With all due respect to all of my fellow players, airsoft has to be one of the craziest hobbies ever created by humankind. For the uninitiated, airsoft is where a bunch of people (usually guys, although my wife enjoys it) get together with fake guns that they paid way too much for, wear uncomfortable gear including goggles that are impossible to prevent from fogging up, and shoot plastic pellets at 400 feet per second at each other. Oh, yeah, and we usually pay for the privilege of getting the whelps and injuries resulting from this past time. I played my first airsoft game a couple of years ago along with my wife, introduced my friend to it, and recently introduced my son to it. By all indications, I must be crazy, right? Of course, when you look at almost anything that someone does for a hobby, it never really makes sense. One of the most common types of hobby is to collect something. The types of things that people collect can be staggering. Yes, you have your more traditional collectibles like stamps, coins, baseball cards, and porcelain dolls. However, people end up collecting anything and everything. Remember beanie babies? I've known people who collect cast iron cookware, patches, shoes, toys, and pressed pennies. I even used to collect camouflage jackets from around the world. The unusual thing about all of this is that, with the exception of my jackets, most people collect things that they never have any intention of using. Sure, they may try to tell you that they are collecting it because it may be worth something some day, but don't hold your breath waiting for them to sell it. The impracticality of it all is enormous.
I found myself asking recently why we have so many hobbies that make no sense. I bristled at the very question I was asking at first because one of my other hobbies is writing, and I like to think that it makes perfect sense. Then I realized that, as a hobby, it might not. I don't plan on making a living writing. Honestly, I don't know if I will make any real money writing. I am fortunate that I am getting the opportunity to try, but I had written a lot of short stories before then, and they were only seen by a small number of people. Why put so much time and effort into something that yields very little that is practical? I looked back at some of the things that I had written and found my answer. Much of what I wrote consisted of things that I either wished that I could do or that was completely opposite of anything I would or could ever do. I was living out another life in my mind and putting it onto paper. A little bit crazy, right? And that is why it works.
Every hobby that humans take part in tend to be impractical, somewhat pointless, and a little wacky. That is exactly why we do them. Everyday life is one heck of a challenge. We are constantly bombarded with new difficulties and problems and good news and bad news and so on. Hobbies give us an opportunity to step away from reality for a brief time. We give ourselves what educators refer to as a brain break. We need it. Honestly, we deserve it. So whatever your hobby, don't worry if no one else understands it. It is your excuse to get a little bit crazy on a regular basis.
Now I have to work on putting together a new set of gear to go with some new airsoft equipment I purchased. It'll look cool. Don't judge me!
Another question with no answer...just one to ask yourself. How do you sum up your life? I have been in a few situations recently where I need to write a short biography about myself. I know that it shouldn't really be that big of a deal, but I have found it difficult to do. What would people want to know? Should it be factual or entertaining? Can I really summarize my life in a brief space? Should it concern me at all? I like to think that I can find a way to say things that I want to say. I work with words every day as a teacher and play with words whenever I can as an amateur writer. For some reason, a bio leaves me struggling for words. I know that my life isn't very interesting by any celebrity standards, but I think I have seen and done a few things. Why can't I think of what they are? When I read my own bio, I put myself to sleep!
Maybe I'm thinking too hard about this. I guess that I should solve this conundrum the way that I do so many others: wait until my wife gets home and see what she has to say!
Featured image via granitegrok.com
I'm the most non-nutritious eater that the western world has ever seen. My breakfast consisted of an iced honeybun every morning for two years. This wasn't when I was a growing teenager. This was last year! My lunchbox has become the stuff of legend among my co-workers. What Little Debbie snack will he have in there now? How many will be in there? We took everything out one day at lunch and discovered nothing with any nutritional value whatsoever. If you ever wondered what the teachers did in the teacher's lounge when you were a kid, there it is! I feed my son better than I eat, although we do both have a weakness for fast food. Five Guys...yummm... I've never had much concern about my eating habits because I have always maintained a healthy weight. I rarely get sick. My cholesterol is good and I pass my yearly physical with flying colors. Lately, though, I've been worried about some of my eating habits. What has changed? My wife is on a diet.
