creativity, personal, philosophy, psychology, spirituality

I’m going to act like I posted this before midnight

It has been almost three weeks since I have posted anything on this blog. During that time…there has been a lot happening. Not all of it am I prepared to share my innermost thoughts on, nor do I see an immediate tangible benefit to doing so. Because I’ve been like this for a few weeks…I’ve had something of a hesitance to write online.

It’s fairly obvious why I would feel some relief right now. Not enough to feel entirely safe, given the ugly and dangerous reality of the wider circumstances, but somewhat better. In particular, I felt better today. Of course. It was a dose of sanity. Of hope. A reset to the idea of rightness; that it could exist, that it did exist.

Of course, to mirror but reverse an idea from the Dao De Jing that has come up on my Reader: if you can see wrongness, you create rightness.

I haven’t felt totally safe since elementary school, to let you know. I have heard that this is a mental abnormality: that it is “normal” to feel safe in this world; that the feeling of the world not being a safe place…apparently ideally shouldn’t happen. But the world is the world, and to me the bare fact is that living in the world isn’t safe, and probably never has been safe. That safety is an illusion granted by privilege. The most apparent alternative to living in the world is being dead, however, and so you take what you can get.

About a week ago, I set an intention to focus just on self-care: cooking, eating, sleeping, exercise, and hygiene. To my surprise, after I set that intention…I gained the energy and motivation to work on my crafts. And not, you know, deride them as “just” crafts. They are crafts. But they’re elevated, now. I know I’m using quality materials. I know what I create has value. I know my workmanship and responsibility is sound. I know I’m not wasting my time. I know that just because a lot of women do it, that doesn’t make it trivial. The approach is different.

At first, it was just working on the face masks. I found a tutorial by Marcy Harriell (see below) which I’ve successfully altered to fit my face (at least), and…well, I’ve been waiting for a mandatory mask order to come down. It’s not like anyone’s going anywhere anytime soon anyway, but anyhow…it’s nice to be prepared.

(You see what I did there.)

Face mask tutorial by Marcy Harriell, as it has been passed along like a game of Telephone, through the Interwebs…

That, again, was why I had set my intention on being more active in our cooking. My being incompletely capable of taking care of myself was just adding an extra layer of stress to the Corona pandemic plus rule-by-meme. So…the thing I can do about that, is participate. And learn.

I’m pretty good at learning, after all.

The other thing I’ve been doing, aside from research on dealing with this whole potential self-employment thing — and washing my hands too much — is working with seed beads. I still don’t know why I love little glass beads so much. They don’t have a lot of intrinsic value…but they are pretty.

And I really don’t know why I place value on aesthetic pleasure. It…makes no logical sense to me. Aesthetic pleasure, period, doesn’t make sense to me. But maybe that’s just my left brain not understanding what my right brain is doing. My right brain has a mind of its own, however, and my left brain has never been able to completely crush it.

What I do know is that the art of making things is probably a core, fundamental trait of humanity. We live with the culmination of the accumulation of knowledge and technology that has been passed down to us over the ages. In that way, we’re incredibly lucky and privileged.

In the same way…have we forgotten our wisdom?

The development seems to go: data is the source of information; information is the source of knowledge; knowledge is the source of wisdom. (I don’t know where experience factors in there; it wasn’t so much on the plate in my Information Science program.) I forget who hypothesized this. However, it’s very clear what happens when the train is hijacked so that information is proposed which is based on biased, unclear, deliberately obfuscated, or no data…and people run with it.

I am constantly surprised, both in myself and in others, how much we tend to trust that the information which comes to us is fundamentally sound. For me, this is especially in regard to books. I still remember reading a Physical Anthropology text in High School which I assumed was true because I found it in my school library and I thought that I could trust that what was written — and what was in the library — was based on sound knowledge.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned that it was not a good idea to trust information in books just because of the manner of delivery of the message. Nor was it a good idea to trust information in the library just because it was in the library. There are reasons not to trust old Physical Anthropology texts. Primarily because they tended to forward the myth that 1) there were, “races,” 2) that some, “races,” were superior to others based on form, 3) that different, “races,” were intrinsically different in some way which explained what could alternately be explained by, a) culture, and, b) a legacy of structural and institutional racism — or, a history of treating people categorically differently based on their appearances.

(Which, by the way, also implicates sexism. But due to length, that’s probably another entry.)

These are things that even today we have a hard time arguing against, because everyone has been taught this. (Not to say that everyone believes it.) It is part of what Sociology understands as, “hegemony,” or the currently-accepted view of the world which holds in place its underlying power structures.

Of course, though, my school library wasn’t quite good enough to teach us about Intellectual Freedom and the idea that, “the solution to a bad book is a good book.” That American libraries lean away from censorship, in general; that, “the books on the shelves should be at war with each other.” That it was the reader’s task, not the library’s, to decide what they would accept and what they would reject. That it’s good to operate on the premise that no author is unbiased (after all, they had enough of an interest to write a book; it’s hard not to have an opinion on an obsession). That it’s good to question why this author wants me to believe what they’re saying — which may be a hidden proposition.

Then again…it’s known in the Library community that many school libraries are run by people who are not professional Librarians. I suppose there is a reason to require a degree.

But all of that has to do with the left brain — reason, logic, analysis; you know. Fact-checking. Reality. There is — at least — another entire side to the brain that has to do with things that are ineffable, indescribable; drives that we don’t understand, or that we don’t want to understand; maybe, don’t have the ability to understand. That which makes living so vibrant, and can be subverted to such catastrophic ends. Things like religion, devotion, life purposes, identity. Any one of these topics is rife to set someone off if they’re challenged on them.

A major problem here, however, is that the brain seems set up to believe its own hype. It’s rare to find a person who is willing to state that their own beliefs may be (or are) mistaken, though it’s exceedingly common to find fault in others’ beliefs. Both of these things cannot be simultaneously true for everyone, everywhere, all the time — at least, if you subscribe to the idea that we all live in the same world. (That idea can be — has been — questioned.)

These things, like identity, are also answers to very personal questions. I know; I’ve been through the wringer with them. At this time, at least, though…I can see the urgency here. Who am I? What do I want out of life? Why am I here? Does the world inside my head match up with what’s outside? Where am I totally off? How can I tell if my thoughts are accurate?

It goes on.

