tomfromhr.com a blog on tech, politics, life and zombies

3Jan/150

What You Carry With You

Scattered around this vacation house (which we will soon be leaving, sadly) are things about being inspired. It’s part of the name of the company we booked through, you see, so it’s everywhere (even in the WiFi password). But it’s made me think about how vacations can be inspiring. I always find I write more around vacation time. My drafts folder is filled with stuff from around BiSC and traveling. Something about getting away from my usual life seems to inspire me a bit, in more than a few ways.

And I think that’s good. Obviously. But I think you can pull different things from different places. This place has instilled in me a few things that I hope I can carry with me. It would be all too easy to just go back and slip into the usual routines. There’s a reason for that. Ruts are well-defined and comfortable. And I don’t have any dramatic changes in mind, to be clear. My New Year’s Resolutions are really more goals, and most of them aren’t SMART, in that they’re not whatever the fuck that acronym stands for (I know the M is measurable, the A is achievable, the T is time-sensitive, but I can’t remember the rest. Bad HR guy. Bad!). But I don’t think they always need to be. One of them, for example, was to be a better husband. I don’t think I’m a bad one now (nor would my wife call me one) but I will always, always strive to be better, because she deserves nothing less than every measure of my striving.

But I started writing this, sitting here on the porch, when it’s probably a little too cold to do so (but I’m doing it anyway cause it’s DEFINITELY too cold to do so at home now) because I wanted to think about what I wanted to carry with me from this place.

Activity. The notion that one should go out and do things. I’m not saying there won’t be WoW-filled weekends with the TV in the background and the cats cuddling up with us. But I’d like to find ways to get some more activity into my life. I do really want to find time to get better at golf come the warmer weather. There’s such a fun culture around it. Reading about golf reminds me of how I felt when I first started getting in to WoW, that I was on the cusp of this huge subculture of people who shared this hobby, that there was just so much to explore. Golf can take you to beautiful places, give you chances to bond with friends and family, and get you out and being more active. I’m not saying I’m going back to Boot Camp (that was fun, but not sustainable, I don’t think, for me) but I’m saying I’d like to go back to the gym and spend some time on the treadmill. I’d like to try and take the dog for longer walks on the weekends. I’d like to get back to yoga. I think trying to commit to any one activity hasn’t worked for me, but maybe I can look at doing something on a regular basis. That’s what I’ve seen here, people going and running around and doing things. And as much as it may go against my urge when resting (which is to just sleep and rest the day away), I think it would be good for me.

Kindness. It’s a cliche that the South is polite, and I’m sure part of what we’ve seen here has been simple resort politeness, but everyone here has been so incredibly nice. People say hello as you walk by and wish you Happy Holidays and whatnot. People are warm, and happy, and I’d like to try and carry some of that into my daily life. It’s too easy to just slide into grumpiness in my day to day life. I know there are times where I’m short with people because I didn’t sleep well, or I’m stressed about something, or something. I’m not saying I’m going to be perfect. But I’d like to try and carry some of that Southern hospitality into my life. 

Achievement. I’m not totally sure how to put this into words, as it’s a kind of nebulous notion I get from folks here, but it’s the idea of striving for better. Of working hard and playing hard. Of not being afraid to take a work call while on vacation, because it’s important and because one or two won’t break everything. It’s the idea of working a bit over vacation, because you take pride in your work and your work is important, regardless if you’re the President or a salesman. I think it’s also about taking pride in yourself, about dressing up nicely, about taking pride and care in your appearance, because you deserve that. Not because you should, not because you must, but because you choose to. I’m not saying be a workaholic wearing a suit all the time, but there’s a care you can take that won’t destroy your personal life and won’t break your bank.

So that’s what I’m carrying with me as I leave Georgia. Now, I must go get ready to leave, sadly. I will absolutely miss it. I’m not sure I’ll ever be back here, but damn am I glad I got the chance to come here.

