Archive for November, 2008

53 to 32: Your #2 Pencil Won't Save You Here.

So this is how school fucked me up, or at least contributed.

I loved to read when I was a kid. I picked up the skill pretty quickly, and devoured books as fast as Icould get them. Also, I read them. My earliest memory of a favourite series of books were the Charlie Brown Encyclopedias. Do you remember those? They were awesome. Educational and fun, and easy to get into, like sex with a librarian.

By the time I got to the first grade, my reading and comprehension was at an advanced level, and somehow, so was my understanding of math. I don’t know why, I’ve never really had a love of numbers or anything, but math was always quite easy for me.

In light of my super-geniousity, it was decided that I would take grades 1 and 2 in the same year, and effectively skip into grade 3 the next. Apparently the whole skipping grades thing isn’t done so much anymore, but then again, failing kids isn’t done anymore either, so I guess it all evens out.

Looking back, I’m not sure if skipping grade two was a good thing or not. It set me up for a lot of high expectations from myself and my family, took me away from the friends I’d made that were my own age, dropping me into a third grade class full of kids I didn’t know the next year (which was terrifying, I still remember that first day. They all seemed five years older than me). It also probably contributed to my becoming a (mostly self-imposed) social reject in high school.

But at the time, I was just excited. I was getting all this attention. I was “special”, but not in the way that the guy with the hockey helmet who drove around the school looking for sticks to store in the back of his giant tricycle was “special”. I was fucking smart, yo, and being recognized and praised by all these adults for my brilliance.
And all because I liked to read. Not because I tried really hard.

In Elementary school, there never really was an emphasis on homework. As long as you could pass the standardised test for your grade, and showed up, that’s all the government really worried about. Just give the little fuckers enough of a basis so that they aren’t a total waste when they hit high school. Thusly, I was a straight A student all through those grades. I had perfect attendance, and I learned all the stuff the exams required me to learn. Done.

I didn’t start getting lower grades until grade 9, because, all of a sudden, this ‘homework’ shit was actually a significant part of your final grade. “What? Why? If I learn it in the hour it takes the teacher to teach it, what’s the point of spending another hour regurgitating it repetatively? That’s redundant, and a waste of my time.”  So I hardly bothered with homework. I would do the mandatory assignments, papers, etc, and always got great marks on them, and exams were easy, but I became a B student because I refused to waste my time on things I already knew.

My report cards always sang the same refrain. “Chris has a solid grasp on -insert subject here-, is very bright and contributes well to class discussion, but just needs to put more attention into his homework assignments to achieve that better grade”

But my stubborn, spoiled, too smart for its own good brain refused to buy into that. School is about learning, and I was learning perfectly well without having to solve thirty slightly different algebra equations every damn night. It was worth that 10-15% of my mark to basically be lazy. And why not, when you continue to be successful and praised and rewarded and pass all the exams.

Here’s why not, and it’s only recently hit me this simply:

There are no exams in the real world. Nobody cares about what you’ve learned, as much as they care about how hard you work to apply what you know.

Damnit, why didn’t anyone stress that in school? Well, chances are they did, and I was too full of my own awesomeness to pay attention.

So there I was at 17, the youngest in my graduating class, a life full of beliefs that work is for suckers, and that I can do just fine by being smart and a quick learner, reinforced by teachers and parents and the system, only to get dumped into a reality that is somewhere in between where I come from and where someone like my father, the hardworking just to scrape by, old-school work ethic, comes from.

-Uh… shit. What do I do now?


53 to 32 : Work is for Suckers

Getting things done, follow-through, motivation, hard work.

These things tend to go directly against everything that makes me the person that I’ve become, and I’m starting to realize that, if i’m going to be successful at something other than my marriage and a job that pays just enough to get by, then I’m going to have to overcome some pretty deeply ingrained and conflicting aspects of myself.

I was the youngest child in my family by a few years. An accident. Whoops, here I am! By the time I came along, my mom was much more laid back about child-raising, not the stressed out and hard woman my brother and sister had. My dad made enough of a living to provide a childhood for me that was basically middle-classy, but it was a luxury compared to what my siblings had when they were little. I was spoiled, I was ‘the baby’. My sister spent a lot of time looking after me, in the early years when mom was working, so I essentially had two moms. My dad had transitioned from being a ‘company man’ to being self-employed, so he was generally around more when I was a kid.

