The Dilemma

Dino is in Florida, finishing up his degree. I am in New York, working on mine. Summer is bringing with it opportunities for conferences and preaching engagements, things I shouldn’t miss if I’m serious about following through with this vocation. Summer is also bringing with it financial burdens – there is no financial aid for students during the summer months. I will need to find work, on top of getting my end-of-semester work done. Finding work is difficult. Finding well-paying temporary work that won’t make me want to pull my hair out is very difficult.

Or, I could just say “fuck it,” put my stuff into storage for the Summer, cancel my preaching engagements, and move down to Florida. I’d get to be with Dino, find work in a place where cost of living is much lower, and maybe save up some money and pay down some debts. I miss Dino, and we’re probably not going to be able to see each other much over the next few years. In theory, I could go down to Florida, and fly up the few weekends I need to be here, and probably spend less than actually living in New York. Yet I can’t help but feel there would be missed opportunities and connections if I’m not in New York.

This sucks.

I’ve applied for summer housing, and I’m leaning towards that option. I do not like uprooting every few months. I want access to my library, and my own space to work, think, and write. I also want my husband. I wish life were simpler. I wish I could bring myself to drop everything and follow him wherever, but I know I can’t, and I really don’t want to do that. For the same reason, I know he can’t drop everything and come back here.

I also know, after everything else we’ve been through, we’ll get through this. This too shall pass.

Just the act of writing all this out helps me process it. I’ll be staying in New York this Summer. I’ll visit Dino when I can; he’ll visit me when he can. I’ll find work.

Forgiveness

[To those of you who know the format of this blog, I typically don't talk God or church stuff. I'm making an exception this time, but only for the first paragraph.]
Today is Maundy Thursday, and Advent Lutheran Church and Broadway United Church of Christ will be holding their joint worship service. Since we are celebrating with Lutherans, there will be an element of the service not typically found in UCC services – the Assurance of Pardon. Usually this would take the form of the worship leader (often the minister) saying something along the lines of “I absolve you of your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In our tradition, we don’t absolve sins; God does. So I will be saying something different.
As I was looking into various phrases for this part, I got to wondering why it is sometimes difficult to forgive others. There are some people who have been in my life who, for various reasons, I am no longer communicating with; some people who, the thought of encountering them again, fills me with anxiety. Some were cruel and abusive; others were thoughtless; and perhaps some remind me of my own failings, my own less-than-mature responses to being hurt, whether malicious or not. I should make my peace, because life is too short, and Love your enemies, etc.
Sometimes the best way to love someone is to put distance between yourself and them, to stop creating situations where you continue to hurt each other. And yet, even when a relationship comes to that especially when a relationship comes to that, it is still critically important to love and forgive. Harboring hate and anger only hurts oneself, and gives control of one’s life and emotions to another.
Anger has a purpose, and in the face of injustice, anger is the correct response. Hatred serves no purpose. Unchecked, anger quicky becomes hate.
Forgiveness isn’t about being a doormat. On the contrary, it’s about being free from the control of the hurt others have inflicted upon you by refusing to inflict more hurt on yourself. It is about living your life in spite of cruelty, and not out of spite because of cruelty.
When we forgive, we are free to fight oppression with clear heads, to love with radical passion, to create the world anew.

Priorities – Shutting Down Business for a While

I had a little downtime to think about some things I do and why I do them. It’s been a weird process, because I’m pursuing an M. Div. and ordination, and I don’t fully understand why. I continue to record programming tutorial videos when I can, with the hopes of developing online courses, but I’ve not progressed on generating the content for those courses. I started taking a free online course on MongoDB, but lately I’ve started asking myself, “Why? When am I ever going to use this?” I dropped the course today.

I feel like I don’t want to completely let go of programming, because it can be a lucrative career (although I hated working in the field, I still like to code, tinker, and learn). Computing was something I was always good at, but my passion for it has waned. Teaching computing is something I’m good at, but my passion for that has waned as well.

Am I clinging to this because I don’t want to feel as though my M. Sci. was a waste of time? Is it because I don’t know why I’m pursuing this new path, apart from the fact that I feel I have to?

