That Facebook Post

The Spark

I was casually reading some Facebook posts several months ago, something I don’t do very often because I’m not really into Facebook that much, and I came across a post that my younger brother Kenton posted there which made my head tilt. Now, Kenton has a rather long history of making either stupid posts or saying things he (or anyone for that matter) wouldn’t dare say in public. In fact, most of the time that I see his posts, he says something like, “Going to do my regular routine of lifting shit up and putting it down.” He’s referring to his daily weight lifting at the gym. That’s a typical post from him. Another typical post would say something like, “Ugh. I need a beer. Getting one now.” You can sense the maturity level here. However, this one post struck a nerve within me.

It was in regards to singer Chester Bennington of Linken Park, who committed suicide by hanging himself. Kenton’s post read something like this: “How could that sonofabitch do this? What a fucking idiot. He had fame and fortune and he throws it all away by killing himself? I’m so pissed about this! I just can’t believe it!” Now to put it in context, he is a big fan of Linken Park and he’s also not exactly living a very successful life himself, so there might be a bit more personal reasons for him talking this way. But my reaction to this led me to say to myself, “Maybe the guy had depression issues” or “Maybe he was really unhappy with being famous and rich” or “Maybe he had a terminal illness or something.” Just because someone’s rich and famous doesn’t mean they don’t have something else going on that we aren’t seeing.

But what really struck me is that both Kenton and I have dealt with this issue of suicide before, and this brought me down to lots of memories I thought I buried years ago.

Upside Down

I had a half-brother named Paul who committed suicide back when I was about seven years old. Despite being so young, I remembered the day I found out about it vividly. My Dad approached Kenton and me in tears and told us the sad news. He didn’t say how Paul died, but it was very clear how devestated my dad was. I never seen him like that before, so it was a particularly disturbing moment of my life, which goes without say really. It’s the years that followed which really made for some rather bumpy roads.

Paul came from my Dad’s first marriage. Kenton, my older sister Jen, and me came from his second marriage. Now he’s married to my stepmom Cindy, who he’s been with for twenty eight years or so. He’s had a pretty hard life as it is, but with what happened to Paul, this affects a parent in ways I can’t begin to fathom.

In one such way, years after Paul’s death when I was in High School, I came home one day and Jen is home as well, but so was my Dad. He was acting very erratically, hugging us tightly and going on and on about how much he loves us. What really scared the holy hell out of me however is when he had a small collection of loaded guns lying on his bed, organizing them and saying crazy things like he needs to protect us from the terrorist. I didn’t even know he had a gun, let alone an arsenal. Clearly he’s having some kind of nervous breakdown, but it was a truly horrifying experience because I started wondering if he might be suicidal.

Parents…

Years earlier, shortly after Paul died, I asked my mom what had happened. The first thing she told me is that he died from Crohn’s Disease, which is indeed a nasty disease that affects the lower intestines, creating inflammatory issues in the digestive tracks. I won’t go into the icky details, but needless to say it isn’t pleasant. While he did have this disease, it wasn’t the cause of his death. So my Mom lied to me.

But isn’t that what parents do? They lie to their children. Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, where babies come from (at least initially), and so on. All lies! Granted, we kids forgive our parents for some of these things (though I’m still getting over the Santa issue) because it’s understandable why they tell us these things. So I am not at all mad at my mom for telling me that particular lie about Paul.

I didn’t find out the suicide until years later. But once again, my dad and Cindy lied to me in regards to the real reason he did it. They said that Paul killed himself because he had this disease. Now that’s pretty believable, given what I know now about the disease. But that wasn’t the truth at all. A few months after my dad’s nervous breakdown, my siblings and I were told the full truth, which is that Paul had serious depression issues stemming back to his physical abuse from his mother.

Another Episode of Crazy Dad:

About two months after the breakdown, Kenton went home and found our dad burning his artwork in the stove, which is never a good sign for an artist to do so. My dad did drawings and paintings on his free time, so to see him doing this, especially since Kenton is an artist too, was very disturbing. He also cut himself from a broken bottle of some liquor he’d been drinking which I can’t recall, getting blood all over the floor and on the walls. I came home to see the ladder half of this episode much to my disturbance. Cindy came home and tried to get him to go with her to the emergency room. He began swearing up a storm at her when she got home, claiming he still loved our mom which was a bit of a headscratcher to us.

Since as long as I can remember, my mom and dad have this bitter hatred towards each other that always made me wonder how they ever got together in the first place. My dad didn’t express it nearly as much as mom did, but it was clear how little there is between them anymore. So to hear him say these things is extremely alarming.

Eventually Cindy did convince him to go with her to the emergency room. About a week later, after his recovery, he came back to us like nothing had ever happened. I learned that he was highly medicated and I began to wonder if he’s always been that way. Does he need that medication to stay grounded? Drugs are what controls him apparently, which always makes me wonder what people did back before these drugs and treatment existed? Does that mean that my dad would’ve ended up in a mental institution? But Cindy assured us he simply suffers from depression and to not think about it too much. Paul was deeply depressed too. It seems to run in the family.

It always irritated me how Cindy and dad pretended that his episodes never happened. To this day, they’ve never mentioned it. Not even in passing. I guess burying things is easier than dealing with them. That’s what our society tends to do. Maybe that’s part of the reason why there is such an issue with depression and suicide in our culture.

That Final Step:

Families and friends all across the globe are affected by this notion of suicide. It’s not gender specific nor race specific. It can happen to anyone at any time. There are a number of risk factors which include depression, mental health issues, substance abuse, family violence/abuse, having guns in the home, being exposed to other suicidal people, medical illness, and a bunch of others. All of these items really do fall under what I’ve experienced from this situation, but one point I didn’t mention which I want to underline is that family history of suicide can in itself lead to suicide too.

This is rather disturbing to me because it once led me to question whether I was susceptible to this. The simple truth is most definitely.

The Three Paul’s:

Did I not mention that my dad’s name is Paul too? Well guess what? My middle name is Paul too. What makes me write this point is that I’ve once struggled with the notion of suicide a while back. In fact, I was in a deep state of depression for nearly eleven years, which includes my High School years into my early adulthood life.

On many occasions, I was so unhappy with myself, beating myself up into submission and feeling that I was nothing but a piece of shit. It’s probably a major reason why I failed in getting into a relationship so many times. But it also resulted in me having few friends which even to this day I’m still paying for those actions. I began to see so many commonalities between me, my dad, and Paul, which was quite disturbing to me yet also kind of eye opening.

Are we a bi-product of our family’s genetics? Are we doomed to make the same mistakes as those that came before us? I thought about suicide many times in my High School years, but I never went down that road. The simple truth is I couldn’t do it. I started thinking I was a coward for not doing it. I mean, it takes a lot to make that kind of permanent action doesn’t it? People naturally cling to life, so to take that step into the afterlife must be really brave, isn’t it?

Breaking the Bad:

My dad looks eerily like Brian Cranston did in the hit TV show Breaking Bad. He has that same mustache, the same hair color (which he’s now growing bald), and some similar expressions. I bring this up because for those who’ve seen the show, they know that Walter White turned to cooking meth after learning he has lung cancer and can’t afford to pay for the treatments on his salary. A bit extreme, I know. But he also made that life choice. He chose to be that kind of person who eventually became so corrupt, he did pretty unspeakable things.
My dad’s not like that at all, but he made choices too. He chose to be an accountant. He chose to remarry three times (though he didn’t choose to get divorced), he chose not to pursue his dreams as an artist, and he chose all the things that came after, just like Paul chose to kill himself. Other people’s choices don’t define the choices that we end up making. I chose not to kill myself in High School because I didn’t want my dad to suffer another horrible tragedy like that. I have always made decisions like that where I thought of others before I thought of myself. That’s just the kind of person I am.

As to that question about bravery in taking your own life, I find that to actually be the coward’s way out. Life has a methodical way of being cruel to people on a regular bases. We have to go through hardships all the time. I think about killing myself and the thoughts that run through my head are, “I won’t have to pay bills anymore. I won’t need to get my degree. I won’t need to go to work every day. I won’t have to put up with difficult people anymore. I won’t have to worry about skin rashes, colds, acne, diseases, or pain of any kind. I’ll be free!” Looking at it like that, it actually takes a lot of bravery not to take your life. To live through this existence is the real heroes act, the true test of one’s soul. To prematurely end that just so you can be free of it has no honor at all as far as I’m concerned. I know that some cultures think the contrary of this, but I don’t care because this makes more sense to me. I also know that it’s not always that cut and dry. People suffer from serious depression which leads to suicide. Still, I stand by my statement. So I guess I can agree with what Kenton said about Chester Bennington.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

This essay brought up a lot of things I hadn’t thought about in a long time. When I finished the first draft, I had a very sinking feeling inside of me which didn’t go away right away. However , it’s something I’ve wanted to write for a long time and there are things here I wanted to express. The main thing is that I want to make it clear to my readers that we are not biproducts of our parents or their parents. We make decisions for ourselves and we become the people we choose to be. This essay may seem like it’s about suicide, but it’s not. It’s about choice. I make that clear on the last paragraph. This essay does have a far less humorous take when compared to my previous essays, obviously. But I kept the sections style because I wanted to maintain that similarity so that they are linked.

