Don’t Worry, Be Happy

I wish I could worry less about life and the world around me. I’d even settle for one out of two.

The desire to just, check out, watch TV and let day after day swim by is strong. Caring takes a lot of energy. Plus, all the news is depressing. Even the good stuff carries weight.

I’m not the first person to have these thoughts. I’m sure that the Athenian philosophers of old felt the same way about the wars with Sparta.

They didn’t even have Netflix.

As of this writing I am still waiting to hear back about a good job. A perfect job in fact, one I know I could sink my teeth into and feel like I was accomplishing something with my life.

Something like that is hard to come by so I am understandably nervous about my chances. I think I did everything right but Lady Luck and I have never gotten along. I’m hopeful but cautious. The hope decreases exponentially as each day goes by.

As it often does.

Since January I’ve probably applied to at least one hundred jobs, give or take twenty. Of those jobs, I’ve gotten some form of rejection email from perhaps fifteen. At least they let me know for sure they weren’t interested. That was nice of them.

As far as interviews go, I’ve had four. Three by phone and one in person. One of the phone interviews was supposed to lead to second, but they never got back to me. Like I was someone they met on Tinder or something.

Another interview was for a job that misrepresented the basics. I thought it was full time work, they thought I was some fresh college student willing to take any employment even if it mean being discarded six months later like a paper cup.

In some ways though, I am.

None of it is up to me, of course. A lesson I always knew but optimistically believed wouldn’t matter. However, I have little to distinguish me from the many other qualified people out there searching for the same line of work. I can’t point to much that isn’t readily available to many others. I can only send out my resume and hope something comes back. A majority of the time only silence returns.

It’s discouraging to say the least.

To elaborate, it’s frustrating. I finished that book of Mastery I spoke about last week. In it they talk about “the apprenticeship” phase of mastery. This is where you take whatever opportunity that comes your way, as long as it will let you learn the ins and outs of what you want to do. Even if it’s only tangential at first.

Therein lies the problem. First you must figure out what it is that you are called to do. All the greats apparently had a feeling of purpose. A desire they couldn’t quench.

Have I discovered that about myself?

Perhaps.

That sort of knowledge is really only available in retrospect. But I am still waiting to find something that will let me pursue what I’ve come to hope is my purpose. There are no tips and tricks in the book to solve that particular problem.

Nothing about what to do if you got it wrong either.

To be fair, if everyone could do what they wanted there would be too many video game testers. The book makes it sound so simple though. Find a way to earn a living doing what you love. What you wake up every day wanting to do. Then learn all you can until you are skilled enough to strike out on your own. Don’t be lazy about the work involved. Focus, focus, focus.

There, I’ve spoiled most of it for you. When you boil it down it sounds like every by the bootstraps speech you’ve ever heard. Unfortunately for me, I can’t get started until I get a job. So far, getting over that last hurdle has been almost completely out of my control. So, I check Twitter obsessively to feel like I’m involved in the world around me.

Every day I forget how depressing my Twitter feed is. Even if it’s awful it helps me feel like I’m in the study phase at least. And lately it’s always been terrible.

Always.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Purpose

I’ve been listening to another one of those self-improvement type audiobooks. Same author as the one about the laws of power. Must be a pretty nice gig collecting the combined wisdom of the ancients and organizing it for the rest of us fools. I would see about getting in on that racket but this guy seems to have it locked up pretty tight.

The book is called “Mastery” and deals with something I’ve contemplated myself. How do the legends of humanity get etched into history? Some people would say they were born with it. Maybe it’s a TV jingle. It certainly might seem to be true. After all, didn’t someone steal Einstein’s brain after he died to try and figure out what made him special?

Brain theft. What a caper. Probably isn’t true though.

Turns out not much is different about the father of relativity’s grey matter. At least, that’s what this book seems to be arguing, the effort is what matters. Nothing else. I wouldn’t know for sure because as of this writing I’m not even half finished. But like many internet denizens I feel imminently qualified to speak on something of which I only understand a small part.

In other words, this isn’t a book review.

