Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy for Me

So here's the scoop: I've got a girlfriend. Somewhere out there in the world is a nice young lady who has agreed not to date anyone one else for the time being. More than that, she tells me that she likes me, that she thinks about me when I'm not around, that she longs to be with me.

We're a long-distance couple, see, and so this is a big thing, I think. I've been asking around for advice on how to manage a relationship over miles and miles of space, and the overwhelming response is "Don't waste your time." But I am, I want to, she wants to, and we're doing things to make it worth it regardless.

That's not what this is about—this isn't an announcement. But you need to know something about the situation to understand what I'm trying to say.

Many of you are aware that the last time I was in a relationship was three years ago. You may also be aware that I'm 27, which, in Mormon terms, is often "misheard" as 47 (though that's not what this is about either). So you can, perhaps, appreciate that I'm pretty excited about what's happening in my life right now. Outrageously excited at times.

And yet, I've been terribly cautious about talking about this at all. On the one hand, I'm trying to be discreet. But that doesn't explain why I find myself carefully talking around the fact that I have a girlfriend, why—though suddenly hours and hours of my time are being used to compose emails and place phone calls, though half my energy goes into daydreaming and trying to conjure up the remembered shadow of this girl I've met only twice but decided to bind myself to, though since six weeks ago everything I hear, see, touch, taste, and smell is refracted first through the lens of her imagined heart and only then processed by my own—why, despite all that, I don't allow her name to enter my conversation even a fraction of the amount of times it enters my mind. Everything in my world has changed color, but I'm carefully still calling blue blue, green green, and red red. Just the other day, Kate smilingly accused me of being very excited about it all when I accidentally used the words "my girlfriend" twice in one day. She was right, of course, and I checked myself: I had gotten carried away on little hiccups of joy. The pleasure of hearing those words escape my mouth—"my girlfriend"—had proven too much to refuse.

I've been thinking about why this is so, about why I'm loath to make vocal the way I'm starting to feel about a girl. This is the stuff that songs are written about, right? The stuff that poets eat, that spiral notebooks are graffitied with. So why am I playing it so close to the chest?

Part of it is, of course, common courtesy, and another part of it is a fear of finding myself naïve tomorrow. I realize it's all a little ridiculous and a lot tentative, that what today seems to be a real and lasting connection might turn out tomorrow to be a misunderstanding or a misplaced expectation. But that's the easy and obvious answer, one that ultimately speaks in my favor.

May I suggest an original and honest answer? I fear the reason may be that I find it hard to believe that my hearers will be genuinely happy for me. I know, this sounds absurd, and it is. Why wouldn't my friends and family be happy that I'm happy, that I may have found someone with which to be long happy? In truth, all those I've told have been nothing but enthusiastic and encouraging.1 There have been smiles and interested questions and pats on the back. They've all been dears (thank you, all). But I've met their queries with reluctance, with self-effacement and dodging, in most cases, and widely abbreviated accounts of the truth, and I'm scared of what it says about me and how I see them.

Many of my friends are single themselves, and many of our conversations revolve around past, present, and possible love (or, as one remarked recently, "I thought leaving Provo would end so much talk of relationships, but boy was I wrong!"). Some of them have been single much longer than me and some are older than me, but many are younger or have had more luck. Some really seem to want it and some seem unhurried, and, among the girls who are my confidants, there is sometimes the [mostly] unspoken possibility of love between us. Do I really have so little respect and admiration for these my friends that I imagine, rationally or not, consciously or not, that deep in their hearts they would feel jealousy rather than happiness at my good fortune? Why else would I clam up; why else tiptoe through conversations with my closest and best?

There may be a worse reason. Could it be that deep down in my own heart I lack the ability to be happy for myself? That I don't really believe this is possible, that I don't find myself deserving? Could it be that I believe that I am not destined for happiness, that I am not, in the end, lovable? Could the very reason I almost can't bear to hear myself exult, that her name has become almost an incantation, that I fear to dart and bound lest this collection of stained glass and fairy dust be shaken from my heart be that I respect and admire myself least of all, that what I fear is that I—not she, and not the rest of you—but that I will be the one who finally turns away from me in disgust?

