Tag Archives: Reading

Vacation Sucks (2021 Edition)

It’s that time of year once again: vacation. I couldn’t take all four weeks in a row this year and had to settle for three. My job is a union job so everyone with higher seniority gets to pick their vacations first. Even if I’m about middle-of-the-pack with my time there, the full-timers above me all have like five or six weeks of vacation meaning they shit up the vacation calendar pretty quickly.

I complain about vacation once every year, sometimes twice, so I’ll just skip all of that here.

The First Goal

I’m terrible at holding clear-cut goals but here’s one of them: get 2,000 blog views this month. I’ve been slacking for awhile but July still has some hope. July 4th gave me over 200 daily views — a new record and the first time I cracked 200 — because of my The 4th of July Sucks post from two years ago. Apparently people Google “july 4 sucks” and they find my page. Cool. It was a good start to the month but I squandered it as time went on. I need about 250 more views in the next three days, so it’ll be close, and I’ll try my best, but I won’t be surprised if I end the month with 1,999 views.

And this is why I’m shoveling out this throw-away post. Better to write some trash than to not write at all.

Sobriety

This vacation is already going better than my last vacation, nearly 110 days ago, because I’m not trying to sober up. I know the exact number thanks to the r/stopdrinking ‘days sober’ feature. (I’ll never stop shilling for r/stopdrinking.) You set a date and then anytime you post it displays how many sober days you’ve accumulated. It’s a great feature because you don’t have to remember a date or go mad trying to count the days yourself.

Last vacation sucked because I stopped drinking. Anyone who has been an alcoholic knows that the first week is a rough one as your body and emotions are all over the place. I chose that week to sober up because I had a terrible habit of drinking my vacation away. Boredom is one of my drinking triggers and during vacations I go crazy. There’s nothing else to do besides get drunk, at least that’s how Jeremy usually thought about vacation. So that week was successful on the sobriety front and I haven’t had a drink since but damn did it suck. At least these three weeks I’m not battling alcoholism. Sure I’m bored and drinking sounds like a great way to spend vacation, but it’s a passing thought I can easily disregard.

Random Projects

I like to keep busy doing bullshit random things that aren’t at all related to each other. Making soap is obviously one of them, as well as a few other sorta related things like trying to make my own lye and washing bonfire ashes in water. Washing ashes in water also means I need to burn wood which also means I need trim some shrubs in the yard to have stuff to burn. Luckily my wife has done that part because my motivation is always near zero. I despise yardwork by the way…

There’s a bunch else I sort of want to do but since my motivation is basically zero it’s hard for me to get around to doing them. It’d be fun to take the family to the river and go swimming. Not legally swimming either, just get in the water and fucking swim. I want to visit my sister in Iowa because why not? Camping sounds like a fun thing, and maybe haul my guitar to a park and play some music. Maybe haul it down to the bike path and play in front of people? I want to get a cabin for my wife and I but still haven’t gotten around to reserving one. Oh, I also want to watch one of the ‘homeless’ bums that are begging for money at the corner of 2nd Street and Jefferson to see if they’re really homeless, but that won’t happen.

Bike rides, running, weight lifting. Maybe. Russia just launched a new module to the ISS and Boeing is shooting up their Starliner on its second test flight on the 30th; maybe I can go outside and try to see those zipping overhead. (I don’t understand how I haven’t written about the shitty Boeing Starliner yet. It’s fucking trash.) There’s always my giant telescope too and I’ve always wanted to haul that to a public place and let people look at Jupiter and Saturn for realzies.

Paint-by-numbers. Artwork. Drawing. Writing a story. Recording some music. Finally writing and singing some lyrics. Sitting in the yard meditating? Watching bugs in the grass and wondering what it would be like to be a dandelion. What sort of bats do we actually have here in Northern Illinois?

And this is how I am, random bullshit things I want to do with no reason or logic behind them. Is this how people are? Is this normal? Being a human being is a fucking mess…

Books

I bought three books from thriftbooks, being inspired by a Reddit thread asking about “the scariest books you’ve ever read.” House of Leaves. It. Gerald’s Game. I’m currently reading Gerald’s Game and in case you weren’t aware Stephen King is fucked up guy. The book is about a lady who get’s handcuffed to her bed by her husband in the woods. Just some good ole sexual fun that she isn’t too fond of. She ends up accidentally killing him by kicking him and giving him a heart attack, and she’s still cuffed to the bed with no way to escape. A stray dog wanders in and eats her husband as his corpse is laying there. There’s also something about an eclipse and how she was sexually molested by her dad when she was ten. I’m halfway through the book and that’s what’s happened so far.

My wife thinks some of the stuff I write is strange and disturbing, and can you imagine what King’s wife thinks of him? Does he write a story and ever once think, “My God, what the hell is wrong with me?” Either way, he apparently doesn’t give a fuck enough to not get it published.

It’s a book, but not really. A sudoku puzzle book from the store. I think it’s a Soap Opera Digest sudoku book, maybe you’ve seen them before as you’re standing in a checkout lane at Walmart. I had an earlier edition literally 9-10 years ago. Same cover design, same amount of puzzles, same difficulty of puzzles. Sure there are plenty of free sudoku apps out there, but something about having 100 puzzles physically in a book is satisfying so I bought it for $5. It’ll be fun to have it completed by the time I go back to work.

Insomnia

For the past two months I’ve been setting my alarm for noon. I wake up groggy and chug coffee and rip on the vape for an hour before I remotely feel functional. Around midnight I’m dead tired but somehow manage to stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. without fail. I get my second wind around 2 a.m. and from then on I’m as awake as I am at 5 p.m.

I thought vacation would help this a bit, maybe I could set the alarm earlier and earlier, but the problem is getting worse! I didn’t go to sleep yesterday (today?) until 6 a.m. The day before that it was 7:30 a.m. I’m pretty chill about this as well. I’m on vacation so if I’m up until the mid-morning hours who cares? No point in being upset about it.

In Conclusion

In conclusion? What the hell is there to conclude? I’m on vacation. I’m not concluding a damn thing.

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Twilight Sucks

It’s over. It’s finished. After a week of subtly torturing myself I can look forward to moving on with my life. Working on myself. Improving. Taking up hobbies. Learning to enjoy being alive. Do thing I enjoy doing. Cherish my existence.