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29Dec/141

Thieves of Joy and Southern Hospitality

I’m writing this from the porch of a house on Sea Island, in Georgia (the US state, not the country). There’s beer beside me, my wife is napping a couple rooms over, and my in-laws are out of the house. I keep wanting to write. I find vacations always make me want to write, when I’m relaxed, taken away from my daily concerns, and have the time to really get into my own head. Anyone who knows me (or takes a look at this blog) can tell you I have introspection down to a science (if not a fetish) but vacation seems to allow me to order things better. To get a handle on them.

And this has been a lovely one so far. Everyone here, both my in-laws and the folks working the resort, have been incredibly welcoming and understanding, from the guy who helped me learn to shoot a rifle to the guy who lifted me off a horse when I found myself paralyzed getting off it. I don’t know if I’ll ever come back here after this (everything here is quite expensive, though you distinctly get what you pay for) but it’s been a wonderful experience so far.

Being here has challenged me a bit, however. I’m surrounded by people who, by most definitions, are more successful than I am. Now realistically my overall life success rate has gone up in the last few years. I’ve married the love of my life. I’ve bought a house I love. I have cats and a dog now. I have my health, and have even lost a bit of weight in the last few months (which I will likely gain back in this next week or so). In terms of successes, I’ve been knocking them off pretty well.

But I still sit here and feel jealous of people who have more. Who can afford to come here regularly, to spend weekends golfing at fabulous resorts. Who can buy their wives horseback riding lessons. I know I’m young still, and I have hopes that that success will come. One of my big debates is if it can come without losing all my free time, without sacrificing my marriage on the altar of the almighty dollar. The narrative we’ve been taught is that all great success comes with exceedingly hard, brutal, back-breaking, relationship-crushing hard work. I’m hoping, as with most things in my life, I can chart a middle path. 

Part of the problem is that that “success” is elusive. Is it a matter of staying late at my job every day and working weekends (considering my current employer doesn’t have any promotion to offer me)? Is it spending all my free time sending out resumes and going to networking events? Is it going back to school, improving my education? Or is it a matter of blind luck and some combination of the above? My suspicion, again, is that the middle path is the best one for me (hence why I just cleared my work inbox while on vacation). 

There’s a deeper issue here for me, though, which this vacation time has allowed me to uncover a bit. It’s the same reason I shy away from any political debates with my conservative in-laws, and why I hesitate to dive into any conversation. And it’s what makes me compare other lives to mine and feel lesser. It’s my continuing, and deep lack of self confidence.

I shy away from political debates because my self-confidence tells me my beliefs may not be right, because I think them, and what do I know? I don’t read the newspaper or books on economics enough. I don’t follow the news religiously, and I’m not rich or successful and clearly my thoughts would be different if they weren’t coloured by jealousy. It’s weirdly connected to the jealousy, I find. I get angry that I don’t feel good enough. I get angry that I don’t have all the answers, at myself for not being prepared for every debate. 

I’m losing the thread a bit here, but the point is that addressing that self-confidence likely needs to be a priority going forward. I can’t afford therapy, I don’t think, but perhaps I can work on it using the tools I was given by my last therapist, which amounts to better self-talk, to shutting down that voice that tells me I look fat, that I should know better, that my beliefs are not correct/worthwhile because I think them and they’re not backed up by 20 years of experience in the private sector. The lack of self-confidence leaves me vulnerable, and I think doesn’t do me service. 

In another blog, I think, I will go over how I plan to tackle that self-confidence. It might be a bit weird or unorthodox, but hopefully it might be helpful to someone. I mean, if there’s anyone else out there reading this who might have self-confidence issues occasionally.

I’m sure that’s not many of us, right?

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9Sep/140

I Watched Them Pass Me By

I'm gonna start out by saying that if you've never gotten the kind of gadget lust that leads someone to upgrade to the latest and greatest every year, this post may not be for you. Please go ahead and read! But it may not make much sense.

Put simply, I've lost my gadget lust. Not entirely mind you. I watched the presentation today eagerly. I'm planning and hoping to get an iPhone Plus when my contract comes due in October, though I may have to wait a bit. And if someone handed my an Apple Watch I'd be over the moon.

