April 21, 2009

Believe Me, Please!

There are 3 words I find to be totally absurd.

Over the last few years I have noticed there are a handful of individuals that have a hard time getting people to believe they are who they say they are. It is a strange thing when a person goes far out of their way to reason with others that they are a certain type of person.

Let me give an example. This is totally made up for my own purposes. Nobody needs to think that they are reading about themselves.

Say, there is a guy we will call Dude. Dude thinks he is really cool. He thinks he is really good at snowboarding. All he talks about is how good he is at it. He tells you how often he goes snowboarding. After a while you start to get suspicious because some of the times he says he went snowboarding you are pretty sure he was hanging out with you playing video games. Finally you decide to go with him and hit the slopes. Dude gears up and offers to drive. All his stuff is really expensive and nice. Latest boots and bindings. You see he spent almost $300 on his jacket alone. Then you get on the mountain. As it turns out Dude kind of sucks. For months you have been hearing about how he can do a 180 of the ramp. You heard how he once landed a 360 tail grab. So you watch him hit the jump but for some reason all he hits is some rollers. What he calls a 180 turns out to be a stance change at the top of the roller where you are momentarily weightless, but he gets NO AIR! Disappointment fills your heart. But you push forward. You ask him to try to do a 360 tail grab. It takes some coaxing but eventually Dude goes for it. He hits a small kicker and goes for it. Again no air. He just spins at the apex again and reaches down to grab the tail. At that point everything goes wrong. The board smashes his fingers into the packed snow. Because he is motion the board grinds his fingers and knuckles. At that point you know you will be hanging with the medic for the next hour before driving home disappointed.

Okay, so maybe some of this came from my own experience. I never really was good on a snowboard.

The point I'm trying to illustrate is that for all Dude's talk he wasn't any good. The thing that really aggravates me is when Dude comes home and tries to tell all of your friends who weren't there that he was doing 180's all day. The 360 becomes a story of how he had so much air but someone else interfered with his jump and caused him to take a huge smash on the hand. You know better and for some reason you can't keep your mouth shut. Well, I can't keep my mouth shut in those situations. Call me compulsive about hearing the truth and making sure others do as well.

I'm sure you have met someone like this before. If you met me at certain points in my life you could probably describe me as one of these people. I would like to think I grew out of it once I realized something. I'll get to that later.

So, my conundrum is simply this: should I just shut up or should I point out when people are so full of themselves that they twist the truth to make themselves look cool? Before you answer let me explore further.

About 2 years ago I learned about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD is how it is known clinically). I was taught this term by someone trying to help me deal with my feelings about someone who clearly had a severe case of it. Now I'll give a clinically inaccurate description just that does give a overall idea of what is wrong with someone with this problem. Basically someone with NPD believes that the problems in their life come from people and situations around them. This belief is so persistent that they eventually lose the ability to be truly introspective. It is as if these people are incapable of seeing themselves as fallible except in situations where they can use the idea of their fallibility as a tool to blame another person for the problems they are facing.

Okay, there really is a lot more to that then I wrote. I just want to give you the gist of it so I can continue what I am talking about.

Back to Dude. After the trip and the crazy tales of how good he was on the slopes correction comes. I point out that Dude really sucks and that he is full of s... stuff. So he gets upset. Unfortunately Dude is pretty smart and well practiced and throwing things back in your face. A minute later he is telling everyone that I suck at snowboarding. He has a myriad of examples that he pulls out of the air. The scary thing is that they are all very real examples (like I said I never was good). Then he moves on to other things. He works very deftly towards the things that really hurt. He begins to attack you where it hurts, he attacks the things you believe you are a little bit good at. He then goes on to explain how he is better than you at everything, especially the thing you love.

In this situation the issue is quite a bit different than just being a little braggy about being good at stuff he isn't. Now you realize he is really really good at making you feel like you suck at EVERYTHING.

Fast forward a bit. After all the mean words wear off, as they inevitably do, Dude goes back to telling you and your other friends how good they are at snowboarding. The thing is that the stories get bigger. Your other friends have seen how much Dude actually sucks at it. But it doesn't stop. It gets to the point where he actually tells you and your friends, "I am really good at snowboarding, really, really! I am. Believe me!"

How strange is that? The thing is what does it matter, right? Do you go snowboarding (or whatever it is you do) because you want to be really great at it? I think most people like the idea of being good at something but that is usually not what keeps people doing things. I think people do things they enjoy. For instance, in reality I suck at golf. Every time I go I worry about being paired with people who are so good that they get impatient with me because I suck so bad. But it doesn't stop me from going because I really LOVE golf. I think it has something to do with the tuning fork in the heart (Tin Cup, watch it). Every once in a while I hit a ball just right and you feel it in every part of your body. I've never felt anything like it anywhere else. It just doesn't happen very often. But I keep going because I am chasing a feeling. Then there is the feeling of sinking a putt from like 25-30 feet (I told you I'm not that good), there is nothing like the dance your heart does as that ball creeps towards the hole inching ever closer. The anticipation alone is indescribable but the sound of the ball going in the cup is just amazing. I golf because I am chasing those feelings not because I am chasing a kind of validation that will never come. I doubt Tiger Woods is golfing because he is trying to make his father proud. If it were he would have stopped when he won the Master's for the first time.