Clueless Tourists

Paris. They say it is the most romantic city in the world. It was rated #1 destination by Trip Advisory in 2018. It has some of the most memorable landmarks in the world, such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre. These are things I knew before going to Paris myself. It’s what I didn’t know that threw me for a loop. I went with my fiancé Kristen along with her family to attend a wedding ceremony for her brother in France. Now, the wedding itself took place outside of Paris, but we spent a week in the city. Let me just say, it was everything I expected and a lot more I didn’t expect.

I’ll introduce each member of the group I spent two weeks with like a casting call:

Kristen- My fiancé and the eldest sibling

Karl and Joy- Kristen’s parents

Andrew, Kim, and Paisley- Kristen’s brother, his wife, and their toddler daughter

Alex & Deb- Kristen’s brother and his bride to be

Trevor & Sarah- Kristen’s youngest brother and his wife

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/paris

The Room
The place we stayed at was a rental apartment owned by a group of bachelors. This is where the trouble started. Kristen right away assumed that our bed was highly unsanitary (if you catch my drift) and immediately removed the blankets and sheets, replacing them with sheets that were hanging up on a dry rack, which we assumed were clean. Other issues with the place came up gradually.

For starters, we had mold growing in one of the refrigerators and in the coffee pot in the kitchen, which by the way stunk to high heaven. The stench never went away throughout our stay in Paris. I had to hold my breath every time I walked into the kitchen.

The bathroom situation was a bit unnerving too. The shower in particular sounded like King Kong is smashing through the building. The first time I used it, I thought I broke the damn thing. Karl explained to me that it’s a pump that keeps the water pressure going. And here, I just thought it was trying to eat me.

The toilet was also a bit odd. It was in a separate room with no sink, so you had to wash your hands either in the smelly kitchen or the bathroom with the shower (which had no toilet). It also had like a million Polaroid’s hung up all over the walls, which is how I knew it was a bachelor pad. That just seemed really weird to me, staring at a bunch of strangers while I’m sitting on the john, praying to god I wasn’t getting infected by an STD.

I read this article that gives a very detailed top 10 tips on visiting Paris with family. Number one on that list is “Try rental instead of a hotel”, exactly what we did. What a stupid tip.

The City
I’ve lived in rural New Hampshire all my life and I enjoy the quietness that comes from the country. Now, I know it is a cliché to say that cities are noisy, but it’s nonetheless true, especially in Paris. The streets are always buzzing with activity in both day and night, so good luck getting any sleep.

https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71192/Basilique-du-Sacre-Coeur-de-Montmartre

After we organized and settled our rooms, we proceeded to walk down the streets of Paris, something we were all excited about. We got to see our first major attraction which was the Basilique du Sacre-coeur, a catholic church with truly awe inspiring architecture. The crowds at these places was astronomical. I’m not a big crowd person, but big cities are bound to have an abundance of them.

We went inside the massive building and it was equally impressive from within as well. Now what was kind of interesting to me is that despite there being hundreds of people inside the church, it was extremely quiet. You could literally hear a pin drop. So when Paisley started getting fussy and let out a scream, it echoed across the entire building from end to end like an Earth shattering explosion. Kids.

We circled around the interior and eventually came back out to regroup with each other. The sun was just beginning to set and we took the opportunity to sit on the grass next to a large crowd on a stone stairway and watch the city light up.  It was quite spectacular to look upon. This is why I was excited to come to Paris in the first place and I wasn’t at all disappointed by the views.

Walking
​Temperatures reached record highs on our second day in Paris, which led to a bit of tension as time progressed. The day also brought what would end up being a continuous conflict throughout our stay. Planning a trip with three or four people can be tough, especially if it’s family. But a group of eleven of us is next to impossible.

It took us all morning to decide what to do, wasting half the day on this when we could’ve just got up and started walking in any direction. Eventually, we ended up walking to the bus tour which was about two or three miles down the road.

​Our bus stopped just before the Eiffel Tower and we had lunch before heading off to our next destination. Alex wanted to take us on a bit of a tour by foot rather then going back on the bus. This was a big mistake because with the record high temps and the long walks we ended up taking (a total of about six miles), everyone became rather miserable to be around. Everyone was on edge, with sweat pouring off our heads and our bodies aching. People were arguing, water supplies ran dry, and none of us were having a good time.

By the way, tip number five of that article I mentioned earlier is “Walk. A lot.” It talks at length of how great it is to see all the sites as you’re on the move and how some of their best days were walking. Try walking a mile (or six) in my shoes during my trip.

http://www.worldofwanderlust.com/12-prettiest-streets-paris/

People
Fortune would have it that the temps were far cooler the following day and it would stay that way for the remainder of our trip. It was decided by the group the night before that we should have a more organized game plan, so we ended up deciding to go back to the bus tour and making a stop at the Arch de triomphe.

When we got up to the top of the Arch, we wanted to get as many pictures as possible because the view was simply breathtaking. However, we ran into a lot of rude people, some of whom would literally push Kristen out of their way saying, “Excuse meiu!” in French accents. She was quite annoyed, ready to deck someone.

https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71396/Arc-de-Triomphe

Now, I don’t want to give in to any stereo types, but we did have a rather large amount of experiences with rude French people.

Back on our first day in Paris, we got a taste of it right away.

We ate at a restaurant for lunch before going to the aforementioned Basilique du Sacre-coeur. After we finished our meals, we wanted to split the checks, so half the group got up to pay. That’s when a dispute erupted. I saw for the first time since I’ve known them Alex and Deb furious, shouting at the owner of the restaurant, who was also shouting at them. According to Alex after the dispute, he said that the guy was saying very derogatory things to Deb. Apparently, the guy had big issues with splitting the checks and thus it ended up all going on one card without him saying anything about it. Nice.

“You talkin to me?”

I don’t have a lot of experience with cab drivers, but nearly every one we encountered in Paris was either an American hating anger prone douche bag or high on drugs. During our second to last day, we searched for taxis to take us back to the apartment after our disastrous visit to the Eiffel Tower (I’ll get to that later). The first taxi Alex nabbed refused to take Paisley, saying, “No kids!” Alex told him to wait so we could have Kristen and I get in his cab while the others got into another cab. But instead of waiting, the car literally sped away like a bat out of hell, prompting Alex to shout “asshole” in French really loudly.

Another cab came and we got in that one with Andrew, Kim, and Paisley back to the apartment. When we got back, Alex and Deb told us about their cab driver, who apparently was high on something because he kept swerving both his body and his vehicle from left to right while speeding like a maniac, asking them crazy questions like, “Don’t you think it would be cool if we could fly? Like literally fly like a bird? It’s all good. Do you ever wonder if God is real? It’s all good.” Apparently, he kept saying “It’s all good,” throughout their drive.

The day after that, Karl and Joy got into a cab to head off to the airport so we could go home. Initially, the guy was very nice to them, being polite and striking up a conversation. However, when it came to paying up the fare, they handed him a credit card, which really pissed him off. I guess some cab drivers don’t like credit cards. But the way he got angry with them, I thought he was going to drag them out of the car and beat the shit out of them. Keep in mind that Karl and Joy are in their late sixties and are completely harmless.

Communication
​After we left the arch, we decided to walk down the street at the shops and eventually get taxis to take us to the Louvre museum, which was our intended next stop. About half the group, including me went to the museum while the rest went shopping. They would join us afterwards at the museum. Deb had never been to the Louvre despite growing up in France and she was rather excited for all of us to see the Mona Lisa at the same time, which none of us (except Alex) had ever seen before.

https://www.getyourguide.com/paris-l16/skip-the-line-visit-the-louvre-with-a-licensed-guide-t46070/

​Now, because we didn’t have access to our phone plans, we were forced to rely on Facebook messenger using the WIFI. At the museum, the WIFI really sucked ass and thus led to some more trouble in paradise.

Karl and I separated from Alex and Deb to see the Greek and Egypt exhibits. We were summoned to regroup to see the Mona Lisa with the rest of the gang. Karl and I bumped into Kristen, Joy, Trevor and Sarah as we shot back through the Greek exhibit just as they arrived, and all of us proceeding to the Mona Lisa. I was more concerned with getting everyone together that I failed to realize that Deb wanted us to all see the painting together at the same time. Apparently, she sent a message out saying this, but none of us received it due to the poor reception. She was very disappointed when we got there long before they did, which led to more tension among the group. People started losing their patience with each other, arguments erupted, and feelings were hurt, with Kristen and I attempting (and failing miserably) to play mediators. That was a lot of fun…

​That long day ended up leading to the first good idea we had all trip.