I finished Twilight.

Twilight, in case you’re not aware, is a popular teen book about a girl who falls in love with a vampire writer by Stephenie Meyer. It was stupidly successful in the 2000s and had a whole series of films come out that were also stupidly successful. I saw the first movie years and I don’t remember much. Bella, vampires, love, drama, danger, etc. I have the vague memory of it being okay/decent but also really cringy for some reason.

One of the kids asked for the series for Christmas which I immediately jumped on. Books? Good. Reading? Fantastic. A book series? Even better; anything to promote reading is sometime I get get on board with. Plus books are cheap!

She read the first book and wouldn’t shut the hell up about how amazing Edward, Bella’s vampiric love interest, is. “He’s so sweet! He’s so romantic!” She’d also talk shit about this other dude Jacob for some reason. Since I had finished the Narnia series I was yearning for something to read, anything really, to ward off the drinking urges. She suggested Twilight thinking I would never read it, but fuck it, why not?

(Check out my post on ranking the Narnia books!)

I went into it with an open mind. A book this popular can’t be all that bad, right? Sure it might not be exactly what I enjoy reading, but I was expecting to get sucked in against my will and fall in love with the story. But…no. It’s terrible. It’s awful. It’s cringy. It’s poorly written. It’s hilarious at times, but usually not purposefully so. It was a struggle to read and I found that I couldn’t read more than a few chapters at a time. My coworkers even commented on this saying, “You only read for 20 minutes and put the book down. You were plowing through the Narnia books for hours at a time!” To which I said, “The Narnia books are good though. This is fucking torture.”

This post will be a mess because I have so much to complain about and I know it’ll just be a rant about the book. I’ll try to be somewhat coherent.

It’s Boring…

Literally nothing happens in the first 60 or 70% of the book. Bella meets Edward at school and they talk and fall in love and what not. This is literally the majority of the book. It’s like a case study of falling in love in high school when your hormones are raging and everything is so damn important and dramatic! I have to admit this did give me some painful flashback to my own time in high-school and these weren’t fun at all. You know, feeling that one person, the first person you meet and “fall in love with”, is your world and you can’t survive without them. Naive shit like that that most people grow out of by their early 20s (hopefully).

Not that that stuff is bad by default, it just doesn’t need to take up 60% of the book. We get it: they’re in love. We get it: he’s a vampire. Yes I know he’s tempted to eat her and she’s in danger, but is anything going to happen besides Bella going to school and being swooned from Edward’s presence? Sure. Eventually. If you can hang in there that long.

This probably plays into the ‘boring’ aspect, but the book is also long, way longer than it has any right to be. Twilight is a whopping 498 pages long and I think it could be a good book at half that length. The story itself, the general idea behind it, is good and the last 30-40% (starting around page 375) almost turns into a page-turner in it’s danger and intensity but by that time it’s way to late. If it was cleaned up and condensed down it’d be a hell of a lot better. 

Plotholes Like Potholes in Spring…

Let’s not forget the random plotholes too. A few times throughout the book I was confused why the characters would make such stupid choices. Bella finds out Edward is a vampire and, I assume like no one would do in a realistic world, doesn’t question this at all. You’re telling me a seventeen year old girl who likes some boy and discovers he’s a vampire is going to accept it? She’s not going to say, “Haha, good one. There’s no vampires you jackass. So what’s really so strange about you?” Nope, in Twilight she has a hunch he’s a vampire, asks him, he confirms her suspicion, and she’s cool with it. She’s about as blown away at discovering mythical vampires actually exist as you would be to find out your friend is actually Puerto Rican instead of Mexican.

Towards the end Bella is being hunted by a Bad Vampire, and her vampire friends concoct a plan to hide her. Well, Bad Vampire calls saying he has her mom hostage, and that she needs to escape the Good Vampires and give herself up so he can eat her. Now vampires are stupidly fast, powerful, dangerous, and have high-end senses in the world of Twilight, so what does Bella do? She blindly follows along with his plan and abandons her Good Vampire protectors despite how insanely powerful they are. No, Bella, tell your vampire friends, all five of them, what this guy’s plan is and let them protect you and you hostage mom. Also Bella is somehow successful in escaping from the Good Vampires who swore to protect her easily. Like, no way, they’d know exactly what you’re doing and are so fast and strong they’d fucking catch you instantly. Nope. Let’s not forget that one of the vampires can see the future and doesn’t seem to be able to piece together what Bella is up to. The author paints the vampires as these incredible people only to make them seem stupid and gullible during the climax of the book.

Oh yeah, vampires glitter in the sunlight too. Fun little fact. But they all go to the airport at 9 a.m. in Phoenix Arizona of all places without mention to how they stayed out of the sunlight and obviously give themselves up as just a bit strange. I thought maybe this day was cloudy — it wasn’t specified really — but a chapter or two later Bella is running in blinding sunlight reflecting off the pavement. Somehow the vampire clan travel through populated and sunny Phoenix without issue despite their trait of glittering magnificently in the sunlight.

There’s also the whole possibility of turning Bella into a vampire to solve nearly every problem in the book. This isn’t necessarily a plot hole because it delves into the characters and their emotions/motivations, but the book would make a fuckton more sense if they did. Edward wants to eat Bella because she smells so good? Vampire her and you’re fine. Vampire is hunting Bella because she smells so good? Turn her into a vampire and he wont want to eat her. Edward keeps wanting to protect Bella from all the dangers in the world and keep her alive existing? Turn her into a damn vampire! I’m pretty sure later in the series she does become a vampire so her actually being bitten by Bad Vampire and saved by Edward sucking the venom out seems kind of pointless overall.

But The Main Problem…

When I first started reading I didn’t know why I didn’t like it. The first few chapters nothing too egregious happened but the book seemed off for some reason. Before I found all the other obvious glaring problems with this book I had no idea what exactly it was. It took some time to find it, but it’s this: it’s just poorly written and cringy.

The tenses fluctuate around here and there. Not as much as someone writing their first story, but they did change quite a bit. I kept trying to figure out if it was all past-tense or happening as I was reading it. It’s not blatantly obvious but it still throws you off by making the story feel somehow disjointed.

This is Edward.