I’m not sure if these are Existentialist questions, but they very much sound like them, to me. The reason I’m unsure is that I have hardly been able to tolerate reading Existentialist authors to the point where I really understood them. Sometimes you just don’t want to understand, you know? Sometimes it just hurts too much, to try and see things the way the author saw them, because then you see their pain, the way they’re trapped. And you can’t do much of anything about it, or for them.

And then there is the question of whether these questions have arisen because of a relative vacuum of wisdom…particularly where it comes to the obliteration of traditional knowledge. And I don’t know if that’s linked to the intentional obliteration of cultures that we’ve experienced in this country. But filling that gap by worshiping the next thing that comes along, is extremely dangerous.

But that drive — to devote oneself to something or someone — I entirely understand. I also understand how that drive can be manipulated, how emotions can interfere with disentanglement.

I’ve spent a fairly large portion of my life trying to comprehend the problem of evil, as I was harmed in my formative years by people who treated me poorly and at the same time claimed goodness and righteousness for themselves. As an adult, now, I have a fairly clear picture of what evil is. I lament what had to happen in the world for that picture to become clearer.

What I can say is that, unfortunately, my mind — as driven to pessimism as it is; as much as I may protest — can envision some fairly dark scenarios as regards what is not yet existent, and what may never be existent. I can see, that is, what some people wish this world to be — or, perhaps more to the point, don’t care if they turn it into. (It would take an actually malevolent person to intend to poison the water table, that is, or to intend to treat people as livestock, rather than doing it as a means to some end [like money]. As horrific as evil is, I’m coming to the opinion that evil at least does not begin as an end in itself. But then again, I don’t read a lot of True Crime, and I don’t have the relevant psychology to understand from within.)

There is the frank self-centeredness that allows some people to treat other people as tools to be used and discarded; the mental prisons that so many are trapped within. Wealth, power, control, destruction. For what reason? Or are there simply no ethical ground rules that cause one to value the lives of others, simply for the sake of those lives? Not for their use in one’s own personal game, not for the sake of one’s own fame and fortune, not for the use of them in attempted violent overthrows to put one into power? Life is holy. Do we not understand that?

And if one knows one is being used in this way, to be discarded, why does one tolerate it?

Right now: where I’m at, we are dealing with a trifecta of crises. There is the coronavirus pandemic. There is recent terrorist activity. There is a major economic downturn. They’re all interrelated and hazardous in their own ways. They’re all either due to, or made worse by, an abdication of responsible leadership which started a long time ago…if it ever began.

In this situation, I can’t be sure of what lies in the future. We have had a recent outbreak of a variant of SARS-CoV-2 titled L452R, due to a superspreader event in a local hospital which infected…I can’t even remember how many people. The number keeps rising. The latest count I find says 92.

In the face of possible death, for myself, for my caretakers: maybe accepting the fact of mortality is best. In light of that, perhaps it is best to look forward to living the most full, enjoyable, brilliant, vibrant life possible. While still, of course, keeping ourselves and each other, as safe as possible. Right now I have the possibility of doing what I love. Out of sheer love. It doesn’t take much. I don’t have to go out. And we have another year to weather, of calls to make, of video chats through which to nurture each other.

If this is the tail end of my time here, I’m not going to waste it.

Caring about each other, caring for ourselves — isn’t that the nature of love? Our lives are precious, and we don’t know how long they’ll continue. Right? Our ancestors must have known this. When the life expectancy is only 35 years…yeah, I mean…you take what you can get, you enjoy what you have, you trust that what brought you into being will not extinguish you…and if it does, you won’t be around to care. It’s odd that I would see that as a positive scenario, either way…but I’ve been suicidal, before. I’ve had a long time to think about this.

I’ve had time to prepare, to put my thoughts in order, to realize a mission. Even if I haven’t yet completed whatever I’m supposed to do, I know there’s a reason I’m here: even if I have to continue that mission after death. And I know now that there was truth to my visions as a youth. I know that I have value as myself. And I can walk further along the path of love and curiosity and do what I’m led to. The spirits don’t show me everything at once. They will only show me the next step. And I…can take the next step.

All of this is more than most people are granted. It’s just…how wonderful is it to be able to give oneself permission to be vibrant? To live?

Living…the task of living, is work. And it can be scary. But it can also be filled with joy.

If we trust.

personal, psychology, self care

The reason why I was in classes

It’s been a little less than two weeks since classes have ended, and I’m noticing warning signs that I’m headed into a depression. Though, truthfully — at an early stage, who can tell? It might be a number of other things.

To be honest, though, I feel like my OCD is going into overdrive, and that’s why my mood is collapsing. I need to be actually making things, or doing something to occupy my mind, to tone down the paranoia (I wouldn’t be surprised if my amygdala were responsible [I wonder how ironic it is to be angry at one’s own amygdala] but I don’t really know).

I mean, there’s, “appropriately concerned,” and then there’s, “overtly paranoid.” In the middle of a surge in the middle of a pandemic, from the inside of a mind that has had to deal with obsessive thoughts around contamination for the last 26 years or so, which for a long time have felt normal (though questionable enough now to voice)…it can be hard to really understand the difference between appropriate concern and irrational hyper-concern.

I would think people would say that it isn’t possible to be too concerned: but trust me, it is. When you wash your hands to the point of their cracking and bleeding so that they no longer form a barrier against the thing you’re scared of touching, that’s overdoing it.

I’m at the point where I’m pretty certain that I would not be functional in a job right now, and my Vocational program is an unwelcome intrusion in my life. I’m having a hard enough time dealing with things coming into the house, when I’m not even the main person touching those things. I’m having a hard time touching fabric (and letting that fabric touch other fabric) which has last touched another human besides myself, two weeks ago. Can I then safely put any of that up to my face and breathe through it? We’re talking about viral half-lives, not viral extinctions.

This is not…well…I guess I can understand now why this illness alone qualifies me as disabled.

It doesn’t help, though, when there is some validity to the paranoia, and my paranoia in fact may help keep me alive (which is likely the reason it still exists in humans). That doesn’t mean it’s easy to live with, or that it isn’t instigating other mental disorders like depression. Anxiety — let alone constant anxiety — can do that.

I’m thinking I need to be doing something — anything (that isn’t drugs or eating or sodas or shopping sprees…or, sleep) — to be dealing with this. Even video games might be a step up, though I question how much a certain favorite game is going to alleviate the pain. :) Somehow, being trapped in a constantly morphing prison full of death doesn’t sound like wholesome fare when I’m feeling like this. Kudos if you know what game I’m talking about.

