Dec 062017
 

I don’t remember exactly when this happened, but I believe it was in the Fall of 1993. I was living in Polk County at the time, working overnights at a plastics plant in Lakes Wales while attending school full time at the Polk Community College. For, perhaps, the first time outside of my early childhood I was at a healthy weight and exercising on a regular basis (it was, for the record, Slim-Fast that time…not something I’d suggest trying in retrospect). I was living with my friend and co-worker Bill in a nice apartment that we managed to keep clean. We had a decent sound system and an entire wall of VHS tapes and CD’s to entertain us. I had a comic subscription at an awesome shop in downtown Winter Haven, and had established a small circle of Polk County folks to play games with on a regular basis.

It was my first real taste of being a grown-up. Of independence. It was great.

I made regular pilgrimages back to St. Petersburg on the weekend to stay with my Mother for a few days and see my friends. On one of those weekends, I was running around by myself all day on a Saturday with the windows down, enjoying the alternative music programming that was on 88.5 WMNF. My hair was long, and my grunge look was in full effect. I felt good about myself and what I had accomplished. I was smiling and singing with the radio, when it suddenly hit me…

I liked me.

That thought had never occurred to me before, and there have been many times since that I’ve forgotten it, but in that very moment I was utterly and completely happy to know myself. “Here’s a guy,” I thought, “who I would enjoy hanging out with. He’s pretty damned cool.”

I think that for most of us it is rare to have those moments. I think it’s even harder to today, with the proliferation of technology. I was forced to be in my own head that day. I couldn’t distract myself with social media or handheld games. It was just me, myself, and I. No talking. No texting. No phone calls. Just spending time getting to know the person who lives in my head and discovering that he’s a person I am happy to know.

This isn’t a screed against technology by any means. It was just something that occurred to me earlier today as I was driving to work…

Listening to music.

Singing along.

Just alone in my head…in my car…having a moment like I did 24 years ago…

And realizing that I still find myself to be a pretty nifty guy.

Dec 052017
 

I do not understand blind loyalty.

My wife and I have a group text going with my Uncle, where we coordinate going to see movies and discuss things that we all have a common interest in (the primary categories being Marvel movies, sports, and technology). The other night he excitedly sent a text message to us about the fact that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was on. I replied that, after a few episodes, we had given up on the show because it had not sparked our interest.

You’d have thought I slapped his baby. Considering the fact that he doesn’t have children or pets, maybe I did.

A brief (and, I feel the need to point out, good natured) argument ensued about the fact that I should be Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and, for that matter, The Inhumans, because…Marvel. Really, that pretty much seems to be the extent of the argument. I love Marvel comics, and I love the movies, so as a result I should watch anything even tangentially related to those two things.

Not my style.  When it comes to entertainment I’m particularly picky in that regard. I’m not going to support something just because I, in theory, should. If a Marvel series sucks, I’m not watching it. If a Marvel movie doesn’t work for me, I’m going to say so (I’m looking at you, Thor: Ragnarok). If my local sports franchises suck I’m not going to waste my time watching them on television, and I’m certainly not dropping the significant coin required to see them play live (and if, for some reason, a sports franchise from another metropolitan area is doing well and catches my attention I’ll feel no guilt about rooting that team on).

If I have learned anything balancing work, school, family, and acting over the last 16 years, it’s that the single most precious thing in my life is my time. It’s a gift I can give to the people who care about me, and it’s a commodity I stockpile because there are periods when I feel like I simply do not have enough of it. I’m certainly not going to spend it consuming entertainment out of some sense of loyalty if it isn’t actually worth the investment.

 

Dec 042017
 

250 words.

On the surface it doesn’t seem that hard, and yet I’m sitting here wondering what the hell I was thinking when I decided to take on this “challenge.”

Let me back up a step.

A few weeks ago Sam Falco, a friend and (if I’m being honest) someone who I consider to be a bit of a mentor, tweeted about a 14-day, 250 words per day writing challenge that he was taking on. The point was just to write, essentially. Kind of like Morning Pages, I suppose, but instead of being stream-of-consciousness writing that nobody was supposed to read the point was to get the work out there in front of others.  I kept tabs on him during the challenge, making sure to poke him when I hadn’t seen a post go up on a given day and thoroughly enjoying what he put out there. Several of the pieces he wrote made me want to reply in kind, but mostly it just reminded me of how much I used to write back before the days of Twitter and Facebook.

