Changing Seasons

One week ago, my Pushy Pullers and Cantaloupe drove their way across flyover country to arrive in the land of the silent “S”. They rolled into the Des Moines area with my parents’ assistance the Monday before the nation celebrated its freedom with controlled explosions in small containers.

I rolled in that evening as well. I had placed my two weeks’ notice with Melton, and though they carried out the most professional form of begging possible for a mid-sized company I had to decline. Some things are more important than a lucrative job.

OTR is a challenging lifestyle and can only be tolerable when you are either able to bring your whole family along with you or you’re single and ready to not mingle.

However, I’ve now moved on from that life and am back to being a father. Our Pineapple is growing more sentient each day, and it’s starting to develop a sense that things beyond itself exist in this world. If I don’t watch it pretty soon it’ll procreate, and the cycle will begin anew.

I’m transitioning to a role at JB Hunt hauling new appliances to homes and retailers. It’s a rewarding job of heavy lifting and allows me to have a home again while paying bills and not dying of money deficiency.

In some ways, it feels like I’m coming home, but I’m still having flashbacks to my OTR life. I keep forgetting that I have more than 20 square feet to work in. I forget to use the bathroom regularly from my expectation of a 5-minute walk. I expect my diet to have a choice of destroying my wallet or my shapely physique. Most alarmingly, I tend to forget the presence of the small two-foot alien that I’m responsible for teaching how to budget and eat alongside my Candy Smooshers.

Nevertheless, I’m out of that trauma and into a new trauma: conforming to a Midwest suburban apartment lifestyle. I’m sure it will be horrifying, but at least we moved in the summer where it’s too hot to think and the humidity makes the heat more fun.

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The Write Idea

The Write Idea

Creativity is like a muscle. First, you work it out. Then, you give it time to rest. After that, you let it atrophy back into mush. Then, you keep telling yourself that you’ll get on it. Following that, you buy a creativity pedometer and creative exercise equipment. Then, you have a credit card payment. I forgot where I was going with this.

Ah, yes, creativity muscley. To create is to develop ourselves, and to consume is to add raw ingredients. When you expend energy, you are burning your Slim Fast/Jim with a measurable amount of calories. Those calories enable you to work to the capacity that your muscles let you.

In the same way, creation is our mental calories burned from the psychological food we digest. In the same way that sitting on your butt burns ~2,000 calories a day, going about daily life burns mental energy. We’ll say it’s ~1,500 brainfarts, though less for most college graduates.

Unfortunately, like food diets, we must watch our mental intake. I’d have a hard time digging a hole fueled by Ho-Ho’s and Pop Tarts. If I watch nothing but the Dukes of Hazzard and King of the Hill, it will be hard for me to create a compelling science fiction novel unless it involves space rednecks.

Lately, I’ve been slacking off on a proper mental diet, but it’s hard to find anyone to hold me accountable. The internet is a dump truck of mental food, and meaningful discourse is hard to find among the droves of philosophically bankrupt consumer-gluttons. The ones who do want to discuss more often than not prefer to worship a 3-pound blob of gray tissue they’ve never seen but are convinced is better than yours.

In the meantime, I’m working through my 100,000 Tips, trying to update it to something grammatically correct and formatted according to standards a semi-literate monkey could tolerate.

Thankfully, my Woozy Drunkers is driving out of California in about a week and a half. I’d join her, but driving a small building across the country keeps me a bit indisposed to accompany her on her trip, though my parents have decided to come along. Once we get to Iowa, I’m sure we’ll find a meaningful crowd of folks that we can connect with in a meaningful way.

Des Moines is known for its philosophers, right?

Tattered Visions

Tattered Visions

Every parent desires their child to be great. Whether it’s in passing the family tradition on or invalidating the family curse, all decently humane fathers and mothers would be satisfied with a successful adult child when they look at the bag of drool and unspoken possibilities sticking their finger in that light socket.

One of the cursed blessings of being a long-haul driver is in the endless opportunities presented to ruminate and ponder pretty much everything. Since nobody told me that thinking is a dangerous hobby, I’ve done gone thinkin’, and it’s messing with my worldview.

