Lofty Ideas Destined to Fail

As a young man, I must necessarily make the many follies of youth. I have only so much time to make those mistakes before I’m old enough to know better. Furthermore, I have to share my talents with the world before I realize I don’t have any. So, what are those talents and how can I use them to make mistakes?

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the things I’m good at, and eating tops the list. I can eat more food more quickly than just about anyone I know. There are two ways I could use that skill: eating competitively or becoming the fattest man in the world. On the one hand, I don’t like hot dogs that much and the Japanese have cornered the market anyway. I might be able to set records for speed eating or consuming something I do enjoy, like raw cookie dough or salami sandwiches. On the other hand, I can’t afford to become the fattest man in the world, despite being perfectly capable. Logistically, I suppose my reach exceeds my grasp.

When I was 8, I started learning to play the piano. I have essentially been playing for 15 years. In that time, I think I have learned about 9 songs. Despite my ability to read music, I don’t have a thorough grasp of musical theory and I am at a loss when it comes to understanding or composing melodies. Many pianists play by ear; I play by eye. I have discovered a lot of what one can discover by constant playing, but none of the abilities to show off or be creative. I fear I will never be the next Liberace.

So what about mathematics? When I first went to the University of Nebraska, I intended to eventually complete a PhD in math. I wanted to do research and teach or something. Once I had a bit of experience with both, the reality sunk in: it’s not my thing. I don’t have a passion for math in the same way that most math professors do. I can do a lot of work in math and computer science, but if I don’t have the passion, I definitely won’t be able to finish a doctorate.

In summary, those things are all side projects. I’ve spent a lot of time on them but I can’t say with certainty that my future lies with any of them. I’ll continue doing all of those things, eating, piano, math, etc, but I don’t know where it will go. Hopefully a place where I’m able to keep going

But the thing I really want to do, barring ability and opportunity, is writing. I love writing, but I hate that I want to be a writer. I hate it because it’s common and stereotypical. Wanting to be a writer has nothing to do with talent, understanding the writing process, or even being able to communicate ideas. I think it’s an ego trip for people who have a little bit of knowledge and want to exploit it, for whatever reasons they might have.

I’ve written a few things. You’re reading one right now. I liked writing them and I liked reading them, but unfortunately I’m a little bit biased. I have to think about 2 things: why I want to write and how to do it. Ultimately, I write things that I want people to read. If people read my dumb blog posts or whatever, I’m a happy guy. I like to know that I can do something that other people appreciate and say things that make them feel or think. I want to get something out of my head and into theirs. No, not like spit. Gross.

My real problem with depression is that I never have the energy or concentration to do any of the above. I wish I could sit and write and get all of these things out of my head, or eat enough to get really fat. I have these dreams. I want to write a stupid cartoon series. Maybe I could be the next Liberace. I just have to have to get started.

A Brief Story About No One

A Brief Story About No One or: A Practical Guide to Moving On

Once, several years ago, I had a friend. She had a friend, too. In fact, she had several. She dated one, for a while. I think they got along. I don’t really know, because I didn’t know him. I met him, but I didn’t know him. No one did.

In my entire tenure of being around this person, he has probably spoken fewer than four dozen words in my presence. I always assumed he was just reserved, but there was more to it than that. He was removed. He didn’t interact. He wasn’t there. In short, he did not exist.

He stayed at my home once, with his girlfriend. I knew her at the time. I even liked her. As for her boyfriend, he was there. After the weekend they visited, my mother reflected on the experience. “It was like meeting nobody,” she said.

He had one positive attribute, though: he had read and enjoyed House of Leaves, my favorite book. I am always eager to discuss that book and similar works when I get the chance. He said he liked it, so I made a decision. I lent him another book by the same author, The Fifty Year Sword.

The Fifty Year Sword is a limited-edition book by Mark Z. Danielewski. It was released in the Netherlands in 2006. 1000 English and 1000 Dutch copies were printed, first editions. The English copies sold quickly because of the popularity of Danielewski’s first book. 1000 additional copies were printed. Those second editions were much easier to find and purchase (on the Internet). I found a Netherlands-based site that sold books in English. They had The Fifty Year Sword, so I bought it. It cost €39.90, which came to about $60 after shipping.

When it arrived after several weeks later, it was a bit warped. Other than that, the book was fine. I read through it and found that it was a fantastic short story presented in a bizarre and interesting fashion. Despite the expense, I was convinced then (and now) that it was a worthwhile purchase.