Homesick 

https://destinia.pt/h/h94506-disneyland-hotel

Perhaps my fondest memory of the trip came when the group decided to all go their own separate ways for one day and do our own thing. Kristen and I tagged along with Kim, Andrew, and Paisley to Disneyland Paris, a decision we both agreed would help us relieve all the stress of the days before. Whenever I tell people that I went to Disneyland during my France trip, they look at me like I committed a crime against humanity. “You went to Disneyland? In Paris? What is wrong with you?” I get why they might say that. Maybe I’m dull. I don’t know. I don’t care. It was a fun day.

Kristen and I separated from Kim and Andrew so we each could enjoy our times together. The first thing I noticed right off the bat is that the parks layout was nearly identical to Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld back home. Our first stop was frontier land, where we went on our first ride together on the haunted mansion. I hadn’t been on the ride in a long time (not since I was a young kid) so I didn’t remember it much. It was fun, as expected. We also went to the Pirates of the Carribian which had a six mile long ride, only for it to break down as we got to the end of it. That was our only real disappointment which was corrected later on.

​We got on rides including Star Tours and an Indiana Jones rollercoater ride. We did manage to get on the Pirates ride, which was worth the wait. We did more exploring and watched an impressive parade before returning to the room later in the evening. Overall, I have no complaints about our experience.

Oh, and tip nine of that article says “Skip the big amusement parks”, specifically singling out Disneyland Paris. I’m starting to think this article is complete horseshit.

Hiccup
I don’t drink alchohol. It’s a choice and I don’t judge people that do drink. With that said, there are certain instances when a drink (or several) can lead to some potential disasters. One such example is the day we visited the Palace of Versailles outside of Paris. It was a fun first half of the day seeing this massive palace. But it quickly turned to chaos after we left. The group got drinks at a nearby bar and got very buzzed.

As we arrived at the subway station to meet Debs parents for dinner, I’m letting a bunch of rather drunk people decide my fate, figuring out which train we’re getting on. Keep in mind none of them could read or speak French, since Alex and Deb weren’t with us at the time. My lack of confidence not withstanding, we got on the train and headed back to Paris. When we arrived to our “stop”, half the group slowly stumbled out of the train laughing like a bunch of nut jobs, whereas me, Karl, Kim, and Andrew (with Paisley’s stroller) were still on board trying to get out and the doors closed, with the train starting to move. Karl and I struggled to get the door back open as Kristen yanks her hand between the doors shouting, “Mmmaaatttttt!!”, thinking it’s the last time she will ever see me (the future mother of my children folks…). Joy was hollering at her, shouting “KRISTEN!” thinking that the train will rip her arm off or something, though she didn’t realize that Kristen could’ve easily pulled her hand out of the door. Luckily, Kim figured out where the emergency open switch on the door was located and we stepped out of the train soon after. Everyone at the train staring at us, probably assuming we were exactly what we were at that moment: a bunch of dumbass Americans.

​It took us a long time to get back to the apartment, with frequent stumbles and wrong turns. Somehow we managed. But looking back on it now, I’m amazed we didn’t die a horrible death. And they ask me why I don’t drink?

Landmarks
The last full day in Paris was highly anticipated because pretty much everyone wanted to go up the Eifel Tower and the Notre Dame.

​We went into the Notre Dame first and saw the magnificent interior. The gothic architecture and elegantly designed stain glass windows were truly awe inspiring. We walked up to the top of the main tower and got some truly great views of the city. I never got tired of seeing the vast cityscape and wondrous architecture.

http://www.aperturetours.com/blog/2017/best-place-to-photograph-the-notre-dame-de-paris

Afterwards, the group separated to do some shopping. Kristen bought a whole bunch of crap in shops around the area. I’m not a big shopper, but she on the other hand… ugh. At least we got some nice souvenirs, though at that point, I don’t think we wanted many reminders of Paris.

​Since we wanted to see the Eifel tower at night, we decided to get an early dinner at one of the places we past. Because there was so many of us, it took a long time to get our meals. We rushed to get to cabs and to no surprise, the cabs carrying different groups split up, so we got separated. Kristen and I ended up with Alex, Deb, Kim, Andrew, and Paisley. Everyone else went into an unknown location and we had no way of contacting them. Foolish Americans once again failing to make plans. This time, we couldn’t blame the alcohol.

Because our time was very limited, we couldn’t stand around and wait for the others to arrive, so we went up the tower, hoping they’d be up there already. But we never reunited with them until we returned to the apartment. They never got to go up the tower.

Now seeing the Eiffel Tower up close was pretty cool. It was all lit up by spotlights and it was such a marvel to look at. However, going up the tower was highly overrated. For starters, it took nearly an hour to get there and once you do arrive, it’s an overcrowded cramped area where you’d be lucky to get a single decent photo.

http://www.aviewoncities.com/gallery/showpicture.htm?key=svefr0406

Hype or Not
So that was the end of our trip. It was quite an adventure, with great sights, good laughs, and some incredibly stressful moments. Everyone’s experience is different, like that family in the article I read. But just because someone tells you that going to a specific destination is fantastic, don’t blindly take their word for it. No one can tell you how your vacation will be. You have to experience it for yourself.

Work Cited

Stoen, Eric. http://www.wendyperrin.com/10-tips-perfect-family-vacation-Paris/. November, 2014.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Destinations-cTop10

“Here’s Some Advice”

Not that long ago, I’m sitting in one of my writing classes at Keene State College and the professor gives us an in class assignment by saying, “Write an instructions manual on advice on how to date.” It was meant to be an exercise to get us thinking about ideas for our portfolio.

​Most of the class gets a bit of a chuckle to this assignment, myself included, and it prompts one of the students to say, “What if I only have one suggestion to make?”

​The professor, seeming amused by this, asks, “What is it?”

His response is, “Don’t date.”

Everyone laughs at this because it’s something the whole room can relate to. I started thinking about the comment really hard and it led me down a path of many memories, both good and bad. It also got me to thinking about whether he is right or not. Now, I’m an older student in his early thirties whereas many of my fellow students are either in their late teens to early twenties. But I remember what it was like to be that age. Geez, I sound like an oldie.

The “Golden Years”
I’m strolling down the hallway of Chesterfield School, heading towards my 8th grade pre-algebra class, not in a particular rush to get there, when I suddenly look up and spot her. Her name is Kristin and she’s a girl I’ve had a crush on since the 6th grade. She’s about to pass by me as she’s walking down the hall towards the restrooms. No one else is around in the hallway. It’s just her and me. This is my chance. I look up at her and just as her eyes meet with mine, my head goes right back down, my eyes fixed to the floor, and walking right past her without so much as a peep.

​That rather small incident is just one of many that I’ve had to endure throughout my youth. What was it about me that made me so painfully shy towards the members of the opposite sex? It’s not uncommon among guys like me, who tend to be a bit dorky and are not into the typical heterosexual male interests like sports and cars and staring at women’s bosoms (ok, that last one is a lie) Guys like me during those fine years were into nerdy things like Dungeons and Dragons, video games, and Star Wars. What do those things have in common? (Most) girls have no interest in any of those things.

Many of my friends had similar difficulties with women. My best friend, William, had a crush on this girl. He actually had the guts to ask her out, but in response to that, she went to the guidance counselor and accused him of stalking her. This is what us guys had to endure.

Women should really try to be a bit nicer to us nerds. Eharmony.com says to appreciate us by being considerate of our intellect and interests. Never knock our nerdy tastes. Try taking an interest in our nerdy stuff (would it kill them to watch Star Trek with us?). Find common ground. Sadly, girls in middle school and high school is very unforgiving towards these things.

I never did speak to Kristin during middle school, but in High School, I pushed myself into making a move which embarrasses me to this day. I left a note in her locker, expressing my desire to “go out” with her. The worst part is, I didn’t even put the note in the locker myself. I had my best friend do it for me. I never got a response from her and I was far too shy to ask her in person. For all I know, she never even got the letter. I wish I could say that was the most pathetic thing I’ve ever done when it comes to asking a girl out on a date. The ironic thing is I really wasn’t a bad looking guy back in High School. Sure, I had acne up the wazoo thanks to genetics (thanks Dad). But overall, I was not half bad looking. I learned quickly that looks only get you part of the way to victory.

I never did date anyone in High School. My voice sounded like a train ran over it, my face looked like World War III had been waged thanks to the acne, and I turned into the deer in the headlights whenever I spotted an attractive girl. Now there’s a real winner right there.

Talk the talk, walk the walk
It’s when I got hired to work at the Colony Mill Marketplace after graduating high school that things started to finally happen for me. The Colony Mill is the small town equivalent of a mall which had lots of style to it. I worked as a “maintenance worker” there for four years. I put that in quotations because essentially, my job was to mop floors, sweep stairs, take out the trash, and clean toilets used by hundreds of people.