As I look back on the past academic year, and how much I had to work for my grades, and how much even the little outside work I was doing seemed to be distracting me from my studies, I have to ask if the work is worth it?

If I were just in it to get the M. Div. and become a minister, then it probably would be. Yet, I’m planning on continuing for a doctorate in theology. Aside from a lifetime of being a Christian and a minor in philosophy, this is all new ground for me. I need to focus my energy on studying theology and the bible. I’m accumulating too much debt to half-ass this.

So here’s what I’m going to do:

  1. I’m still going to record YouTube tutorials, because they’ve been getting attention, and good reviews.
  2. I am going to still tinker and code, but I’m going to greatly reduce the amount of time I spend doing that, and probably do it through exploring things like JSword.
  3. I may or may not still do the Udemy courses. If I do, the first one will be the Basic Mathematics free course, which will be a public service for those who need help in remedial mathematics.
  4. I will stop tutoring altogether for a while.

The last one was a difficult decision to make, but I’ve come to realize it as a necessary one. I cannot commit the time and energy to do a proper job of it, and to continue to work without that ability to commit would be a disservice to my students.

Perhaps I will restart tutoring once my internship is complete this year, but for now, it is the best thing to do.

Things that Make Websites Annoying

Thank God we are beyond the days of MySpace and GeoCities, with gaudy backgrounds, pastel colors, animated gifs, and the dreaded music auto-play.

But there are some things that even good websites are doing that make me want to scream. Here are a few:

  1. Closed standards. If your website relies on Silverlight, it sucks. If your website uses the latest version of Silverlight, it both sucks and is probably not usable by millions of devices (such as Android and iOS devices). Even Flash is better, but with HTML5, we don’t even need Flash.
  2. Bad redesign, broken links, etc. Sometimes a website with a lot of awesome content decides to “simplify.” So the awesome content gets lost in a game of follow the so-called “intuitive” layout to find what you’re looking for. Once and a while, the old design of the website crops up, because not all pages have been updated to the new layout (this is why we have CMS), and many times links to things end up broken. It’s bad enough (though somewhat understandable) when that happens linking to something remotely. There’s no excuse for it to happen linking to something locally. If your website is broken, fix it. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Furthermore, I shouldn’t need to do a Google search to find something on your website.
  3. Broken back button, redirect hell, etc. If your website links do an immediate redirect, your website sucks. I shouldn’t have to hold down the back button and page through the history to get to my previous page. The back button should always work (with a possible exception of keeping users from re-submitting a form). If you have a redirect link for the purposes of tracking clicks, your website sucks.
  4. Relying on social networks for content and services. There are few things more annoying for me than being told to click on a link to RSVP or read an article, only to find myself redirected to Facebook. I quit Facebook for a reason, and I don’t want to re-join just to RSVP for your event. If you don’t know how to create a web form in this day and age, you really should learn. It’s ridiculously easy now with JotForm or Google Drive, and doesn’t require you belong to any social network.
  5. Can’t view on / looks horrible on a mobile device. It’s 2013. Not supporting smartphones and tablets is just bad form. Your page should either be simple enough that it looks good on a phone, or it should have a mobile sub-domain. (A fair exception to this rule would be those sites that teach programming or other computing skills. It’s reasonable to assume the user is on a computer in that case.)

Now I’m going to get off the computer and interact with people IRL.

And Back in New York

Dino and I have lived in this city for just shy of 6 years. It was initially something of an adjustment for me. I had spent most of my life in suburbia (which I was never very fond of), aside from five months in Dublin, which is a very different sort of city, which I instantly loved and still do love.

I had to grow into love with New York. Whenever I would get down, I’d wander the streets, and something about the energy of this city would rejuvenate me. It is beautiful in a raw and dirty sort-of way. It is the central hub of the world. There are neighborhoods for practically every corner of the world. In any given day you can hear a half-dozen languages being spoken. People from all over the world come here to build a better life for themselves. Queers from all over the country come here to find a home. Performers and artists come here to find their big break. Everyone here is a mensch, a “somebody,” and yet… and yet…

As I roamed the streets yesterday, looking for that something that made me love with the city, I felt as though something had changed. New York is now Post-Occupy New York. Zuccotti Park looks empty, and even the tablers at Union Square were nowhere to be seen. We are a scarred city; the community and spirit that formed OWS seems missing, or hidden, and its absence from the public sphere is palpable.