After my suicide attempt in 2009, I had to leave Lincoln in a hurry, but he still had the book. I had several higher priorities at the time, so I kept forgetting to get in touch and ask for it back. Every attempt at contacting him since then has failed, and there have been several. Each time I get in touch with him, he responds once, halfheartedly, and never again. I have been unable to arrange even the simplest conversation, even to get the book returned in the mail at my expense.

After a couple of years, I finally decided to replace the book, from yet another Dutch website, for the same price as before. The exchange rate had improved, so it only came to $50 that time. I still have that copy of the book, but I will never lend it out.

So if the book was so expensive and important, why did I lend it out? Because I wanted him to read it. Because no one I know has ever read it. Unfortunately, that’s still true. He never read the book. No one has.

Recently, another friend who has read House of Leaves expressed interested in reading this rare book. I wanted to lend out my copy, but I won’t do it again at that price, even though I trust this person. I have been forced to learn my lesson.

Of course, I could buy another one. I could get it on a Dutch website for €42. I could get it on an American website for $275. I could get a signed copy on ebay for $500.

The problem is, I don’t really want the fucking book back. I want it to be read. I want to know that somewhere, it’s being read by real people. Not under a stack of nerdy books and shitty manga in no one’s apartment.

Looking back on this experience, I’m forced to acknowledge my own stupidity. Why lend out a significant book to someone you don’t know? He might not even read it.

But I can always be consoled by the fact that I didn’t really lend it out to anyone. Just no one.

A Candid Letter to a Nameless Individual

Mark and I were talking today about unshakable faith in the context of religious doubt and baseless arguments. Naturally, you were the first person who came to mind. I thought briefly about the past and came to a few conclusions.

I met you through your former boyfriend. I was never a huge fan of his, but we were casual acquaintances. Between your stories about the relationship and his frenzied, uncontrolled approach to sparring in Taekwondo, it was clear that he was a lot more fucked up than he appeared to be. Yet you decided that the relationship was more important than your religion. Thereafter, you had to decide between the two each month. I suggested you flip a coin and commit, but you didn’t.

I was there. I talked with you. I supported you as much as I could. I got sick of hearing about it. In fact, I intended to write a poem about your recurrent emotional breakdowns (break-ups?). Honestly, I couldn’t get past the first and last lines: “How many times has it ended this way? … and finding the world’s not the bright place you think it is.” My patience for poetry lasted about as long as my patience for your perennial discontent. Each time, it seemed your conclusion was the same: get closer to Jesus.

I have to be honest, though. You were a friend then and you would still be a friend now. The reason you aren’t has something to do with you. I’m sure of it. Apparently I wasn’t grateful enough for your efforts to help me after my suicide attempt. It seems that on those days, it was difficult to be my friend. I can’t imagine what that is like.

It turns out, friendship is not so simple. Some days, it’s downright difficult to be friends with someone. Never mind that it’s easy on other days, those aren’t the problem. Anyway, the word for people like you is “sunny day friends.” See, those beatiful, sunny days where I was around were easy, but it turns out that a suicide attempt is a fairly long storm. As I predicted, the world’s not the bright place you think it is. Or thought it was. I even understand you might have finally flipped a coin and come up tails. Or heads, whichever is the opposite of Christian.

So we don’t talk. We don’t chat online. You don’t interact with me. What’s the point of this letter? I just wanted to say it, because I’ve been thinking about it. After all, I really doubt you’ve read this. If you did, congratulations. Now go and cry about it.

Love from Leavenworth,
-Steven Motherfucking Davis.

Prepare for Excitement

I have a bunch of books I should start reading. I also have many movies in a pile, but I’ve seen most of them, so I am not as eager to work through that stack.

I finally finished the Keys to the Kingdom, a book series I started in high school at some point (junior or senior year, I believe). It had a pretty solid ending, and I’m glad I read it. Reading kids’ fantasy made me want to go through Harry Potter again to relieve memories from a simpler time, so that’s on the list. I also have some mainstream novels, some esoteric stuff, a few graphic novels, and some essays and stuff.

I’m still doing the online classes, and they still suck. Nothing makes me question the education system more than attending a community college (and working there as well. Yeah, I got a job as a student helper, so I do pretty much whatever no one else wants to do and read the rest of the time. 15 hours a week at relatively little pay. While I’m mentioning work, I’m also tutoring math (elementary algebra) for two students. I hate it. Never be a tutor.).

