now, here’s some beach.

Let’s talk about job hunting.

Some company, or a person, has this thing they need done because they’re either not willing to do it, don’t have the time, haven’t figured out how to negate the need thereof, or some combination of them all. Some person, who doesn’t have anything they particularly need to do, and has about 40 hours a week of time that isn’t already claimed by something, prods these people, asking if they can take on the challenge of doing whatever is delegated to them.

Why is this how job hunting should work? The problem I have with this setup is that it doesn’t really do any justice to the applicant, and it’s almost always based off of prior activity as opposed to aptitude. When was the last time you applied for a job because you knew you could do it without feeling automatically disqualified by some statement or generalization made by the employer? It’s a rough job market. That’s a fact. I’d definitely go so far as to say that a lot of the reason it’s a rough market is because we have the system completely backwards.

I’m constantly creative, I’m pretty good at writing, painting, and basically any art form you throw at me. I know that and my friends know it, too. I am in the process of writing a book, like anyone else from Portland – or any other LA immigrant, I suppose. Any time I have ever had a job, which has been most of my life since the middle of high school, I have always felt like I was not properly using my natural aptitudes. I think most people could say this about their job: it isn’t fulfilling. If you’re slaving away on someone else’s terms toward someone else’s dream, how can it be?

I’ve decided that I am going about hunting a different way, this time. I am certain that there is a high likelihood you’ll see a broken, humbled version of me warning you that it wasn’t worth it after all. I don’t care, though, because that version of me is at least one who will have tried a bit harder. I’m not going to work full time (which, in my book, is anything more than 30 hours a week) unless it is something I legitimately have a passion about. By limiting myself to just 30 hours of work or less, I’m guaranteeing myself 10 hours more time each week to work on something that I really care about. In worker’s terms, that’s 1 ½ “shifts” of writing, painting, and drawing, working on my own small business ideas, or anything like that. Gone will be the excuse of feeling overworked, right? I hope so.

It strikes me as odd that the worker bee mentality is the one that is so prevalent. We have somehow been conditioned to fear the lack of a steady job. The price of a steady job is, in my mind, quite a bit higher than the price of trying maybe just a bit harder at doing what you love as much as possible. I know, personally, that I would not be happy looking back on my life and seeing a lifelong pattern of slowly gaining at a rate determined by someone above me.

I think the moral of all of this is to know your own worth. Not everyone has a vigilante streak like I do. I also know that if anything I ever really want to do were to take off, at some point, I’d have to find my own worker bees. Just remember: if you aren’t going to be proud of it later, then don’t do it now.

How to Use the Internet

I think I might be one of the few people in my age group who really grasps what the Internet was originally (and still is) best used for. It’s been only since Wednesday night that I have even arrived in town, and I’ve already gotten my own miniature personal network of people started. I have made a couple friends online, some through friends of friends, some job prospect connections, and most of all, started to figure out the tangled mess of freeways that pumps the blood through the LA basin.

Facebook, or as I am apt to call it, The Big Blue Website, is to me one of the most ridiculously misconstrued phenomena of our time. The way that most people use social networking is completely the opposite of social. You’ve got the trolls that will retweet, like and pin so much that they never actually interact with anyone on a human level, instead subjecting themselves to social exile for being “that girl” or “that guy” that provides their whole friends list with direct-marketing spam, be it in the form of an invite to harvest crops in FarmVille, suggesting you join some arbitrary extension of your high school experience, or something reposting everything they see on YouTube. Who cares? Only on rare occasion does anyone find himself interested or even looking for videos of friends being drunk, what song someone decided to Spotify, or which articles someone read from Perez Hilton. Here are my rules to keeping the Internet exactly what I need it to be:

  1. Keep your apps to yourself. There is nothing more irritating to someone who does not care about Flash games than getting a daily dose of Draw Something requests. I understand the fun in it. I don’t want to have to sort through Facebook notifications the same way I do my email, which is bad enough. Spam, I would go so far to say this, is probably one of the main reasons email is already archaic in terms of staying up to date with friends, for the most part. Let’s not do that to Facebook.
  2. Keep your online exposure to a minimum. You and your friends are all aware that you go out and get wasted. You do it together. Let’s not build a shrine to our weakest moments, shall we?
  3. If you don’t have anything nice to post, don’t post anything at all. Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere, for the most part, will not be able to provide the answers to the woes of your life. There is no dislike button for this very reason: Facebook isn’t intended to be a dirty laundry basket. So if you’re posting something negative, you’re greatly degrading your own image – possibly even moreso than in an actual social environment. Your friends are only a phone call away if you need to vent. Your acquaintances will just unfriend you. Simple.
  4. Do not expect fulfillment or facts from the websites you read. Huffington Post, Perez Hilton, even the Yahoo homepage (my own long-time personal browsing vice) are not aimed at you, and if you are, it’s because you’re stupid. Look at the Yahoo homepage right now. I dare you. In fact, I just typed it out for you: www.yahoo.com. Do it. Now, count how many of the articles on their main news feed are at all relevant to the real woes of the world. At this moment, I count four of 55 articles even relating to anything legitimately going on in the world. In the midst of counting, I found myself distracted by one of the articles. Keep in mind that there is a difference between reading Cosmo and the New York Times, and if you’re not interested in anything NYT or CNN have to offer, you probably are getting as much useful time out of reading online as you would be by watching afternoon television.
  5. The Internet is our backup copy of reality. So there’s no reason why you should interact with someone’s wall more than in person or on the phone or via email, even if you are a few trillion miles away. You aren’t required to digitalize everything you experience every day. Leave some of the magic about yourself to be discovered in person.

Following these guidelines has helped me immensely in terms of not spending my whole day at the computer, waiting for it to decide what I need to look for. The computer won’t out of its own volition help you with much of anything you haven’t already addressed with it. I have set myself up to be more computer dependent, for sure: needing a job, not knowing the area all that well, wondering where people go to meet other people who want to meet other people, figuring out how to cope with driving literally everywhere – and that’s what I knew before moving, but I’m certain that I’ve done a good job, at least so far, of making sure that I maintain my positive connections without acting as though my interactions with others are to serve as nothing more than a billboard screaming “hey! I have friends, watch us prove it!”