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Musings

Living for the After Party

I’ll admit it: I enjoy being the guy who’s there when the party wraps up, being the last person at the office who locks up and turns off all the lights, or the last person who goes to bed once everyone else has fallen asleep. It’s that window of time of lingering, of simply being, where something unique is in the air.

It’s a peaceful moment that can last just a few seconds or several hours. At a party or any large gathering, there comes a point at the event where being around so many people becomes mentally and emotionally draining. I may be having a great time, but so much (usually surface level) social interaction wears me out. But if I can make it through to the end, when most people filter out of the room and I’m left with a smaller pool of folks to interact with, I find a new energy to draw from. The group gets smaller, the necessity of “working the crowd” and typical empty chatter falls away and you’re left with the after party.

The “after party” is that time where you can stop being the entertainer. You’re no longer making sure you said “Hi!” to everyone. The primary purpose of said event is done. Your responsibilities are completed and you fall back into a place of just being yourself. You take that time to soak in the day, to revel in the presence of the friends around you that are just chilling out in that snippet of time. People are more willing to open up and talk without rushing, to go deeper into a conversation, and be there with you. I love these spaces because they can come and go so quickly, but are ever so rewarding. There’s a lightness to the air, an unexpected joy and appreciation for life that lingers, that’s impossible to create by choice.

Next time we’re at a party or some sort of large gathering together, don’t be surprised if you notice me really starting to break out of my party shell as the event progresses and the crowds thin out. It’s in that after party time I find I can truly connect with others and enjoy the atmosphere and appreciate the relationships with people who are there.

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Musings

Books a plenty!

It’s been a frenzy of book purchases lately without as much time to read them. While making the decision to purchase, I forget about the inherently larger time commitment necessary to make reading a worthwhile activity. Recently, I added four more books to the stacked queue (pun intended from a techie and book perspective) as seen in the picture.

Note: you are reading the title right on the lower middle book. It’s called “The Ramen King and I.” I saw it at Borders on clearance and my love for ramen compelled me to purchase it. Hey, it was $4!

What is interesting to me is that right now I’m genuinely excited about taking in new content, whether fiction or non-fiction. My hope is that it will spur on new thoughts as I continue to reflect on life and that I’ll be able to share some of those thoughts here. What are you reading right now that’s compelling, interesting, or otherwise ruffling a feather in you?

 

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Musings

Writer’s block – removed

I’ve realized I’ve hit a bit of a writer’s block recently. It’s not for a lack of ideas or even of drafts started in WordPress, ready with catchy titles to pull the reader in. Like many things in my life, I think the biggest obstacle in my way is fear that what I write will be nonsensical, irrelevant to anybody reading, or otherwise terrible. My self imposed standards for what’s “important enough” to write enough may be holding me back from working out some potentially fascinating posts.

I also see links on Twitter from friends like Helen about articles that claim most Americans think they can write a novel. (By the way, Helen’s actually is an author who’s published a book!) This blog is daunting to me, but ultimately I can make this space whatever I want it to be.

All this points to carving out time for reflection and thought. I’d also like to carve out time with friends for conversation with depth to inspire me to write. So, for the summer I will make a commitment to write one blog post a week, about anything. No limits on topics, nothing too short, nothing too long. To keep myself publicly accountable to the few that come here, here’s some possible post topics:

  • Stillness in Silence (based on my reading of In Pursuit of Silence)
  • A Lost Childhood
  • Social Media, spurred on by attending a recent conference and Social Media ROI, written by one of the conference discussion leaders.
  • The upcoming bathroom renovation
  • My still to be planned sabbatical

I look forward to the unofficial beginning of summer and the space to not be a slave to just tasks, but also something more.

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Musings

Spring cleaning, electronics edition

This weekend I was able to drop off a bunch of old electronics equipment (monitors, old desktop computers, CRT TV’s, broken cell phones) that had been collecting at work and in my mom’s basement. My hometown was hosting a green recycling event for electronics, which is so much better than us dumping that stuff in a landfill. These are being hosted all at least over DuPage county and probably all around the country. Go do your part to keep electronics out of landfills and properly disposed of!

