When the Shit Hits the Fan

It’s Thursday.  I completely forgot until about an hour ago.  Sure, every time I look at my phone it tells me the date but I never made the connection that it was Thursday and that Thursday is when I usually post on my blog.  Oh boy.  Zombie alert!

Well, let’s see.  I started a second job this week.  Unpaid.  Also part time.  It is very exciting and interesting, but like I said, unpaid.  I guess one could call it an internship, but my official title is “Communications Consultant” which I find much more interesting than lowly intern.  (Lowly wasn’t part of the job description).

I’m working for a non-profit organization called Reach Out and Read which is a youth literacy promotion program part of the Illinois Chapter of the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics (shameless plug? Yes. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!)  I get to be innovative and creative which is great.  I have always been a huge book lover so this is a great fit for me personally.

The paid job I currently work is going well, but I have to start at 7 am in order to get downtown for the afternoon for my other job.  This must be what adulthood feels like; getting up ungodly early, pushing through work, commuting, getting home and wanting to do absolutely nothing but knowing you have to get ready for the next day and also go to bed at a decent time.  Also, having no idea what day it is.  Ok, so adult life without kids at least.

The company that owns the chain of stores I work for announced last week that they are looking to pull out of the industry by the end of the year.  They’re going to sell their stores individually so we don’t know if our store is going to be picked up by a buyer or if it will close and we’ll all be out of jobs.  On top of all of us wondering, the company (Safeway) selling is making front page news regularly because this decision is so abrupt and potentially devastating.  Yay!

I got in my first car accident this week.  Thankfully no one was hurt and my car is repairable, but not as cheaply as I could hope for.  At least I’m alive, well, etc. etc. but I’m also poor.

Also, I’m developing a large zit on my nose that is red and makes me look like Rudolph.  I think it might be stress-induced.

Usually I try to tie together my post with a theme or advice or just a thought for the week, but honestly I’m having a hard time pulling this all together.  I guess my conclusion is yes, sometimes life can suck.  Sometimes the shit can all hit the fan at once, but your attitude can make a difference.  I personally am not nearly as freaked out about all of this week’s events as I would expect myself to be.  I think I can attribute that to being forced to be positive and polite to customers on a daily basis no matter how rude they might be or if they’re interrupting me.  You learn to just roll with it and a little perspective can help you realize what’s worth spending your energy on.  If you’re having a shitty week, I hope it gets better.  If you’re not, I’m glad!  Try to stay positive people.

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Lazy Relationships

Letting someone down.  We’ve all done it.  We offer up our time and then take it back.  We help someone out and then when we could really use help, the person that promised to return the favor metaphorically (or maybe even literally) closes that door in your face.

Is it human nature to let down the people around us?   The people that need us?  It seems to be a cultural norm when it comes to friendships.  The friend that is so grateful that you listen to their problems time and again, but when you have your own problems to sort through, they have a million things to do and life is soooo crazy right now.  Or the friend that constantly says “Let’s catch up soon, I’ll text you!” and never texts you.  Or even the friend that makes the plans and then at the last second always has something life-or-death come up out of the blue.

There are probably countless times that we’ve told ourselves “Oh, that’s just who so-and-so is.  They’re always like that.”  Why though?  Is it because we let our relationships consist of this kind of behavior?  Are we just too nice and accepting sometimes?  These are all questions I’ve struggled with and I have to admit, the closer you are to the person that disappoints you, the more it hurts.  The more of yourself you invest in someone, the more open you are to getting hurt.  I’ve always been (what I believe to be) a nice person.  I’m not the most trusting immediately or even the friendliest.  But I believe every person deserves a chance until they do something to lose my trust or respect.

Are niceness and weakness synonymous today?  I think this is a difficult question to answer, but my observations and experiences have led me to believe that the nicer you are, the harder it is to rely on the people around you.  I also believe that being nice gets you a lot farther when the opposite approach would be to just piss everyone off, resulting in everyone walking away angry.

So, if you have the opportunity to do something for someone this weekend, take advantage of that opportunity.  Take advantage of these opportunities because once they’re gone you can’t get them back.  Investing isn’t just a financial term, it applies to relationships too.  Invest and then reap the rewards, friends.  If your friend asks you to move and you say you can’t because you’re busy but really were just planning on binge-watching Netflix and eating a dozen donuts, you should help your friend.  Netflix and those donuts will be there when you finish helping your friend.  (Maybe the donuts won’t be, but if you leave them out that’s on you friend).

How to Tell a Story

All the advice I have ever received regarding writing has one thing in common: capture the readers’ attention right away.  Whether you start your piece with dialogue to immediately draw the reader in or are writing something more research based, you have to capture the reader’s attention quickly; readers these days don’t always have long attention spans.

Recently I finished watching Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, The Civil War.  I have learned a bit about the Civil War before, including visiting Gettysburg on a family vacation in middle school.  Burns took educating his viewers about the Civil War to the next level; he told stories that people of modern society could identify with even though our lives are probably nothing like the lives of old.  When I think of history I sometimes can only see all the facts that can seem hard to remember or digest.  There is not quite the same personal aspect to history if you only focus on facts and military strategies.

What really captured my attention was the way Burns overlapped sound effects and bites over still photographs taken during the war.  He didn’t spend time trying to recreate the war, he used actual documentation.  One wouldn’t think that in a world with all this special effect technology that you could be “wowed” by black and white photographs accompanied by cannon fire sound effects, but I was drawn in to these scenes.

The other method that really drove home the emotions of the war was the use of narration of letters and writings from the time period.  Of course the readers of these pieces were recognizable actors, but if Morgan Freeman can’t make you feel something you must have a heart of stone.

Historians like Shelby Foote played an important role in the story-telling process.  I hadn’t personally heard of Foote before the documentary, but he was filled with anecdotes and knowledge as if he had just dropped by from 1863.  He really gave the documentary that personal edge that helped viewers identify with specific individuals in addition to the facts and names of battles.

In the closing episode of the documentary, Foote said something that really made me think:
“If we’d been anything like that superior as we think we are, we would not have fought that war.  But since we did, we have to make it the greatest war of all times and our generals were the greatest generals of all time.  It’s very American to do that.”

Here I was all excited about all this knowledge I had acquired about the Civil War and desiring to learn more about what made this war.  I think the significance of Burns using this quote—along with different perspectives throughout the entire documentary—was to remind us that there isn’t always one right way to think.  Obviously one goal of the war was the abolition of slavery, but when the Union was reinstated, the southern part of the country didn’t necessarily simply adopt the values and beliefs of their defeaters.

It is important to stand up for what you believe in and, as one historian in the documentary put it, this war was a testament to the power of popular majority.  She said that just because the war ended doesn’t mean we aren’t still fighting aspects of it today.  So, not only did I finish this documentary more informed, I also walked away from it thinking.  I think that is a sign of a good story-telling.  Burns created a credible piece that made the viewers walk away unable to easily forget what they had just watched.