On Getting Older

The wife is sleeping, and Andy is supposed to be sleeping, but I just finished warning him for the second time to stop playing and lie down. Daylight savings got the best of all of us, I think. it’s really one hour too early for his nap, but he’s been particularly difficult today and we are glad to be shed of him for a little while.

If that makes me sound like a terrible parent, I’ve come to grips with this notion and determined that I am in all likelihood a truly ghastly father. I love how childless people turn into absolute Pharisees about that sort of statement–until they have a bipolar, attention-gobbling little tyrant of their own.

Now I’m on the couch and the cat is pawing at my arm, looking for some attention. Seems like everybody needs something in this house. I think I’m swinging into a low; I’m feeling broody, especially touchy, and in general dissatisfied with pretty much every facet of my life. She’s pawing my arm again, but I just don’t have the energy or inclination to make her go away.

What brought this on? A lot of things, but I think today is all about visiting my old college campus yesterday.

I was in town, and I thought that I should swing by. I haven’t really seen the campus in a long time. I think it’s been two or three years since I was last there. It was a lovely fall day, and I always think campuses look their best in fall colors. There seems to be a general consensus that college campuses are at their most romantic in the autumn. Why is that? Most of us come to college not in the fall, but in the spring of our lives, and I was no exception. Maybe it is because we look back on college during our autumn years, and everything is suffused with the golden glow of a past we barely remember correctly, enabling us to feel all warm and gooey about it. The present is baffling, the future is threatening, but the past, ah, is comforting.

So why the long face? I was struck by how much had changed, both at the campus and in myself.

My foot was and is sore from a walk day before yesterday, so I hobbled around campus in my jeans and Blizzard t-shirt, looking somewhat the part of a student but definitely not feeling it. My back teeth have been giving me trouble, and the dentist mentioned a bridge, a term I didn’t think I’d be hearing until much later on in life. There I was: sore foot, rotten teeth, aching back, revisiting the place where my body reached its peak. I saw some familiar sights, such as the arbor where I read the Melville poetry that seemed so very important at the time. The library was pretty much the same, as were the buildings on the original quad.

But I saw more change than comforting familiarity. Whole 3-story dorms were simply gone, replaced by a single stark cinderblock wall, surrounded by raw red clay and screaming orange safety netting. The casual ability we have today to simply erase buildings has always disturbed me. One of the 100-year-old admin buildings on the front drive disappeared one spring day back when I was a student, and I remember being startled that all that was left to mark its existence was a single copper pipe standing rootlike above the level, hay-covered soil, the tree to which it was connected ripped away by some unseen giant.

If I could put one big sign over the whole campus, it would read, “Pardon Our Progress”.

Other buildings seemingly sprouted out of the ground, three or four of them where I remember a parking lot or a cool, soft stretch of grass before. Other buildings had strange growths on them; the geology building seemed to have an attractive tumor on its eastern facade, the brickwork not even bothering to match the venerable color of its host organism. Trees had gotten taller or been erased; the scruffy little rock garden between the social sciences building and the library had utterly vanished, replaced by a strange tortoise shell construct of rocks in the ground, scribbled on by students with sidewalk chalk and a progressively diminishing ability to spell.

It was about this point, as I limped onward of the familiar sights of the old quad, that I realized that I didn’t feel as though I belonged there. I was an interloper, even though I was an alumnus, and both Uncle Sam and I had shelled out quite a bit of money to this institution. Maybe that’s what set off my mood; all around me was proof that the college I knew was going away, demolished and replaced, building by building. And I certainly wasn’t the same person I used to be. Married, a child, a teacher—I am quite literally everything I thought I would never be at my age. Son of a bitch, I never even conceived of my thirties when I was a student there! Both within and without was undeniable evidence that I was old, and was only getting older. So I limped off back to the car, past the familiar and foreign sights, feeling the sudden need to get back to where I now belong. That’s probably why I’m in such a state. Facing the loss of one’s youth can be a sobering look across the ever-deepening chasm between who one was and who one is…

Or maybe I just forgot to take my meds today. Yep, I did. Shit.

On Writing & Introductions

So, here I am, starting another blog. What was I thinking.

That first post is always hard. It’s like when, at any small group function, someone inevitably suggests that we go round the room, saying who we are and what we do, telling our interests and other crap nobody really cares about. It feels obligatory and awkward, trapped in a dimension where it’s everyone’s first day at a new school. How horrible.

To my friends out there that I may be reading this, you know who and what I am. To anyone hapless enough to stumble onto this page, I’ll try to explain myself.