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Musings

Truth in Youthful Words

I posted recently about it being National Poetry Month, so I decided I should dig up some poems and writings from my past and share them here.In going through some of my journals and scribbling of words on paper from high school through now, I’ve noticed a some things:

  • I used to write a LOT more in high school, college, and even for a short while into post-college life.
  • My internal life was incredibly dramatic and full of tension. At least I thought it was.
  • I expressed that internal drama often through poems, or at least what I was calling poems, in ways that were more honest than I would be now.
  • It’s really interesting to see where I’ve come from; and more specifically, what’s different about me. (And if I’m being really honest with myself, what’s not different.)

There’s something about how we speak and write when we’re younger than tends to be so raw and full of energy and emotion. It’s as though our entire lives depended on every word we said, wrote, heard. Our feelings knew little of the “in-between” and only existed at the edges. What happened to that? We get older, wiser, more subdued, more cautious. Ultimately, these things are good for us. I would fear living that way now. But there’s something about us being real with ourselves that should never go away. Write with reckless abandon. Get thoughts down on paper and work out what’s in your mind and heart. One of the worst things you can do is bottle stuff in. I did on and off for many years and when I was holding back, I was more unhealthy.

What’s the point of this post? I’m not quite sure. Maybe just that we should be more free with our words and express those thoughts more frequently and openly, like when we were younger. Also look for a couple more poems to be posted here in the coming days!

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Musings

Books!

In the past few months, I’ve rediscovered my love of reading as a form of learning and stretching of my mind and spirit, but also for entertainment purposes. In the near future, I will start posting some reactions to the book I just finished, “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. I certainly recommend it for people who are interested in social constructs and gaining a better understanding of why certain cultural and social waves go a a particular way, this book is a must read.

Other books currently in queue to be read, in no particular order:

  • In Pursuit of Silence by George Prochnik
  • The Hunger Games (Book 1) by Suzanne Collins
  • The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman (re-reading for the 3rd or 4th time)
  • Fatherless Generation by John Sowers

What is on  your reading list? And maybe more importantly, why?

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Musings Opinion

Interactive and Thoughtful Discourse: Part 2

In a recent blog post, I began sharing some thoughts on challenges and the lack of depth present in our communication. I’d like to share more on this topic and maybe even open up a dialog here on how we can work to improve how we interact with one another.

It’s a two-way street, people. One of my growing frustrations with “conversations” is how infrequently we’re able to have them in a manner that hasn’t devolved to mere statements of information about your life. I’ve overheard and been part of so many chats with friends that are comprised of one-off statements that have typically have little to no connection to what was just said. Person A says, “I was thinking about trying out this new burger place this week.” Person B replies, “That’s cool. I went for a 3 mile run last night. Man, it was tough, but felt really great to finish it.” I’m saddened that we are so focused on getting our thought out that we don’t even process or acknowledge what our friend is trying to share.

What would be so difficult about Person B pausing to ask about this burger place and why his friend wants to go there before changing topics and talking about his run? Honestly, very little at the surface. However, what it requires is that you put your own needs aside for a second and engage in what interests your friend. Who knows, if you stop to learn more about what your friend is sharing, you may find that it actually interests you too! What’s the lesson here? Listen to people once in a while. Ask questions that clarify and confirm that you hear what’s being said. You may also find a level of depth in others that may surprise and delight you. There’s a lot more to people than they’re willing to let on until they’re asked a couple simple questions.

Is there an echo? A bigger challenge in finding enjoyable and thoughtful discourse with others is watching and listening to people talking about stuff they read online or see on TV without a thought to call their own. Call it The Echo Effect. Most frequently I see this effect take hold in the tech world, mostly because that’s where I spend a lot of my time and energy. Countless blogs and Twitter accounts find one piece of news, post about it and all link back to the original source or link to one of the other “news” blogs. I’m pretty convinced that if you were to remove all content that duplicated the original source, you could save over 50% of that vast wealth of information on the Internet. We don’t need more parrots echoing what’s still ringing in my ear from 3 days ago.