Of course, though: I was supposed to exercise earlier, and just didn’t. I got involved in something else. I did take Vitamins B-Complex and D, however…which should help. (I’ll take them again, tomorrow.) So should actually getting some sleep…it’s 12:50 AM here, at the moment, though I got out of bed sometime around 1:30 PM, if my memory’s correct.

Yeah, maybe tomorrow…I’ll make a point out of working with the beads (not the masks, unless I’m really OK with it) and getting some exercise and taking a shower. Even though I don’t really…feel like exercising. But that’s probably normal, when you haven’t exercised in weeks. My weight has been edging up due to inactivity and my medications. If I can consistently hold to 5 or 6 lbs. below my current weight, average — the weight I was at, at the beginning of lockdown — that would at least be a start. (I tend to set my goals too high, and then get demoralized and never even really try to reach them.)

Or maybe I should just designate a time to work out and stretch and get my heart rate up — and shower — every other day or so, without worrying about the weight component. The issue is that I work out and then crave sugar. That worked when I had a 20-year-old metabolism; not so much, now. Somehow I don’t think that eating the equivalent of two dinners, after working out and walking everywhere, is going to fly, now.

Of course…no, I haven’t tried walking everywhere…but there’s nowhere to walk to for any purpose, around here. It helps to walk when there are, you know, things within walking distance…but such is not the case at this point.

And, I suppose, it is possible that we’ll all make it through this, alive. It’s telling that I never even thought of that, until just now…

money, personal, self care, small business planning

Still alive.

Thankfully, yes, life still continues in my corner of the world.

I’ve been doing a lot of jewelry design work and, concomitantly, a lot of beadwork. I’ve got three piles of fabric to iron (I was afraid washing yellows with any other color might dull them: so there were blue + green, violet + red, and yellow + orange, loads). At the outset of lockdown, I didn’t realize that buying a relatively small amount of elastic would make it so that I wouldn’t have to spend 40 minutes per face covering (?), and I-don’t-even-want-to-count how many yards of fabric, making ties.

Winter weather has set in, meaning that now, rain and cold temperatures (as cold as it normally gets, here) are normal. Today Yesterday, the first loads of vaccine were shipped out, and the President-Elect was officially voted into office. I also learned what “dumpster fire” meant, a few days ago…and realized why some people were using the term…!

So even though it’s cold and rainy, things aren’t really so bad. Both my parents are still alive, no one’s sick (that I know of). Even though I did lose two of my older relatives earlier in COVID lockdown, and two other relatives are either going through chemotherapy or healing from injuries that could have killed them had the spirits not been with them…we haven’t lost anyone else, so far.

I also haven’t been applying for jobs. I’ve been, well, making things. Of course, one of my first pieces went out to a new friend who should be testing out the clasp mechanism for me. I haven’t quite…clarified?…that with them, though?

So, Xmas is just about 10 days away. I’ve had the idea to make a bunch of face coverings and send them out so people can look stylish as they protect themselves and others from the virus…the thing is…Xmas is about 10 days away. And we aren’t meeting. That means I have to depend on deliveries…which take time. I’m probably going to miss the Xmas deadline, but hey: it’s not like anyone is desperately awaiting a face covering they don’t know is coming. I hope.

Today was spent cleaning out a section of the living quarters — for me particularly: my bedroom, my bathroom, and my study. I really wish there were some better way of cleaning the tops of books, other than with a vacuum and brush attachment. (I still didn’t do it, though. Didn’t even try.)

As we get deeper into this…well…I’ve been spending a lot more time actually doing things with my hands, principally cleaning, preparing food, and crafting. I suppose you could say it’s pretty grounding…which can be necessary, these days. It’s really not until I came back here today that I realized how much I hadn’t been keeping up with the blog circuit. I mean, there were days worth of posts that I hadn’t seen!

In any case…it’s been pretty clear — to me — that I’ve been going back and forth over whether to have an open online presence (with, you know, opinions), or whether to go mostly private for things like communications with friends, in logging my progress (on whatever), etc., while maintaining a separate business presence. The major issue is not knowing whether it will actually ever be possible for me to have a Web presence while constantly keeping my opinions to myself. Especially as I have a tendency to be a very inward-directed and intimate writer: most of my life is internal, not external.

That is, is establishing a Web presence devoid of my own personality a goal that can (or should) be achieved? I can think of at least one obvious Web presence that doesn’t even try to separate personal opinion and business. They have strong branding, but at the same time, turn off a lot of people who don’t agree with their politics…which could also be said for a soap company I tried and didn’t fall in love with. The fact that I had to ignore their writing plastered all over the outside of the bottle…didn’t help.

The question would seem to be what demographic I’m going for as regards my audience. “Highly politicized” is not my demographic. And, I mean, I know I’m left-wing, but I also know where that can fail. I guess maybe it isn’t an issue until people start to be offended…and we just have to discount the people who are easily offended by free speech (by people like myself) in general.

On the other hand…being a presence by and for people who are just trying to live their lives fully and in peace, that’s something else. I mean, seriously: what I’ve documented on this site is just me living my life. That includes my coming into my own as a nonbinary person (I’m going to avoid getting into subtypes right now…I know what I am, but not how to name it or think of it in a way that makes sense to others), and my ongoing cultural discoveries as a mixed-race person who was not exempt from dysfunctional interracial (and intra-racial, for that matter) dynamics in my extended families.

As I write this, I’m thinking that…I’m much calmer right now than I’ve been in months, if not years. I’m not certain if that’s because I’ve spent all day cleaning my spaces, if it’s because I haven’t gone in to work, if it’s because I’m doing what I want to be doing, if it’s because of the presence of hope…? Of gratitude that I have what I do right now, even if I’ve barely been out in the last nine months…?

Seriously, this trial has been like…not a vacation, so much, as an extended Thanksgiving. You know each time your dad laughs at some silly little thing which happens, or each time your mom offers to help you, that it’s not a given and has never been a given that you would get that — or that you’ll continue to get it. So you appreciate it in the moment, knowing that you won’t always have it. Which makes it more…special. Precious.

Stringing and knotting together little beads is like this…they’re not worth much on their own, but together they can make something beautiful. Even if its value isn’t high to anyone except the people who love and appreciate what you’ve done. And they’re the people that should matter. They are your market…if you can make and sell these things in a way in which they can afford to pay you what you need to be paid, to keep doing what you’re doing.