I am an overgrown child in his late thirties, married to an absolutely wonderful woman. Adjectives fail to capture her essence, so let’s leave it at “wonderful woman” for now. We have a three-year-old son who is basically a good kid but who rides my nerves like a cheap whore, an attitude which causes me a certain level of guilt. I am an English teacher at a 2-year institution of higher learning, where I spend my days teaching classes, grading papers and tests, and watching TV in my office while eating or grading, all the time feeling slightly like a time-wasting fraud. Why the hell my students need to know who Dante is or where a semicolon goes I have no clue, but I am indeed happy to be paid for the opportunity to tell them.

In my spare time, I hike and watch some TV, but mainly I play World of Warcraft. No, I haven’t played other MMO’s, tabletop games, or any of the other gateway drugs that lead to WoW. I was a tourist who liked the climate and culture of Azeroth so much that I bought a timeshare sometime after Burning Crusade but before Sunwell was released, and my wife came along soon after. It’s been our thing ever since. We’ve raided Kara and ZA as GM’s of our own guild, and after hooking up with our current one, we’ve gone through all the normal-mode content in Wrath and Cataclysm. Now we’re merrily leveling though Pandaria, gawping at all the architecture and cool storylines while most of our guild rocketed past us to 90, apparently in a great hurry to be bored with the expansion sooner than anyone else.

The blog I used to have was not a good one. I think I was trying too hard, too influenced by all the other bloggers out there that I was reading at the time. I abused my freedoms, and I got abused in return for doing so. Maybe this is a reboot, a fresh start that something good may come from. Yes, I know I’m an English teacher who just ended a sentence with a preposition. No, I don’t give a damn. I spend all day pointing out people’s writing flaws, and I’m tired of being the bad guy, even to myself, to whom I never seem to tire of being a twat. I hope to keep what I write free of truly grievous errors, but some stuff I’m just too unconcerned and jaded to give a good solid shit about.

See, writing as a former English major is a tricky business. We like what we write. We spend most of our lives writing things to please others, to get a grade. We spend a long time primping, preening, and fussing over it like some stage mother. Then we shove our curly-haired little moppet onto the stage and wait with hunched shoulders as she does her little dance….

And as the last tap rings out, all we hear is crickets. Or worse, jeering. And then we fold up in the floor, devastated.

So, I’m going to try not to get so attached to what I write. Just write it. Don’t like it? I well and truly don’t care. Feel like leaving a snide comment? You might get one back in return, or I might dismiss you as the troll you aspire to be if only you were wittier and watched more Lewis Black and less Jersey Shore, and simply block you. Do you like my half-assed opinions and dim observations on a small collection of topics? Then by all means say nice things, or lie because you pity me. I’ll take whatever positive reinforcement I can get.

Why am I trying this again? Good question. What thing of consequence can I write? English majors also prefer their writing to do something, accomplish some goal. What do I have to say of any consequence about WoW? There are a hundred blogs out there, full of people who don’t wretch at the sight of a spreadsheet, who are doing a damn sight better than I ever could. Am I actually contributing, or just vomiting in a crowded room?

I suppose the real point of this is that it satisfies an innate need that English majors have: to write. We spend our whole lives reading ambrosia from the gods, but most of us don’t have the balls to chuck the 9-to-5 and write the Next Great Novel. So, we blog, or write fan fiction, or some other simpler and less risky thing to satisfy that creative urge.

What will I write about? Warcraft, certainly, as the URL suggests. Parenting? Perhaps. Marriage? Maybe, but most likely not. It seems déclassé to talk about one’s married life to the whole world. One of my in-laws had a messy divorce and made it much messier by splattering it all over Facebook, and it would feel much like that if I were to air out even slightly dirty linen here.

I also want to write about depression. I suffer from, in the words of my shrink, “severe depression, moderate level.” I will most likely be on meds for it for the rest of my life. One thing I would like to help do, even in a small way, is bring mental illness out of the dark in American culture. There is still a stigma to it, and people react with either a superstitious warding off or a snorting dismissal. That stigma has to die, and it can’t die soon enough for either me or the millions who suffer from depression of all levels–and they do suffer, make no mistake, in ways that make my diagnosis look positively euphoric by comparison.

In writing this awkward little intro, I believe I’ve discovered another thing I want to do with this blog: to make people think. To think about why and how they play WoW. To think about their lives, beliefs, and attitudes. I suppose that one simple wish is at the heart of all decent, honest writing, and that’s just what I want to be here: honest.