I’ve wondered though, many times, what it is that separates those who accomplish and those that muddle through life. In some ways, it’s comforting to think that it’s all up to genetics, circumstances, or sheer luck. Takes the pressure off. I can’t help being mediocre if I was just born to it. Excuse me while I drink myself into a stupor to forget my problems.

It’s never that easy though. Nothing in life is because if it were we might never have moved off the savannah. If the cold didn’t matter, then we wouldn’t have figured out fire. No fire, no electricity. No electricity, no world spanning mega culture.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.

Birds don’t need to figure out how to get a job and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They just got to fly and find food. If they’re lucky, they’ll find a spot where one of us puts out the food for them. Because we like their pretty colors. Birds have got it made in the shade brother.

What’s our excuse?

We dreamed of something bigger and better. Looked up at the night sky and wondered to ourselves, why? Then some of us figured out that question. Busted their ass on it. Which led to new questions and new answers. A never-ending cycle. What did we achieve? The power to shape the planet in our image, even if it means destroying the whole thing in the process.

Take that birds.

Catching up to life

The idea of leaving one life behind and living another is often something left to the movies or TV. A high-level snitch placed into witness protection. A middle-aged boring guy ditching that depressing office job for life as a surf instructor. A family of yokels finding out some distant relative had billions of dollars and left it all to them.

It’s nice to dream.

Most of those stories don’t talk about what happens if you return to your old life. If the story hinges on escape or change, it doesn’t make for a happy ending to end up back where you were before the main event. Losing billions of dollars or returning to a life of crime wouldn’t be that great in the grand scheme or even in the medium scheme.

Luckily for me, it wasn’t all that bad. At least I wasn’t giving up life as a beach bum.

Discovering that travel might not be the cure for what ails you is more common than those other fictional scenarios, I suspect. Beaches get boring and mega cities are hard places to find fulfillment. Easy to lose yourself, though. At least that was the case with me. I’ve already talked a lot about what it felt like to leave behind one life for another.

How does the return compare to the exodus itself? That’s a harder comparison to judge. A year into my time in Japan I had made new friends and was enjoying my life as a club hopper. What money I had went into beer, cigarettes and late night ramen. Work was just a means to an end. Coal for the insatiable furnace of debauchery.

But there’s a time and a place for everything and it’s called your twenties.

I’m more than a year back in the United States and things are progressing at a much slower pace. I arrived in Japan with a life set up for me. Pre-packaged and ready to go.

I left with little more than the jealousy that comes when a friend flashes cash and a desire to do the same. It’s fortunate that I don’t drink, smoke, or club anymore. Not that the city of Wilmington is known for its outrageous night life.

With more years come further refinement of tastes. My group of friends have gone from cheap beer swilling pool sharks to micro-brew chugging tool jockeys that are also local real estate experts. It’s hard not to get jealous of fancy things like hard wood floors, brushed steel appliances, and equity.

It’s also hard to shake how I treated myself ten years ago now that I’m back where I started.

I wasn’t super cool when I left. Hard to picture, isn’t it? Now, I am outrageously cool. Cooler than a crystalline Christmas cucumber. It took a long time for me to come to grips with this indisputable fact. Unfortunately, I can tell it isn’t second nature like it should be. I have to actively keep on top of my awesomeness when I’m around old friends. Or else I’ll fall into the same patterns as before.

That’s what I mean by catching up. While I was bathing in the concentrated amazing that is Tokyo, Japan, absorbing that power into my soul, everyone else was buying houses and shit.

Life is a series of trade-offs, I suppose.

I’m Almost 35 and I Still Don’t Know What I Want to be When I Grow Up

It’s not easy to admit to yourself that you’re hopeless. No, not hopeless, maybe. Adrift. Wracked with doubt. Rudderless. Unsure. Standard Millennial malaise. Bored. Lost.

Over-reacting?

Back when I was a carefree child I wanted to be a paleontologist. Because of all the simple ideas a kid can latch on to, I chose dinosaurs. Plus, getting paid to dig holes in the ground sounded like a sweet gig. Like many people those interests went away when something else came along.