The job wasn’t all bad. I got along with most of my co-workers. But there was this one guy that really got under my skin and his name was Dale. Now, he’s a fairly nice guy who is good at making the rest of us laugh and doesn’t treat anyone poorly. However, he was notorious for getting with women. He was a master at it, making it seem so damn easy it made me sick with envy. Every day he would come into the building with a swagger expression on his face and brag to the bunch of us about a girl he’d met at the bar or even someone that worked in one of the stores in the building.  As far as he’s concerned, he’s god’s gift to women. Because of his personality and generally good looks, no one doubted his endless stories.

He was vaguely aware of my lack of experience and gave me some advice. He’d say to me, “Matt, you just got to go in there and take the bull by the horns. Let the girl do all the talking while you sit there and listen to them. You’ll be fine.” I guess I’m not a very good bull fighter.

It was at the Mill where I developed my second serious crush on a girl. Maria is the absolute epitome of out of my league. She was slender, beautiful, and very friendly. She had red hair which used to drive me bonkers. I had a thing for red heads back in those days, not really sure why. She worked at a store called True Necessities as an assistant manager. I always knew when she was walking down the long halls because I could hear her loud high heels trekking across the tile floor. She was also one of the few women to actually speak to me without me being the one to initiate the conversation (which also happened very rarely). It gave her power over me and I was helpless to it.

I spent a few months obsessing over her, thinking she was “the one”. I’d walk by her store and actually say hi to her, even striking up a casual conversation. I’d walk by the store several times trying to look busy, but really just hoping she’d call for me to help her with something in her store. I bet I looked really hot carrying dripping garbage bags across the hall past her store.

It even got to the point where I started telling my family and friends that I was going to ask her out on a date. Most of them cheered me on, giving me advice such as, “Just be yourself,” or “Be confident and stay focused.” This is advice that I could get from a hallmark card. I felt that whatever I end up doing, it will work out in the end. Right, because my methods in the past worked so well….

At least I knew not to leave her a note this time, which would’ve been borderline stalker shit. It took me a while to build up the courage inside of me. Once I finally came around to her store to ask her, I saw Dale talking to her and I knew that I was sunk. He torpedoed me without even realizing it and I am not a competitive man. So I let reality sink in and got back to work, cleaning toilets and wishing I was the shit that got flushed down.

Cut to about a week later, and Dale was in the maintenance closet talking with the other guys as I approached, only he had a much unexpected story to tell. He basically said that Maria was bat shit crazy. She was completely flamboyant at the bar, getting too drunk even for him to handle, and she thought it would be a great idea to take a dump in the parking lot near his car. When he took her back to his place, she flew out of her cloths so fast, he hadn’t even closed his apartment door yet. Normally he wouldn’t have a problem with this, but his night was such a nightmare that he lost interest in her completely. He told her to leave, which her reaction was, “Don’t you want to fuck?” Very classy girl…

Bullet dodged.

Let’s Pray
A few months later, I met a new girl while taking out the trash (no not Maria). When I opened the door to get to the exit leading out to the dumpsters, I nearly clocked her on the head with the door, not realizing she was there. Luckily, I was swift enough to prevent it. She laughed as she said to me, “Wow! Nice reflexes.” She then introduced herself as Majella.

After that potential disaster, we became good friends, even leading up to me asking her out on a date, to which she accepted. I kind of went borderline obsessive with her, thinking once again that she’s the one. She was my first official girlfriend, but it didn’t last very long. She was heavily catholic, which I have no problem with, but she and her family are like really old school catholic. It was a bit freaky. She wasn’t allowed to wear a skirt that went above her knees, which her father would measure himself. She took offense that I was living with my brother who in turn was living with his girlfriend. That’s a big no-no apparently. No sex before marriage. That was a real bummer. All of her free time when she was with her family was studying the bible. She was home schooled, had nine siblings, and the church they went to had everyone speaking Latin, which I incorrectly thought was a dead language.

After about six months of being friends with her and about a month of being more than friends, I came to the realization that this relationship wasn’t meant to be. Everyone kept giving me advice on how to handle the situation, but none of it worked. “You should give her flowers” or “Try going to church with her and get a feel for it.” The fact is, she didn’t want me to convert solely because of her. Truth is, it was the only reason I would’ve converted. I didn’t really believe in the catholic faith, despite my respect for it. So I was the one to end the relationship. I’ll admit, I bawled like a little baby. It was my first girlfriend, so naturally, I was a bit emotional. I could’ve maintained the relationship, trying to appease to her interests in me and forcing her to choose me over her faith, but that’s not my style.

Once again, with feeling…
Eventually, years later, I found my next relationship which was a girl named Amanda. She was working the same job as me at Teleflex Medical- a manufacturing company- as a machine operator during the same shift. She seemed nice and she was fairly attractive, but I didn’t want to base my decision sorely on looks anymore. I don’t do crazy anymore. We talked with each other initially, becoming friends, then one thing led to another (finally!). We started dating officially after that and it lasted a bit longer than my first one. My parents didn’t take a liking to her. They thought something was a bit off with her. I was blind to what they were telling me at first, giving me advice that I probably should’ve followed but chose to ignore them instead, which isn’t what I’ve done in the past. I figured that I had so much advice from people in my life that never worked, why should I bother this time? However, Amanda turned out to be very flaky and unreliable. Sometimes, it would be days or even weeks if I ever got so much as a text from her. She also went to the bar a lot without me, which got me wondering. After that time passed by, she’d get real friendly with me again and we go back to being “happy”. She’d start talking about having a family with kids, getting a house, and doing the white picket fence thingy that people talk about.

But it got to the point where I felt like a yo-yo because then she’d disappear on me again. No calls, no text, and no messenger. Plus, there’s that rather inconvenient matter of her sleeping with other guys at the same time, so that kind of put a damper on things. To this day, I don’t know how many other guys she was bunking with, but I needed to hit the eject button on this as fast as humanly possible. I ended that relationship after about three months of trying to make it work. Funny thing is, unlike my last relationship, I wasn’t really that upset about ending it. It’s sort of like getting through rehab.

The light at that tunnel thingy
Just when I thought it was completely hopeless, I had a new opportunity fall into my lap. A friend of the family suggested that I communicate with a girl online who is very nice and quite responsible. At first I was hesitant because I don’t really like Facebook and all that online dating crap. It never worked for me in the past, so why should it work now? But I decided, what do I have to lose? Ironically, her name is Kristen (though it’s spelled with an “E” rather than an “I” like my first crush). We communicated online for a year, messaging each other day after day and getting to know each other in ways I would’ve screwed up had I done it face to face.

Eventually, we met at a restaurant on our first date and it was instantly love at first sight for me. I already knew this person because of all that time communicating online, but now that I see her face to face, I’m completely taken. We’ve been together ever since. That meeting was two years ago. We are now engaged and we are living in a house together, ready to live happily ever after.

Looking back to that comment made by the fellow student on, “Don’t date,” I’d have to disagree with that statement. There have been a lot of times that I felt the same way in the past, but had I continued to think that way, I never would’ve met Kristen. It’s very easy to give up. Many people do and end up being unhappy from loneliness anyway. It’s also easy to be totally deceived by our perceptions of people. Maria would’ve been a disaster of biblical proportions, Majella may as well have been wearing a chastity belt, and Amanda couldn’t ever focus on just one guy, or two guys, or three, or four, or five. If I were to give someone advice on dating based on my personal experience, I’d simply say to them, “Be patient.” The fact is, we all go through dead beats before meeting the one that is right for us. Life has a funny way of throwing a curve ball at you every once in a while. Just be sure to act upon it when it comes. Now some may say that I’m really lucky to have met my future wife. I feel that’s the wrong message. I worked really hard to get where I’m at now. To say I’m lucky really downgrades this. Hard work and persistence is the road I took and I’d encourage others to do the same.

work cited

Dr. Hartman, Christie. https://www.eharmony.com/dating-advice/dating-tips/four-rules-for-dating-a-nerd/. November, 2012

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With this essay, I wanted to combine some elements in which I hadn’t done in previous essays. For example, I added in sections to it, separating time periods of significance involving my personal experiences in relationships. Since I had so few, it was easier to include all those experiences and separating them in sections. Another element I added was humor, which I suppose came from some inspiration reading David Sedaris’s essays. The real challenge for me was making sure this topic idea stayed on que throughout. I tried not to be preachy about relationships so as to not sounding too much like an advice essay, though I do give that towards the end. Mostly, my plan was to tell my stories and see if people can draw some conclusions from them, maybe even relate to them.