I miss those days.

All those factors combine with another pretty big one. Today is the first day, pretty much since 2001, that I am no longer a student. I have completed the coursework for my second Masters degree, and I am just waiting for the final grades to come in before I can officially say I have earned my Masters in Business Administration. It’s been a very long, very hard, and very expensive journey. It feels odd to know that part of my life is over. On the plus side, I have a very strong desire to put some of the things back into my life that went by the wayside while I was finishing up school. Acting, for one. Reading for pleasure is a big one in there too. And, of course, my writing.

So. 14-day challenge. I’m generally scornful of the whole challenge thing, so we’ll see what happens. I may end up cheating and pulling out a few of the many unfinished drafts that are clogging up my WordPress Administrator, but we’ll see. Maybe I’ll just enjoy expressing myself in more than 280 characters for a change.

We’ll see.

The song currently stuck in my head is…

Sep 172017
 

It has been, quite literally, years since I have sat down to write anything for personal reasons. I’ve written for work, and I’ve written for school, but beyond occasional forays in attempting to update my Morning Pages, I haven’t sat down to just write about or for myself. I don’t know exactly why, to be honest. I mean, I have theories. Lack of anyone actually giving a shit about what I have to say pretty much tops that list. In the world of social media, long form personal posts seem like quaint old relics from days gone by, and the effort that goes into creating them seems wasted. After all, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, having an audience is really the only reason one writes for public consumption.

 

I’m also tired. So very tired. I’m in the final semester of my educational career. I have eleven more weeks of what looks to be an absolute grind before I finish my Masters of Business Administration at the University of Maryland University College. I took a three-year break from school after earning my Associates Degree in 2008, and with the exception of one semester have been in school non-stop since the Spring of 2011. In that time I’ve earned a Bachelor’s Degree and my first Master’s Degree. When I considered my current career path it made sense to enroll in the Dual MBA program at my school and take on another year of courses, but I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t been a monumental challenge to keep up. Every time I look at the course work for this final class I feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety and wonder if there is any possible way I can get everything done. I’ve had this feeling often throughout my academic career, and my wife always reminded me that every time I’ve felt that way I’ve proved myself wrong, but this time feels different.

 

I suppose it always does.

 

I’m going to be glad when it is over, though. I’m ready for the next chapter of my life, the one that doesn’t involve going to school, to begin. I’m ready to get back on stage (I decided, after realizing how intense the DMBA program was, not to audition for any more shows in 2017). I’m ready to take vacations where I don’t have to worry about having an Internet connection so that I can log in and get course work done. I’m ready to try and find a love of reading again, because the amount I’ve had to do for school has made me absolutely loathe picking up a book unless I absolutely have to. I’m just ready to move on.

 

Of course moving on from school means facing the reality of paying back my student loans, which at this point are the equivalent of a second mortgage, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Unlike many folks who graduate from school with large debt, I’ve already established a career that will, at the very least, make it somewhat less painful to pay them back.

 

My current state of tiredness is also the result of a much more immediate situation. Last week, Hurricane Irma decided to pay a visit to our state. When the track shifted to put the eye directly over our area late Friday night, Lisa and I decided that it was wise to get the hell out of dodge. We packed up the animals and my son and took off to shelter with friends in Jacksonville. Ironically, the storm seemed to take a much harsher toll on that area, mainly due to flooding, but we still came through unscathed. When we returned home on Tuesday our power was out, and it wasn’t restored until days later. I’m incredibly grateful that a loss of electricity was the worst damage we faced as a result of the storm, but I cannot emphasize enough the amount of psychological stress I feel during power outages. It’s hard to explain in a way that doesn’t make me sound like a spoiled, petulant brat. Our home is my sanctuary. In a world where I often feel I have very little control over my destiny, the house we share is a place where I feel I have control. It’s clean and orderly, because that makes us happy. It’s filled with things that are important to us. It’s where we spend the majority of our time together, and to be perfectly honest spending time at home with Lisa is pretty much my favorite thing in the entire universe. When that is disrupted, say with a lack of electricity, I am an absolute mess. When I don’t look forward to going home at night, I cannot think straight. I’m irritable. I’m distracted. It’s just a horrible experience for me, and I’m sure everyone around me. Even now, several days after the storm has passed and power has been restored, I’m still off-kilter. I’m sure the fact that I ate a bunch of really horrible food and drank way too much during the days of the storm isn’t helping, either.