That’s like an exchange of love. It feels like an exchange of love.

(And of course, there are the sweet people who are overjoyed at getting something for free!)

I wonder how much of this is me feeling relieved…hopeful. sekai no naka ni chiisai ii desu.

If I thought…at all…that there were any future for me in Japan, I might not have dropped off of my Japanese language lessons. Unfortunately, I’m not at all sure of that. I’m planning to take up Spanish lessons again. Not tonight. But soon. We’ll see how far I can get before the gendered nouns catch up to me…if I can think of “gender” as more of a grammatical designation and think less about how gendered nouns seem to deeply impact thought processes…I might be able to do it.

Besides, Japan isn’t the greatest place in the world, just because I’m related to people there…and I need to realize that there are “woke” hispanohablantes. In particular…there are other members of the African Diaspora in Spanish-speaking countries…I wouldn’t be alone. Of course, I wouldn’t have reached this stage without seeing that one guy on NHK World who was talking about being bullied for his race in Argentina — and being able to understand most of what he was saying, in Spanish.

And sites like afrofeminas.com, which I was led to by Repeating Islands.

Wow, I’m just a mishmash of cultures, aren’t I…? But I guess when you grow up in a place and situation like mine…you realize that there’s much to be lost in only learning the cultural heritage associated with your lineage…or one of your lineages, as the case may be…that what one may be physically related to, is not necessarily the greatest thing in the world just because of one’s disputable membership in its group.

But I can get into that another time (I’m thinking of martial arts [I’ve trained in four different styles], and my experience in Undergrad [Ethnic Studies!], for future reference).

art, career, creativity, libraries, money, psychology, writing

Rediscovering myself

Or: maybe getting degrees in Art and Creative Writing, weren’t unfortunate mistakes.

It has been almost seven months since I last set foot in a Library as an employee. With that amount of time away, it has become fairly apparent to me that Librarianship is not my life’s work. It’s a way to stay housed, fed, and clothed. It’s also a way to earn enough money to work on my art, have time and reason to read literature, and have enough resources left-over for a computer.

But it’s not my life’s work. It was never meant to be. It finances my life’s work, the latter of which, I was meant to get back to after I finished my degree.

Today, I did something (else) personally significant. (The first thing was to get back to my art, which required breaking through an environmentalist barrier [or alternately, excuse] which may have only been significant, to me.)

I began again to read fiction. Specifically, I’ve had Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides facing me on my bookshelf for months. I stopped reading it at the point I realized that the main character’s intersexuality was being blamed on an episode of incest. Yeah, that could be…rather insulting. I guess it’s what happens when an author feels the need to explain every point of the story logically, even when they don’t understand the situation or the mechanisms pertaining to it.

(I should disclose that I don’t actually know that incest is not the vector that leads to intersexuality, but I strongly suspect it isn’t.)

I need to be sure not to mimic, that.

Anyhow…I started back in on this, trying not to judge it too harshly. It’s been going relatively well. Cal is a sensitive-enough narrator that it’s easy to empathize with him and put the author’s construction of the scenario out of my mind.

I’ve had a thing against fiction ever since the English Department tried to initiate me into multiple doctrines I disagreed with, in Undergrad work. I think they were trying to prop up their opinions/value systems/historical illusions/current delusions with the use of Fiction, while seeming to forget that Fiction is usually fabricated of what many authors would overtly call, “lies.” Having been raised to be an extremely conscientious and honest person, this was incompatible with my outlook and with my ethics.

Well, I found something else that was compatible with my ethics (wanting to sustain a comfortable living while not charging money), and that was Librarianship. Or, so I thought.

I didn’t quite realize how extremely political the situation I was getting myself into, was. It’s not like I don’t consider myself left-wing. I’m solidly left-wing. However, I see people behaving as though they are left-wing, even with multiple layers of hypocrisy (and doormat) riddled over the top of that, because (it seems) they want to feel as though they are “good” people. And they seem to think that their politics make them, “good.” It’s as if they can’t have a positive self-image unless they believe something about themselves that is not only unhealthy, altruistic and unrealistic, but at its root false and untenable.

That is, politics can help lead people to places of inauthenticity, and lack of self-esteem and fear of self-knowledge, can bind them there.

The sad thing is that in my journey through both undergraduate and graduate work, I’ve found myself bouncing back and forth between professors so conservative I’ve wanted to intentionally shift the ground under their feet, and professors (and some co-workers) so “liberal” that I had a hard time taking them seriously. Especially when I was living at my first University…I found it troubling when the University itself tried to be so “liberal” that staff made stupid decisions and seemed to dare anyone to challenge them (lest the challenger be seen as a conservative bigot; and not, for example, a concerned member of the primary University community, which should have been the students).

In any case: I did begin to read again, today. You could call it “recreational” reading, or you could call it study of the craft of literature. It’s probably both. I realized that if I did want to write fiction (and a lot of the ideas I have do suit themselves better to the provisional-belief model of fiction, rather than the cemented, well-thought-out, realistic [or, irresponsible] ideals of nonfiction), it would help to have some recent, real-life examples.

It would also help for those examples to be taken from published monographs, and not — for example — short stories of the type published in Literary Magazines. The latter are much less of a time and emotional investment, but they are also generally of lower quality than full-length books, due to the fact that many writers get their start in Literary Magazines. LitMags are designed more to show you the next new up-and-coming authors; not necessarily, finely-honed professional pieces.

I’m hoping that this time when I’ve gotten into fiction, I’ll be able to put out of my mind the politics of the authors. This is with the hope that I also will be able to put self-judgment out of my mind as I write my own work. A major reason I stopped writing: I had tried to analyze my own writing as I would analyze the writings of anyone else I had read…and I got a rather disturbing picture.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that my analysis was, “true,” or, “fact.” There are always multiple valid ways of interpreting the same text (though the interpretation often says more about the interpreter than the text s/he is interpreting — when both are the same, however…). It means that my then-self-destructive mind was able to weaponize it as something with which, to take me down.

Of course, back then, I was very young. I didn’t know how not to overthink things. I also wasn’t at the age where I could set self-judgment aside for the sake of expression. There’s a point one reaches in one’s life where one realizes that there are always going to be spots in one’s character that one dislikes. That doesn’t mean one should stop living. To do otherwise is perfectionism, and perfect is the enemy of good.