Bust a Gut

I can tell you from over twenty years of my own personal writing, I could never match, nor would I attempt to write the way David Sedaris does in his large collection of essays he’s wrote over the years, using comedy as the foundation of his work. Right off the bat, with the title of his book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, one of his latest pieces of work, you get a glimpse of the kind of creativity he has. During my first year of attending college, I remember reading an essay by Sedaris (though I don’t remember the name of it– cut me some slack, it was eight years ago), which I do recall it being very funny and witty. It left an impression. So, for this essay I’m about to write, I want to further explore this great and funny writer in broader detail, using the aforementioned book as the mainframe. I can say this with absolute certainty now: it made perfect sense to use David Sedaris as a prime example of personal essay in my class of “Art of the Personal Essay”.

​Some of the things he writes about really takes the reader by surprise, which is what a good comedian does. He will start a sentence using his own voice to describe a situation that occurred to him at some point in his life, then pull the rug from under you by making an unexpected comment. For example, in an essay titled “Attaboy”, he talks about this incident where a man is shouting in a crowded street, “Citizens arrest!” and that a teenage boy he took the shoulder of is using a marker to draw graffiti on a mailbox. The parents of this boy are outraged by the man and basically accuse the man of sexual assault. He goes on a long tangent about how in his day growing up, if he had been the one drawing graffiti on the mailbox, his parents would’ve commended the man, then turned to him and beat him. His wording is what really got me going, as he said, “My Mom would’ve held my arms back while my father would beat me. With a golf club. In the balls.” Sentences like this are what make his essays truly stand out. In that same essay, his father gets upset when a boy calls his mother a “bitch” and questions both Mr. Sedaris and one of his sisters about the identity of this boy. During a misunderstanding, he ends up grabbing a kid named Tommy by the neck and lifting him off his feet against the wall, suspecting him of being the boy in question. It ends up being the wrong Tommy and he orders Mr. Sedaris to get some ice cream, to which he proceeds to the basement spare freezer (being that there is no ice cream in the regular freezer) and pulls out a year old box of vanilla ice cream to serve up, with his father practically barking orders to him while he’s all of a sudden really nice to the kid he nearly choked to death.
​This is where his voice really comes in and it is so clear from the get-go. He doesn’t hold back, nor does he give in to conformity or rules of the trade. He does it his own way. This is his own style, which also makes it easier to read than some of the more traditional writers out there. He doesn’t get bogged down with technical methods or complex vocabulary, which for someone like me is a real blessing, given my disabilities for reading comprehension. He doesn’t really maintain a methodical discourse like some other essays out there. He also tends to stray from the academic theme, though I’m very sure he has an academic background without looking that information up myself or having the knowledge that he’s a renowned bestseller writer.

In the first essay of his book called “Dentists without Borders”, he talks about the differences between doctors and dentists in France, using his own experience. But he also gives information which I’m sure he’s researched prior to writing the essay. For example, he talks about why he’s baffled by the American healthcare debate that’s plaguing the nation, when Europe has a perfectly acceptable system in place. Some of this comes from his own personal experience, but I’m sure he’s done his homework on researching these fields as well. He also talks about the process of putting in implants for his teeth, having “temporaries” put in, then going step by step on how the process proceeds. I have no doubt that this comes from fact, since I’ve been through a similar procedure myself.

Every sentence he writes flows through the pages with relative ease, and he always remains very candid, keeping honest throughout his work. However, he also tends to exaggerate. Using that last example above, I highly doubt he was hit in the balls by a golf club in real life. Even in the old days, I think people would frown at that. Then again, maybe I’m wrong. But that’s one of the great things about Mr. Sedaris. He keeps you guessing on whether he’s giving you facts or pulling your leg just to be funny. He’s entertaining the reader with his work, but also giving them a glimpse into his life. As I read more, I found that there is much consistency with how his family as he grew up in the suburbs during the 1960’s and early 70’s.

​Nearly all the essays in the beginning of the book have some kind of reference to one of his parents, especially his dad. He describes his father like the stereotypical man of the 60’s who is all about competition, pretends to know about everything, is condescending to his son (Mr. Sedaris) much of the time, and is strictly authoritative to the point of being a bit of a dictator. It’s funny how Sedaris puts it though. He’ll make the comment like the example I wrote above, then he’ll proceed to say, “But my parents weren’t abusive”, which some might view as completely contradictory. This begs the question on whether he’s being truthful or not. If you ask me, I think he’s just being funny as hell and isn’t trying to be completely truthful. He does back up his statement though when he says, “My Parents weren’t abusive. It was a different time back then.” While I’m sure much of what he says bears the truth, I also believe that at least some of it has a lot of exaggeration. But like I said, that’s what makes his writing great. It keeps you guessing. It’s part of keeping up the impersonation of the character that is himself, which only adds to the quality of his writing. Personally, I like writing like this because it’s more entertaining, and easier to retain after I’m done reading it.

​What also makes his work humorous is that he keeps a persona of himself in a not so favorable light, often giving examples of how nasty he could be as a child. In his essay “Memory Laps”, he talks about how his family went to a country club with a swimming pool, which the kids would have swimming races in. His father constantly praises this young boy named Greg Sakas due to his incredibly fast swimming abilities and his “fantastic” attitude, which contrasts harshly with Mr. Sedaris’s. His nonstop praises leads to Mr. Sedaris drawing attention to himself by saying hurtful things about his sister, calling her a fatty due to her weight issues, or tying her Barbie doll to a long string and dragging it out the car window as it moves. He makes numerous attempts to get under his parents skin, which is often met with a bit of hostility and confusion. His mother is just as bad in this situation, due to her increasing obsession with going to this country club, despite her kids not wanting to go to it. For the mother, it’s her social gathering and she’s not about to let her children take that away from her. As a result, Mr. Sedaris will continue to act up, which also shows us the kind of person he eventually becomes. Now, I’m not saying that Mr. Sedaris became a nasty person due to his jealous streak in childhood. It just shows he becomes a comedian, which most comedians out there started off by being rather trouble makers.
​Another method he likes to use is he starts a few of his essays in present time, to reveal a bit about himself as well as a situation that’s occurring in present time, then he takes the essay in another direction, whether that’s in the past during his childhood or when he talks about a similar situation in more recent past. It’s a way for him to embody his personality into the pieces he’s writing, giving that mode of self-discovery which helps the reader to learn more about him, as well as relate to him. Examples of this can be seen in almost all the essays I’ve read in the book. In “A Friend in the Ghetto”, he starts the essay talking about a phone conversation he had with a telemarketer from India, and how he wanted to befriend him despite being a telemarketer. The conversation between them started with Mr. Sedaris in his own unique way refusing to purchase whatever the guy was selling, which led to the telemarketer reacting with amusement, though he eventually gave up the sale. However, Mr. Sedaris was disappointed when he got a call back, but it wasn’t the same guy. Then later, he goes back to his childhood and talks about an overweight shy black girl named Delicia that he wanted to befriend, who seemed poor as well, which was his assumption with the telemarketer. He goes through the process of trying to befriend this girl, who probably wanted nothing to do with him in the first place, and even goes through his Mom about it, which results in her refusal. He ties it all together by the end of the essay, giving us a glimpse into his persona.

​In one of my favorite essays in the book, titled “If I Rule the World”, he goes on a tangent about how people have seemingly forgotten the “conservative traditions” set down by Jesus Christ. He goes on and on about if Christ came back to life, he would join him in a crusade. Together, they’d eliminate all things that they despised, such as abortion, gay rights (Mr. Sedaris is a gay man by the way), the Liberal idealists, the removal of all other religious groups, and all sorts of things that stereotypical republicans spit out. In one of my favorite quotes in this essay, he says, “I’ll crucify the Democrats, the communists, and 97 percent of the college students.” I laughed my ass off after reading that line. I zeroed in on this essay because it is largely relevant in today’s current political climate, though I don’t want to dive into that too much here since it’s always such a sensitive subject for certain people. I also liked how he always capitalized the words “He” and “Him” whenever he referred to Christ as such, underlining the importance of that which is Christ. As I read this short essay, I was very confused at first because I didn’t think Sedaris was the kind of man to support this way of thinking. After a while, I realized that it was an essay that mocks these kind of people. This essay is a great example of the persona Mr. Sedaris reveals to his readers, not to mention strengthens his ability to make his readers laugh like hell (though I think conservatives won’t be laughing at this particular essay). I’ve never read an essay that takes a persona like this. Most essays I read are all about the truth and they each have a clear distinct theme at some point. “If I Rule the World” does have a theme to it, but it isn’t made very clear if you don’t know the writer and his style. If this were the first essay of his I read, I’d be terrified of him. He was smart to place this essay towards the middle of the book. But what really makes this essay great is that he’s using this writing form to mock people. It was a real pleasure reading this.