There were countless times I had to hear about how muscular, handsome, and wonderfully beautiful Edward is. Okay, I get it. Once again the author didn’t hold back. At least once per chapter she’d have to mention Edward ‘looking like a Greek God/statue’ or something similar. I swear anytime she compared Edward to Adonis (the god of beauty and desire, of course) I wanted to throw the goddamn book. And it happens multiple times!

Stephen King in On Writing pointed out one thing that really applies to Twilight: he hates adverbs and adjectives, especially in dialogue. I didn’t even know this was a problem or was so awful to witness until I read this book. Here, take a look at this short passage.

“And you still want to know why you can’t see me hunt?” He seemed solemn, but I thought I saw a trace of humor deep in his eyes.

“Well,” I clarified, “I was mostly wondering about your reaction.”

“Did I frighten you?” Yes, there was definitely humor there.

“No,” I lied. He didn’t buy it.

Twilight, page 224.

Seemed solemn. Clarified. There was humor there. He didn’t buy it. It’s exhausting. Meyers needs to remind us after every line how the character sounds or what emotion their displaying. Like King said, we get it, there’s no need to flourish each line with a descriptor. 

There’s also this gem which is the low point of the book for me, the part where I knew how terrible the rest of the book would be, where I gazed upon the hell that would haunt me for the next 420 (lol) pages:

When I got home, I decided to make chicken enchiladas for dinner. It was a long process, and it would keep me busy. While I was simmering the onions and chilies, the phone rang. I was almost afraid to answer it, but it might be Charlie or my mom.

Twilight, page 78.

Chicken enchiladas. Bella is cooking chicken enchiladas. When I read this paragraph I stopped, put my head in my hands and groaned a massive groan of disappointment. Do we need to know this? Does it pertain to anything? Is it relevant to the story or the plot at all? Is her dad going to get food poisoning and die or something? The answer is no. It’s just there. It’s especially jarring because it follows a pretty dramatic interaction between Bella and Edward, and after that drama? Chicken fucking enchiladas!

Look, this is fine to do if it serves a purpose. If someone writes about going through a McDonald’s drive through, cool, but they better be writing a stoner buddy comedy or a depressing satire on everyday adult life. Maybe I’m overreacting here on how bad the enchilada paragraph is, or missing the point of it being here (her needing to keep busy?), but it totally broke the flow of reading for me. It was jarring and hilariously pointless to anything regarding the story.

The 498 pages and days of my time weren’t totally wasted; in fact I think this was the most interesting book I read this year (ignoring East of Eden that is). It taught me more than the Narnia series did. The Narnia series and East of Eden shit on me because they were so good: I could never be a writer like those guys, the giants that are Steinbeck and C.S. Lewis. Might as well pack it up and find a 9-5 job and do that until I die. But this book? This book told me “Jeremy, hey, I know you have confidence issues but if this got published, what the fuck are you doing?! Get to writing! You can do better than this!” And I almost want to do better than Twilight because I know for a fact I can if I just get my ass in gear. Twilight was so bad I want to write just to spite it, to prove it wrong, to hold my shitty stories up to the world and say, “Still a better love story than Twilight!Twilight is the perfect book to show you how not to write and it’s not a book that teaches you numbered lessons or facts; it shows them to you, shoves your face in them, smears your face in shit and makes you hate the flaws so much as to never commit them yourself. Twilight fucking sucked but at least it has some lessons to teach, not that they’re the lessons the author probably wanted to teach you, but lessons none the less.

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The Narnia Series Ranked

I last read the Chronicles of Narnia when I was a kid. I’m pretty certain The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is standard reading in school, or at least it was in the ’90s, but most people probably don’t get around to reading the entire series. It’s seven books long and to a kid that is a massive series to read. That’s how it feels in retrospect: epic. Not as much as an adult though.

I ordered the series a month ago as a cheap Christmas gift to myself. After a few weeks Amazon notified me that the USPS lost my books and offered to ship a new set to me, free of charge of course. Long story short, my Narnia books showed up a few weeks ago, long after I initially ordered them.

I opened the box and was surprised at how tiny the books and the series were. That was it? I leafed through the pages and the print was big, the books only had a few hundred pages to them (if that), and I had forgotten all about the cute little drawings at the beginnings of each chapter. And short they were. I timed myself and averaged about a page per minute. Given these books are about 200 pages long it’d take about three and a half hours to finish a single one. One night from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. I plowed through The Silver Chair in one go. Maybe my math was a bit off but my point is these books are quite a bit shorter than the massive Wheel of Time books which take me about two weeks to read.

Since I’m plowing my way through a childhood adventure fantasy series that is basically a classic, I figured it’d be fun to rank them. Rankings are always fun, right? And while I’m at it I can bitch about some thing that irked me while praising a few other things about the books as I go. And at the end I’ll jerk myself off over how amazing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is.

#7: Prince Caspian

Before making this list I read other peoples lists mostly as a way to confirmation-bias my way into knowing for a fact that Dawn Treader was the best book in the entire series. Surprisingly Prince Caspian was always near the top, usually #3 or #2, and this upset me greatly. I hated Prince Caspian. I don’t remember reading it as a kid but that’s kinda my point here; Prince Caspian is forgettable.

The kids come into Narnia, find their derelict castle and realize that thousands of years have passed. Enter some exposition from Trumpkin the Dwarf (despite the name he’s a cool guy) about Caspian being the true king and how he escaped his Evil Uncle™. Caspian meets the Narnian talking animals, the Pevensie kids save the day (again), end of story. I don’t see why Prince Caspian is held in such high regard. While the book did kinda suck, it was only bad in the context of the entire Narnia series. Anyways, fuck Prince Caspian.

#6: The Horse and His Boy

This is another relatively “meh” book in the series. Just like Prince Caspian I didn’t remember much of the book. But the story itself was good. It was nice to learn about the often-mention but never-elaborated-upon country of Calormen and a desert adventure was a nice change from all the “European” geography of the rest of the series.

But the plot is totally unrelated to Narnia at all. It’s like a side-story, a good story but with zero lasting effects on the series as a whole. The plot: Prince Cor comes back to Archenland and becomes king (eventually). Archenland, like Calormen, is another country in the grand world of Narnia, but doesn’t come into play much at all. In general the Horse and His Boy was a good book, but didn’t add much to the series as a whole. It’s just kinda there and anyone could skip without consequence. Sure you might not get a paragraph-long reference in The Silver Chair, but you won’t even notice that you missed it.