With online classes, the bar is extremely low and people still fail to meet those meager expectations. It amazes me. In my general biology class online, people are supposed to make a (weekly!) original post about the current topic that only has to be 5 sentences. I’m no expert, but I think that’s probably between 50 and 100 words a WEEK. Yet people still don’t write that much. They post 1-sentence responses to other people’s posts that contain amazing typos (I didn’t know there were that many ways of trying to spell some of those words.). I can’t believe this counts as a college-level class.

I’ve managed to go to the gym 3 times a week so far this year, which is pretty good. I’m noticing a bit of progress, but it’s still a huge pain in the ass as far as I’m concerned.

I’m doing paperwork and shit for all of my various pursuits. I had to fill out more forms to be a merit badge counselor, and I had to accept a scholarship for Park University (75%, a pretty impressive bargain. I’ll only be taking like 24 hours next year for a math B.A. Then, who knows.).

I finally found a piano teacher and I’ve taken 3 lessons. I have mixed feelings about it. I like playing the piano, but I hate all of the nitpicky shit she wants me to work on. I hate using the pedal and I don’t pay much attention to dynamics until long after I can play the song.

I hope to visit Lincoln over spring break, and I should work on a campaign for D&D Day. I still don’t have anything in mind for that.

I was going to write a note about cowardice, but I couldn’t get it to work right (maybe I wasn’t courageous enough). Basically the punchline is that I don’t like to take risks and that’s not likely to change. The world is just too dangerous. Better to just relax.

Before I Forget

As many of you probably know already, I was fairly close to attempting suicide again earlier this month, so I checked myself into the hospital in Lincoln. I had made an agreement with my parents that if anything like that happened, I would return to Leavenworth, so I did. I spent another couple of weeks in a psychiatric hospital in Kansas City, and during that stay I began electroconvulsive therapy. I am continuing ECT on an outpatient basis for the next couple of weeks, and I hope to see continued improvement.

ECT is one of the strangest experiences I have ever undergone. For those not in the know, ECT is when a psychiatrist shocks your brain with electricitity until you have a seizure (under anasthesia, of course). It seriously fucks with your memory and confuses the hell out of you. Most of the memory loss is of recent events, and it takes the form of delayed recall. Also, old memories pop back up in your head at random. This has no doubt made me a whole lot of fun to be around, giving my family the opportunity to answer some very strange questions like “what did I do all day yesterday?”

Anyway, it really does seem to have improved my mood, and I am trying to be more patient about achieving my goals. I think I’m going to go back to school in the spring semester, at the local community college. After that, I’m not sure where I want to go, but I’m thinking I’ll finish a degree in math and look at getting one in psychology, a subject that appealed to me long ago but for some reason I abandoned in high school. I need to stop sitting around doing nothing and start actually making an effort with life.

I have a lot more to say about recent events, but my addled brain can’t organize my thoughts properly, so I’ll wait and post again later.

An Update and Some Thoughts on Insanity

This past weekend I went to the great state of Wisconsin with Alan, Lindsay, and Cori. Despite the 10-hour trip each way, it was a good time. We managed to avoid a serious religious debate until about 1.5 hours out of Lincoln. Then it started in full.

Anyway, we slept 5 people in a “3-4 person” tent, and the closeness was pretty impressive. Think sardines. Lindsay got to visit her friend Paul, and the rest of us settled for waffles and pot roast. I also got some exercise running down a hill to the lakeshore and walking back up (ugh). I had some really good raspberry beer, although I was unable to buy some more to bring home. Maybe next time. I also had some Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds. I ate almost the whole bag by myself. I am fat.

Anyway, Paul and his friends were pretty cool, although they ate most of my Nutella. My tolerance for long car trips has increased. I avoided getting drunk and instead enjoyed the humorous exploits of others. I feel I have grown as an individual. Or something.

As for the job hunt, nothing has happened. I continue applying and all I have to show for it is the occasional automated rejection notice. I am on the alert for updates however. I also need to find a gym in the area and begin a for real exercise regimen. My other goal is to find a place where I can practice the piano on a daily basis. For that, some patience would be nice, because I still suck at the piano and have no tolerance for it. My only hope for improvement is ceaseless practice and something that I enjoy playing.

Money is starting to run short. I know I probably shouldn’t have gone on a trip this weekend, but it was worth the enjoyment. I’m good for another month, but after October I’m going to be sweating for cash. I hope I have some job prospects by the beginning of October or I won’t be able to build a bankroll for November. One opportunity that looks good is being a police dispatcher. I’m hoping to at least be asked to take the exam, because I will probably kick ass at it. No news on that front until Sept. 25, though.

