Archive for June, 2004

I always keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake-which I also keep handy.
— W. C. Fields (1880-1946)

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
— Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

It takes one drink to get me drunk, but I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or the fourteenth.
— George Burns (1896-1996)

“When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.”
— Henny Youngman (1906-1998) British-born American comedian

“Time is never wasted when you’re wasted all the time.”
— Catherine Zandonella (I don’t know who she is, but that is some real wisdom!!)

Hey Josh, how do you like the last one???

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I often wonder why I bother.

The entire United States seems perfectly willing to drown themselves in an ocean of overwork. Who am I to tell an entire country it is wrong??

Actually, I often wonder that. But real passion is not logical. It is its own justification. And so I continue, and will do so until I die because that is who I am.

I am going to share this email I got today. I have more than a few that echo these same sentiments and would like to thank those that feel moved to write. If I achieved nothing else through this website, it would be enough.

From: “Russ Strong”
Subject: Stumbled across
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 11:06:47 -0700

Hi Elliott,

The other day I stumbled upon your site, I’m not actually sure how, but it had something to do with me looking for travel information. Anyway, I’m glad I did because you’ve kept me occupied for quite some time now. It’s great reading your stuff, because for the most part I agree with your theories and observations about life, work/balance, misplaced American ideals, over consumption, etc, etc.

Every now and then I get so used to just living a life of working, reading, learning, sleeping, eating, and trying to have some fun that I forget what’s really important. Then usually I find something, in this case your site, and it reminds me.

The great thing about reading some of your writings is that it puts into words a lot of my own personal views, which you do much better and more concisely than I could ever do myself. I’m not really a writer, or even a thinker, I just usually have these half thoughts that end up circulating in my head.

Most of the people I know, co-workers, family, and friends, seem to just live their lives without questioning. And they are either content with the way things are, or they are too lazy to care about not being content. Most of them I think are the same, and I guess what sets them apart from people like you or me is that they are happy to have their jobs and afraid that they will lose them and then have nothing.

And it becomes part of who they are. To me my job is simply a semi enjoyable way to live a life of financial stability, and if things came crashing down I would just find something else. Whether it was still in the tech field or not I don’t think I would care. I’ve worked in construction and enjoyed it just as much, just with less money.

I admit that in itself is a bit of a compromise to who I am, but it’s like you’ve said, without work there is plenty of time, but then there’s not the money to enjoy the the other things.

So it comes to the balance issue. The one thing about me is that I fear being unstable, so I’ve built my life in the present to be a balance of what I “need” to do to provide a sense of security for myself, while still in other areas managing to be true to myself.

One of the things that sometimes makes difficult is that I’m currently living in San Diego, and if you’ve ever been here, I’m sure you’ve seen that it, and all of southern California in general, is the epitome of everything that’s “wrong” with American life; materialism, over consumption, greed, inequality, living beyond your means.

But on the other hand, having grown up in New England, it’s almost refreshing in a way compared to how close minded and “normal” everyone is back there. People here seem to be ok with things, and I guess that’s their perogative. Probably because they think it’s normal to never let go of their cell phone and have massive debt and bills, but hey they look good and drive nice cars.

The thing that makes it easier to handle is that I know my time here is limited. My girlfriend (who I happened to meet out here and is one of the reasons my 3+ years here have been so great) and I have decided that when she finishes her college work that we will do a bit of unscripted travel ourselves. I kind of got caught up after college with moving straight into the “real world”, so I am certainly looking forward to it. Although through college I got to do a bit of traveling, mostly in the States and England, it was nothing compared to what you’ve done and what we’re looking forward to doing.

Well, I guess I’ve rambled enough for a letter to someone who I don’t even know. It was just very refreshing to find your site, because every now and then I start to feel like I’m the only one who thinks most of what goes on in our society is just a bunch of BS. Which I guess is a bit hypocritical of me since I’m part of it, but anyway I guess the fact that I question and have made a conscious decision to do so makes it somewhat ok.

Take care,

People sometimes ask me what I learned when I was traveling. At the top of the list is this one great lesson: You change someone’s life forever every single day.

I take responsibility for that.

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Work really saps your energy. I always feel slighty rushed and tired, not always physically tired, but emotionally…..uncreative and apathetic.

I need to find a way to deal with that, otherwise work is going to turn me into my father.

Happy Father’s Day.

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I played tennis for 3 hours tonight, got drunk at the Braves game last night, had a good friend visit the night before and have had a light work load this week at the office.