For me it was Nintendo. You whippersnappers just getting out of college had a similar reaction to, I don’t know, iPhones probably.

I’ve gone through a lot of what you might call career options or at least, career attempts. I couldn’t stick to a single one. Was it because I’m lazy? Perhaps. I also don’t have much patience for gratification. Instant or nothing baby!

I’m worried it might be because I came in on the tail end of the lead gasoline craze. Count your blessings Gen Y. The economy might be dead by the time you enter it and the world might boil all the ice away, but at least there isn’t stupidity gas in the air anymore. Stupid poisoned environment. I’m glad we fixed all of that.

Where was I?

Right. Crippling depression brought on by a complete lack of fulfillment. People talk about how there are lots of famous people that didn’t hit their mark until later in their lives. I’m sure if you look hard enough there’s a snazzy infographic out there to back me up. It’s all a big case of confirmation bias though.

You’re going to find examples of great successes who were older if you look hard enough, that’s just basic logic. For every one of those geezers like me but successful you find, however, there’s bound to be a thousand or a million other chumps who amounted to nothing.

Like me.

Man, this is getting dark. Let me try and lighten the mood up a little bit.

A few days after I quit drinking I saw a guy fall down some stairs and split his head open. Blood everywhere. Sounded like a cantaloupe in a pillowcase.

Shit. I’m making this worse.

That moment helped clarify my decision to jump on the wagon. Because it easily could have been me stumbling down a staircase like a sack of wet noodles. Honestly, it’s a miracle I made it through my late twenties without falling in front of a train. I can’t even count the number of times I made it home completely blacked out.

There’s a time and a place for everything though and it’s called Roppongi.

How does this relate to finding a rewarding career? It doesn’t. It just serves to remind me that for a long time I couldn’t picture being in my thirties. I didn’t plan ahead much beyond the next time I would get drunk. Which was all the time. Not a great way to live a life but it keeps things simple. One decision tree.

Are you drunk? Yes? Get drunker. No? Do you have to work? No? Get drunk.

Fun times.

Nowadays I’ve stuck my foot into political work like one sticks their foot in a puddle the depth of which they vastly underestimated. This was a great idea right up to November 8th, 2016. Come November 9th I was wishing I’d stayed in Tokyo and maybe taken a header down some steps instead. Yeah, I said it. The 45th President is worse than violent head trauma.

That’s insensitive of me. No one chooses to crack their skull open. Some 60 million people woke up on a Tuesday and said to themselves, “Yeah. This will be a good idea.”

If you can explain that to me I’d love to hear it.

You might be wondering if the guy on the stairs was all right. I have no fucking clue. I had a train to catch and I wasn’t about to miss it. I wasn’t going to wait for the last train because that shit always ran late. It would have taken me at least an extra hour to get home. Plus, it’s always super crowded with drunks.

The world is a cold place.

Metaphorically speaking. Scientifically speaking it’s getting hot as shit.

Why does the Right Hate Liberals?

I lived in Japan for nine years. I bring this up because as a foreigner there, I often got the sense that the government saw me as a mild inconvenience. It might have been the frustration apparent on an official’s face when my Japanese wasn’t good enough to navigate complex tax procedures. Despite his English not being good enough to navigate Cat in the Hat.

Languages are hard ya’ll.

I lived there though, it was on me to learn how to speak good. Fair enough. It might also have been the difficulty in getting a visa for longer than I had proof of employment. One year contract? One year visa. Since you can only get a visa with a guaranteed income that made it difficult to change jobs. Unless you’re the type that works better under time pressure.

You could argue the government is just looking out for the gaijin. You wouldn’t want to be stuck in a place without a support system. It certainly lit a fire under my ass to keep steady employment whenever the visa date came around.

It might also have been knowing I had things pretty easy in terms of being a foreigner, given that I was white. And a dude. And American. That mix often adds up to banker after all.

All foreigners are required to carry ID and have to show it to police whenever asked. I was carded exactly once during my nine years in Japan. It was because I was drunk and belligerent on a public street at 8am on a Monday. I might have been yelling obscenities in front of children. I can’t remember for sure because I was drunk and belligerent.