Seriously. That kind of sums up everything of the place I’m at, right now.

So, I’m back into reading, which should help me get back into writing. I’m also back into art; specifically, painting and drawing. I feel…like this is where I’m supposed to be. And it doesn’t have to be a holy calling, like I dreamed it was when I was a youth. It’s just what I’m good at, and what I’m drawn to. It’s what I actually want to do; what I would do if money were not an issue.

When my XML instructor mentioned practicing with XSLT during all of our down time, I knew it was not what I wanted. My free time has been pre-established as creative time. My priority is creativity, not coding.

I don’t want to get into a place where I have to spend my entire life circling around computers, cataloging, classification, indexing, abstracting, coding, technical writing, etc., all of which seem to center around obeying rules. I don’t want the need for money to cause me to forget who I am and stop me from creating.

I don’t want, that is, to become a non-creative person, or to be pushed into that lifestyle because I’m afraid to strike out on my own.

Right now…I’ve just given myself long enough (two weeks) without too much pressure, to see what I really want to do. Of course…I have two classes going. I’m thinking of dropping the nonessential one — the one that ends in three weeks — and foregoing the technical certificate I had planned on obtaining. We’ve been talking at my house about how the threat of death that could come at any time, causes one to think about what one really wants to do with the time they do have.

Apparently, that’s entirely appropriate. My thought is that I don’t want to go out of this world having spent all of my life doing schoolwork; constantly preparing, never putting my skills to use. Even when I’ve gotten the chance not to do schoolwork, I’ve chosen to do it.

But…in reality, I may be better off using my skills at Writing and Art to piece together a living, than becoming an Information Professional. Without a doubt, the return is less. But I might actually be happy in aligning my interests and my activities; as versus compromising my values for the sake of income which I then can’t enjoy, because I’m too busy with my current work and Professional Development to develop my own set of creative skills.

Language. Reading. Art. Writing. Stories. These are themes I see which…I’m relatively motivated around. They’re things I honestly take pleasure in, even with the psychological risks. I’ve realized that if I can boost myself to the point where I am not afraid to make things from my own experience, and to say what I think; to depict what I wish, regardless of whether there is historical precedent; I may be equipped to take this path on. And, possibly, succeed at it.

The only reason I took up a job in the Library (besides the fact that I didn’t want to be constantly told I didn’t belong; little did I know how much the social difficulties of still being constantly automatically slotted would impact me) is that I thought it might encourage me to read, which would encourage me to write.

I still have neither witnessed nor ever taken part in a successful Reader’s Advisory interview. (Not that I didn’t try.) That is…Fiction collections in the Library in which I used to work, are relatively opaque. They never became less so. The best bet I have of getting into the modern literary world, is just to start reading. Middlesex may be as good a place to start, as any.

In this period of release…I realize how fundamental it is to me, to write. I realize I gain intrinsic pleasure from writing, and from painting and drawing — at least, when I do it in my own way. That feeling: of doing something I want to do, that I honestly derive joy from, that I’m better off for after having participated in the work; is missing in my career. I wouldn’t know what I wanted to do, without having extended time away from work…and being able to choose my actions, in reality. I’m aware it’s a privilege that most don’t get.

But this isn’t over, yet. I just need to make my own way. I hear that, as intimidating as it is, it’s not unusual…

career, personal, self care, work, writing

Reasons not to go back

Right now I’m really kind of frustrated with myself for not knowing what I want to do with my life, although that’s not entirely true: I don’t know what I want to do in my life to earn a living. For most of my life I’ve been relatively independent and relatively alone. Working with other people in bureaucratic structures — only being responsible for a portion of the work to be done, and I get to pick which portion (to an extent) — is alien to me.

It doesn’t help that I’m hooked up with a Vocational Program which is backing me with the expectation that the job I picked out 10 years ago with zero work experience and little knowledge of what the job entailed, is still something I want to do. I knew getting into it as a Volunteer and then as a Library Aide, that I was pushing my comfort level where it came to cleanliness. I was also pushing my comfort level where it came to dealing with the public, once I started to deal with the public.

As a Library Assistant in Public Services, I was pushing that comfort level every day I went to work, and as I said before, there’s a difference between (temporarily) reaching out of your comfort zone in order to grow, and being unnecessarily ill-equipped for your (permanent) position.

From what I have seen, however, there are a good number of people working in Libraries who would rather not deal with difficult situations. These are not people you want to have backing you up (or, very possibly, not) when something goes down and you have to enforce a rule or deal with escalating personal abuse. I don’t want to be one of those people.

I’m not saying that the work isn’t tolerable most of the time. Most of the time, it is. Most people are respectful, and just happy you’re there. Some people are even very forgiving when you’re trying your best to help them, even if you have trouble doing so. However: depending on where you work, there are distinct issues with distinct patrons, and you don’t know what you’re getting, each time the phone rings.

One of my ex-coworkers said to me when they first became a Library Assistant, that it was, “like being an adult babysitter.” I was also told that the most difficult part of the job for me would likely not be the technical aspects of finding information, but rather having to discipline patrons. I should have listened on both counts.

What’s more, I likely should have become a Library Assistant sooner, so that I could get out of the path before dropping money on a degree in the hope of working as a Public Librarian. Would I have been happier, had I gone (earlier?) into a career in Publishing or freelancing? I’m not sure.

I also haven’t had a clear idea of what I would be getting into with either Digital Services or Cataloging/Metadata.

I’ve gotten through the first few weeks of XML…which is also pushing a comfort zone (specifically the one that has to deal with implicit trust over networked resources), though that just has to do with privacy and potential data loss, as versus potential sickness, or potential harm.

The risks here are more abstract, and the people who can and do go through the steps to accomplish them, fewer. That doesn’t mean zero risk. It means distanced risk. When people won’t walk 100 feet to ask their question to the appropriate staff member (the one that can help them), however, distance means something.

Cataloging, Classification, and Metadata at least have me using my mind to contribute (or at least contribute access to) knowledge, rather than having me use my mind to protect myself. I really don’t like being in survival mode when I’m wanting to actually do something of use. “Trying to survive today,” isn’t really an equivalent for me, to contributing to society.

I guess I should try and remember that, when it comes to the question of whether I ever want to work as Reference staff, again.