I think tomorrow I’ll go to the music store and buy these two pieces of recording equipment I’ve never had the money to get until now. Maybe next week I’ll post an mp3 of me singing something. Any requests??

If I weren’t eternally wishing for more, I might allow myself to feel good about things at the moment =)

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Anne asked me one time what post on the website is my favorite. I never mentioned it to her, but I actually did think about it.

And I have an answer. I guess I have to define “favorite” though. Is it the one that is most personal? No. Is it the one I feel is the most well-written? No. So which one?

Right now I work a lot…probably about 45 hours a week on average although the busy season is coming up so that will likely increase. Needless to say, I spend a great deal of time at the office.

So the same post always comes to mind. It is prophetic, not that being prophetic brings me any great joy….in fact, my ability to predict what I will do next has become increasingly annoying over the years. It is as if I have no say….that my behavior is largely predetermined and academic.

Know thyself!!! Like that gives me any satisfaction. Wisdom is a joke.

So my favorite entry right???… it is: How many hours are there in a day?

This entry describes my life, and, I am sure, most of our lives.

The follow up to this entry is actually also one of my favorites….maybe my favorite altogether. It is not so mathematical, thankfully, but it does make the point beautifully: What the fuck are we doing?

So these two posts are my favorites right now, because they are so pertinent. As for which posts are actually my favorites, there is a link in the column on the right called “Favorite Entries“. It is very aptly named.

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Tonight I got my resume out and started updating it. That is sad. Of course, I haven’t applied for any jobs yet, and I may not…..but dusting off the resume is a step.

Actually it took me longer than I had expected it would. In a life full of time horizons that rarely spanned more than a few weeks, three months isn’t all that bad.

Am I dissatisfied in my current position? No, not really. I am just not as satisfied as I could be. Everything in me tells me I am supposed to do more.

They say those that achieve the most are not the most talented, nor even those with the most connections, but those that want the most and will not accept less. You’ll never accidentally end up with more than you have dreamed. I believe that.

Anne used to say, “Sometimes good enough is good enough.” Not for me. It never has been and frankly, though I try to accept good enough, not even in my head can I agree that it is true.

In recent years the more I have tried to make myself accept average (and believe me I have tried)….the more I find that I am not that person. It is a battle with myself that I always lose. I don’t even like slightly above average all that much.

Only in my less energetic moments can I even agree in theory that it is true. It is those shy ideas and small dreams that keep us bogged down…unable to rise above the pettiness that marks so many of our days. We aim too low.

That is because most people have never seen an alternative. It is the creation of, or even the contribution towards, that alternative that wakes me in the morning.

Surround yourself with the right people and the impossible becomes simply what others have never seen before.

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I always loved the movie Cocktail. There is one quote in particular I will never forget. Young Flannigan and his high-class New York girlfriend Bonnie went to the art show. There was a big argument between the two of them. He makes a big scene and then runs out into the street. She runs after him:

Bonnie: Don’t let it end this way.

Brian: All things end badly, or else they wouldn’t end.

My girlfriend and I broke up on Sunday after 5 and a half months. I don’t think we were right for each other.

I might make a post about all that soon, but right now I’m sure she is reading this and I don’t want to do anything that might hurt her feelings.

And actually, that was part of the problem. I had to be so careful all the time what I said around her, how I behaved. She often interpreted what I said and did to mean something completely different than I had intended, which puzzled me. When that happens often enough you feel like you are walking on eggshells.

And for better or worse, I only know how to act like myself. When I am not allowed to do that, always second guessing how the other person might react, always monitoring my behavior to make sure it fits what they find acceptable, it tires me out. The greatest complement I know how to give someone is to say that I feel as comfortable around you as I do with myself.

We had a lot of trouble understanding each other. After nearly six months I didn’t feel she knew me very well….and honestly I didn’t know her that well either. Too much misunderstanding.

I met a girl in Rhodes 2 years ago who I swear could see right through me. I only knew her 5 days. It isn’t important whether she really did understand me or not, only that I thought it was so. There was a good deal of openness and drinking involved with that since I was traveling, but that shouldn’t trump 5 months together.

About 2 weeks after that in Turkey I was falling in love with an Australian math teacher. I only knew her a week. I would’ve moved to Australia if she’d said the word.

It is true that it is extremely dangerous to compare real life to travel, but that is my past. What other point of reference do I have?

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