My friend, who is also an American dude, was carded once for standing outside of my apartment late at night having a quiet phone conversation. Pretty much the exact opposite of my experience. He got carded at least once every other week, so he was used to it.

Did I mention he is of Filipino descent?

I’m not trying to make this about racism in Japan or even in America. I’m not qualified to talk about it because of my white privilege. As South Park tried to impart years ago, I don’t get it. Because I can’t. I get that I don’t get it. Get it?

But it’s hard not to see it going on.

I had it better there and I have it better here. None of this is news and I’m not expecting to open anyone’s eyes that have kept them shut until now. What worries this particular white male is the other hatred that has been stewing for a while now. Because it affects me! Me by golly! And isn’t that the point? Yes, as I will explain later.

In the wake of Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement, many on the right said it was a great move because it “made liberals cry.” What the fuck is this? Kindergarten?

How is it that the force in charge of America makes decisions based on how much pain they cause to the other side? Is it due in part to the fact that a large number of people who identify as liberal are also minorities? It’s no longer acceptable to say racist things in public. Twitter jumps all over that shit now. Racism is going to racist so what’s the alternative?

Jeff Sessions is working diligently as Attorney General to set back civil rights by decades. And he’s like, Kunta Kinte next to the Cheater in Chief.

Elections and marriages, a double threat!

Hatred of an ideology is becoming as baseless and rooted in ignorance as the hatred of skin tone. Obviously, the history and results between the two are incomparable. I’m not trying to claim the same type of suffering by being a liberal. There are plenty of “Bernie or Bust” types out there who’ll do it for me. #shotsfired

Yet, for perhaps the first time, straight white people in America are learning what it’s like to be hated by their government. Black people have put up with it for as long as they’ve been here. Latinos certainly understand the threat of an adversarial government. Every person of color in this country is forced to come to grips at an early age that the people in charge don’t like you.

I got a small taste of that in Japan. Racism Light, fewer problems, less filling. But even then, my white hetero-maleness shielded me from the worst of it all. A super power that doesn’t make for a good comic book perhaps but I was comfortable taking advantage of it.

I came back and stumbled head first into the frontlines of this fight. Racism Classic, now with more power. Thousands and millions of us tried to stop it. Or rather, shove it under the rug for another cycle. It didn’t work for a hundred reasons that didn’t involve someone named Clinton.

Most of my volunteers on the campaign were black women, which should surprise no one. They knew what was going on. They also knew the election wouldn’t wave a magic wand and fix the problems in their community.

They still came out though. And that was before all the horrors Trump has unleashed in his short tenure as President. Obviously though, we all saw it coming. Us stupid libruls. We tried to warn you that hate was growing. It threatens all of us. That’s why things feel so scary.

It’s equality of hate. Because now it doesn’t matter what you look like. If you believe certain things, a way of thought that you chose, now you are a target for the worst ills of humanity.

But what do I know? I’m just a Liberal.

Fighting the Entropy of Apathy

I took a few days off from my blog this week. I know I’ve only been at this for about two months. Plus, the “job requirements” I’ve set myself are pretty lax.

Three articles a week? Cake walk.

All of my other personal tasks are equally simple to achieve. Still, it’s always nice to feel like I am accomplishing things. Even if I’ve rigged the expectations. It’s easy to succeed when the bar is reading book instead of watching Netflix.

I shout them out all the dang time so it should be obvious that Netflix played a big role in my mini-vacation. Caught up a bit on House of Cards. It’s nice to imagine what having a competent sociopath in the Oval Office is like rather than an incompetent one.

Call it escapism.

I also worked on my fourth or fifth complete viewing of Parks and Recreation. Love that show.

The point is that I didn’t really “do” a lot over these past few days. I think I’ve made it obvious that I don’t exactly do much on a normal day. I can stretch what should be a few hours of accomplishment in to a whole day effort. I can also waste the day away without so much as a twinge of regret. Is this some kind of laziness superpower?

Are most people like this at heart? In Japan, it’s elevated to an art form. I learned from the best.