When I was 18 years old I came to an interesting decision. I decided from that moment on I would take responsibility for my actions. I would be responsible. I like to think that for the most part I have lived up to this for the last 10 years. It has served me pretty well.

Now I am like any other person, I want to be noticed by people I care about. I remember as a missionary I really cared a lot what my mission president thought of me. To this day I am not sure what he thought/thinks of me. But one day I knew how he felt. I neglected to do something important. He was mad. I got home and could tell by him waiting there to talk to me that he was ready to give me a tongue lashing. I went to him and let him go. He proceeded to tell me the mistake I had made. While he was talking I remember my promise to myself to take responsibility for my mistakes. As soon as he was done telling me what I did wrong I immediately told him that it was all my fault and that it was because of my neglect. I took responsibility for it. Then I looked up awaiting more tongue lashing. He looked down at me (did I mention he is pretty tall) and said with a half smile on his face, "Don't let it happen again," and he walked away.

I learned a pretty amazing lesson that day. I learned that people have a hard time being upset, angry or show animosity when you take responsibility for your mistakes. The wind is taken out of their sails. The anger is gone. But to truly take the wind out of their sails you have to take the correction into your actions. In my case it was a bathroom I didn't clean. From that day on that bathroom was kept clean. It was cleaned every single day before people came to the mission home and might use it.

So what is it about people that are unwilling or unable to take correction? In my mind that is all a person with NPD is. More than all of the clinical words there really isn't much more to it. There is a word in English that describes this phenomenon very well, pride. Those suffering from pride really need help. I see many people that suffer from pride are unable to function normally. They cause themselves and others around them so much pain. I just can't figure out why they can't just change. Change is hard for anyone I realize. I just don't know why people can't see that if they just started acting different they wouldn't have to go around saying, "Believe me, Please!"

April 2, 2009

The Wider World

Okay, so I can't really claim to have been everywhere and seen everything. I have a few friends that did that. But that is what this one is about I suppose, knowing that I haven't seen it all.

I live next to Disneyland. Not next door or anything. Close enough I hear the fireworks 2 or 3 times a week but far enough that I don't see them and don't have to deal with over street traffic from buses and taxis going all over the place. The thing is I have only been to Disneyland once in my life. I was 2 or 3 and I only have a vague recollection of what we did. Honestly I remember Sea World better than anything because it was the first time I got hit by a seagull turd. From that day on it didn't make a lot of sense that Utah reverenced this bird so much.

Now the point isn't that I don't remember it well. The point is that of the people who will possibly read this one day I know that most of them probably have really fond memories of Disneyland. Not me. I haven't collected that one yet.

I was born in Utah. For most people not from Utah it kind of raises a red flag of boredom. I can't recall the many times as a kid when I told people I was born in Utah and they would get a look on their face that seemed to want to apologize. I didn't get it then but I think I am starting to get it. Let me digress in an attempt to illustrate.

I had a friend in elementary school. I knew this girl from 4th grade on. She was not one of the popular kids so we got along great. For 2 years of school she was one of the people who thought it was sad I was from Utah. It wasn't until 6th grade that the conversation pointed in her direction and I discovered that she had never left the state of California by that point in her life.

The lesson I learned was that people can't imagine the world outside where they are. It is almost as if mankind was built to see the world in a microcosm.

As I think about this my mind is whisked back in time to an age when people lived and died withing a 20 mile radius of where they were born. I think that is why we are built to see the world this way. Generations of mankind has lived in only small areas of the world. The thing is that with all the ability we have to travel and see the world for what it is the microcosm still exists.

Shortly after I turned 16 my family moved from Vallejo, CA to Orem, UT. I expected the change to be fairly easy. I expected that I would meet new friends. I did, but not until after I was confronted by cruel reality.

Once I started to get to know people I realized that there was a huge prejudice in Orem against anyone who would dare say they were from California. I wasn't, as it turns out, the only person who went through that experience.

The mindset was all about being local. The funny thing is that even people who were not strictly locals learned to pretend they were in order to get along in that environment. Due to my sometimes uncompromising behavior I didn't get along very well. I'm sure that will come as no surprise to many. I wanted to remain who I was and be liked and accepted for it. Something I still believe is right.