 

It’s funny, though. One of my biggest issues about dealing with the lack of power is the accompanying lack of air conditioning, but as I write this I’m voluntarily sitting outside and it’s pretty damned hot. I suppose it’s ultimately the difference between choosing to sit outside in the heat and being forced to because it’s even more miserably oppressive inside.

 

I also have a fan on, so there’s that.

 

I don’t know. Maybe some of how I’m feeling is straight-up mid-life crisis. I’m staring down the barrel of 45. I’ve accomplished a hell of a lot in my life, I know, and I’m well aware that a good deal of what I’ve accomplished is because I’ve busted my ass to get here. I’ve been a good employee and a good student. I’ve done my best to be a good husband and a good father, but I’ve screwed that up on more than one occasion. I see those meme’s that ask whether or not the eight-year old version of you would be proud of where you are now, and I just don’t know. I mean, I’m not a Jedi so that would certainly be a bummer for him. But what would he say about me being an Agile Coach? What would he think about the fact that I’m not a famous actor or some sort of world-class software developer? What would he think about how my love for all things “geek” has diminished significantly over the course of the last few years? Would he think I was lame?

 

Hard to say, really. Unlike many people I know, I don’t actually look back on my childhood/teenage self with fondness. I was…kind of horrible really, both physically and mentally. I was a spoiled, selfish brat, and (especially in my teenage years) the epitome of the much-reviled nerdy “nice guy.” So, really, if the younger version of me wouldn’t be impressed with middle-aged me, that might not be such a bad thing.

 

But where do I go from here? I’ve got a fantastic career, with a company that I can honestly say I’d be content working for until I retire in 20 (or more) years. I have an amazing wife. I have a home. My son, despite some rocky years there at the end of his teens, is happy and doing well living on his own. I take multiple vacations every year. I don’t have to worry about paying the bills or keeping food on the table. I can pretty much indulge myself on any minor purchase that may flit its way through my head, which has for years been my benchmark of true “success” in life (I’ve always said that I’d know I’d made it when I could walk into a book store and purchase any book I wanted without having to worry about whether or not I could actually afford it…the irony there being that, as I mentioned above, I really don’t like reading very much any more). While I’m not a household name, I have had a long and successful career acting professionally in the Tampa Bay area, and the main hallway in our home is adorned with posters from the many shows I have been in over the course of the last sixteen years.

 

So, in the immortal words of Josiah Bartlett, “What’s Next?”

 

It’s a question I don’t know the answer to. Perhaps when I decide to write another blog post in two years I’ll have figured it out.

Feb 022015
 

BillyJoel_AnInnocentMan

I wrote the following as one of my assignments in my Orientation to Graduate Studies class at the University of Maryland University College. The goal was to write an article in the style of the “This I Believe” series by Edward R. Murrow. Unfortunately after I finished my essay and turned it in I realized that the assignment had been to write something about our professional beliefs and not a personal one, so I had to scrap the assignment and write another one in about 10 minutes (which, for the record, I got a 98% on). I really liked what I wrote in my original essay, though, and I wanted to share it here.

Fair warning – It’s mushy.

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Jan 132015
 
Image courtesy of Bruce Sallan - http://www.brucesallan.com/2012/03/25/are-you-a-socialmedia-addict/

Image courtesy of Bruce Sallan – http://www.brucesallan.com/2012/03/25/are-you-a-socialmedia-addict/

The company I work for considers themselves to be a Gallup Strengths-Based organization. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, the long and the short of it is that the Gallup organization has a list of 34 traits that are apparently common in all people. These traits are referred to as strengths. When the company you work for decides that they want to become a strength-based organization (or you decide you want to find out what your strengths are on your own), you take a test and you get a list of the 34 strengths in in the order that they apply to you.

My number one strength is Input. What follows is a description of the type of person who has Input as one of their top strengths, according to the Gallup organization.