But you know what? I've had the same iPhone for 3 years now, a 4S. Some folks who knew me a while back are shocked at that fact. I used to upgrade all the time. Usually by lining up on launch day. I had a ton of fun doing that. But now the gadget lust has kind of passed me by a bit. Oh, I won't pretend I didn't want a 5 or 5S when they came out. That I didn't try to justify needing a new one before the wedding because mine wouldn't last a day on battery alone. And sure, I picked up a new iPad Air to replace an iPad mini and now want the mini again (always want the one I don't have, you see). But even now I don't feel a great need to upgrade my phone. Sure, mine is older now, barely lasts a battery, and some apps crash it regularly (I'm looking at you, Instagram). But it works. I can charge it at work and carry a charging brick for when I'm out and about.

It's weird though, feeling that lust be gone. I watched the Watch presentation feeling like I was outside looking in. Sure, it looked cool. I'd use it and it'd be fun. It might even make me work out more. And when I have some disposable income and decide I need a new watch, I'll probably get one. But not right away. I won't be lining up or going into debt or anything for it.

The funny thing is, though, I don't begrudge those who do, who lust after these things, who replace them yearly. I really don't. I get it, and I still get a little huffy when someone makes fun of those folks. It's their thing. It's their fandom. Let them have it. It was mine once too, but no longer, really. I'm not sure when it changed. Maybe when I bought the house, or at least when it became this realistic idea in my head. But somewhere it kind of passed me by.

That said, I still have every intention of getting a new iPhone Plus when funds allow. And if I happen to win the lottery or get a higher paying new job soon, you bet your ass I'm buying an Apple Watch (and one for Anna too). And I'll still be thrilled as Hell when I open the new phone, and I'll still marvel at it for a year or so.

 

Until they release the new one, anyway.

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30Aug/140

The New Normal

A couple months ago I got a notification of a new WordPress comment. It was Rachel, saying in all caps that she expected another update soon. This isn't the wedding blog post, though. That's a larger thing that I'm still processing and savouring. I know I need to write it down, because I want to look back at it in a couple dozen years and smile.

No, this is a smaller, simpler post, as I sit here. My wife is beside me, and we're watching a live gymnastics competition in a stadium in Mississauga. Nothing about that sentence would make much sense to me of five years ago. It would all seem weird and kind of impossible, most especially the being married part. I think some part of me never expected to find the right person, find the person who could love me. And yet like most things in life, it was a single moment for me that crystallized that, not only was that not so impossible, that wonderful woman was right in front of me.

But it's been funny, adapting to this new normal of being married. Of coming home to someone, of having someone else to share the load. I am so grateful for her, but most especially for what she brings out in me. Anna's brought a whole new world to my life, filled with sports, golf, new foods, wine, cheese, Disney and puppies. She's brought me a new sense of adventure I didn't know I was missing, and a new dedication to myself. Suddenly I'm more worried about my health, because, well, it would kinda suck for her if I keeled over.

I find I believe in myself more, too. I'm learning to trust myself more, and in some ways, that's almost harder than loving myself. But they're connected, and I'd say I'm making progress on both sides (though trust is a bit more quantifiable from day to day, I'd say).

It's a new normal, absolutely, and there are adjustments, as with any big change. But I'm so grateful for it, for her, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Who knew I could enjoy being at a women's gymnastics event on a long weekend?

19Mar/142

A Late Winter Update

It’s been a crazy 2014 so far for me. Good crazy, but crazy.

It’s mostly been difficult, really. Work has been stressful. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling, without really realizing what that does to a person. I still get fascinated by planes, and I still have a bit of a love of airports. But I think the travel does take its toll. My Mom flew with me last weekend to Chicago and she said at the end “I don’t know how you do this!”. It was a bit of a reminder that, as much as it may not feel like much sometimes, it can be tiring. Getting in late. Rushing around at airports. Sitting in less than comfortable plane seats.

Worth it, though, to see Klutzy. Absolutely worth it, and I’d do it every weekend if I could. But I will be glad in May when it’s over. 