Okay, so we left Orem. A year later we moved to a small town called Salem, UT. In that small town we lived in the small neighborhood by the cemetery. This neighborhood was different. This one was made up of a number of people who did not grow up nearby mixed with a few that had. It was sort of a bunch of city people hiding away in a small farm community because it was nicer that Provo and Orem.

Can you guess what happened next? I was accepted for who I was. The reason was simply that half of the people that lived there were locals and the other half were like me. I learned a great lesson living there. I learned that it is great to have moved so much in your life that you cannot really call a single place home. The perspective you gain from living in many places gives you great experiences. Those experiences then allow you to relate to many people who come from many circumstances.

Now, like I said earlier, I haven't been all over the world. There is another point I want to make about that.

I have also met many people over the years that have spent most of their life in one town or another. They almost all have been to Disneyland and/or Hawaii. They all have fond memories of those vacations. The thing I realized one day was that vacations don't do much but give you a little time away from your house.

On a vacation do you socially interact with people? Do you make lifelong friends? With a few exceptions the answer is probably no. Without living in those places you don't really get that experience. You may have a fleeting summer romance or meet someone who became your pen pal. Chances are you didn't spend a lot of time with them from that point on.

Maybe it's time for me to get to the point. This will probably seem pretentious and self-centered. I don't mean for it to be.

I realized one day that living in this world is more that the microcosm we tend to make of it. The world is bigger than Orem. The world is bigger than Vallejo. The world is bigger than Salem (everything is bigger than Salem, I've seen farms bigger than Salem). The world is bigger than me. The world is bigger than Los Angeles and New York City. The world is bigger than any one of us because it is exactly as big as all of us. I think for me to learn that it took a lifetime of never feeling like I was "from" anywhere, despite the fact that I have almost always claimed to be from Vallejo, when the truth is I never lived in one neighborhood there for more than 2 years.

I like having lived in a lot of places. It has expanded my view of the world. It has allowed me to meet many amazing people.

April 1, 2009

I Love You, Man.

A couple of weeks ago Stephanie and I went to see I Love You, Man (rated R for anyone who cares). So far this is my favorite movie of 2009. Not that it will stay that way but so far this year the movies I have seen are really sub par.

Okay, so what makes this movie so good? Basically it is a guy movie with a small love story mixed in. I know there are all sorts of "guy movies" out there. This one may have invented a new sub-genre though. The term being thrown around in the media is "bromance". I hate that term so that will be the last time I put it on my blog, anywhere. I digress.

What really makes this movie great is how relatable it is. It is really about a couple of guys that are at a point in their lives where they both have pretty much everything they want but friendship. The one guy has a bachelor lifestyle that he seems to be content with. The other is living his lifelong dream of getting married. The only problem is that now that they both have their lives pretty much the way they want them they don't have anyone to share their life with. They don't really have a close friend. And that is what makes this movie relatable, at least to me.

Now I'm not saying that I don't have friends. I have a lot of friends. Why I can relate to it is because of circumstances. Let me relate a story to illustrate.

Around the time I was married a lot of my friends were also getting married. Those that weren't were going through some changes of other kinds. The friends that were really close to me, those that I spent my time with and shared my life with, were really out of touch for what felt to be a long time. In retrospect I can see that the actual time involved was more like 6-9 months, starting at the day I got married.

I can remember that there were many nights where Stephanie and I would sit up in bed and I would complain to her how, though I loved spending time with her, I was kind of sad that I didn't get to hang out with the guys anymore. It was really difficult because there are a lot of things you can do with a bro that you can't do with a wife. This was illustrated in the movie by the music of Rush. For me it was StarCraft and talking about women (it's important to note that even married men talk about women, especially their wives).

Some time after my brother got married my wife and I devised a plan. See Josh's house had a washer and dryer and ours didn't. So we begged our way over to "do laundry". It often turned into games of Empire Earth until 3AM. Luckily I married a person who is supportive of anything with the word "party" in it LAN or otherwise.

As word of these late night games spread my friends and I started to have our bro time again. It was sort of on and off for years but most of the time it was dependent upon living spaces and proximity to one another.

Previous to moving to Anaheim I enjoyed what was probably the most regular hang out time since before we all got married. We enjoyed a rather large and comfy apartment in SugarHouse for a couple of years and eventually a close proximity to Josh and Brandon. This coupled with the invention of the game Rock Band, which our women could all get into as well, turned out to be some of the best hang out times in my adult life.

Okay, the long story illustrated that men (and women) need friends. We need time to be men. So any wives or girlfriends out there keep this in mind. Encourage your men to have "Man Time". It's going to make him happy and by extension you. Plus he won't be as jealous of you when you and your friends go to the mall or whatever it is your friends do together. And if you need more convincing go see I Love You, Man. Ignore the swears.