Occupy isn’t dead, but it’s no longer the same hopeful dream it once was. And since I’ve moved to New York, the Oscar Wilde Bookstore shut down, Partners & Crime shut down, Saint Vincent’s shut down, the Metropolitan Museum has sold out to David Koch, so the Cloisters are dead to me. I’ve become disenchanted again and again with various institutions I’m a part of, and every day the struggle to resist becoming another jaded cynical New Yorker becomes more difficult.

And I’ve come to realize that I am no longer in love with New York. Perhaps it’s just a post-honeymoon phase, a rough patch we’ll get over. Perhaps it’s just that I don’t like staying in one place for too long. Perhaps one does not need to love where one lives. Perhaps I’m trying to justify our own impulses to move to Montreal.

Whatever it is, New York is still home, because Dino is here. New York will continue to be home for the next two years as I finish up my M.Div. It may be home for the next 10 years, depending on where I pursue my doctorate. In the meantime, I’m starting to learn French, and re-learn German. I’ll need both for my doctoral work in any case.

Montréal

Last week, Dino and I went to Montréal. This was the first time in 5 years that I’ve had anything resembling a vacation, and the first time in 13 years that I’ve left the country. We fell in love with the city. It’s a beautiful place, with friendly people, amazing food, and the largest gay neighborhood I’ve ever seen.

We are seriously considering moving there. We’ll have to go back in the winter to see if Dino can handle it, but I’m already looking into doctoral programs and getting started on learning French. A lot depends on which doctoral program I get into.

I spent most of Friday on Rue Sainte-Catherine, drinking coffee and exploring. Near our apartment was the most amazing bakery with the best. bread. ever. I think half our grocery budget went to baguettes. Saturday Dino and I went back to Sainte-Catherine, had lunch, talked endlessly, and people-watched. Saturday evening we had friends over and Dino cooked amazing food, as he always does. We finally got to meet Nat, whom we’ve known online since forever. It was our first time in the city, and our first time in Canada, but it’s amazing how many friends showed up. It was unairconditioned and crowded, but wonderful. Much food and wine got consumed.

Sunday Dino and I visited Saint James United Church. It was a lovely service with a hospitable congregation. I got to speak with another seminarian about UCC ordination, UCC / UC-Canada relations, and the prospect of doctoral study in Montréal.

Recover, Read, Write, Record

Life happens. When it happens, you might be thrown off-balance. You may find yourself needing a mental health day, or a few mental health days, or just some time to process what exactly happened. When that happens, you may find yourself feeling guilty about having to take so much time for processing and recovery. This is especially true for those of us who are self-employed living under this oppressive capitalist system. We’ve been conditioned to think that if we are not generating (monetary) value, we are not valuable as people. Rent and bills typically do not give us time to recover. If we are late in payments, we are made to feel like worthless, irresponsible, or criminal. Such feelings can be debilitating, keeping us from doing what we need to do to survive in this system.

When life happens, allow yourself time to recover. Use that time well. Take a mental health day, try to figure out what happened or do something to remind you that life is still awesome, because it is, regardless of what happens. Set yourself a flexible deadline to recover from what happened, but work towards recovery; don’t avoid the issue. Remember that you are still valuable as a person, even when you are not producing.

Something happened recently. I took a day to try to figure it out, but my efforts left me with more questions. I took a couple more days to process it, and now I’m ready to move on, even though I still have some unanswered questions. The answers will come with time.

During those three days, I didn’t “slack.” The dishes got done, laundry got done, and things got tidied. I did some work, but not at the capacity I’m used to. I made a mental list of things I’ve accomplished so I could make sure I wasn’t just slacking. I recorded no tutorials, but I’m not going to record unless I’m ready. I dialed back my expectations of myself and my output, because I had to.

Now I’m ready to return to work.