#5: The Last Battle

The last book in the series and the most depressing by far. The Narnia series itself is pretty uplifting; sure bad things happen but they’re always outweighed by good eventually. That isn’t the case in The Last Battle where everything shitty seems to happen. A ‘false Aslan’ comes to Narnia, promptly fucks everything up, and King Tirian, the last king of Narnia, tries his best to fix things. Tirian somehow manages to make every wrong choice possible and there are countless times in the book where one subtle change would’ve stopped Narnia from spiraling towards the end. He even mentions something like he’s ‘the unluckiest king ever.’

The book is depressing and the last half turns into some Christian fever-dream about the end of the world and heaven. Aslan eventually shows up in some parallel Narnia thought a stable door, and him and the kids from all the other books get to watch him bring an end to the world. The parallel Narnia turns out to be the real Narnia and, spoiler alert, the kids all died in a train wreck IRL so they’re basically in heaven! But even this Narnia has a deeper Narnia in it and this connects to England and apparently any other worlds in the universe. As a kid I had no fucking clue what was going on in the last quarter of the book but this time through it made slightly more sense.

I’m putting this book so low because Narnia is all about adventure and unrelenting hope and The Last Battle just shits all over it. Sure it ends nicely because they’re all in heaven — the real Narnia — but that doesn’t change the fact that the ‘false Aslan’ was totally successful in fucking Narnia up so bad that Aslan decided to end the world. Like, fuck that is some bleak shit.

#4: The Magician’s Nephew

I read this second to last as it was written by Lewis. Think of watching Star Wars in the order it was released and not the chronological order of the films. I didn’t think this would benefit me much but surprisingly it did. By Lewis writing the “first” novel before the last one, you can see he was in the process of wrapping up the Narnia series. Before then it didn’t have a proper beginning to the world having started abruptly with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I’d like to think this helped him prepare himself for the ending of the Narnia world with the next book The Last Battle.

The book was pretty good as I apparently love any sort of creation stories. While it’s not as mind-bending as the beginning of the world in The Silmarillion (due to following a Christianesque creation event because it’s C.S. Lewis for fucks sake) it’s still interesting to read. It gives the White Witch some back story which serves to make you despise/admire her even more and describes how the first King and Queen of Narnia got there. You also get to learn why all the damn animals are able to talk.

One gripe: since this book was written nearly last, some of the things in the story are unused. One guy, Uncle Andrew, drops some money which quickly grows into gold and silver trees. These don’t appear in any other stories (except the final story and only in passing) and you’d think that trees of literal gold and silver might be noteworthy in Narnia’s lore and history as time moves forward. The same is true for the magical, protective apple tree that Digory plants; it’s meant to protect Narnia from Jadis (The White Witch) but it isn’t mentioned at all in the “following” books. Did the long winter under her reign kill the gold, silver, and apple trees? Did she corrupt the trees? Were they cut down? Who knows, and I suppose this is a big problem when anyone tries to write prequels after you’ve written nearly the entire series.

#3: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

TLTWaTW (I’m not writing that all out each time), what can anyone say about it? It’s probably the first, maybe only book, that get people into the Narnian universe, so there isn’t much to say about it. It was pretty damn good, but by this time I know exactly what happens so most of the wonder is gone. Wardrobe takes you to Narnia, there’s an evil witch ruling the land, and Edmund is a piece of shit traitor. Aslan saves the day, sacrifices himself, and comes back to life because he’s Narnian Jesus and the witch doesn’t know that’s a thing. Peter and his kin and made kings and queens and they go back home. Oh, and Santa Claus brings them weapons to murder people with!

The Christian overtones are a bit obvious and heavy-handed at times, but it’s Narnia so you should be expecting this. I doubt any kid would notice this and would only see it as an adventure story. But I gotta say the story and the pacing is spot on here. The wonder as Lucy finds a new world inside a wardrobe, the character arc of Edmund from traitor to king is amazing, and the tension as he betrays his family out of spite is immense. The plot also gets pretty fucking dark as the witch murders Aslan as he’s bound right in front of Lucy and Susan. Like hell, it’s a kids book and it takes some grim turns along the way.
It’s a great story, but by this time it’s almost boring to read.

#2: The Silver Chair

Last time I read this I got the feeling that Lewis wasn’t much into writing the story. It seemed like it had large gaps where time jumps forward without much explanation. The moors to the north of Narnia seem huge on a map, but Eustace and Jill traverse them in a single chapter. The same happens after they cross the giant bridge into the mountains. What you assume would be an arduous adventure flashes by instantly. I didn’t get the feeling quite like before, but it was still there, at least initially.

Another gripe about the book: the Lady of the Green Kirtle. She’s the main antagonist and is a witch similar to The White Witch, but besides that we know nothing about her. She’s a good villain and a dangerously sly and seductive one, but she has zero back story. This late into the Narnian series you’d expect her to be mentioned somewhere earlier, being an evil witch living in the north for (assuming) quite a long time, so it’s like she just appears in this book, tries to fuck everything up, and is defeated. Who is she? Where did she come from? Why/how is she a snake? There are so many questions about her that aren’t answered at all.

But the book was great. I loved the entire last half where they’re underground with the creepy pale dudes. The fact that an entire civilization is living underground is terrifying, amazing, and disturbing all at the same time. If you’ve ever been in a cave you know how disturbingly wrong it feels being used to light, sound, and the sky, and imagining yourself along with the characters is jarring. And learning the creepy pale dudes came from an even deeper land called Bism, a land of lava and fire, just blew my mind.

There’s also a guy called Puddleglum, a Marsh-Wiggle who apparently has a minor drinking problem, and he’s one of my favorite dudes in the series (after Reepicheep of course). He’s fucking hilarious. If you read the book be on the lookout for this hilarious word: Respectowiggle. There’s also a part of the book where, after a night of heavy drinking, Eustace mentions that Puddleglum “Has a headache.” He’s also a relatively complex character as well. He’s hopelessly pessimistic when the kids first meet him but shows quite a bit of wisdom and courage when it counts most. Puddleglum is a cool motherfucker indeed.

#1: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

While looking at other Narnia rankings I was upset (meaning angry) to find that Dawn Treader was consistently ranked #2 behind TLTWaTW. I mean that book is rather good and is usually anyone’s first, maybe only, adventure in the Narnian universe. But I swear that I will personally fight anyone who disagrees with me that Dawn Treader is the best fucking book in the whole series. TLTWaTW can go fuck right off being everyone’s #1.