1 The pessimistic advice has all come from strangers or people who didn't know I was asking on my own behalf.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Contest Results

Last week in the office at school I sponsored a caption contest. Here are some of the hilarious results (click on pics to see full sized).

The contest announcement was posted on the wall last Tuesday.

First Place: Joe P.—no, that's too obvious: J. Plicka.

Second Place: Holly

Honorable Mention: My Liege

Honorable Mention: Joey

Honorable Mention: Zach

I posted the winners on the backs of old flyers I stole from the bulletin board in the hall. Is that wrong? Since I posted, there's been a lot of backlash in the office including accusations of "Mormon nepotism" and self-declarations of winningness.

Zach says he's going to sponsor a reverse-caption contest when we get back from Spring Break.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I got reimbursed today for some trips I took as part of my education here in Athens. That's how it works—they'll fund us to go to conferences and things, but we gotta put the money out up front and then they pay us back. So today I finally finished the paperwork and went down to the bursar's office so they could cut me a check.

Only they didn't cut me a check; they paid my in cold, hard cash. Well, green grubby cash, anyway. Suddenly my wallet was too fat to fold nicely—I felt like I used to after a Friday night of waiting tables. I booked it over to the bank and deposited that dough, plus two tax return checks, and suddenly my bank account had tripled in size.

As I was walking home, I passed the Blue Eagle, Athens' music store. There in the window I expected to see two of the prettiest accordions I've ever seen, a red one and a white one for only about $300 each. They've been there for a few weeks and I've lusted after them, gone in to honk on them a bit. With so much new money in the bank—money that'd been gone so long I didn't miss it or need it anymore—I knew I'd be tempted, but I wasn't prepared for what I saw.

The red one was gone! Someone must've bought it in the last few days. I was expecting to stand there for a minute and taste the temptation as I peered through the glass at my babies, but I wasn't expecting the sudden rush of panic when one of them was gone. Now the temptation was real—if I didn't buy the white one right now, someone, anyone, could up and buy it from under my nose. I've got the money, I thought. I could just walk in there and make all my dreams come true.

No! I mustn't! I tore myself away and walked home. I'm opening up a high-yield savings account with ING Direct and depositing that money far away until it's time to spend it on what's really important. And what that is, I ain't telling. But I've got plans...

I thought I should take this opportunity, though, to share some things I've learned about recently. I'm trying to get more into personal finance and building good money habits, and these are some good resources I've discovered.

  • Get Rich Slowly is a blog that was started by a regular guy who found himself thousands of dollars in debt for no good reason. He just hadn't been paying attention. For years. Once he realized what trouble he was in, he dedicated himself to figuring out how to fix it, and he starting this blog to track himself and his ideas. Turns out he's a gifted writer and teacher, and his advice is always very encouraging. I'm not in a situation anywhere near to him, but I still love reading what he's got to say about things. I recommend starting here.
  • Pear Budget is a really simple budget service that helps you keep track of where your money is going. You don't have to know anything about budgeting (I don't) to make it work for you. You just throw in some numbers (it guides you) and then keep track of your receipts and stuff, and Pear Budget tells you if you're on track or what. I like that it's online, it's easy, and it's customizable. But it does cost $3 a month after the trial's over (which is plenty long enough to find out if it's worth it).
  • Mint.com is a similar money-tracking service, but the emphasis here isn't so much on budgeting. It links to your bank accounts and stuff and keeps up-to-the-minute records of what comes in and goes out. It creates graphs and charts to help you see where you're spending, and it looks very slick. You can make a budget on Mint, but it's not as robust as Pear Budget, even though it's prettier and easier to keep track of since most of the updating is automatic. Also, it's free. They make a commission whenever you choose to take them up on one of their "suggestions." The thing is that Mint looks at how you spend money and stuff and can recommend checking accounts and credit cards that match your needs. It's not intrusive at all, but you do get the feeling that your life is being quantified and the information is being sold without a face attached. But that's unavoidable these days, and what you get for it is boss.

It's not too late to start being better with your money this year. We can all go on vacation together. I'm rooting for you!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

To Drew, or maybe to Mary

Drew man,

I know we've always gotten a lot of flack for this:

But what the heck is this, then?

I'm pretty sure that's Henry B. Eyring sporting the only true and living fashion.