Yesterday I Learned … V


Yesterday, I learned that every job has its drawbacks. I learned this when I informed a group how much I now love green bean casserole, and one of my friends said, “I can never eat it again. The sight of it makes me want to hurl.” She explained to us that when she was a member of an Emergency Medical team, they received a call for an overdose. When on this call, she performed mouth to mouth on the victim, and the victim vomited into her mouth. He vomited the last thing he ate, of course, and that happened to be green bean casserole. Today I learned that while every job has its drawbacks, I don’t think I’d be able to become an EMT after hearing this. I come from a long line of strong stomachs. My dad spent a majority of his life eating Swanson’s Mexican TV dinners, and he lived a relatively long life. Yet, I have to imagine that if I was an EMT trainee, and one of the on staff veterans said, “This job has it’s drawbacks,” and they explained the possibility that while trying to resuscitate a victim I might get vomited into my mouth, “I’m out,” would probably my response. “It happens,” is something they might add, “and you have to prepare for that possibility.” If they, then, provided a visual anywhere close to the stomach-turning display in the season 2 finale of Amazon Prime’s Catastrophe, I think half the training class might politely stand and proceed to the nearest exit in an orderly fashion.

Yesterday, I thought about how many exciting opportunities I missed in life. I thought about how cautious I was, and I was cautious, too cautious at times. I probably didn’t have as many opportunities as I think I did, but some were undeniable. I didn’t cash in on them, I tried to avoid talking about them, and yesterday I tried to figure out why. Today, I realized that I based some of these decisions on the unique brand of crazy I knew they had deep inside their Cracker Jack box.

Some of us loved the unique taste of the molasses, caramel confection of popcorn and peanuts the Cracker Jacks company offered, but most of us did not. The flavor isn’t awful by any means, but if someone told the individual, who decided to package and ship the Cracker Jack product, that it would prove a sales juggernaut for over a hundred years, they would probably be surprised. When they heat the confection at a fair, or some outdoor venue that offers it fresh, the adoration for the confection is more understandable, but there was always a certain, stale taste to it in the Cracker Jack Box. Yet, as kids, we always asked for Cracker Jacks as a treat, because the prospect of a prize in each box was tantalizing. The prize often turned out to be as disappointing as the flavor of the super-sweet molasses-flavored caramel coated popcorn and peanuts, but the next time our parents offered us an open invitation to the store shelves, we chose Cracker Jacks again. “Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize” proved a provocative marketing slogan to those of us of a certain age who couldn’t wait for our surprise. Several other enterprises have taken the prospect of a “prize in each container” to greater lengths, but I don’t know if a company did more with less than the Cracker Jack Company and later Borden.

As we made our way out into the world, and we met a number of exotic and beautiful people, some part of our subconscious kept this disappointing allure of a surprise near the bottom of the package in some deep recess of our subconscious. We knew who these people were, and we found their special brand of crazy such a unique characteristic that we considered it engaging and endearing. Imagine, we thought, waking up to meet a new person, in the same person, every day. Chaos and unpredictability can be exciting in the short-term, and when we wrap it up in beautiful packaging, it can be difficult to remain rational. This idea that the surprises inside the box might be disappointing has always stayed with us. We don’t draw any correlations between this innate sense and the disappointment we experienced when we opened the Cracker Jack surprise, but Cracker Jack taught us this emotion well during the formative years of our life. If we ever have a chance to meet those exciting prospects, years later, it dawns on us why we decided to go with what we knew, as opposed to ceding to our impulsive desire to chase the prospects of exciting things. We learned that what makes us healthy, wealthy and wise in the long term is often more important than the prospect of surprising and exciting opportunities.

My kid said something political yesterday. He didn’t know what he was saying. He was repeating what he heard. Some might consider it cute when such a complicated thought comes out of a kid’s mouth. Some might not view statements with which they agree as political. I did, and I found it a little disturbing. Today I realized that I don’t want my kid to be political in any way. I’ve heard kids who have words put into their kid’s mouths by their parents, and it doesn’t sit well with me. Kids aren’t democrats or republicans, they’re kids, and I don’t think we should let our agenda get in the way of their childhood. We should consider it our job to make their childhood last as long as possible.

Yesterday I realized that some of us have problems answering direct questions with direct answers. “I’m going to place my question in the form of a question. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to say yes or no. I don’t want to hear equivocations that contain sections and subsections of the “yes and no” answer. I don’t care if you’re right or wrong, or if I’m right or wrong. I don’t even care if your answer hurts my feelings. Just spit it out for the love of all that’s holy and unholy.” Today, I realized that when I answer direct questions in a direct way the recipient often misinterprets my answer. Their feelings get in the way, they dream up sections and subsections of my answer, and they think I’m wrong about everything all the time. After experiencing this a number of times, it dawned on me that most people answer our questions the way they want us to answer theirs.

Yesterday, I realized that other people don’t always have it better than me. My dad was one of those guys who thought everyone had it better than him. He could walk out of the most flea-ridden, dilapidated home with a week-long smile. “That’s the way to live,” he would say. Influenced by my dad’s thoughts, I revered his people. Even though most of them weren’t living the ideal life, I thought they had something going on that I wasn’t able to process yet. Today, I realized that most of those people were younger than I am now, and age tends to emulsify delusions. My dad believed in them though, so I believed in them.

Yesterday I realized my friend’s parents were younger than I am now when I first met them. I remember thinking that they had it all together, and they knew more about life than anyone I ever met. I believed my friend’s propaganda about his parent’s level of intelligence and success. Today, I realized I bought into all that because he did.