My wife is a wonderful lady. She has never asked me to join her on the diet. She exercises daily and she loves it. I exercise momentarily and don't like it. She has never forced me to go to the gym with her. She has remarkable drive and willpower that I wish I possessed. The reason why I worry about my eating isn't because of myself, it is because of her. How terrible of a husband and I to still eat a normal supper while she has to eat this exceedingly healthy food? I have asked her again and again if it is okay, and she insists that it is. Still, I worry about the temptation that I must be placing on her. I don't find the sweetest, most delicious thing in the world and eat it in front of her while making sounds of delight or anything! Nevertheless, I will occasionally eat a nutty bar while I'm at home, and I worry if that angers her.
The thing that keeps me from joining her on her diet is the fact that I find all of her food incredibly nasty! She loves vegetables. I think that they are nature's practical joke on the taste buds. I believe that the purpose of a salad is to hold the delicious dressing for you. She can eat them dry. She thinks that brussel sprouts are amazing. I comb the internet searching for signs that this is the symptom of some greater illness. How do I support my wife when I am scared that her food is going to grow teeth and attack me?
I try to do whatever I can to support my wife. Really, I do. But I can't seem to make myself enjoy her dietary tastes. Does that make me a horrible husband?
featured image via abovethecrowd.com
As I was folding laundry today (does it never end?), I turned on the television to have something to watch. I turned on an episode of Doctor Who and I heard the Doctor say something that I loved. "We are all just stories in the end." That line says so much to me. There are so many things that can be taken from that line that can affect both life and writing. Most people tend to think of stories as fiction that takes us away from life. Looking through a bookstore that appears to be true. However, think of all of the stories that you tell about friends and family. Think of the stories that you tell to friends and family. What about the stories that they tell about you? This is an untapped resource of ideas and revelations for writing about. Obviously, you don't have to tell the full story as non-fiction, but instead use it as a basic idea or premise for something larger. Your source of ideas becomes infinite.
It is in life that I truly find the most wisdom in this saying. We are all just stories in the end. What is your story? My grandparents are gone. I tell many stories of them whenever I get the chance. My grandmother had an obsession with the Wendy's chain of restaurants. She once wrote a thank you letter to Dave Thomas for creating the 99 cent value menu. The story of her eating at the drive through usually leaves people in tears with laughter. My grandfather got run over by a parked car. I'm not kidding! He actually did! The story would be nowhere as meaningful if he hadn't told me about it himself in his matter-of-fact style. Though they have both been gone for over a decade, I know that they remain here whenever I tell one of their stories.
What is the story that you leave? Will it be a drama, tragedy, mystery, thriller, or comedy? Who will tell it? Everyone thinks of their legacy. As you grow older you often do things to try to secure your legacy. I'm less worried about that. Legacies are told by those that know of you, though they do not know you. Stories are told by those that have been there with you and seen you at your best and worst. They are shorter, more memorable, more personal, and more enduring. With each action you make, remember that you are creating your story. It may be told. It may wind up being written by someone with talent you have not yet realized. We can't spend all of our time second guessing ourselves or worrying about other's images of us, but we can still help shape our own stories. We are all just stories in the end.
Several years ago, my principal sent a video to the faculty to help us start the day with a smile. The video was a simple one in which a baby is sitting up and is being handed pieces of paper. The baby would tear the paper and then laugh with such glee that you can't help but join in. I've watched the video hundreds of times over the years and I still love it. The baby finds such joy in something as commonplace as ripping paper. I have watched my son find the same simple pleasure with scissors and paper. He can spend long periods of time making cuts in pieces of paper with a pair of scissors. He loves it. It actually became a problem. We had to lock up the scissors in the house so he wouldn't cut up all the paper in the house! I watched the video of the baby today and thought about the joy my son can find in cutting paper. Have we lost that ability to find simple pleasure like that as we've become adults? I will go ahead and answer that question. We can certainly still find the simple pleasures as adults. Two words: bubble wrap. I have had to separate some friends when they were arguing over who was going to get the bubble wrap from a package. For me, it is the perforated spiral-bound notebook paper. Whenever students turn in assignments with that perforated paper, I can't not tear off the ragged edge at the perforation. I don't know why I enjoy that, but I do. Yes, we adults can still find the simple pleasures.