The Dawn Treader is an adventure book. A shameless adventure book that doesn’t give a shit about antagonists or anything else. It’s all about Caspian wanting to sail to the end of the world because he fucking can: he’s the king! Sure there is the primary plot of saving the seven lords that were banished under his Evil Uncle’s™ reign, but this just feels like some half-assed excuse to sail to the end of the world. Caspian really didn’t care about the lords, he just wanted to fuck around on a boat in the ocean, and Lewis needed a reasonable excuse for him to do so.

There’s something fascinating about sailing to the end of the world, and apparently I have a soft spot for adventuring, especially on boats, that I don’t fully understand. Were my ancestors sailors or something? Because as a person who was born and grew up in Illinois, nearly as far away from the ocean as possible, I’ve never been on a real boat or been around the ocean for more than a few hours on vacation. But The Wind Waker, The Terror, The Mountains of Madness, Cast Away, and Moana all have that sense of a big ocean adventure that is so appealing to me that I can’t really explain. Sure adventures across land (ala Lord of the Rings) sound good, but a fucking boat sailing to unknown lands in strange latitudes and longitudes is amazing.

Dawn Treader fills this wonderfully. There are no unknown lands on Earth anymore. No grand adventures to sail on. There’s also no magic. As Caspian, Reepicheep, and company sail across the ocean you really get the feeling that they’re going off to strange and unknown lands where anything can happen. Narnia is a strange world full of magic, so you know the Eastern Ocean is going to have some weird shit in it. The book doesn’t disappoint. You’re introduced to islands that have all but forgotten their king, islands full of invisible and strange (and immensely stupid) creatures, get to meet a retired star, and be along with Lucy as she sees merpeople under the waves. A lake that turns things to gold and an island where your dreams (more like nightmares) come true? And dragons? Holy shit, sign me up! And finally the voyage to the end of the world, the literal end to it where Reepicheep sails into Aslan’s Country? Damn. If only we lived in a world where you could literally sail to heaven and never come back.

My only complaint about this book: Reepicheep the Mouse. It was the first and only book that Reepicheep was really a character in, and you hate to see the little fucker go. He’s probably my favorite Narnian character, what with his small size, inflated sense of valor and honor, and always wanting to charge into battle against dragons and sea serpents. Reepicheep does not give a fuck and I love it. His and Eustace’s friendship arc is also amazing as Eustace turns from a little annoying shit into a hero as Reep’s badassness rubs off on him. But Reepicheep, why’d he have to sail over the end of the world? Why did such a good character have to leave? I wish he was in more books and you can’t help but feel the loss as he sails over the waves to never return.

REEPICHEEP!

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Substance-Free September Sucks: Books and Boredom

It’s time to write a blog post even though I don’t have anything in mind to write about. Hopefully as I write a topic will appear. Kinda like my month long streak experiment where somehow I was able to write something every day even if I didn’t think I had anything to say.

Substance-free September is going great, and I’m surprised how much my mood has improved. Apparently I don’t have anxiety issues when I’m not drinking, who would’ve thought? I shouldn’t say that though, anxiety is still around, It’s just manageable. Like I can feel tense or anxious about a situation but find myself acknowledging it and going along with it. “I’m very nervous and anxious but, oh well, there is nothing else to do but to face it head on.”

This is noticable in small ways. Take for example some paintings I bought from a garage sale last weekend. Garage sales are terrifying for me: social interaction with strangers, social protocol that I’m not aware of, it’s a big mess of shit that makes me uncomfortable. Yet I drove by a garage sale, saw a painting that looked interesting, pulled over, and contemplated if I was really going to go through with buying it. I was terrified and the coward in me wanted to find any reason to drove off, but I got out of the car, talked to the lady, and walked away with four pieces of art for $20.

I feel terrible for this. Writing about anxiety and how I turned into a big boy finally where I could buy something from a garage sale all by myself. But hey, I’m trying to be proud of little acts like this where I manage to get over my anxiety, even if it’s something as silly as buying art from a garage sale.

Reading and video games have been keeping me sane over the past two weeks. Boredom is one of the key triggers for my drinking (the others being stress and depression), so avoiding boredom is a huge part of Substance-Free September. To start, I purchased American Psycho and Lolita from Thriftbooks before the month began, ready to jump into reading in the evening to dissuade myself from drinking. One issue here: I’m a fast reader. I plowed through American Psycho within a week, and then turned to the third book in The Wheel of Time series to keep busy. Book three is whopping 770-page book (which I was halfway through) and I finished in a week and a half. Being a bit weary to jump into book five in TWoT series (1,000-pages…) what else could I read?

(Here’s a post I wrote about The Wheel of Time if you’re interested.)

American Psycho was a fucking trip, and one of those books that you finish and immediately think, “Wait…so what actually happened? Huh?” I think most people like ‘tidy’ endings to stories, but I love the random “What the fuck happened?” endings, and not just with books. Movies that end this way are usually some of my favorite films.

(Note on Thriftbooks: I used to buy all my books from Amazon until a coworker told me about Thriftbooks. They sell books (obviously) and you can get a wide selection of used books ranked by quality. This means you can snag books for literally a few dollars each and they even credit your purchases towards a free book after you spend a certain amount. There are two things I like about Thriftbooks: they’re not Amazon (Amazon is basically taking over the world so fuck them) and I love buying used books. Used books are amazing because 1.) you’re basically recycling books/they’re good for the trees 2.) they smell nice and have some ‘history’ to them 3.) they’re cheap meaning you can buy more 4.) I love physical books and can’t into ebooks and 5.) buying a used book that is terrible doesn’t give the author royalties. In short, Thriftbooks is amazing.)

I hopped on Thriftbooks today and purchased the next two books in The Wheel of Time series — books five and six out of thirteen! — as well as Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Journey and On Writing by Stephen King, both recommended by a certain reddit thread asking about amazing nonfiction books. Lolita still needs to be read as well as book 4 of TWoT. I should be able to keep plenty busy over the next few months and hopefully stay away from alcohol.