Work has been stressful, and I feel like we’re over a bit of a hump, but I worry that may be a false sense of security. A lot of it has been fine-tuning my own work habits, but I feel like I’ve done well at that, like I have a good handle on things. It’s been very educational and a good experience overall, but I know I am ready for the next opportunity. It’s just finding the right one. A recruiter I spoke to recently described the job market like this: Previously, employers would also for a squirrel. The end candidate might be a purple squirrel. Now, they’re asking for a purple squirrel and getting a purple squirrel with polkadots (in this analogy, flashy and garish is better). Basically, it’s a tough market out there, and you really have to find the opportunity where you are the purple squirrel with polkadots. So I’m keeping my eyes open.

A lot of it comes down to willpower for me on job searching. I never want to. I get home and the last thing I want to do is pore over my resume and cover letter. Course, when I do it, it’s not that bad, but it feels like it will be THE WORST THING EVER OMG TOM. I get home and I want to do nothing more than cuddle my cats, relax, game, and sleep. 

However, I’m excited about the next few weeks. Klutzy’s parents are visiting, which means the house has to be perfect (or as close as I can make it) which means a lot of work. Lots of little things really. Move some things around. Unpack other things. Assemble some things. But in the end it means the house will be a lot more put together. I love the touches she’s brought to it, really making it ours, not just mine. And this is a good motivator and, in the end, like most things, this won’t be as bad as my brain makes it out to be.

Plus, it’s my house, so you know I’m going to have Netflix and/or some fun music going throughout.

The wedding is coming together nicely. We’ve already had a few RSVPs and I’m crazy excited for it. We’ve got so many great people coming (not everyone I’d like, of course, cause that would be a fuckton of people) but a lot, which is great. We did the tasting this weekend and picked out some great food. I’m working on my speech and have been sending Klutzy first dance song suggestions pretty well constantly. It changes from day to day. We don’t really have a song that’s “ours” so we’ll have to figure it out.

Honeymoon at DisneyWorld has also been booked. I’m regularly getting all caps gchats from Klutzy about some new thing she’s discovered, a new place she’s reserved, or what have you. We’re there for a week, staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, overlooking the Savannah. Well, the fake Savannah, but still! 

I’m a little worried about the let down after the wedding. As much as we’ll be finally together and having fun, the time after any big event like this is always a little sad. But then we work on building our life together here, and, as much as I try to be realistic, I can’t imagine that being exciting and awesome. Challenging, yes, but still.

Well, that’s me, for the most part. What’ve you been up to?

6Mar/142

Brunch is Happiness

Later on, I would think I'd never really had brunch before. Not like this. 

I had been worried about being over-dressed, but the family in shorts and t-shirts assuages the worry regarding my jeans a polo. They lead us to a booth at the back, away from the crowds, though the place is quiet. A waiter in a tuxedo greets us. We smile at him. She orders a cocktail. I differ from the usual and order something different. I regret it later, and order what she had initially as a second round. I'm not driving today.

The brunch menu is sparse, but the steak and eggs needs my attention. I was initially disappointed at the lack of bacon, but that will fade. She orders something with seafood in it that sounded almost good enough for my attention, but not quite. I order a filet mignon and eggs, feeling odd combining the two. 

"I've never actually had steak and eggs before," I mention to her. She's surprised. My hand slips into hers across the table, somewhat awkwardly due to the angle, but necessarily. There are limits to how awkward I can be around her. 

We eat the bread, each piece slightly different. Not enough to fill us, and when our meals come out I am ravenous. The steak fills my nostrils. The hash browns draw my eyes. The Bernaise sauce confuses me. I slice up the steak and dip it into the egg yolks, unsure if I am being uncouth. She reassures me she has no idea, and doesn't care regardless. The lack of waiters rushing to me and slapping my hand reassures me further.

Everything melts in my mouth, in a way that tells me I've never used the phrase properly before. The saltiness of the hash browns offsets the soft, warm, savour of the steak and eggs. I eat every single bite. She steals a piece of crisp toast and dips it into Bernaise sauce. Again, no one comes and slaps her hand, so I think we're in the clean, couthiness-wise.

The waiter takes the empty plates away. My heart and mouth cry out for more, my stomach cries no more. My hand slips into hers again as I sit back. The waiter remarks on how I've never been to this place before, and hands me a plate of key-lime pie, insisting I try it. My stomach reassures me it has room for this. My mouth takes in the pie and I run out of words. I sit there making noises that make her laugh. We order another piece to go. One of us pays, I don't remember who. It doesn't matter. The meal would be worth it at ten times the price.