I am having to miss out on movies in theaters, but I at least have digital cable to fall back on. New Top Chef and Dinner Impossible tomorrow! I love my food programs. Fatness ahoy. Anyway, there are few really exciting movies coming up. so I don’t mind a bit of a wait. I do miss Netflix, but even $15 a month can be prohibitive.

Tomorrow I’m planning on discussing religion with Alan. I enjoy a good argument/discussion, particularly when it comes to religion or politics, because they are just so damned fun. Besides, I have to evaluate my own beliefs once in a while.

I’ve been musing since my suicide attempt on what insanity means. I’ve been meaning to mention it somewhere but I keep forgetting. Anyway, here I go.

When you break it down to the simplest components, insanity is just a shift. It works like this: one day, something that seemed unreasonable for your whole life suddenly makes perfect sense. You wonder why you never thought of it before. Suicide is one such thing. It seems like a perfect solution to all your problems, even though most people would disagree. That’s another part of insanity: minority opinion. Anything you believe that falls below a certain percentage of the population is probably insane.

That’s about all I have figured out. I’m still trying to figure out what it all means, though.

Speaking of insanity, I met my the new psychiatrist I’m going to work with in Lincoln. The whole place was very big and not at all what I’m used to. My psychiatrist in KC worked alone and made his own appointments and everything. This place was a large, well-oiled machine. I much prefer the more personal approach, but then again I haven’t met my therapist yet. So I suppose we’ll see what happens.

I just hope the job hunt improves. That might be asking too much though, because my resume/background record pretty much sucks ass. Sigh.

Uncomfortable Truths and a Few Opinions

I have no idea what a mathematician does. I’ve spent 5+ semesters studying to be one, but any time I try to learn more about the work itself, I make no progress. Last summer I spent 10 weeks on a real mathematical research project, which consisted almost entirely of doing nothing and some minor programming. Any time I take a math class it’s all very straightforward, basic introductions to a field with no information about what good it is or what people do with it. There’s nothing like that in any math class. I don’t know why.

I am terrible at interviewing for jobs. However, I have to find a job soon or I will be forced to eat dirt. I’m trying to find clerical work or something like that, but I have no degree and few marketable skills. All of the good jobs require at least one of those two things. What’s more, my resume sucks and I have no references. All of my previous jobs are school-related. I had to put “health problems” as my reason for leaving my most recent job, which they say you shouldn’t do. I have no other option, as far as I can tell. Plus I have no self-esteem and I’m socially inept.

Talk therapy does not make your life suck less. It barely helps you deal with what’s going on, much less the entirety of your problems. It is like building a sand castle to protect you from a tidal wave of shitty events.

Psychiatric drugs are pretty much bullshit. I feel at this point that Ecstasy would do nothing to improve my mood. I’ve been sticking with a combination since July, but I now realize that it did nothing except squeeze a tiny breath into the lungs of my optimism, which has now been conclusively expelled.

Speaking of expelled, I am banned from the UNL campus. After they finally provided a list of requirements for my readmission, which I admit is a reasonable, they also added that until I fulfill them I am forbidden from entering any University of Nebraska property. I suppose that after they denied me readmission without due process, they probably feared that I know how to make high explosives in addition to poison (I do.). I can also do smoke bombs.

I never want to go back to school, but I will probably have to. I can’t imagine keeping my mind engaged without doing some kind of academic work. I also can’t imagine waiting a year to continue work on my degree, which will probably take several more credit hours of bullshit classes if I go to another university. My impatience is really kicking in now that I have no future.

In other news, my older dog seems to be dying. She has heart problems now and is taking aspirin every day, but given her current heartbeat, I think the end is in sight. She’s had a good run, though, and she definitely doesn’t do much anymore. I wonder if she’s in pain most of the time.

As for the rest of my life, it doesn’t seem so good right now. I’m going to end up doing 40 hours a week of shitty work, likely making sandwiches at the local Quizno’s. I can’t visit my friends on campus. I have no money for rent right now. As soon as I have money, I won’t be able to spend it on anything anyway. I can’t play the piano anymore. I’m getting out of shape again but I don’t really care. I can’t sleep. Nothing I ever do provides me with any happiness at all.

The only good news is that my Don Hertzfeldt DVD should arrive on Wednesday. Watch that get fucked up too.

Recent Quotes:

“Being a therapist is like having permission to ask any question.”

“…remember, you always have friends at UNL.”

“95 percent of life is just showing up.”

“Mr. Davis had obtained chemicals in sufficient quantities to produce more than 500 lethal inhalation doses (Merck Index) of HCN [hydrogen cyanide].”

“Your desire to return to UNL is laudable.”