​Now I should note that not all his essays are attempts at just being humorous (you could almost argue that none of them do that). Typically, he uses humor to enhance his work to carry the point across. In effect, his essays are more about taking his personal experiences and giving them a comical edge to them. With that said, some of his pieces have less comedy in them, such as his essay “Loggerhead”. This essay takes a few unexpected turns here and there.
It starts off with him talking about going to Hawaii and Japan with his boyfriend Huge and seeing some of the wildlife within them, specifically focusing on the sea turtles in Hawaii. He then goes back to his childhood (like most of his other essays) and talks about an experience he had getting to know a boy named Shaun, which may not be his real name since his first mention of him, he says, “Let’s call him Shaun.” I wonder if he used this alias for this boy because the particular person wouldn’t grant permission to use his name, or if Mr. Sedaris simply forgot his name. He befriends this boy, doing things together with him, but focuses on a story where the two boys picked up several sea turtles (five for each of them) from the wild and placed them in their own aquariums. He goes into further detail about how he’s not like typical boys. Using an example, he was forced to go to a football game with his old man, which he was very reluctant in doing. Anyhow, he doesn’t know how to take care of these turtles, feeding them hamburger meat which they never ate. His mother suggested that he go to the library and research the kind of turtle it is. He reluctantly does this (what kid voluntarily goes to a library), but when he enters the bathroom to use it, he finds two black men who one was on his knees and the other with his pants down. Here’s a good example of Mr. Sedaris pulling the rug from your feet, like I mentioned earlier. The two men ran off never to be seen again. Mr. Sedaris ended up not telling anyone, but a part of him wanted to just for the attention.
When I read this, and as I kept reading, at first I didn’t understand the theme. But after thinking about it more, I realized he may have been trying to convey what he now knows to be his true sexual orientation. He describes his friend Shaun in very pleasing ways, describing how handsome he is and how similar they are. He also starts the story off with talking about vacations with his significant other, which is sort of like leading the reader towards his eventual point. He says he’s not like normal boys hating football for example. And he sees the two men in the bathroom and not being too bothered by it, though he was a bit shaken (who wouldn’t be?). I mean, this part almost comes out of nowhere in the essay, having nothing to do with turtles or his friend Shaun, so why include it? That’s why I feel that these points help connect to this possible message he’s attempting to convey. I may be way off on this, but that’s what makes him such a great writer. I could take this essay and pick at it for several more pages if I wanted to. There’s so much context in here that can help make this possible theme more apparent.
​It’s quite clear from these examples that his essays are almost entirely personal, which goes without say. This is the kind of essay I prefer to read because it’s relatable. I feel like he has this sense of knowing exactly what he’s about to write and how to write it because it just flows so effortlessly from page to page, drawing examples from his own personal experiences. I also get the feeling that when he does write an essay, it’s about something that is currently bothering him or altering his current lifestyle. For example, in the aforementioned essay “Memory Laps”, he starts off by saying that he’s taking up swimming again, which leads him to talking about his experiences in the country club. In “If I Rule the World”, he mocks conservative people, which I feel comes from something that is happening in his life at the time of writing this (though he doesn’t actually admit this in the essay). He does it again in “A Friend in the Ghetto” when he is talking to the telemarketer, then goes into great detail about his friendship with Delicia. In “Attaboy”, he starts off in modern day with a kid drawing on a mailbox and being stopped by a man, only to have that man being ridiculed for daring to touch their son. This is followed by how it was in his neck of the woods at childhood, which contrasts to that situation in a large way. I can probably make a case of this self-discovery in every one of his essays in the book, but these are a few examples.

​In conclusion, David Sedaris is a prime candidate for the modern personal essay simply because he is so informal and only talks about his own personal experiences. While I haven’t read any of his other books of essays (yet), I can tell just from this one that his style really revolves around himself, but I suppose that’s the point of the personal essay. While I could never in a million years mimic his style, I can appreciate it as well as admire its ability to stay focused on his own persona. That is something I strive for in my own writing. I enjoy writing the personal essay, and it seems clear that David Sedaris does too.

Work cited

Sedaris, David. “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.” New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013
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Approaching this essay was at first daunting because I can honestly say that I don’t read essays on my free time. To have to write about one, not to mention coming up with 3000 words I felt would be a lot more challenging and grueling. I was pleasantly surprised because David Sedaris turned out to be a pleasure to both read and write about. For this essay, I wanted to paint a clear picture on the kind of writer Mr. Sedaris is. By using examples from his essays in one of his more recent books, I was able to identify with him, which in turn helps me to convey this on the Essay. In this essay, I also wanted to translate and paraphrase some of the stories he tells because they are such great stories. I looked deeply into his style and did my best to make sense of it. I use many examples to show how his persona is ever present in his material, such as using essays from his book titled “If I Rule the World” and “Memory Laps”. As I paraphrase these essays, I pick at certain things and show where his voice reveals itself as well as what his message might be. The is most apparent towards the second to last paragraph on the essay “Loggerhead”. On many occasions, I voice my opinion as to why I like a certain essay (again, such as “If I Rule the World”). I also take some moments to discuss my suspicions of how Mr. Sedaris might use a lot of exaggeration in his essays in order to be more humorous. I wanted to include some of my insight in order to possibly start a conversation. In addition, I tend to show my admiration for his style of writing, indicating that I could never match his style nor would I even try. I reveal how he tends to not be limited by traditional standards that other writers might follow, adding more of my admiration to his style. In many ways, this essay reads more like a biography using the book example.

This essay differs significantly from my previous essays because it isn’t at all about me. This does feel more like a research paper, but usually I hate doing research paper. Mr. Sedaris really makes this process more interesting due to his unique personality. I’ve learned a lot about him as well as how a personal essay can look like. In fact, it makes me rethink how I feel about the term essay. I try to convey that message within this essay throughout, hoping that readers might see this as well. I want the reader to take what I have to say about Mr. Sedaris and maybe rethink their view on essays as I have. Though I’m sure I still have a lot to learn about them, I believe this to be a good start at reforming me. Perhaps readers might be interested in reading some of Mr. Sedaris’s works, something I’m even considering.


Must we change?

Tell me if this scenario sounds remotely familiar to you. I arrived on my first day to a job I was hired for at a Medical Devices Manufacturing company called Teleflex in Jaffrey NH. I was to begin work as a machine operator in the devices department. It may not sound overly exciting, but as soon as I walked into the manufacturing floor, I was very much intimidated by my surroundings. There are machines all around me making noises from hissing sounds to rotors and pistons pumping up and down like a motor vehicle. For a person who has never been in a factory in his life, I had no idea what to expect. Sure, you see movies or television shows that have factories in them all the time, but actually being in one is an entirely different story.

​I figured that a place which develops medical products for hospitals around the world would be highly professional in how they train new hires to operate the machines. I didn’t start work in the plant yet. Instead, I started off in a separate building to go through Orientation, which consisted of 2 days listening to someone talk about the “basics” of working in the Teleflex environment. Most of the stuff they babbled about went one ear and out the other.

The instructor spoke very slowly as she held a small metal rod in her hand which looked like a needle and said, “This is an ID pin gauge. You will use this pin to measure the ID of the tubing.” Now, after hearing this, I recall wondering what she meant by ID. She doesn’t mean identification of the tubing, did she? That doesn’t sound right. I wasn’t alone during the orientation and no one asked the question, so I kept my mouth shut, feeling like it’s something so obvious, everyone should know.

I am more of a hands on learner, not a person who learns by listening to someone talk for five hours about shit I know nothing about. I assumed it would get better when I entered the main floor at the operations center. The lady who conducted the orientation introduced me to the person who will be training me. He was a man in his late sixties and he was a highly experienced worker. He knew all the ups and downs of how to operate the machine I’d be working on. I figured he’d be a good teacher. My first impression of the guy was that he really didn’t want to train me at all. He spoke very little to me throughout the training, seeming rather grumpy. ​As soon as he sat me down, he handed me a massive notebook, flipped through several pages until he reached the manufacturing procedure (MP sheets they call them), and said to me firmly, “Read this!”

It was about twenty pages of information that meant absolutely nothing to me. While I’m wasting my time reading this manual, my trainer is working on the machine trying to pump out his numbers to fulfill his daily quota. Once I finished “reading” the document, he finally started to show me the ropes, but not in a way that made any sense to me. Suddenly, he expects me to know abbreviations and terminologies for different functions of the machine. While he didn’t talk much, when he did, he spoke very firmly and very quickly. He said, “Before you run the tipper, make sure you place silicone on the dilators. Then, insert the tube into the die. Switch on the machine, let it run for a few seconds, take out the part, trim the tip, burnish the tip, and check the ID and OD. You want to be within spec, so look at your print, blah, blah, blah, and do the blah, blah. After blah, take the blah, and on and on and on.”