I sit back quietly as we begin to pack up. I have no words left. My hand slips into hers as we step away from the booth, I feel her ring finger and think to myself there's an emptiness there I absolutely need to fill. If only for introducing me to good, fancy brunch. 

15Feb/142

My Better Self and Mental Stability

I'm gonna preface this by saying this might sound a little weird. Even for me.

It'll surprise approximately zero of you that I spend a lot of time in my own head. I don't read as much as I'd like to these days, but I do write a lot in my head. If I have a spare moment likely some story is being written in my head. This isn't really relevant, but it helps illustrate how my mind works, which is kind of in a creative, constantly writing sort of way. 

In my head I have this little voice that constantly, constantly puts myself down. Any moment that there's anything anyone could judge me on, that voice has it covered. In some twisted way it's me trying to protect myself. No one can ever say anything about me that I haven't said to myself. I think it's supposed to prepare me for criticism or something, but it ends up only making it feel worse when someone actually does criticize me. I want to say "Why are you piling on?!" because that's what it feels like.

So I've wanted to try and silence that voice as much as possible. It serves no purpose.

So what I've been doing is envisioning my better self. 

See, what that little voice likes to do is replay all the times I've felt bad about myself. When my boss berated me. When a customer chew me out. Things exes have said. Anything and everything, it will pull and throw at me. 

What I do now is I envision a better version of myself literally stepping into the situation and just saying, no. It's me as I've always wanted to be, a little taller, slender, confident. Course, also with magical time stopping powers. Minor details changed. And the Better Self will simply snap his fingers, say "Hey, this isn't the most helpful, eh? Let's go to that nice spot in Vegas where you had a cocktail with Klutzy." Or pull me somewhere else more helpful.

It may sound like an odd technique. But it's working nicely so far. I feel like I'm confronting a lot lately, mentally, and this is helping. And I wanted to share it, in case it might help you.

Now, I'm at an airport. Time to find more wine.

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4Feb/140

Focus and Discipline

The running theme of my life could largely be described as one of desires. That’s a bit broad, and maybe unfair, but, the opening line is supposed to be a little overdramatic, I’ve always thought.

Throughout my life I’ve always had trouble resisting things. When I’m in the kitchen, and I know there are cookies or cake, it will feel like something is PULLING me to them. The same will be true, often, of purchases. If I’m in the mall, and I know there’s a fancy new Apple device, or some new gadget that will definitely help me accomplish all my life goals, or a lululemon thing I’ve had my eye on that I’m sure I’ll fit into in a few weeks when I lose weight, it feels like an honest to God PULL. Walking by, walking away is painful. Denying myself feels so WRONG. But we’ll get back to denial later.

I do feel that a lot of my life has been shaped by these impulses. I suppose that’s probably not as novel as I might think, but it feels so to me. People will give me tips on how to lose weight, or save money (and really the basic problems for me are one and the same) and I always kind of end up saying “I know, I know.” Because I do. I know I could reduce my weight by simply counting calories and making healthier choices. I know what the healthy choices are. I just choose not to make them. But it feels like less of a choice. It feels like there’s a pull, a kind of powerful force drawing me to them. Denying myself the fast food, or the cookie or what have you feels so very wrong.

I’ve been practicing that denial lately, both in finances and in food. I have been trying to eat less in general, not just make different choices, and it does feel very difficult. It’s wrong in a whole other way, to me. It feels like denial. Like I’m starving myself or doing something unnatural. Yes, unnatural is really the word. Making the healthy choice of x food instead of y food isn’t really an issue. It’s driving by the fast food place when I’ve had a rough day. It’s sitting there, having finished dinner at 8pm and saying “I am finished eating for the night.” It makes me irritable. 