You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information — words, facts, books, and quotations — or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

I, without a doubt, fall into the former category of collectors. I collect information. I used to collect things, but I had a change of heart about that a few years ago and really try to live my life amassing as little stuff as possible. But information? Oh, I collect information. I want to know…well, everything. I ask questions constantly. In many ways, I’m like a child. I constantly want to know why.

I’m still not entirely sure why Gallup considers this a “strength.”

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Oct 012014
 

Every once in a while I think about deleting all of the posts on my blog.

It’s not a matter of being embarrassed about the content here or anything like that. I’ve written before about how I’m not a fan of people who try to ret-con their online lives, and I still feel that way. There are posts out there that I’ve removed for professional reasons, but for the most part if you were really inclined you could use this site to look back over the last 15 years of my life and, I’m sure, get a kick out of how stupid much of it has been.

No, if I’m being honest the reason I think about deleting the history here is because I’m lazy. See, the fact is that many of the older posts here were written on my now-inactive LiveJournal blog. They are improperly formatted, contain broken images, are untagged, and generally a complete mess.

This fact bugs me, you see, because those posts aren’t pretty.

Yes, I’m vain. I like the way my blog looks. Those old posts are an eyesore, and the amount of work required to fix them is pretty damned extensive. The easiest solution would be to simply eradicated any content that existed prior to me switching to WordPress.

The conundrum, of course, is that I’m under some kind of illusion that some of that content is actually good, and I won’t know that until I’ve finished going through it all.

So, no. I won’t be deleting all those old posts.

But damn, is it tempting.

 

 

Aug 272014
 

I’d love to say I have some kind of well thought out, eloquent post in me. I do not. My sad, neglected blog is likely to remain just that for the foreseeable future, and this post won’t break that trend. This is just a thought dump. A “what’s going on with me” that most of you will likely gloss over if you even bother to read it in the first place.

Man, that sure sounded emo.

Continue reading »

Jun 232014
 

Shortly after I started the final push for my Bachelor’s Degree back in 2011, I purchased an Asus Eee PC so that I would have something portable to do my school work on. It cost me about $400 at the time. I upgraded the RAM in it to the maximum that it could possibly hold, and I threw a SD memory card in it to run ReadyBoost as well. In the years that have followed, I have installed tons of software on it that I have needed to complete my assignments. IDE’s, Server software (IIS AND Tomcat), database programs, the MS Office suite, you name it.

In all the time I have been using this netbook, the only thing I have had to do to it to keep it running was buy a new battery.

As I approach the final 5 weeks of my scholastic career, my little netbook is struggling. It has never been reformatted. The amount of time I’d have to spend re-installing all the software I need just hasn’t made it worth pursuing. What used to be a zippy little machine is now sluggish and frustrating to use.

But it still works.

Once school is done my netbook is probably going into retirement. I may reformat it first and see how it performs after that, but I’ve got my eye on more powerful machines as I move on to the next phase of my life and career. Regardless of that, it will be somewhat painful to let this little engine that could go. It has performed well beyond my expectations, and was worth every penny I spent on it. When I do decide to finally shut it off for the last time, I know I’ll feel more than a little sad.

“That will do, Netbook. That will do.”

May 202014
 
Image shameless yanked from http://www.autostraddle.com/tag/travel-guide/

Image shameless yanked from http://www.autostraddle.com/tag/travel-guide/

When I originally bought the house in St. Petersburg that I am currently living in, back in 1999, it was pretty much perfect in every way. It was big enough to accommodate my family, it was within a few miles of both my Sister and my Mother (who were helping us raise our son), it was near great schools, and it was safe. What it wasn’t, by any means, was close to my job. I was working in Clearwater at that point, at the Staples up on Sunset Road. My daily commute, distance-wise, wasn’t horrible…but it wasn’t great either (especially considering the fact that, at that point, very little of the construction that has improved traffic on U.S. 19 had been completed).

My next job after Staples was my first job working for a software company, and the office was located in Tampa near the airport. The commute wasn’t horrible, because I was able to get off of the interstate right at the airport exit and miss the traffic going through the downtown area, but it wasn’t great either. It was around this time that I started acting professionally, and with the exception of one show in the entire time I’ve been acting all of them have been in Tampa. I briefly worked for a company that had an office that was right off of the airport exit from 275, but it was still in Tampa.

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