I had a look on my face that probably resembled the deer in the headlights look. The guy was speaking another language that I only briefly heard a few phrases during orientation, much of which I forgotten. My first instinct was to quit right on the spot. Fortunately for Teleflex, quitting isn’t something I do very often. However, many others, who received similar training, did quit right away, sometimes during the first day.
​As it stands right now, Teleflex has a fifty percent turnover rate, which is huge. I’ve worked for companies in the past that did the same thing. One in particular back ten years ago owned all sorts of real-estate properties which grew over time from a once booming economy. But they literally had the same problem with training their employees (myself included among them). They picked the most experienced person and had them train me, a guy who didn’t even want to train me (or anyone for that matter). Companies tend not to care one way or the other if an individual wants to train. Let me tell you, if they don’t want to train the person under them, I doubt they will do a very good job of it. That company has since gone belly up for an assorted amount of reasons, but turnover rate sure didn’t help.

​I worked as a manufacturing operator at Teleflex for five years. Like I said already, I don’t quit very often, so when I set my roots somewhere, I rarely budge from that position. In those five years, I have seen a lot of people walk out on them because of poor training, lousy wages, and simply being overwhelmed. It is not unlike how I felt on my first day. Teleflex eventually embraced a new method, which the video below does a good job of defining the ineffective method of training, followed by a more innovated method.

So why do companies still train using the ineffective method? To put it simply, most companies are resistant to change. ​It’s human nature, really. Most people know that change never comes easy and the fact of the matter is that we prefer to have things be easy. In regards to companies, rather than invest in a more effective method, they maintain the current ineffective method because it will take too much time, money, and manpower to make the adjustments. But a fifty percent turnover rate? That probably has a very negative impact on the business. In many cases, Teleflex forced employees to work overtime on weekends to make up for lack of production due to low manpower. Change is inevitable at that point because quite frankly, the company won’t survive if it doesn’t.

​Why has it always been so difficult to change the way we do things for companies? It’s a good question, considering some of the most successful companies have embraced change. In an article written by Jim Collins, he names several examples of companies that embrace change and have thus become successful because of it. Disney is the biggest entertainment company in the world. But they didn’t get that way by sticking to their past, though they did hang on to some of their original ideals. They embraced the future. It has “changed its product strategy over the last several decades– from cartoons to feature films, to Mickey Mouse club, to Disneyland, to videos.” In another example, “IBM considers service to the customer above everything else as its core value; dominating the mainframe computer market was a business strategy; and compulsory white shirts an operating practice.” In the 80’s, they drifted from their core values, thus stumbling badly, remaining too rigid on its strategies and core practices. (Change is Good… 1995) Does that sound familiar?
​I suppose another term to shout out is adaptation. Humans can be good at adapting to changes in the situations, whether good or bad. But that’s when we are forced to change. What happens when we don’t have to change? That’s when we hit road blocks. Change simply doesn’t come naturally to us. That can be said for any creature on this planet. My fiancé and I own a Bernese mountain dog named Shaney and he tends to go through life in routine. Deviate from that even slightly, and his whole world is thrown into chaos. For example, we recently bought a new puppy (also a Bernese) who we named Brody and when the two were first introduced, he nearly had a panic attack in the back seat of our car. He wouldn’t stop panting, drooling nervously on the seat, and he retracted when we brought the puppy closer to him. It didn’t help when the puppy started to treat Shaney like a chew toy or steal his food and toys. Now, as time progressed, he began to “tolerate” the little guy. He adapted, much like people do when forced into change. However, we prefer to keep the way things are, sticking to what’s familiar to us.

Tranquility from change (eventually)

​Science seems to agree with that assessment, given that an experiment was conducted which had two groups of people viewing the same exact painting. However, one group was told the painting was made back in 1905. The other group was told it was made in 2005. The 1905 group responded much more favorably to the painting than the one who viewed the 2005 painting. Perhaps this is a general example, but you get the idea. “Neuroscience research teaches us that uncertainty registers in our brain much like an error does.” (“Science Says This is Why…”2017) As a result to this, we need to find that level of comfort so we don’t have to experience that error again.

​So now I return to that initial problem that I raised earlier on how we can reform to accept change. Personally, I have had many big changes in my life, and I’m not one of those people who embraces change with open arms. Quite the contrary. I’m like most people and I tend to refrain from change as much as humanly possible. However, as my life has taken many new forms recently, I realize that all these changes for me have significantly improved my quality of life. In the past year, I’ve been engaged to a wonderful, beautiful woman who loves me unconditionally, moved into a house with her, got a job promotion becoming a technical writer, and as I already mentioned, I became an owner of two very entertaining dogs.

​On the subject of the promotion, Teleflex also realized that change was very necessary as I mentioned earlier and thus, they adopted a new (or rather old) method of training people which is known as Training Within Industry (TWI). This method dates back to World War II and it was initially designed to allow women to enter the industrial workforce while men went off to fight in the war (which is where the video above came from). It was a highly effective method that has trainers getting more involved with their trainee. Toyota picked up this method in the 1950s and have been using it to great effect ever since. Now, Teleflex uses it. No longer do they force the new hire to read an overly complicated MP sheet and go from there. The trainer walks through the process, encouraging the trainee to ask questions, and after they do the job three times, they have the trainee do the same job three times, verbally telling their trainer what they are doing as they are doing it. The key is repetition, so that the operator can retain it. This is a method I wished I was trained on back in the day because then I wouldn’t have to learn all this on the go. Teleflex recently brought this method to the plant, so it is still in its infancy. But at least they finally made the effort to make this big change to improve the company.

Work Cited
Collins, Jim. 1995 November. Change is Good, but First, Know What Should Never Change. http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/change-is-good.html
Mautz, Scott. 2017 November 16. Science Says This is Why You Fear Change (And What to Do About it). https://www.inc.com/scott-mautz/science-says-this-is-why-you-fear-change-and-what-to-do-about-it.html
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In this essay, I began with an idea that stemmed from my job at Teleflex, back when I was a machine operator and after I became a technical writer. The idea started when I went through a memory of how I was (poorly) trained in the beginning and how my new job embraced a new method of training that they didn’t really initiate until about two years ago. The idea branched out into my own curiosity about this nagging feeling about how people seem to constantly resist change, even big companies like Teleflex. That feeling is, “Why do we resist change so much?”

Part of my inspiration from this came from the changes in my life, how every time change did come to me, it seemed to improve my life in more ways than one. Once I started doing research, I quickly found that it’s fairly common knowledge that people fear change, but I wanted to go beyond common knowledge. I researched the science experiment, read a few things about corporate changes that improved the companies, and I intertwined these findings with my own experiences using my job as the primary example. I also used my personal life as examples to show how change has affected my life for the better. I want to show people that change doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, though sometimes it can be for certain individuals (I used my dog as an example of this). I want the reader to embrace change, even if they are afraid of it.
I start the essay off by telling a story about my grueling experience of being trained as a machine operator. Before I even thought about the notion of change, I believe my essay would be about the ineffective methods of how companies train their employees. However, I realized that this might not be a subject that everyone can relate to (though I’d be very surprised if no one had ever gone through a situation similar to what I experienced). The essay evolved into something I didn’t really anticipate, becoming more about this notion of change that had always bothered me. Why Do I fear change? Why do we all fear change? I became more invested in that and I believe it is something everyone can relate to.

Finally, I wanted to write something that I enjoyed because maybe others might enjoy it too. Telling my story was the first step to this. Talking about my dogs was the next step, which I’m sure others would enjoy too. I tied it together with my research so that I can form unity with the entirety of the piece. I even added a little humor, which might make the essay a bit more entertaining. However, I do recognize that this subject is rather broad and has been talked about already, but I feel the conversation can still go on. Maybe my experience might shed a new light on the subject. I don’t know. But it is a subject we can all relate to and maybe even help each other come to an understanding.

On Voice

Whenever I thought of the term “Essay” back in my earlier youth, all I could think about was how daunting and miserable it is to write one. That sort of thought stems back to when I was still in High School, which was fifteen years ago now. Even as I write that, I can’t help but marvel at how quickly time seems to pass on by. Anyhow, there was one particular instance when writing an essay really got under my skin. It was my junior year. I was seventeen years old, wet behind the ear, and not highly motivated. I find it kind of funny how people look back to their High School years and call it their “Golden Years”, because for me, it was the complete opposite. Some people don’t like to admit what they were like in High School, as they were unmotivated, uninspired, and completely careless when it comes to school work or anything involving responsibility. Of course, this isn’t true for everybody, but it was for me.

​ Back in those days, college wasn’t even a glimmer in my eye because I didn’t think I was smart enough for it. I was a C average student with learning disabilities in both reading comprehension and mathematics, which put my candidacy for college at the absolute bottom of the barrel in my mind. I could read through a three page paper twice and I would retain almost nothing from it. I need to take notes, highlight passages, and read it more than twice to fully comprehend what it is I’m reading. Back then, I didn’t even bother with any of that because it was simply too much for me. I also struggled extensively with oral instructions. People would give me instructions and by the time they are on their third or forth sentence, I’m still trying to recall their first sentence. This is a problem I still have today. It drives my fiancé crazy.