I don’t want regurgitated data; I want analysis and interpretation and a fresh perspective.  I want to see us be capable of have meaningful conversation about politics, tech, culture, religion, and whatever you want to talk about. I want us to have original thought. The next time some news article or TV show catches your eye and you want to share it with me, be prepared to tell me why it caught your eye. What resonated with you, whether it be positive or negative? What kind of impact do you think it will have your life? Or mine? Or on the surrounding culture?

So what can we can take away from my ramblings? Here’s the bulleted version for the article skimmers:

  • Listen to people.
  • Ask questions of others. Don’t just talk about yourself.
  • Analyze the information you take in. Have your own thoughts! Don’t just repeat it to others. You’re not helping anybody.

We don’t have time to waste babbling on about nothing. Let’s make our time interacting and conversing worthwhile to both of us. I hope you join me in wanting and practicing interactive and thoughtful discourse.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

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Musings Opinion

Interactive and Thoughtful Discourse: Part 1

Warning: this post is somewhat lengthy. I hope you can hold your attention for long enough and that it mostly makes sense.

A couple weekends ago, I met up with a friend for dinner and drinks to catch up I hadn’t seen in a while. Over the course of the evening, conversation ran the course of the normal “what’s new with you?”, “how’s the job?”, and “any new projects around the house?” These are all usually pretty safe topics for people to discuss, usually without the need to expose yourself to anything beyond the surface or that require much pause for thought  before opening our mouths.

 

However, the bigger challenge facing our friendships and relationships with people relates to our ability to have real conversation. All too frequently our communication with one another, whether it be in person or online, deteriorates into meaningless chatter. The worst part of it is most of us don’t notice or simply don’t care that in the middle of all this noise, nobody’s really saying anything at all. If there is anything being said, how much of the content is only about yourself? How often do you find yourself asking your friends questions about anything?

Interactive and thoughtful discourse is lost on us. We turn our “conversations” with one another into a handful of categories, such as:

  • Let me tell you about myself and I don’t really care what you think of it unless you like it/agree with it
  • Let me tell you about what I heard on TV/read online
  • Let me try to one-up you with my incredible wit and really funny insights into the world. Likely I’ll be posting these things on Facebook and Twitter, too. Please like everything I say and do on FB, BTW. Thx!

There is plenty of evidence to show our American culture has been pretty self-centered for a really long time and more anecdotal proof arrives by the truckload daily. What of social media’s place? Isn’t it supposed to connect us in ways we never imagined? I’m a fan of the services out there as much as the next guy, but take a step back and ask yourself “why do I share what I share online?” If we all admit it to ourselves, we all want some level of attention. Connecting with friends is a great cover letter for social networking’s initial purposes, but we all know there’s a little “look at me” component. And maybe a little bit of that is OK. Moderation in everything, right? At least that’s how the phrase goes.

I think part of the problem lies in the mediums we use to communicate. (This is where part of the conversation with my friend starts to come into play.) Our conversation turned to how infrequently our interactions with each other mentally stimulate us now. My friend “C” was telling me how he had this really engaging chat over a few hours about his friend’s business idea. When you come away from a conversation energized, you know you actually got your mind – and depending on the topic, maybe your heart – connected to what was going on. If we don’t feel anything, why are we wasting our time on it in the first place?

So C and I continued our chat and lamented a bit about the lack of genuineness in social network interactions like those on Facebook and Twitter. We debated possible reasons for this. For me, one of the primary drivers is that both platforms ultimately don’t allow the space for depth. This shouldn’t be a surprise on Twitter. Really, how deep can you get with 140 characters? And while Facebook’s platform gives you more characters for updates and that “personal” space to share with friends, your profile turns into quick sound bytes and quips about topics that rarely give much insight into who you truly are, especially when you have a larger and larger friend list that makes you feel like you’re yelling into an already overcrowded room. We’ve lost the ability to communicate quietly but with true depth and instead only know how to barely stand in the shallow end of the pool.

In a future post, I will continue to share my thoughts on conversational styles, discourse on topics, and more. Thanks for making it this far. Perhaps you’ll come back for Part 2.