Greatness, like repulsiveness, is rarely defined but at first blush seems to be universally agreed-upon. When you dig deeper into the intricacies of being great, it appears to be a mixture of a well-utilized personality and a fully-seized opportunity.

Unfortunately, the abstraction of an idea doesn’t do well to connect it to benefit the ones who are great. I’ve been observing a mystery that confounds me.

Greatness itself may be perceived by others, but nobody who seems to attain it ever really notices their transition into it. Was Einstein a “great man” when he discovered the theory of relativity, or when it was published? Was Henry Ford great when he developed a highly efficient company, or when his brand became a household name? Do presidents and kings become memorable as they do things, or when the consequences form?

The reality is that history has to write greatness, and it will only be written by the others who come after. C.S. Lewis did wonders expressing Christianity in a modern setting, but how many of his colleagues shared his thoughts and weren’t given credit for them?

In fact, how many ideas can we really attribute to Lewis in the first place? Or anyone else for that matter? Ideas have a funny tendency of not coming exclusively from ourselves, and any contribution we could ever make to humanity is merely stacking upon the body of pre-existing knowledge and creation that travels all the way back to Adam and travels all the way forward to the end of the earth.

No, nothing in this world is genuinely new, but it is new to each of us as we encounter it. Our own tragic fate, however, is to hold the messenger of the information in higher regard than the message, a bit like a tribal culture that worships the man who brings knowledge of carpentry and masonry.

When an idea is seen as new, it really isn’t. It is usually beyond the pale to express it, but the most in-depth pursuit of truth should drive us to squint into the distant haze of ancient history, philosophy, and storytelling to discover the most unadulterated version of the modern remix we see today.

If we want to understand ourselves and the world around us, we must see it from new perspectives. Many of those come from beyond where our comfort zone will send us.

With all of this said, this provokes a personal battle that verges on an existential crisis.

Finding room for greatness in the world of ideas and expression requires creating original and unexplored concepts and illustrations. However, with everything I said above it’s literally impossible to find something “new” that others haven’t tread upon. It seems that the more I read and discover, the smaller the box I have to work with to create something that I have no doubt will add to the incessant buzzing noise of the best digital publishing network this world has seen.

You’ll know if I come out of this existential mess. In the meantime, I’m cleaning up my 100,000 Tips and paying my bills with a good-paying mind-numbing job. This might be the logical consequence of the mental breakdown that invariably seems to come from absence from anything that looks like normal human interaction, or it could very well be something I ate.

Copy/Paste: The Remix

Copy/Paste: The Remix

The need to outperform our prior successes is inherent to our existence as humans. Unfortunately, when it comes to publicizing a personal life with the intent to entertain and educate, some seasons can make that difficult to do.

The long-wise and long-dead Solomon, Ex-King of Jewish Folks, once said in his most ecclesiastical work, Ecclesiastes, that all things under the sun are futility. In the mix of all of that optimism, he also stated how there is a time and a place for all things: a season for everything.

Since I feel an unnatural compulsion to inform and educate everyone around me about all the dumbest mistakes I’ve made, this current season’s elements of “nothing much new” dramatically distresses me for no directly logical reason.

I mean, sure my Goober Smokers and Watermelon are moving to Iowa in the next month or two. I’ve started learning to play the banjo, and she’s started to play the guitar. I’m fixing my Philosopher Accountant’s 100,000 Tips to drastically improve grammar, flow, and formatting. I have big-ish plans for everything about my website, writing career, and bill-paying career. Watermelon can now start making noises that almost sound like English. Gummy Cheesers is working through psychological torments that have plagued her from an early age, as well as me learning how to mitigate my own unique brand of psychosis. But is that enough?

Yes. Yes, it is. One of my most significant role models of late, the venerable and witty Mike Rowe, recently showcased a venerablier and slightly less famous fellow by the name of Keith. Keith artfully stated an excellent point: that happiness and satisfaction in a job well done is a greater good than any level of influence or fame or attainment.