Don’t get me wrong. I can work when needed. I put in 80 hour weeks during the 2016 elections. I got up at 5am so I could drive an hour away through a hurricane in order to be in front of a Dollar Store an hour before it opened. Why? Because I was told it would help win the election. So, I did it. I’ve got no doubts about my capability to do work.

The motivation aspect is what I’m worried about.

Would getting up at 5am each day help me become a successful writer? Maybe. Is that even what I want to be? More importantly, is it right to require such effort in the first place? I think if I was pulling a steady paycheck and my boss told me to get up at 5am to write blog articles until the sun went down I could do it. Would it be worth it?

Probably not. So, why should I bother?

Too many rhetorical questions I know. I hope this is a common line of thinking for most people. It would make me feel better if it was. Why do I get up every day and do what I do? Why can’t I just crash on the couch and watch Netflix? I suppose this is the Republican nightmare of welfare. Give people enough money and they won’t do anything.

Then civilization collapses and anarchy reigns.

Obviously, if everyone just watched Netflix there would be nothing to watch in the first place. Until computers can do everything for us at all times perfectly. Which might not be that far off. For now, it’s up to each person to decide what is important to them. What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning?

Is it just to kill time until the next day comes so you can repeat the process? I’ll admit that has been the case for me more times than I’m comfortable with. That’s how I felt for a long time when I was living in Japan. For me, perhaps the best way to quit laziness is the same way I stopped drinking and smoking.

Cold turkey.

Something tells me it’ll be harder than either of those previous vices.

Trumpism: The Cult of Donald Trump

Editor’s note: This was originally posted in February 2017. Almost none of the revelations that consume the news today regarding Russia had come out yet.

So I’ve been reading this book in my spare time called “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene. It was first brought to my attention by an Uber driver in L.A. so you know it’s high quality…

So I’ve been reading this book in my spare time called “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene. It was first brought to my attention by an Uber driver in L.A. so you know it’s high quality…

Anyway, basically it’s a collection of stories from history and teachings from books like The Art of War and The Prince broken down into lessons about gaining the ephemeral quality known as “power”.

I wanted to read it because even if I couldn’t be as ruthless as required by some of these tactics it is good to be aware of them in case they are used against you. However, when I reached Law 27 things became a little scary.

“Law 27: Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cult-like Following”

There are 5 steps to this law. Rather than just list them and let readers come to their own conclusions I feel like I need to be more explicit as to how the man currently in the office of the President has seemingly followed this path to power in particular.

Step 1: Keep it Vague; Keep it Simple

“To create a cult you must first attract attention. This you should do not through actions, which are too clear and readable, but through words, which are hazy and descriptive.”

Trumpisim: “Make America Great Again”, “Repeal and Replace, Build the Wall”

These phrases sound great and project a real sense of power. When it comes to achieving them things become far murkier. Trump’s much vaunted deal with Carrier was fraught with unfortunate realities in terms of making America great again. Republicans have been calling for repeal of the ACA for years but are only now rolling out ideas for replacement. Ideas which do little to fix what problems there are with the program and threaten to take away the parts that are actually working.

The wall will be a boondoggle. Mark my words.

Step 2: Emphasize the Visual and the Sensual over the Intellectual

“Once people have begun to gather around you, two dangers will present themselves: boredom and skepticism.”

Trumpisim: Constant rallies

Trump never seems comfortable unless he’s in front of a large crowd of sympathetic supporters. That might be part of the reason he brings staffers to speeches to applaud and cheer for him. Less than a month into his Presidency while being assaulted from all directions over allegations of misconduct and incompetence, Trump holds a literal campaign rally. In 2017, not 2020. Clearly he’s falling back on the spectacle that served him so well in 2016. The sight of large cheering crowds emphasize his popularity which is why he is so adamant in his attacks on stories to the contrary.

Step 3: Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion to Structure the Group

“Your cult-like following is growing; it’s time to organize it. Find a way both elevating and comforting.”