That was rambly enough and I’m not even drunk. What the hell? Anyways, I feel like leaving off on some grand lesson, something to note, and I don’t really have anything besides keep busy! I know any drug/alcohol abuser has their own certain triggers, and while I’m not representative of everyone, I should be representative of a good portion of alcoholics. A good percentage of people probably do drink out of sheer boredom and if this is the case it’s obvious for me to stress the importance of never letting yourself become bored enough to drink. Find a hobby and do something even if your heart isn’t into it. The past few weeks I’ve taken solace in reading, it’s relaxing, wastes a ton of time, and gets your mind and imagination working. I really don’t see anything bad about reading besides the time sink it is, but what else is there to do? Keep busy, do something, do anything, but do not get bored! Do not drink!

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Double-Shifting (and Boredom) Sucks

It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.

-David Foster Wallace
…one of these hideous bastards. Note the stubby and goofy looking wings.

I’m currently sitting in a van on the cargo ramp at UPS. The current time is 11:17 a.m. and my crew (consisting of about 9 people) is scheduled to unload an Airbus A300 cargo airplane due to arrive at 12:09 p.m. It’s a little less than an hour away. And what will we do in the meantime? Nothing: we sit. This is what we do at UPS. The motto tossed around to new-hires is usually this: Hurry Up and Wait. I’ve been there so long that it’s basically lost its meaning to me.

The coworker in the front seat has his phone’s volume on full-blast playing some shitty mobile game. I don’t even know what game it is or if it’s even shitty, but it’s a mobile game so it probably is shitty. Also considering the certain coworker that’s playing it leads me to think it’s certainly a shitty game. I hear the cheap sound-effects of change clinking and crowds cheering feebly spewing out of the phone’s minuscule speaker which gives the sound a tinny quality. It’s like someone rubbing crumpled aluminum foil directly on your eardrums. The coworker next to me sometimes glances over in my direction and his breath is terrible. The people in the rear of the van — a Chevy passenger van that seats about 15 people fully loaded — are small-talking that everyone does when there is nothing to actually talk about. Because silence in and of itself is terrifying and scary. Two coworkers are in the back silent ripping away on their vapes. At least they’re not bothering anyone so I give them credit for that.

I’m working the UPS day-shift this year because there is no reason not to work it. UPS is a union job so it’s all-around a pretty comfy affair. Our contract with the company dictates that anything worked over five hours in a day is time-and-a-half pay: my typical $19.95 wage skyrockets to nearly $30 after the fifth hour. In a nine-hour day we’re taking some serious money here, and because I’m bored trying to kill time and math is something fun to do, this is a gross daily pay of exactly $219.45. Holy shit. Maybe double shifting isn’t too bad after all? While the money is good it’s not my primary reason for working the extra shift in a twisted sort of way if you can believe it. I’m a bum. I don’t do anything productive. I usually sleep and write during the scheduled day-shift hours. Sometimes I play video games. There is no reason not to work because making $30 an hour is hard to pass up when you literally have nothing better to do.

My typical shift at UPS is the twilight shift, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. By doubling on days I work an 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. shift with an hour-ish lunch break in between. And why can I pick up these extra shifts around this time of year? Because I work at UPS. We deliver boxes. And it’s December. Fucking think about it. We’re being swamped by packages and UPS as a company throws around money with complete disregard simply to get people like me to stick around longer than usual, take extra shifts, and get those damn packages shipped. Mostly so the stereotypical American in the fury of Christmas Holiday shopping doesn’t become pissed that their boxes showed up a day or two late. Weeks before Christmas the Holiday itself obviously, but still they will be very upset nonetheless.

Knowing the shift was going to be terribly long and boring I brought in something to read: David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. I almost feel bad complaining about taking extra shifts where I have enough downtime to read a book, write blog posts, and get paid nearly $30 an hour to do so, but the way anyone gauges anything is from their own relative personal experiences and it’s difficult for me to see anything that pisses me off in a positive light even if it is, logically, a positive thing. I hate being bored even if $30 is being thrown at me every single hour.

I started reading the book about a month ago and became bored, yes bored, about halfway through and only recently began reading it again (curious timing, looking back on it). The major complaints about the book are that it’s boring as hell, and even throughout the book the author explains (or maybe it was in the forward?) that the book is almost meant to be boring. Wallace’s most well-known novel Infinite Jest had it’s moments where it lagged a bit, but was a much more riveting story overall. Hell, The Pale King is about IRS employees and the whole IRS being central to the story almost forces it to be a boring story. So it’s not that Wallace is just a boring writer, it seems that he made the book boring on purpose. It’s the theme of the book: boredom. While I don’t know exactly what he is trying to say about boredom, I know he is trying to say something about it. And the book forces you to face the boredom directly; it doesn’t talk about boredom as much as it forces you to live through it by boring you to death. Some chapters are so full of random boring details about forms, procedures, codes, and acronyms that it had to be a conscious choice on the author’s part. And in my current bored state of double shifting, the novel seems like the universe’s way of talking directly to me (again). I find myself immensely engaged with the story that is so bland and devoid of anything obviously purposeful at all.

I realize that what I’m scared of with my extra work hours is not being burned out, or not having enough free time, but of being bored. Something about being bored is a personal affront to my very being it seems. My normal UPS shift forces me to find things to do for sometimes literal hours, and by taking on a second shift I get to double my boredom! And in some ways it’s worse than that; by working a nine or ten-hour day my phone inevitably dies. No writing. No blogging. No social media. No music. No internet. Nothing. Sometimes the work is so chaotic that the boredom comes in bursts here and there and doesn’t allow you enough time to sit down, relax, think, read, or grasp onto your fading sanity. It’s work just to stop minutes later. And then work again. And then stop. It’s Hurry Up and Wait. Let’s also not forget the one or two-hour lunch wedged in between the shifts either. Not enough time to go home and relax but long enough where you can’t sit around at work. Hence me grabbing McDonald’s, sitting in a parking lot at the end of runway 25 at KRFD and watching planes take-off and land. Like this:

And reading the book I run into this, the end of which I quoted at the top of this post:

The underlying bureaucratic key is the ability to deal with boredom. To function effectively in an environment that precludes everything vital and human. To breath, so to speak, without air.

The key is the ability, whether innate or conditioned, to find the other side of the rote, the picayune, the meaningless, the repetitive, the pointlessly complex. To be, in a word, unborable. I met, in the years 1984 and ’85, two such men.