Yesterday I learned that when we have nothing to complain about we will find something. Today, I learned that one of the reasons we complain is that we’re not happy, and the idea that something new can make us happy often results in disappointment and more unhappiness. I also learned that buying things makes us happy, and when that happens begins to abate, we repeat the formula, until we realize we can’t buy happiness.

Yesterday, I learned that there is a blueprint to success, and it should be our goal in life to learn it and follow it. Some try to deconstruct and reconstruct that path in a contrived manner. They are rarely successful. Today, I learned that those who won’t follow it are afraid of the risks involved. “What if we fail?” they ask. I’m a firm believer in the fact that the greater the risk, the greater the success if one succeeds.

Yesterday, I learned that politicians are here to help us. Some of them devote their lives to serving in government. Today, I wondered how often we should be grateful for their lifelong devotion to public service, as it pertains to a representative sitting in one of our seats of government for 20+ years. Some might herald such a lifelong commitment, but I think we can all admit that serving in the federal government provides a representative an undue level of influence almost unparalleled in America today. I think we can also suggest that some 20+ year representatives fall prey to satisfying their own narcissistic will to power.

Yesterday, I learned how important it is to have a philosophy for just about everything we do. Today, I learned that we all have some advice to pass on. As someone who didn’t date as often as I could have, I’m probably the wrong person to turn to for dating advice. I didn’t enjoy dating, because I hated all the messy emotional entanglements. I didn’t want to get into a relationship, find out I didn’t like it, and end up hurting a girl’s feelings. On top of that, I avoided women I thought might end up hurting my feelings. My friends and family told me that I overthought the matter. I probably did. On the few dates I went on, I probably wasn’t very good at it. I enjoyed women learning more about me than I did about them. I have talked to enough people who loved to date and did it as often as they could, however, and the following is a list of advice I heard from them: 

1) Most of us are very insecure individuals and dating people reveals our flaws. The people we date will break our hearts and leave us as if we’re starting over, but it’s important to date as often as we can when we’re young.

2) Don’t marry the first person with whom you share a spark. The reason we love the stories of the high school sweethearts who stay married for thirty years is that they’re rare. I’ve heard some theorize that we’re so different every ten years that we’re almost completely different people. I’m not sure how true that is, but there’s enough truth to it that if we marry a person who isn’t willing to change with us, it can get messy and result in a messy separation.  

3) A friend of mine came from a culture of arranged marriages. She said she believed arranged marriages were the ideal way for young people to marry. We didn’t agree with her, but she had an interesting point, “We don’t make quality decisions when we’re young. Our parents not only view matters from a perspective outside romance, but they’re wiser and they have more experience.” Most of us stated we wouldn’t want to see what our parents pick for us, and we thought we were wiser and more experienced than our parents were. This conflict introduced the strange mixture of confidence and insecurity we had when we were young. We’re confident that we know more than our parents do, and we have a general sense of arrogance in this regard, but we’re so insecure about our choices that we tend to stick with the one who brought us.

4) We shouldn’t stay in a relationship for the sole reason that we’ve invested so much time, effort, and emotion into it that we don’t want to start over again. We’ve all been burned, and we remember that when things start to go awry with our current significant other. We don’t break up with them, because we don’t want to go through that turmoil again.

5) “I didn’t enjoy dating either,” one person said, “but don’t make the mistake I made of thinking that you might be letting the right one slip away.” Such an admission is always uncomfortable to hear, and we’ve all heard some people openly admit it, but we rarely hear it when the significant other is listening in on the conversation.

6) Date the good the bad, and the ugly. That trail will help us make an informed decision when we think we’ve met “the one”. When we date, we see qualities in another that we enjoy in some and those we don’t in others, and we learn a lot about ourselves along the way.

7) Date with the mindset that you know nothing about the other party. Those who experience success in any field learn to focus on what they don’t know as opposed to what they do. We should use this mindset when it comes to dating. We should enter into every relationship with the mindset that don’t know anything about the other party of a relationship, except the qualities that they enjoy sharing with us. Most of the people we date aren’t dishonest in the sense that they’re lying or being phony, they’re just their best self when you’re around.

8) Meet their friends and family and watch how they interact with them. How different are they around their people? Are we seeing the person they are around their friends, or are we gaining quality insight into who they are? What are the differences between the person we know and the person their friends and family know?

9) Introduce your significant other to your friends and family. When we’re young, we walk around with an “I don’t care what anyone thinks” mentality. Dump that in these encounters. If they find faults with our significant other, our initial instinct is to suggest they don’t know them as well as we do. That’s going to be true, but is there anyone who cares more about the decisions we make than our family? As someone who has lost a number of intimate family members who cared about me, I now know what a precious commodity they are in life. It doesn’t mean they’re right of course, but their perspective is one we should value. Also, know that most of our people are not jealous, and they aren’t overreacting. They know that we’re proud of this individual we selected, but they care about us, and they don’t want to see us make what they regard as a mistake. Is it a mistake? They don’t know, and we don’t know, but our best bet is to make an informed decision.  

10) If the relationship moves into a more serious phase, take a vacation with them to take them out of their element. Watch how they act around flight attendants, waiters, and hotel staff. How do they react to unnecessary delays, cancelled hotel reservations, hotel amenities, and all of the other mishaps that happen on vacations? 

11) The final, and perhaps most crucial question, who are we around them? Are we putting our best foot forward? We all develop a façade of sorts around the people with which we spend significant amounts of time. We are different around them than we are our mother, for example, or our best friend. Do we like the people we are around them, and if so why? If not, can we change that persona, and if we do, will they still like us?

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