In any case…I’ve mentioned this before, but right now I’m looking at freelancing as regards writing or editing. Writing, being a more solitary occupation, is more likely to be something I can comfortably do. (That means I’ll want to generate article ideas and pitches; and also, be reading prolifically.) Editing is more social, from everything I’ve read to this point. If I don’t want it to be social, the route to take is to work on a contract basis as a Proofreader or Copy Editor (also, possibly, Fact-Checker).

If and when I can learn enough of another language to the point that I’m functional in that language, I might also want to look at translation: particularly, book translation. The course I’m in now has a lot of material on abstracting and indexing, which is also applicable in Publishing and with library aggregators and vendors.

God, I want to learn Japanese language.

So I’m looking at:

  • writing
  • abstracting and indexing
  • (book) translation
  • metadata
  • cataloging and classification
  • copy editing
  • proofreading

…with either Publishers, library aggregators and vendors, East Asian Libraries (usually Academic), Academic Libraries, or the open Web. (I need to research that last one: to whom would I pitch articles?)

There is actually a theme to all those things, isn’t there? Taking something that has been written, and producing abstract data describing it, or translating its contents into machine-readable data, or making sure that the knowledge contained in it is findable, readable, and accurate. Hmm.

I should revisit this in a few months…

art, psychology, self care

A break before the second pass

Apparently, word has gotten around that we’re having a heat wave — and fires — here in California. It has been going on for about ten days. On the 16th, or sometime around then, a dry lightning storm passed through in the middle of the night, and that was the beginning of the wildfires that are now burning.

Right now there is nothing immediately endangering me (thankfully), but it has not been a pleasant time; and we are expecting another lightning storm to come through overnight, meaning that we need to be ready to evacuate. “To where?” is a good question.

Tonight we had a break in the heat and the smoke, likely brought on by the remnants of the tropical storm that is moving in. The heat and the smoke are made worse by the fact that COVID-19 is still alive and well, and we’re still Sheltering-In-Place. That means that we’ve rarely been outside for 6 months, and now it’s hot and the air is hazardous.

If we knew that people were actually making a concerted effort both to be responsible and to stop the spread of the virus in the time we were giving them, it might be more tolerable, but it didn’t have to be this way. On top of that, I’ve heard of the virus spreading in evacuation centers.

I ended up basically withdrawing from Project Management. The class wasn’t taught well, and I’ve never even supervised one person, let alone managed anything in a large organization with work departments. On top of that, another class started which has to take top priority.

I believe my goal in the first place was partially to distract myself so that I wouldn’t have the free time or energy to worry (and also partially so that I wouldn’t have to go back to Public Service), but right now there are things that are more important than busy work, like my mental health. It also isn’t optimal to be taking classes which require computer use, when it’s too hot to have a computer on.

I need to take care of my health, first. Everything else falls in after that. I’ve gotten to the point where I know I need to care for myself…and my environmental concerns about the use of toxic paint, pale in comparison to the need I have to preserve my mental stability.

In short, I’m thinking of using my watercolors, again. With only two courses on my schedule, no work, and my essentials provided for, I should have time for this.

I have been trying to stay up at night and sleep during the day, but right now…I’m pretty sure it’s just my medication kicking in. That stuff can knock me out even if I have caffeine in the daytime (I didn’t do that today, though). I’m going to sign off before I become incoherent…

color, craft, glass beads, organization, self care

Heat wave: analog work

Today started early for me. I actually got up and started back in on homework at 5:30 this morning, as it was predicted that temperatures would get above 100° F, today. (For the rest of the world, that’s about 38 C.) We actually had to have a safety inspection…which was fairly disturbing, but it could have been worse. The inspector came just as I was about to lie back down, which means that I didn’t get back to sleep, today. Not that I didn’t try…

There has, accordingly, been a lot of air circulation through the house. It hasn’t been very uncomfortable for me, though, and I’m not entirely sure why…except possibly that it isn’t as uncomfortable as exercising, or typing with my computer at the wrong height. The humidity isn’t too bad now, either (Hawaii can be worse), and I’m already used to being up at night and before dawn.

Because I was working on classes early this morning (I actually got a lot done) and it was way too hot to use my computer (plus we had been asked to limit electricity use until after 10 PM), I ended up going through beads when the sun was up.

It started with cleaning off the Blue Iris beads I got in the post from three weeks ago, “Too Much Analysis!”, and realizing what was wrong with the bad ones. I realistically have no idea what specifically happened to them, but they looked abraded and corroded at the same time — like they had been rolled and crushed, and then left to oxidize. The good part was that I had ordered 200, and only had to cull out 7. That’s about a 96.5% success rate. I also paid about $3.20 for 193 beads (at about $0.017 per bead [before shipping]), which — given that these were the only beads I had any problem with, and I’m hoping I don’t have to worry about toxicity (I had minor contact with the water + detergent I used to wash them, and no skin reactions) — I can accept.

I mean, seriously. That’s…that’s seriously good. And I’m really glad I got a cheap plastic colander/bowl set from the Japanese convenience store before they went out of business. (I don’t use this for food, by the way; just work.) If I’m willing to plan ahead and wait, that is, I could see myself using this service more.

Right now, I have a new system in place for my metal components (all base metal is in one set of drawers, divided into [red-brown] nickel-free brass + copper; [grey-white] pewter, silver-plate and silver-fill; and [yellow] brass/bronze/gold-plate; with sterling silver and gold-fill in a separate set), I can actually fit what I need to into my toolbox, and I have a number of projects I can either start or continue when I want to.

(It is rather telling when you have project kits dated 2011, that you never finished…)

I also found an 18g sterling wire which has to be from high school or before, with which I can mount the pearl that I damaged. No, I don’t know what I’m doing (this is my first half-drill mount), but the pearl’s already seen better days, and it won’t get fixed at all if I don’t try. If I can mount it the way I want to, the damage won’t even be apparent, and I’ll be able to keep the pendant.

What I’ve just realized, just now, is that a lot of my size 11° seed beads are likely tied up in “project” groupings, which is why they weren’t in the organizer when I checked. That does make me feel better. (I was wondering where they went!)

One of the other things I did: I began to separate out colors which were near-duplicates (aquas, violets), too pale and/or dyed a couple of decades ago and faded (aquas, greys, pinks), or too bright (reds, intense opaque red-orange, intense opaque yellow). Most of these are Czech; some are Japanese. I haven’t gotten rid of these (they may be useful where it comes to size substitutions or if I want a bland bead), but I have put them out of the way so that they don’t confuse me when I’m designing. Unfortunately, now I’m ending up with the modular-drawer equivalent of the, “junk room,” where objects of the past fade into obscurity, incorporated by reference but not by sight.