Trumpism: Mike Pence

I don’t think anyone can argue that Trump has ever been an ardent representative of the Christian faith. This step is actually the one that applies the least to Trumpism as it is intended to be more about structural organization specifically. However, the 45th President is not afraid to claim divine intervention in the weather. The choice of Mike Pence as VP gives him all the cover he needs in terms of Christian conservatism without demanding any real sacrifice on his part.

Step 4: Disguise Your Source of Income

“…you must never be seen as hungry for money and the power it brings. It is at this moment that you must disguise the source of your income.”

Trumpism: Tax returns

Do I really need to go over this part?

Step 5: Set Up an Us-Versus-Them Dynamic

“To keep your followers united, you must now do what all religions and belief systems have done: create an us-versus-them dynamic.”

Obviously this is not a unique aspect of Trump or many other political candidates. It is a central idea behind why spectator sports are so popular. People like being part of a “team”. What is dangerous and scary about Trumpism is the official target known as “them”.

The media. The term “fourth estate” refers to a medieval concept of society where the people were broken up into three broad groups. (The clergy, the nobility, and the commoners, in case you were wondering.)

The idea is the press is a separate entity who’s role is to check the power of the others. An independent press is so important that the founders of America made sure journalistic protections were enshrined in the Constitution itself.

Trump’s attacks on the press started almost immediately. His administration has constantly given false or misleading information to the public and when news reporters point that out he calls them “fake news”. Anyone the least bit critical is denied legitimacy. The message is clear “we [us] are right and anyone who disagrees [them] does so just because they want us to fail.”

We need to have the ability to question power. If they do something wrong they should be held responsible. The chilling effect Trumpism could have on legitimate criticism is frightening. I’m personally somewhat worried about posting a long description comparing the President of the United States to a cult leader as the family is notoriously litigious.

Despite the click bait nature of the title of this post I am not saying with any certainty that President Trump is a cult leader. I have no way of knowing if he’s read this book or even if he consciously follows the steps listed above.

But the similarities frighten me.

Are you glad you came back?

Imagine you just made one of the biggest decisions of your life. You have no idea if it’s going to work out. You decided to go for it anyway. Once you’ve taken the leap, how do you know if it was a good choice? When I went bungee jumping for the first time the measure of success was pretty simple. I didn’t end up plunging head first into a raging river.

Not all decisions are going to come with such instant feedback, unfortunately.

When I left Japan, I imagined a life that would fall into place with relative ease. Perhaps that was naïve of me. I figured I would be able to find some sort of job that would let me live a modest lifestyle in or around Raleigh, where I went to college. That’s where the friends I have from before my time in Japan still live. I would then pursue a computer science certificate and perhaps after that a Masters. Not asking too much I think.

A job did not materialize immediately. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend my first summer focusing on my studies without any financial strain. Which was a good thing. If you’ve ever taken a college level course in Java or Discrete Math you already have some idea. Now, take all that academic pain and suffering, mix it together, and squeeze it out into half the time. I don’t think I’ll ever take two summer courses again if I can help it.

I did well though! Better than I ever did in school to be honest. It turns out if you actually study and do the work good grades aren’t as mythological as I once believed.

Then came the campaign. I tried for…like a week to do both the job as a field organizer and the next course in my program. Every one of my coworkers I mentioned my class to were shocked to hear I was attempting such a feat. The general consensus after I withdrew sometime later was “Yeah, that’s definitely a smart move.”

And it was. After a twelve-hour day, the last thing I wanted to do was bang my head against a wall of code salad. I lost about half the cost of the class when I withdrew so NCSU got a few hours of their new basketball coach’s salary on me. I’ll consider it money well spent if the team doesn’t completely suck next year. (I’d settle for beating UNC once.)

After finishing the campaign, I didn’t want to jump back into class without knowing what my working life would be like. I got started with the job search and have continued at a steady pace right up until now. Still no job. Hopefully it’s not because when you Google me the first thing that pops up is someone with my name who stole $50,000 to go to Hooters.

I haven’t answered the question yet. Can you blame me? There can be some heavy stuff wrapped up in such a question. When people hear that you made a major life change they want to know if you’re doing well. Decent people at least. If that’s not the case for you, what are you doing talking to jerks in the first place?