Yet, I know it’s something I have to work on, saying no to myself, not being bound by those choices. Sitting with that denial and being okay with it. Making frugal choices instead of easy ones. I’ve just been really struck by how hard that denial can be. But also how getting past it doesn’t seem to have any long term negative implications. I don’t explode if I don’t eat after dinner. I can surprisingly make a lot with the food I have around the house. I’ve even been trying to be more disciplined about my internet browsing, not just mindlessly clicking through reddit links. I’ve even been trying to get to bed earlier and, when in bed, get all my devices off by 10:30, not just when I’m feeling tired (which is often not until midnight or 1am).

I feel good about it, about these choices, about this discipline. Let’s hope it pays off.

20Jan/142

Mornings

I like mornings. Well, I like the idea of mornings. I like when I'm up early for some other reason. And by early I mean 5 or earlier. 5:30 isn't really early, or it doesn't feel like it, that's just a bit before my alarm goes off. I mean the time where you can step outside and there's a stillness in the air. When you see someone else out, there's an almost unconscious acknowledgment of "Yes, hello, isn't this lovely?" Like you're part of a club no one else has discovered.

I read something recently about how getting up early in the morning, giving you time before heading off to work, allows you to feel like work is just another part of your day, but doesn't define your day. I've been giving a lot of thought to how our jobs define us lately, and this idea of it, well, not defining me was appealing. Hence why my alarm went off at 5am today, CBC Radio 1 going on about how the Harper Government has basically fucked over scientists. I half listened as I debated getting out of bed or not.

In the end I did, about 15 minutes later. The cats were unprepared, and came down to greet me only about 5 minutes later, as if they were unprepared for me to be up early, too. Normally they're crying outside my door at the injustice that I have not let them sleep with me from around 6:30 on. But, troopers they are, by 5:45 Bean was cuddled on my stomach at the computer, as she tends to do now, and Ender was sitting beside her, urging my spare hand onto her head.

It was nice, though. I ate my egg muffins slowly, while reading some news (and reddit, of course). I drank coffee at home, out of one of my own mugs, with milk from a carton, not from several of those tiny little things that work provides. (Seriously, I always have to use, like, 4 or 5 of those to get the desired amount of milk. I feel weird about it.) I watched a BBC video on the protests in the Ukraine. 

I like this, and I'd like this to continue. I don't know it's entirely sustainable. Getting up around 5 means that, for 8 hours sleep, I need to be in bed by 9, which is quite early, considering I'm often not home until 6:30 or 7. Maybe it's only doable on Mondays, when I've banked some extra sleep to spend. But I do like the feeling of this. I like the way my body feels when I can sit, eat, and drink my coffee in comfort, rather than frantically at my desk as I simultaneously run a report, respond to an email and sign for a package. 

26Dec/130

Rediscovering Reading

At any given time I can tell you what I'm reading. Usually it's 2 or 3 books; often one fiction, one non-fiction, and one less serious fiction. The latter is often a reread; a Terry Pratchett, more often than not. 

Like most geeky people I embraced the ereader phenomenon as soon as I could. I remember lusting after the original Kindle before it even came to Canada. My first reader though, really, was an iPad. Since then I've switched to different iPads, an actual ereader, and now I find myself coming back full circle to books. I find I missed the physical feel of books. The heft of a good read in my hands. The texture and design of a nice looking cover. The way some books have that kind of fake older feel to the edge of the pages. 

My switch back to physical books has really happened quite recently though. I purchased Nick Offerman's book in hardcover because it just seemed like the type of thing he would want. As a man who seems to glorify and revel in the physical and the traditional, it seemed almost blasphemous to buy his book on an ereader.

Then, when choosing a book for Book Club (Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell) Mich asked if she could borrow it after I was done. Since I can't so much loan an ebook, I went and found it in hardcover.

And as a book about writing and book…something about it clicked for me. I liked seeing the pages fly by. I liked carrying it around. I liked the focus it offered, compared to an iPad with its notifications and whatnot.

I feel a renewed love of reading, of books and characters. I've even gotten into audiobooks, too. I've started to feel the stirrings of stories within me. Not a lot. It's still not fully formed, and I don't feel the urge to write the same way I feel the urge to blog (see me being here instead of pounding something out in Pages on this flight). But it's there. I may even have something original this time, as opposed to the usual fan fiction that jumps into my head.

We will see, however.

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