Wow. That turned sad.

Because my favorite colors have historically been violet and teal, I have a lot of violet and teal beads…and it doesn’t help to have three hanks of beads which are near-duplicates of each other in ready storage, just because I made some poor buying decisions in my teens. As things stand, I can already see a lot more contrast in hues (colors) and values (lightness to darkness), which should help.

I’m hoping that having a more active palette will help me use the beads more than I have been, recently. I’m trying to break out of the habit of sticking with the same colorways, because it is uninspiring when everything looks similar. It’s risky when they don’t, but that’s the fun in it, isn’t it?

I’ve just realized that it’s 12:45 AM. I’ll try and get some sleep, but I’m not guaranteeing anything. ;)

LIS, self care

Another day done; another night, begun

Today has been all about cleaning. The rooms I’m responsible for look much more habitable, now. :) What I still have left to do is bathing, so I don’t get dust into my sheets when I actually do go to bed. Whenever that is. (I didn’t get to sleep until 4 AM last night.) The most trying part of this is washing my hair…which is, itself, a complex issue, not likely relevant to this blog. Let’s just say I don’t want to do it.

I told my folks about what had been going on with burning in my esophagus when I breathed, and they were quick to point out that it was likely heartburn. That, in turn, could be caused by eating at night. Which could result from staying up so late.

Heartburn has been such a rare visitor to me, that I didn’t know what it was…or, I did have it, and haven’t known it. Knowing what it is, helps ease fears about COVID. (Throat irritation while breathing can cause coughing, and it’s difficult to distinguish between burning in the windpipe and burning in the esophagus.)

The flip side of that is that I’ve been sleeping with my head elevated for the past several days in order to keep acid out of my throat. It works, but it’s just a bit uncomfortable.

Anyhow…yes, I am kind of proud of myself for organizing this stuff. It was pretty messy in my bedroom. I also now have space to study in the old office — I moved a couple of huge pads of paper off of the tiny desk in there, so now I have a work surface. Or, at least, something to put a keyboard on.

I’m also kind of proud of myself for finishing my Statistics work, and being able to prioritize taking care of myself and the house, over homework. (It is an achievement.) That being said, I now have about half a week to get in my work for both Project Management and XML, which both have crazy high numbers of things to do. However…Project Management is pretty low on my list of priorities, right now. Ironically.

I did get back into a University class for this Fall, so that’s all set up. I believe I have about a week until that starts up, and I’ll be focusing on XML and that class, primarily.

Actually, I’ve been reading in G. Kim Dority’s Rethinking Information Work, and I can see that a lot of the classes which I think might be fun, are actually unnecessary if I go into Metadata or Cataloging Librarianship. Which…it is like a puzzle, really, trying to figure out what goes where.

I know I’m going to stay on the XML track for a couple of months, but after that, I’m not entirely sure I need to be studying Linked Data (more)…it just might be engaging, though. And it could help me get a (paying) job.

It does help to have priorities, doesn’t it? In any case, after the next couple of months, I should be able to see how much using XML actually satisfies me.

Aside from this, I really want to get back to my beadwork and my sewing. Having extended time for that (and my own reading) might happen in a couple of months, if I don’t move ahead with Linked Data training. Along with that comes the possibility of actually making some money, as versus just spending it. The hard part is, I know that the money I’ll be making off of that will be minimal…but it will be something.

Whether it will still be “something” after I subtract my expenses, has yet to be seen, but I’m working as a hobbyist and not as a business, at this point.

Ah, wow. Today has actually been satisfying. I think I’ll go take that shower, now…

libraries, work

Getting used to work

Man. I went out to a branch early this morning in order to take a shift as a Library Clerk. I didn’t totally realize until I got there that it was an Opening position, and that I didn’t know what Clerks did prior to opening. Or, at least, I hadn’t done it before, myself. Oops.

I have filled Clerk positions (basically Circulation), but not the Opening or Closing variants of that. (My actual position is Library Assistant, but I have the ability to sub in a couple of other categories.)

About two hours in, I get summoned to a different branch. That means I have to call someone to get me and shuttle me to that other branch. I agree because I’m starting to know the people at the branch where I’m needed, we’re overstaffed where I’m at, and I realize I wasn’t mentally prepared for a Clerk job plus two back-to-back Storytimes flooding the library with patrons.

Not that I dislike Storytimes; they’re just a bit chaotic. The setting itself was unfamiliar to me; I’ve only served at that branch one or two times, before. Plus, I don’t really know the patrons that well.

So…it isn’t really a secret that I, probably like many others, have been getting a little frustrated with the unpredictability with which being a Substitute is disposed. I’ve been trying to manage it by picking my time slots and work sites early, but then that gets upset when there are surprise critical staff shortages elsewhere in the system, and I get called to fill them and have no way to get there other than calling someone else.

I don’t really blame the people who have to reassign me, but I’m learning how to respond and set myself up so that they understand that I need a day off, when I need a day off. Even when I don’t have important plans. The issue I had been having is being called on (often woken up) every day I hadn’t agreed to work, and being asked to come in to work that day. You can imagine, it’s kind of frustrating. That’s not to mention being woken up at 7 AM, five out of every seven days in November, because I didn’t change the default setting for robo-calls from the system.

At least they’re offering to pay me, right?

So after lunch (which I took in the car), I get to work and print out a form so I can get compensated for my travel. It is, in comparison to where I just came from, very quiet. Towards the end I start dealing with boredom, and looking up authors I know about from PBS. If I read the books, I can review the books, and that counts as work, right? It’s not like I’m reading at the desk, I’m just collecting the things so I won’t have to go and look the things up again after I’m off.

Am I getting too comfortable?

I know that the people there must be very fatigued; there has been some kind of (biological) virus circulating. It has affected at least two sites I’ve been to. They actually really did need me at the second site, but it was freakin’ quiet towards the end of my shift. Like, “stare at the computer screen,” quiet. Like, “do some library-related research,” quiet.

I’m concerned that I’m putting too much effort into my book reviews. I’m actually reading the books. Like we all expect Librarians to do; just like we have expected everyone working in a Library to be a Librarian (before we work there, ourselves). But there’s no way for any one person to have encyclopedic knowledge; or perhaps, if they do, that should really be recognized, because it’s a rarity.