It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.

-D.F.W., The Pale King

The universe compels me to listen to what it’s trying to tell me. Apparently this time the universe works through the dead author David Foster Wallace and his unfinished novel The Pale King. And if Wallace in his boring-ass book is right, and if double shifting is as torturingly boring as it is so far, well, it looks like I’m well on my way to success, maybe even enlightenment. The key to modern life! I’m going to learn to be bored. To be okay with it. To sit for hours and hours in an airplane cross-legged and perfectly at peace being the embodiment of boredom. Totally fine staring out at the twinkling runway and taxiway lights that appear as bright, vivid, twinkling stars strewn over the ground admiring them endlessly.

(Closing Note: I was trying to make this more of an “update post” but was carried away with my mindset for the day. I wrote the post while bored and just went with it and it ended quite differently than how I originally intended it to end. So I guess this is the “update part” just tacked onto the end. I’m working a bunch of hours. I probably won’t be very active on here unless I knock some stuff out on the weekends and schedule them to post on the weekdays. I can write on my phone just fine, but I can’t edit or post. This also explains the “thanks guys!” post on Sunday. December probably won’t have any record blog views because of this yearly hell I live through; posting will surely suffer. I also might not be very active commenting on other people’s blogs. So if I disappear it isn’t because I forgot about you, it’s because I’m bored and I can’t help being bored and I have no escape from the boredom.)

Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life Kinda Sucks

Disclaimer before everyone jumps my shit: I actually enjoy the book so far. When you have a blog called Everything Sucks and every post has been titled “[Topic] Sucks” you need to keep with tradition. I’m sorry if it sounds kinda click baity, but it sounds a ton better than “12 Rules of Life is A Decent Book but Here are Some Complaints I Have About It.” Just for the giggles of it I made the corresponding banner so you can see what I’m talking about:

This looks and sounds stupid.

I think I might get shit on for writing this post. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that has been so well-loved and well-received by nearly everyone that I myself just can’t get into. The only other book that comes close, I think, was the terrible Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiosiakawakaia, and I really don’t understand how I haven’t written a post about that awful fucking book yet. This puts me in a strange mindset: maybe the people that like this book — everyone that is — are wrong? Or maybe they all see the obvious wonder and greatness of this book and I’m the only idiot that doesn’t “get it.” I’m leaning towards the latter because why wouldn’t I? Seriously though, my supervisor has read the book and loved it. Her brother is currently reading the book and loves it. A few bloggers I follow have written about the book and they appeared to have also loved the book. Goodreads gives the book a 4 out of 5 which for Goodreads standards is amazing. Reviews on Amazon have also given the book a 4.6 out of 5, which, yeah, is really good. The consensus is that the book is good. And I don’t feel that way somehow.

I also want to say that I’m ignorant of any “controversy” that Peterson is apparently known for. I went into the book being a clean slate of opinions on Peterson himself, so this slightly grumpy post has nothing to do with me thinking he’s a bad person or being mad about whatever the hell it was that pissed people off. I don’t know about any of it.

Currently, I’m about a quarter of the way halfway through the book. (This is considering that reading three six out of the twelve rules should be a quarter halfway at least. I don’t know how much Peterson decides to rant after the twelfth rule either. It could be a lot.) and while it is a bit early to start critiquing things I’ve noticed a pattern that has been driving me bonkers while reading. I think it’s his writing style. Or his tone. I don’t really know how to sum it up but the book makes me angry when I read it, and sometimes irrationally so.

The problem is not that I disagree with the rules, it’s that I don’t like how he goes about explaining the rules. The first six rules are rather straightforward and (you’d think) should require little in the way of explanation. Rule one is to stand up straight (basically). To have good posture. Rule two is to treat yourself like another person in terms of your self care. That one seemed like it needed a bit of explaining so okay, fine. Rule three is to only have friends that want the best for you. Sounds good to me. Four is about comparing yourself only to who you used to be and not to others. Great one! Rule five: don’t let your kids be jackasses. Yes, agreed. And rule six is don’t shoot up schools/workplaces to only criticize others when your own affairs are in order. And with number six I could see some explaining being required.

The first thing I noted was that Peterson’s chapters are long. Not actually long but consistently longer than I think they need to be. He seems to explain his steps in such a vague and roundabout way that I’m continually wanting him to just wrap things up and move onto the next step. I’ll find myself thinking, “Okay, I get it! Wrap this shit up!” and upon realizing there are ten remaining pages to a chapter wondering why the hell he needs ten pages to make his point. This is made worse by the straightforwardness of most of the steps. I feel that four out of the six are relatively easy to grasp the logic behind so a quick summary should suffice. Nope. Peterson needs to take up thirty pages to make his point on nearly every rule.

Rule two was especially painful to slough through. Summing up his actual reasoning goes something like this: we care for others more than we care for ourselves. He starts off by saying that people frequently don’t take prescribed medicine but are more than happy to give medicine to their dogs or another person they care about. In short, take the care and love you have for others and apply it to yourself! Care about yourself as if you’re in charge of being a third person in charge of yourself! It makes sense and it’s a wonderful way of looking at life.

How does Peterson actually go about explaining this though? He basically uses the thought process from above, but the topic rambles on and on about order and chaos, somehow equating masculinity to order and femininity to chaos. He also gives like a play-by-play of the biblical “fall of man” story from Genesis and while it’s interesting to read even I’m not sure how it plays into caring for yourself despite having recently read the chapter. I can’t recall much of the rambling. I think Peterson was talking about our inherent hatred for ourselves or something. Who knows. It was struggling through this randomness that I found myself wanting him to just get to his point. Wishing for a clear, “This is my rule, and this is how I came upon my rule.”

You have to give Peterson credit for getting people, and myself, riled up though. Check out what I wrote at the end of chapter two; I let loose on the book and this is the first and only time I recall being so angry that I started writing a small essay in the book itself.

IT’S TIME TO RANT BOIS

I get the impression that Peterson likes to hear himself talk or is very cocky about himself. Self-esteem is nice to have but it comes across in a negative way if you overdo it and this is the vibe I get from the book. It seems like he had an offer to write a book about his rules of life (which the introduction conceitedly titled “Overture” describes) and just started packing it full of unnecessary worldview and philosophical things, sort of showing off how smart, wise, and talented he is or something. At best parts of the book like this seem unnecessary, at worst they come off as gratingly self-aggrandizing.