What I think that we can't find is appreciation of those simple pleasures. Sure, we will pop the bubble wrap or tear off the ragged edge of the paper or dissolve the Styrofoam peanuts or whatever brings you that simple pleasure. What we no longer seem to be able to do as adults is carry the joy from that action beyond the moment. We can pop those bubbles and feel that stress relief, but then we step right back into our office or get out our phone and turn the stress meter right back up. I am as guilty, if not more guilty, than most. I'm not like my son who can walk away from cutting a piece of paper with a big smile on my face. Even when I am finding some joy in a simple action, I often don't allow that joy to take control of my emotions enough to smile. I think that we all miss out because of this.
Grab a piece of paper and some scissors. Mix some baking soda and vinegar. Draw a funny stick figure. Whatever it is you do, don't be like me. Let that joy show on your face. Giggle like that baby and make your day, and the day of everyone around you, that much better.
Here is a video similar to the one I mentioned. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc
Why not watch it and then share what your simple pleasure is?
Today made me think a lot about my most unlucky day of the week. I hate Thursdays. I have hated them for many years. I've tried to figure out why and I believe that I have a theory. When I was in elementary school I was in a gifted children program. We met every day of the week except on Thursdays. On that day, we had to go to the regular reading class. I didn't mind that, except that it always seemed like the reading teachers wanted me to make up the entire week's work on that one day. Thursdays have been my most unlucky day ever since. The only thing more frustrating than being at work on a Thursday is not being at work on a Thursday. You can't take a long weekend and you have to go back to work for that one day before the weekend. It's like one giant tease. I am sure that you have heard all of the sayings about how we create our own luck. I don't buy into that premise 100%, but if we do in fact make our own luck, does that mean we make our own "unluck" as well? People talk about being unlucky. Is it a choice that we make? Is Thursday usually a tough day for me because I decide that it is?
The sad truth is that if you are reading this hoping that I am about to give you some great answer and insight and wisdom, I'm afraid that you are going to be disappointed. I have seen too much to figure out any absolute. I have seen people who have done everything that they can to work hard and prepare themselves fall down to bad luck while at the same time someone who couldn't care less find remarkably good fortune. I have also seen people power their way through bad luck to reach whatever success they want to achieve. So what do you think? Do we make our own "unluck"?
I do know this- my chances of winning the lottery increase dramatically if I buy a ticket.
I've been thinking a lot lately about labels. More importantly, I've been thinking about labels that we give ourselves. When am I a (insert label here)? I know that we can all relate to this whether we really think about it or not. Name one person that has gone through their teenage years and into their twenties without asking themselves "Am I an adult now?" So how do you know when you are something? Does it really matter if you can apply that label to yourself or not? I know that I have asked myself questions about my own status with many labels. Am I a teacher? Am I really a husband? Am I a father? Am I a writer? Part of my mind tells me that the answers to these things should be obvious because others change that status for us. When a principal hires you, doesn't that make you a teacher? When the preacher pronounces you man and wife or the doctor tell you that it's a boy or girl, doesn't that automatically make you a husband or father? Another part of my mind argues against this. It would be the same as someone else changing your relationship status on Facebook. Don't I get to choose that?
I wondered for a while if I would get to think of myself as a teacher. Getting a job as a Social Studies teacher can sometimes be a very difficult thing. My first two jobs were both interim positions, and I couldn't make myself believe that I was a teacher knowing that I wouldn't necessarily be back in the classroom when the new year started. Like many others, it took a long time after the vows for it to truly sink in that I was married. Still, there came a point in time that I stopped asking myself if I fit the label of a teacher or husband. Maybe it was after the first student thanked me for teaching them...or after I thanked them for teaching me. At some point, I never wondered if I was a teacher anymore. I simply knew that I was. Maybe I accepted that I was a husband when I realized I didn't care where I wound up, as long as I wound up with her we could find a way to make it work. As for the label of "father", I think that we all need to change that permanently to "father-in-training." I doubt we ever truly will stop learning how to be a father...myself especially.
I guess that, in the end, I have found that these labels are very important, but only to ourselves. Some of my friends and family call me a writer, but I still don't label myself that. I don't think that I have earned it. They argue about it with me, and I don't think that it matters to them the way that it matters to me. Anyone could have labeled me a husband, teacher, or father just by looking at public records. However, I didn't consider myself worthy until a certain point, and I still just consider myself a father-in-training. I think that we need to give ourselves these labels as a way of finding our own self-worth. As for when the labels truly apply...I think that if you are still asking yourself, then the label doesn't apply yet. Only when you truly stop worrying about a label do you truly become whatever it is that you seek.
Wow...that's almost deep...I think I better take a nap now.