Someone notified me about the, “Reader’s Bill of Rights,” which I looked up and appreciated, especially for, “the right to not finish.” I kind of wish I had done that with my last book, so I wouldn’t have wasted my precious moments of life bound to a book that wasn’t what it was advertised to be.

The good point, though, is that now I know to pay attention to Dewey classification, as well as topicality. I don’t expect you to know what I mean by that, because I don’t have the specific meaning of that specific (and complex) Dewey number. But there’s a difference in focus between a book on water quality that is in the 300s (which I know best for the social sciences), as versus the 600s (which is known for medicine). The drawback to using an electronic copy, in our present system, is that the Dewey number is not in the item record. A person has to bridge back to the paper copy to find it.

Anyhow, it’s over. I don’t have to read it again. And I can go through all my other library books to see which ones I’ll actually want to read (next). I have found some interesting stuff…not all of it apocalyptic.

art, craft, creativity, food, needlework, painting, paper crafts, personal, sewing

Switching between modes?

Now that I know there are no additional assignments for my course and the end is in sight, I’m feeling a good deal better about it. For the past few days, I’ve been chipping away at this, trying to get it done before I need to. The bright spot here is that I’m now ahead of schedule, to the point that I can relax a bit.

By next Friday, I hope to be totally done, though through Tuesday (it’s currently Friday), I’ll have at least half-day commitments.

I’ve decided to use library computers for my ongoing job research; at least, where it comes to accessing previously unknown websites. Although I’m using a relatively high amount of security on my computer, I encounter enough broken links to make me cautious. (Actually, the cautiousness pre-dates the security — it was just validated by my need to keep myself online while I was in school.)

I’ve also written my last thank-you note from Graduation. :) That was more fun than I expected…I got to draw with translucent and opaque markers on top of a printed card. I also included one of my tatted butterflies (which seemed to legitimate the process of having made it). So the paper-crafting…I’m wondering about combining it with sewing. I don’t know how that would eventually work out, but I got the idea by using one of my awls to punch holes in the card, in order to tie on the butterfly (which I did with a needle and thread).

I really really really want to do something with a needle and thread. I’m not sure whether this will be hand stitching (like quilting or garment work), or embroidery — or beadweaving — though maybe I shouldn’t categorize it, at this point. Maybe I should just start piecing things, or embroidering samples to be stitched together later. I did see some really nice counted-thread needlework at the State Fair which encompassed shapes (curves) that I didn’t expect; but I’m not sure I’m that precision-focused.

What I did do today was practice my tatting. I’m still working on combining rings and chains, and haven’t yet had to restart my current sample (though I want to do it in pink and red instead of ecru and green). I’ve learned to watch for having put in the correct number of double stitches and picots before closing loops, and to keep from inadvertently catching threads within those loops before closing them. Because the pattern I’m working with now always has four double stitches before a picot (loop) or a join or turn, it’s easy to remember. And I am getting better — my hands mostly remembered the motions.

The really good point about this? I’m using DMC #5 perle cotton, which comes in tons of colors and is super cheap, so I don’t feel bad about using up expensive thread while learning. Really, the most expensive things are the tatting shuttles, and they’re reusable.

Since Wednesday, I haven’t physically worked on painting at all (unless you consider buying pads of quality watercolor paper, work; I’ve learned not to), though I have watched some instructional videos on painting. I suppose it’s easier to keep doing something I’m already doing (working on the computer), than it is to switch modes into something else.

However…let’s see. What have I been doing for the last three days?

So Wednesday, I was basically studying. Yesterday (Thursday) I did some produce shopping, specifically after things I could cook and eat, which weren’t sweet. Today (Friday) was the gym, and cooking. That was long beans with mild (Italian?) sausage, onion, green onion, a little hoisin, a little soy sauce, and a little sesame oil. It turned out surprisingly well, though D suggests using ground pork next time, so that I can tweak the seasonings myself (instead of having to deal with the sausage, which had some surprising flavors of salt and anise — although I have had Chinese recipes with star anise before [like Red-Cooked Chicken]).

I still need to shower, wash my clothes, and maybe change my sheets. Tomorrow, I might be able to hit the Farmer’s Market for stone fruit. We bought maybe 10 lbs. (D estimated) of stone fruit last week, and I’ve eaten the majority of it (that is, I haven’t had to toss much moldy fruit from that batch). That has had some odd consequences for my digestion and my weight, but I haven’t gotten upset stomach, yet. (That can happen.) The thing about Farmer’s Markets is that they have fresher and riper fruit than most of the stores.

I picked up some kale and Savoy cabbage to cook with bacon; I also bought materials for mushroom chicken (yellow, zucchini, and white zucchini squash; we have the mushrooms and frozen chicken breast). I’m thinking the kale is going to be the next thing to become unusable, though, meaning I should probably aim to prepare it as soon as feasible. (It generally just gets wilted and mildewy [fresh kale should never smell like mildew at the store], but it’s easy to replace.) The Savoy cabbage is the regular Savoy (a compact head), not Salad Savoy (a blossom-looking thing), so it will likely last longer.

EDIT: Actually, mushroom chicken with rice, sounds good for tomorrow’s dinner.

And, right: I got Poblano chiles and onion, to try and make rajas. I found out when making corn salsa last week, that scorched Poblanos with the skins peeled off are really delicious. You just take the seeds and ribs out and put them face-up under the broiler until the skin blisters and darkens and pulls away, then you can take the skin off (after they cool)…and the chile tastes excellent, just like that. I was really surprised. Rajas, as I’ve gotten them in restaurants, have Poblanos and roasted onion, though I am not sure how to do the onion, yet; I’m planning to try and broil them with the Poblanos.

On a wide scale, I’m looking at the probability of switching between modes of thought and behavior, moreso than now. I’m wondering if it will be possible to do detail and system-oriented technical work for my job, and not let that have an effect where I’m impacted in my creativity, at home and in my art. I mean, actually, work on not letting that have an effect, as a goal, and reason to pursue the Art.

Maybe my art can be my time to break loose from systems and precise, regimented thinking.

Well — there’s also a gradual transition here from being a student, into becoming a fully-functioning adult…which is a place I haven’t fully occupied, before. That is a good thing (the former, not the latter)! I mean, if I look at what I’ve been doing today, it’s normal life stuff. That hasn’t been “normal” for me, for a long time, if I’ve ever even been in a place like this, before…