I never really wanted for anything, never really had to do chores. Life was good, and I didn’t have to work at it.
I don’t know if there’s a man I know with a stronger work ethic than my father. The guy is in his sixties, and is currently building their new house, with little help. If monetary compensation was equal to work ethic, we should’ve been fucking loaded, but I learned early on that life isn’t like that. I saw how asshole celebrities and people who played sports, greedy politicians and corporate douchebags, people who really didn’t seem to have to put in a gruelling 14 hours of work every day, or contribute anything worthwhile, made an obscene amount of money. I saw first hand why hard work is its own reward, because it’s the only damn reward. My dad still has to go work a job in order to pay their bills. I’m not sure if he can afford to retire, and I’m not sure if he’ll know what to do with himself if and when he retires.
Somewhere in my youth I made a decision, that I would not let myself get tricked into a life of working my ass off for nothing. For example, the job I do now, is the most money I’ve ever made, and the most, I don’t know, noteworthy, I guess, kind of position -in that I’m the number-one guy in the country for what I do- and I don’t have to work that hard at it. It’s time consuming, sure, at 40+ hours a week, and I deal with people who make me crazy, and I have to travel a lot to not very glamorous places, but as for actual, real, honest hard work, most days, it’s one of the easier jobs I’ve had. This only reinforces everything I learned from my childhood, and watching what my parents went through.
Now this doesn’t mean I blame my parents for everything that’s wrong with me, (I’m actually very pleased with the person I am, and I largely have my family to thank for that) but how I saw work and reward as a little kid, in my little monkey-sphere part of the world, definitely laid the slacker foundation for the things I now realize I would like to change about myself.
-But nothing fucked me up as bad as school. We’ll get to that tomorrow.


53 to 32: From One Falling Star to Another.

I turn 32 in 53 days, and I’ve decided to do a blog entry every day between now and then. Mostly self-analysis shit, with the goal being that, by my birthday, I have a better understanding of who I am and where I want to take my life. This is something I feel I need to do, and I hope you guys don’t get bored form it, and maybe even get something out of it for yourself. Let’s begin.

I want to start with a couple of my favourite Jack Kerouac quotes, because they sum me up to a certain degree:

“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”


“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”

You see, I have ideas. Oh sweet mercy fuck do I have ideas. So many, so often, and I want to see them all happen. To name a few:

-My webcomics, misplaced, and imaginary enemies.

-Two very different themed video blogs.

-A weekly video introduction on the front page of this site.

-About 3 dozen songs to record.

-About 10 different books to write.

-A dream house to build with my wife. (and some cool ideas surrounding all that)

-An animated feature film that only uses the Nine Inch Nails 2 disk epic “The Fragile”, played from start to finish, as its soundtrack.

-An incredibly awesome concept for a massively multiplayer online game that has (as far as I know) has never quite been done before.

And those are just the ones that currently occupy my mind. There will be more added next week, I’m sure.

While ideas are great, and creativity is what keeps our brains from becoming mere zombie-fodder, I think there is such a thing as idea-overload, and I suffer from it, and it becomes a huge hamper to my ability to follow through. It’s like, all of these ideas make a mad dash to escape my brain, and they all slam into the doorway like some Three Stooges bit, and they just repeat that routine endlessly, which results in nothing happening.

Or, like in the case of the two webcomics that finally managed to escape the bottle-neck, I get on a roll, and start having a lot of fun in the making of them, but then I become distracted by one or more other ideas that are still in the doorjamb brain-scrum, and somehow dwelling on those things cause me to lapse in the existing projects, the follow-through brakes get put on, and I give up on all my ideas, deciding it’s just easier to imagine how cool they would all be, then actually attempt to realize them.

With some ideas, it’s purely a logistics problem. I don’t know anyone in the video game industry, and I would be worried that if I told some random someone my idea, it would get taken and used and I would get neither credit nor compensation. (a scenario which I believe actually happened to my brother-in-law) So that idea will likely not see fruition. That doesn’t mean my brain can just throw away the idea, in fact, I continue to keep thinking and building on my impossible video game concept, I really can’t help it.

Of course, the other roadblock, or excuse (which, if I’m being honest, is probably what it really is) is my job.

What I do to earn the money that pays my mortgage is often stressful, mentally and sometimes physically taxing, and has me traveling for often days at a time, and by the time I get home, whether at the end of the day or end of the week, in one way or another I am simply exhausted, and by the time I have a chance to visit with my wife, play with the dog, and wind down from the day, it’s time to sleep and start it all over again. I’m not saying this to whine, it’s just the truth, and I bet there are a lot of people out there who can relate.

I am working on all of this however, as I think is evidenced by my recent relaunch of misplaced, and finally realizing Imaginary Enemies. It’s a start, but at the same time, it’s not nearly enough. Not nearly as much as I know I could be doing.

Tomorrow, I discuss my biggest obstacle. It’s bigger than my job, or the idea bottleneck. More of a stumbling block than money, time, connections, skill or talent.

-It’s me.


Stuff I Do
  • [SIC] I’m working on recording an album. Follow the progress here.
  • Downloadable Contempt My newest blog, focusing on commentary on music, movies, TV shows.
  • Imaginary Enemies Another webcomic, done in crayon. Still figuring it out.
  • misplaced: the webcomic My photographic webcomic, about action figures. Read by over 4 people worldwide!