It would be better to have a career that rewards with fulfillment than with money. A family filled with love is better than one filled with possessions. Satisfaction is better to attain than prominence.

I could go on with all of those Chicken-Soup-For-The-Soul-isms, but the reality is that the only two days worth living for are today and the day that God will ask what you’ve done with your life.

I guess I forgot about what I knew, which is ironic considering how much I’ve written on the subject, but that’s probably normal for being on this planet. Thankfully, I haven’t fallen off the deep end yet to join the crowd I have termed “Schizophrenics For Christ”. If my punctuation, HTML formatting, or logical cohesion starts to slip, please contact my wife so that she can take away my internet privileges.

Rough Road

Rough Road

If you recall what I had said previously, the lifestyle of OTR driving is somewhere between RV living and living out of your car, except that there are a few added elements to make the lifestyle even more scattered than your average hobo living.

For starters, OTR means the place you’re showering and the place you’re relaxing are nowhere near each other. The showers are inviting, sure, but there’s something cathartic about changing your clothes into extremely casual wear and then sauntering over to your bed. If you do that in OTR, you have no shame, since you’re walking past a driver’s lounge, convenience store, fuel island, and 50 trucks to do so.

Second, say goodbye to the convenience of free space. It’s a step up from living in your car, and you will have enough electricity to run anything you need, but you won’t be able to run everything you need at the same time. Checking up on the latest with your PC is going to have to wait until you’re done brewing your coffee, and that’ll be after you’ve cooked your breakfast and trimmed your nose hairs.

Third, don’t bother with work-life balance. Life comes in the form of using a computer, phone calls, exercise, sleeping, and any other hobbies you can think of that don’t take up too much space. They get smashed in the middle of waiting for shippers, waiting for the shop to fix something, waiting for the 10-hour reset to finish, waiting for a 34-hour to finish, and waiting because you don’t know what you’re waiting for.

Have I mentioned the waiting? Trucking is either rolling down the road or waiting, though flatbedders have the advantage of securing the load, tarping, untarping it, and finally unsecuring it. But it’s mostly waiting. Like right now for me. I’m waiting to get a shower because I am waiting for my truck to get out of the shop while I’m waiting for my 10-hour reset. It’s a bit hard to lose wait when I have so much of it!

On top of that, the community of truckers is made of a few broad groups:

  • 5% noble men of strong character with asphalt mixed into their blood
  • 30% antisocial people that might have too much of an obsession with knives
  • 20% rookies that are still trying to find out which way to turn the steering wheel when driving forward
  • 45% horrible human beings that are mentally incapable of being employees in any other profession

In case you’re wondering, I’m in that “antisocial” crowd.

The whole industry itself is a mess. When the weather, truck breakdowns, traffic, accidents and late shippers screw up the schedule, the truckers are at the bottom of a very tall totem pole that reaches up to the executives.

Most of the industry involves what I call “trickle-down abuse”: the CEO beats the VP’s to an inch of their life, the VP ravages the senior managers’ sense of self-respect, the senior manager calls the supervisor things that can’t be put into print, and then the laborer (trucker/forklifter/etc) is whipped by the supervisor.

Finally, if you have a family that you at least somewhat like, it can be difficult. I’m out on the road for 2-4 weeks at a time, and it can really be a strain on my Flowy Wiggles. It will later affect our Ninyos as well. The secret for a good OTR family is to like your family enough that you want to go home, but they can’t be so awesome that you miss them when you leave.

The job isn’t all bad, though. It pays well, and it’s rewarding. Flatbed work is especially rewarding, and there’s something cathartic about unsecuring the load at the receiver and being able to say “yeah, I just moved 45 tons of steel pipe across the country without it falling all over the place and killing everyone. That was me.”

But, like all other dirty jobs, the big reward for hard work is in yourself. It can’t be earned any other way than doing the thing you don’t feel like doing, but it also can’t be taken away without severe brain damage. Overall, worth the effort.

Truck Stopped

Since I’ve been stuck waiting for my next load for a bit more than 24 hours, I figured I’d debrief everyone on what has been happening.