As for me, it’s hard to give a solid answer. I’m 34 years old and I live with my mother. Couple that with a strong interest in Japanese culture and that’s a dangerous combination on paper. I should just buy a Trilby and a body pillow. Lean into the skid so to speak.

But, I’m technically still a Millennial so the mainstream tells me I have some lee-way about my living situation. So that’s lucky.

Am I happy though? Well that’s honestly something I can’t answer. I’m certainly happy at certain moments of the day. Other parts not so much. Is that any different than anyone else? Have I achieved what I wanted when I left Japan? Not really. Are those things indefinitely out of reach? Probably not. Hopefully not. Am I better off today than I was a year ago? Again, hard to say. I’m pretty much in the same place I was a year ago. Except now Drumpf is President.

Not looking too good on the old “better off” scale. Sorry. I didn’t vote for him.

Anyway, if you came by for unending positivity, I’m not sure you really “get” the vibe I’m trying to cultivate here.

Why did you come back?

No one has said this to me in an accusatory tone…yet. It sounds similar to the other question, “Why did you leave Japan”. However, someone pointed out to me that it’s not the same at all. I could have gone anywhere in the world after Japan. I chose to go back to North Carolina. Why?

Before I came back I took a long trip across the country on the train. Partly because it was a little cheaper than a direct flight back and mostly because it seemed romantic. The truth is it was a little like riding in business class of an airplane for about 60 hours. It gave me time to decompress. I felt this would be a good idea since I had no idea what I would be doing with my life once I got back. Still don’t by the way.

I’m going to save a true description of my trip for another article, but it was a positive experience for sure. I got to experience four of my county’s most famous cities. L.A, New York, Washington DC, and Boston. I had only ever been to NYC before and that was back when I was a child. Well, Long Island doesn’t count, does it?

L.A was my favorite but that might be a little unfair since I spent the most time in that city. I don’t know if I would have the patience to settle down there. I wouldn’t get the hang of the “make a U-turn just where ever” driving culture. The weather was tops though. Chicago was nice if cold but the current President tells me it’s a war zone so I probably shouldn’t stay there. NYC is just the American Tokyo which was nice for nostalgic reasons. Boston has a nice small town feeling but I don’t like seafood enough to make the best of it.

Jokes aside, any one of those places I could have been comfortable, job permitting. That turns out to be easier said than done. A lot of people make this jump with an employment plan already lined up. That’s the sensible thing. Not me though. I was sure I’d find something so why worry?

It turned out to be harder than I expected.

Maybe I could have gone to Europe, blend in better. I might want to keep that option open depending on how things go over here.

But nope, North Carolina for me. Why though?

There’s something to the call of the familiar. I talked about feeling disconnected from the culture, in Japan. For all its faults, I like being from North Carolina. It makes up a big part of who I am. People who knew me over in Japan know well my fierce opinion that there is only one true kind of BBQ. Pulled pork with a vinegar based sauce. We can respectfully disagree over the style of meat, brisket and the like. If we’re talking pork though, there can be no compromise.

It’s those kind of baked in ideas, even if they’re over something as silly as a meat sandwich, that I missed. I preferred tonkotsu ramen as any right-thinking individual would. However, I could never feel for it on the level of someone from Fukuoka where it is a specialty.

The feeling goes beyond food of course. What it boils down to is a sense of place and reputation. We humans are quite good at wrapping up our self-worth in what other people might identify us by. I want people to like vinegar sauced pork BBQ because it is delicious. It also represents where I’m from and my own identity. I searched long and hard for a quality pork sandwich in Tokyo not only because I wanted to eat one. I wanted to show my friends something that speaks to who I am.

I’m sticking with the food metaphor because it is a clever way to frame the real reason I came home. I have been troubled with the way my state has been acting politically. Being part of the South means you could hardly call us “progressive” but we were once doing well compared to our neighbors. That changed in only the last few years. Now, however, one party is taking out their frustrations at having been in the minority for so long on the other.

I’ll let you guess who.