Once again to stress my conflictedness here: I like the twelve rules so far. Each rule that I’ve read through seems legit enough to adopt into my life. I haven’t came across a single rule where I’ve shaken my head and thought, “Nope. Peterson is full of shit. I’m not following that rule.” Everything makes sense. It’s just the writing and style of the book that pisses me off.

But I have to admit it’s nice to not enjoy a book as much as you’d think you’d enjoy it. Whenever I read self-help books I usually find myself agreeing with the author too much; after all, a published writer with a wildly successful book can’t be wrong, right? I’ve always been wary of this like it’s a sign that I’m too gullible with my reading or something. So it’s refreshing to actually disagree with someone for once and to be reminded that books are written by flawed and opinionated humans just like myself who could be wrong, or at the very least are someone I don’t have to automatically agree with. In this aspect 12 Rules is stupidly refreshing to read. It gets me thinking. It gets me saying to myself, “Huh? That’s fucking stupid.” It gets my blood boiling. It makes me write paragraph-long rants at the end of each chapter bitching about what Peterson has written. But somehow at the same time I mostly agree with the book. His twelve rules are something that I really think about adopting into my own life. The book is good, I just wish Peterson would keep his ranting a bit more on topic, or not come across as so confident that he appears overwhelmingly cocky and stuck on himself. But those are just like, my opinions, man.

Not Enough Time Sucks

“What do you want to do with your life?!?”

-Seemingly Everyone

My default way of brainstorming is apparently lying awake in bed at 3 a.m. It feels like I start every blog post off this way, because it’s true. Anyways, I was lying awake in bed at 3 a.m. and was in a good mood, shockingly. I was looking forward to the following day and all of the possibilities that it offered me. I had a good selection of books that I wanted to read (Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules, Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment, Six Pillars to Self-Esteem, Dune, and every other book in my backlog), and more so than just read them, I wanted to understand them. I’m talking about really absorbing the books, taking notes on them, and reading and reflecting on what I had read. I also wanted to do this with a handful of musical albums. As with reading, I want to absorb the songs and understand them. I want to look up lyrics and ponder how the words play over and off the underlying music. There’s just so much going on to appreciate! And there are other things I want/need to do: I have a 5k coming up in a few weeks that I’m totally ill-prepared for, I need to write…and oh yeah writing! I have like three stories I’m working on along with this blog and I need to proofread stuff, and figure out a way to actually self-promote any writing I do accomplish. Work is still a thing and I also want to maybe work on being a flight instructor as a career. Who knows what I want to do?

It’s at that point I realized that my problem isn’t lacking things I enjoy doing, it’s having the time and motivation to actually do things. There’s just not enough time in the day (or in general) for me to do all the things I want to do.

Many of the tasks need patience, time, and thought to accomplish. Sure, while I could sit down and write blog posts/chapters and proofread them quickly, the same isn’t true with reading a book or listening to music. To really appreciate these things you need to take your time with them. You need to let your mind properly process them. And more importantly you can’t multitask them. “Why don’t you just listen to music while you write?” you might ask. It’s because when you write you’re probably not listening to the music like you’d want to. I’m a firm believer that the human mind can only really focus on a singular thing at once and listening to music in a distracting environment does the music a disservice. To really enjoy music, a book, and to appreciate the subtleties of any of the arts, you need to do them solo. To really dive in and appreciate what is going on.

Obviously there needs to be some form of prioritizing here and I don’t even know where to begin. Ranking things based on importance seems silly; reading is just as important to me as music and I can’t pick only one. There is also the question of what I actually feel like doing. Sometimes I’d rather read than listen to music while other times the opposite is true. Movies seem to have an even more unique mindset I need to be in to watch them. It isn’t a simple matter of prioritizing, or maybe it is and I’m just awful at having self-control. Forcing yourself to sit down and listen to music when you want to read seems almost sacrilegious in a way. And I don’t know how to decide what I actually should be doing with my time.

To be ultra depressing you can scale this struggle of what to do up from hobbies to careers. I have a handful of job-like things I could be working towards, and these take even more time and effort than reading or listening to music does. I think this is the main reason why people never seem to know what they want to do in life, it’s such a big decision to make that I understand why people simply don’t make a decision. “What you want to do in life?” seems to be such a loaded question in so many ways. It seems to be asking what you want to constantly be working towards day after day in your free time and your work time. And when you look at it that way no wonder people can’t fucking pick. There is absolutely nothing in this world that I’d be happy doing eight or ten hours each day, every day. I like my variety and choosing “what I want to do” seems to force any and all variety out of life, even if it isn’t true in practice.

I also like to blame video games for altering my outlook on what I want to do. Video games make it easy to accomplish literally anything in the game world you want. It’s a matter of dedication and time but in such a way that you can actually make progress. All of my skills in Stardew Valley are maxed out: IRL you can never max out every possible skill available. Hell, even in games like Skyrim you can still do certain things outside of your expertise. Even a wizard-mage-magical person can shoot a bow and kill things, just not very well. And even if you can’t do everything in a single play through you can always play multiple characters and accomplish everything the game world has for you to accomplish. There is no choice of “What do I want to do?” because you can do everything.

Real life forces you to actually pick the things you want to do, and hell if there aren’t too many interesting things to do. I want to write fiction and nonfiction. I want to blog. I want to fly airplanes. I want to make music. I want to paint or something. I want to put solar panels all over the house. I want to read and listen to music and go sit outside and enjoy nature. I want to stop climate change. I want to start a grilled cheese food truck. I want to live in the woods. I want to be a Buddhist monk. But there are only 24 hours in the day, 365 days in a year, and a finite amount of years left in my life. I physically can’t do nearly everything I want to do, and narrowing things down seems like an affront to the variety of things that life has to offer. It’s not so much that there is nothing I want to do, in fact there is too much to do that I’m paralyzed by the choices offered to me! I guess it’s a good problem to have but dammit if knowing that I’ll never get to experience all the things I want to do doesn’t feel awful. I hate deciding. I hate making choices. Especially when these choices involve things as important as choosing what to do with the time given to me. If only I could choose to have more time. But that’s kinda like what the Genie in Aladdin said about wishing for more wishes. You can’t do it, it’s illegal.