I have to fight the temptation to say “not much.” The never-ending slew of new experiences makes all aspects of the truck driving career an opportunity to talk. However, I guess the best 4-word summation of “how’s it going?” would best be “A lot happening, yo.”

I guess in no particular order, I will proceed to list everything going on right now.

1: I’m Writing A Book

Books are apparently still trending, and they still serve more than a decorative function. Because I took so much time making my 100,000 Tips, I figured it would be a fun experiment to put pen to paper again finger to keyboard again and express the ideas in a more publishable format.

This project is very slow-moving since I refuse to write on it unless I am in a great mood. Nobody wants to read a self-help book with the following:

The secret to happiness is to learn to get over your stupid, petty lives. All we ever do is gripe about everything, and I’m sick of it. Why don’t you shape up and try to not be a drain on the world around you?

Also, make sure to brush your teeth before they rot out of your face.

I know there are books like that out there, but it seems like something that would take a long time to get through.

Also, I remember The Oatmeal writing about creativity being a bit like breathing, and I would be amiss if I didn’t practice what I’ve preached.

Thankfully, I don’t have a publisher, there are no hard deadlines, and I’m about 80% through Section 1 of 14 so far.

2: The Road Is Rounding Me Out

If you stay out on the road long enough, you will become part asphalt and part concrete.

The “culture” of the road is unrelenting. There is no room for uncertainty, there is no grace for failing, and any mistake can create severe difficulty ranging from being stuck in a ditch to having to drive another 20 miles.

A corrective action to fix a mistake doesn’t guarantee that that mistake will be resolved. Sometimes, if that correction is done incorrectly, you’ll be left with twice the headache as before!

I’ve finally started adapting the lifestyle of long-haul truck driving, and the reality is that I’ve lost most of my obsession with what others think in the process.

3: I Have Literally Nothing To Complain About

Sure, there are inconveniences that my Wummy Gumplers and I are struggling with, and yesterday was a lame second-year anniversary. However, when it’s time to do nothing but wait for future endeavors to start playing themselves out, it would be a crime to whine about it, especially when Mike Rowe has predicted the end of the world after this weekend.

Automatic Manual

I’ve been taking the Greyhound bus to get to Tulsa for my work. They have the crappiest form of transportation known to man the West. They employ the time-honored tradition of both under-maintaining their buses and not having a contingency plan when their buses break down. If you ever need to get somewhere cheap and 3 days later, take the Greyhound.

If you think I’m exaggerating, I am. The Greyhound has a reasonable likelihood of getting you there only 24-36 hours late from what their ticket says, depending on how far you’re going.

In light of this waiting, it’s been a great time to catch up on my reading. I ran across a LinkedIn article that referenced this book. To save you valuable seconds of reading time, the gist of the idea is that it helps yourself and others to create a personal user manual.

Since this is a fun angle to approach self-awareness, and since I created an entire series on the Philosopher Accountant about awareness and am working on a book version of it, I figured I’d try it out. Here’s my result.

Since my brain’s a bit soupy with the whole “writing a book” thing, I think I’ll take a break from that to make a “writing instructions” thing. Here’s how you can make your own instruction manual:

  1. Devote up to an hour to really think about these questions and answer them really honestly with the first things that come to mind:
    • What is your style?
    • When do you like people to approach you and how?
    • What do you value?
    • How do you like people to communicate with you?
    • How do you make decisions?
    • How can people help you?
    • What will you not tolerate in others?
  2. Go back and look at some of the assessments you’ve done in the past like Myers-Briggs (ESFJ or INTP or BARF or whatever), DISC assessment, psychiatric hospitalization reports, that sort of thing. If you need to, find a few more for the fun of it. I used to play around on Queendom when I was a wee lad, but the internet has gobs of these.
  3. Get your friends or coworkers, if you have any, to fill out Step 1’s questions. Bribe them with cookies if they refuse.
  4. Make a final edit to turn it into something cool-looking.
  5. Go back once in a while and revisit it to see if it’s still a valid way to describe yourself.

And you’re done! Share it if you want, or do what I do and archive it for some arbitrary future use that will never happen!