What gets me upset is that these folks are doing massive damage to our reputation without any real gain. They do it to spite people they hate for reasons that often seem to hinge on “you did it to us too.” The worst part the bending of the rules and rigging the system to stay in power. When these folks fall out of power they try to strip away what they can. It’s depressing that people can act this way in a place that’s supposed to be known for “hospitality”.

We’ve made some gains. It’s going to be a long hard fight from here on out. When I moved back I hadn’t planned on it being like this. But I’m glad I’m here if only to add my own weak voice to the swell of resistance. Finding a reason for being somewhere is never easy. At least here in my home I have roots to trace.

Republicans would be better off if they had lost

I’m standing on the porch at a friend’s house. It’s late November, maybe early December. I had spent Thanksgiving making a concerted effort to not bring up politics. It wasn’t easy since my mother is the only person I know for sure didn’t vote for Trump. Some of my cousins might have been on Team Democrat but I wouldn’t know it. We all kept our mouths shut.

Except to eat of course.

It’s taken me some time to recover from the shock of losing. Understandable given how much time I had put into the election. I don’t know how my co-workers who were at it for years managed. I suspect booze played a large role. Despite all of that, here I am on a cool Raleigh night, arguing about politics.

My opponent is a smart guy. I have to give him credit. He thinks NPR is a left wing ivory tower but he listens to it and comes with logical counter arguments. This might have something to do with being the only conservative in our mutual friend group. He’s used to being on the defensive so he keeps the walls manned and the pikes sharp.

As most discussions of this nature do, we get close to a shouting match. Tempers are easily enflamed when it comes to matters of Trump. At this point however, all we could really do was rehash the election. 45 hadn’t yet begun to pick from his Cabinet list entitled “The Absolute Worst Options Possible.”

So of course, we’re talking about emails.

My other friend who, until this point, has kept out of the argument suddenly pipes up.

“Well the one thing we can all agree on is that we hope Trump succeeds and is one of the best Presidents ever.” A bit overly optimistic perhaps. One of the best ever? At even this early point I was willing to settle for doesn’t destroy the economy.

Now before you throw my buddy under the bus, think about it. That’s not a bad sentiment to have. Yes, Trump is a horrible human being in most ways. But prior to the inauguration we didn’t know how he would govern. I mean, we all knew but we didn’t know. At that point, it was all hypothetical. It couldn’t possibly be as bad as we imagined, right?

Unquestionably, we should hope for success rather than root for failure.

Well things are different now. They’re real. Far, far, far too real. On the day I write this, they’ve just appointed a special prosecutor to look into Trump’s ties with Russia. By the time that I post it anything could have happened. The consequences of the President’s actions will be sweeping and devastating for the Republican party.

What have they gained in the bargain?

A Supreme Court pick that forced them to throw away decades of tradition, a universally hated health care bill, and one of the worst political scandals in modern memory. Plus, the embarrassment of having to vouch for an unhinged amateur autocrat. This is Comcast internet levels of bad deal.

What would they have if Trump lost?

Chances are they’d still have the margin they have in the House and Senate. They lost seats with Trump at the helm but still managed to hold on. They would be able to rail and complain about the ACA for another few years without having to actually do anything about it. Complaining without doing anything is their favorite pastime.

They would have gotten Merrick Garland and wouldn’t have had to cheat on the rules. The Republicans certainly would have wanted that 60-vote threshold around for Clinton’s presidency. They would have a newly ascendant Fox News style media powerhouse in after Trump played Voltron with his MAGA brand and Breitbart.

Does anyone still think he wanted to be President at this point?

Trump is never going to be popular. He could cure cancer tomorrow and people would still be like fuck that guy. I’ll be one of them. Even if the investigation turns up nothing the Democrats are riled up. Apathy is the liberal’s greatest enemy and I think it’s safe to say that the coming midterms are going to be a barnstormer.

There’s also the bigger issue that the Republicans have quite likely lost an entire generation of voters. The Snapchat armada is not buying what they’re selling. The ones that do are more likely in it for the shits and giggles. Memes and centipedes or whatever. It’s not something you can build a governing coalition on.

I could be wrong of course. If this year has taught me anything it’s to never make assumptions.

But I feel good about this one.