So when it came to doing something like an essay in high school, I did whatever I could to breeze through it and not even go back to proofread it. In one particular class, which I can’t recall the exact name of it, but it was an upper level English class taught by a rather intimidating teacher at Keene High School, I was given the assignment of writing an essay based on a famous figure from a list of names given to the class. We could choose any of the names on that list. I picked Martin Luther King Jr., who I felt would be the easiest because everyone knows who Martin Luther King is and therefore should be a piece of cake to write about.
​Back then, which was the early 2000’s, the internet was in its infancy and thus sources were much harder to find on the web. So I had to get most of my sources from books, which required me to read and comprehend, putting me out of my comfort zone. In my amateurish ways, I was fixated on the idea of throwing every possible quote I could find on Martin Luther King, hoping that with all the factual data in the essay, I would get a decent grade. I even remember thinking at the time that I was doing a hell of a good job. I had written four or five pages already, which we were assigned to write a minimum of six pages. All I needed was more facts and I kept tossing them in like disposable socks one after the other. My paper was getting longer and longer, which I felt that the longer it was, the better the chances that I’d get a good grade. I was on a role! I believe the paper ended up being close to ten pages, which was a big deal for me. I was actually excited about how well I was doing and I was so certain I’d get an A or B on the paper. I rushed through that paper like a race car driver dashing into first place. Before I knew it, I was at the finishing line and I can even recall being so satisfied that I had the whole rest of the weekend to chill out and play video games.

​About three days after I handed in my assignment, he would ask each individual in the class to meet with him and go over the results of the paper while the rest of the class would sit and watch a really boring video (I can’t recall what it was). My legs were shaking with excitement, ready to see myself fly high in the sky like a kite, souring in the wind in glorious victory. He called my name and I sat at his desk with high anticipation and absolute certainty that I would receive a glowing review of my hard labors. He had a very disapproving expression on his face and he basically told me that the paper was garbage (believe it or not, his exact words) and said that it was incoherent, unfocused, and borderline plagiarism and he also said that I had a complete lack of understanding of what an essay was supposed to be, though he didn’t bother to help me understand. He gave me a C-, prompting him to say, “I must’ve been feeling generous.” He handed me the paper and sent me on my merry way.

​Now at the time, I was furious at him because he basically insulted me the entire time and from that point on, I hated writing anything for my classes, especially essays. The teacher automatically saw me as a typical High School student who didn’t care one way or the other about my future. I thought I was stupid and any aspirations I might have had about being a writer were blown out of the water. However, looking back on it now, I agree with everything he said about it, as far as the paper was concerned. His methods were demoralizing, but I understand the points he made. My misunderstanding of how an essay is supposed to be written comes from many years of teachers failing to show me the right way to approach a piece of work. With that paper, not only did I fail to capture anything of relevance, I did Martin Luther King a huge disservice for writing a paper that had no idea where it was going or what it was trying to say. A part of the problem was I confused essay with research paper, although even for a research paper, it was a pile of dung.

​I suppose you could blame the teacher for not actually showing me the correct way of writing an essay, but in my history, teachers rarely ever did that. Most of them brushed it to the side and moved on to the next assignment. Middle school was the same way, and I feel that this was part of the reason why I hated school so much, which is why I didn’t go to college right after I graduated. Instead, I spent five years working at low paying and depressing jobs, such as slicing meat for the deli, working retail, and janitorial work.

​Jump ahead about eight years after High School, after spending most of my earliest youthful manhood feeling highly inadequate and totally depressed a large percentage of the time, I took one look at myself in the mirror and asked myself “How did I get here?” The answer was a simple one. I got here all on my own. It was up to me to get out of my confinement and spread my wings. I wanted a change, so I opted to give school another try, feeling that I might be smarter than I gave myself credit for. By this point, I had taken two classes at River Valley Community College already, to test myself which proved to be a good experience for me. I then attended New England College in Henniker NH, a relatively small school with a broad curriculum. I majored in English because at the time, it was the one subject I did better than average back in High School, plus I enjoyed writing books on my free time. This one particular class I took in my first semester was the Personal Essay, which was the beginning of how my view of the essay totally changed.

​Initially, I didn’t understand what a personal essay meant, and I found the concept a bit confusing. How can an essay be personal? You’re not talking about yourself in an essay, are you? What I learned in that class was the complete opposite of my expectations. I was expecting to be writing essays based solely on the reading assignments given to us, much like my other experiences. To my astonishment, it was nothing like that. We ended up talking a lot about ourselves, using the skills we learned from the professor and the reading. I became adept at putting my own words and my own thoughts into subject matters I knew almost nothing about, whether it was about marital and relationship issues, research on suicide prevention, or talking about politics (those are three essay projects that I remember with great admiration). It wasn’t just about research, it was about putting my own personal touch with each one. Phillip Lopate put it into good words when he said about personal essay, “It can follow a rigorously elegant design, or- held together by little more than the author’s voice- assume an amboebic shapelessness.” (127)

​After that class, I approached the essay in a completely different way, which had served me very well in future courses. Sure, essays require a lot of research and understanding of reading assignments, but adding a personal touch to it made it whole. I can actually put my own thoughts into a piece of work. That was a concept I was never taught in High School. It doesn’t have to be a grueling process of regurgitating other people’s thoughts and nothing more. It doesn’t have to be such a frustrating and unenjoyable process because it really is your own words. Granted, that’s a very general definition of the term essay that needs a little backup. But the term is so difficult to define, which Robert Atwan seems to agree with. He does give his own version of what I feel is a good definition of the term essay in his words, saying, “The essay, whether long or short, narrative, expository, or polemical, is a literary genre that enacts the process and possibilities of thought and self-disclosure in a distinctive prose style.” But then he proceeds to say, “But don’t quote me on that.” (201) In a sense, maybe we each have our own way of defining the essay. In my essays, I add the personnel touch as I add in research and things I’ve learned from reading, keeping my own voice present during the process.  Coming to this point, I make more effort to take notes, highlight passages, and not be so intimidated by reading, disability or not. Meanwhile, I always keep my voice within the message. Otherwise, people won’t care one way or the other.

Montaigne puts it in good words when he said, “What I write here is not my teaching, but my study; it is a lesson not for others, but for me​.” (1) The way I see it is that an essay essentially is the sharing of ideas, but also, for the writer, a journey that they must travel in order to better understand what it is they are writing about and using their own voice to do it. The reader is their companion that goes with them on the journey and shows them their revelation, whether it’s about art, music, politics, history, one’s own discoveries of themselves, life, death, love, hate, and so many more subjects. As I have taken the time to read other people’s essays, I’ve seen this revelation within them as well, and my understanding of the essay becomes much more compelling, making me want to embrace it even more. What an interesting concept: essays can be an enjoyable experience for both the writer and the reader. That is something I never would’ve considered fifteen years ago. Then again, maybe it’s because I’m all grown up.

work cited

Klaus, Carl H. and Stuckey-French, Ned. Essayist on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time. Iowa City: Univercity of Iowa Press, 2012.
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​For this essay, I wanted to convey a simple message, which is basically my own interpretation of what an essay actually is, at least to me, and how my experiences have changed my perspective over the years on what an essay is. In short, I want to paint a picture of how an essay isn’t as scary or intimidating as one might think (as I once thought back in the day). I want readers to be familiar with my experiences, drawing back to memories of High School, which I believe everyone shares a similar story. I have no doubt that people can relate to my experience with the essay back in High School, which is why I put a focus on that. I also wanted to show my personal definition of an essay, drawing parallels to my own experience with the evolution of the essay in my education. Since a portion of the essay dives into my experience attending a class on Personal Essay, I felt that it would make sense to bring what I learned from that class into this piece.
​I’ve always been someone who likes to lean more on hope, and with this essay, I wanted to show the reader just how much hope there is for anyone who has aspirations of writing, or even pleading to those who struggle with it. My essay taps into the preconceptions of a lot of early students which stem back from what was taught to us by High School or even Middle School. It makes perfect sense as to why so many people has this irrational fear of the essay, thinking of it more as work rather than something they might enjoy. Even writing this myself, you can see I take a certain level of enjoyment writing it myself. I want the reader to enjoy it too, and thus maybe enjoy writing something on their own as well. I’m not being pretentious and saying that this essay is gold or that it will change people’s lives forever, but maybe it will inspire them a bit to rethink their perceptions.

​I also like to tell fictional stories, so I really wanted this to sound like a story. Granted, it’s a true story, but it has a beginning, middle, and end which shows my own experiences in this art form known as the essay. It has a certain level of narrative that I hope people will be entertained by, which entertainment is a great motivation for learning. I tend to learn more when I’m entertained by what I read or watch. That’s why I’m hoping that this essay will stick to the reader’s minds.