Category: personal

When to Hide Facebook Friends

Sometimes I feel quite a bit out of place. Online talking to some of my friends, I feel like they view me as some sort of arch liberal, intent on destroying the world and ridding it of any traditional values. But then I’ll interact with real, honest-to-goodness liberals and I feel like some sort of archaic, family values standard bearer.

Honestly, this doesn’t upset me most of the time. I consider myself in between those two extremes. There are some issues where I am definitely quite liberal in my leanings, and others where I’m still staunchly conservative. It’s one of the reasons why I dislike the two party system so much and resist labels in general. A label seeks to define. I find them limiting. You’re either a liberal or a conservative. Either a Republican or a Democrat. With us or against us.

This is a problem that’s been exacerbated by social media. There are many many people that I don’t usually interact with on a daily basis. Social media makes that less possible. In some ways, that’s a good thing, right? It connects the world and brings people closer together, on its best days. But there are family members who I would normally just chit chat with about the kids and the good old days. And there are business associates who I rarely see and interact with, and when I do, it would be to discuss safe topics like the weather and how big of a pain email can be.

Sometimes, being Facebook friends with these people is a great surprise. We become closer friends and discover a lot of cool similar interests. I can say with a certainty that a lot of my new healthy lifestyle has been inspired by people I wouldn’t have rubbed elbows with much had it not been for social media. And a good deal of my open thinking is due to me talking and interacting with people on both sides of that R/D spectrum.

But there are other times when social media is definitely Not a Good Thing. Because it pushes those casual relationships farther than they can sustain. You discover just what your long lost high school friend thinks about Black Lives Matter, gun control, abortion, Donald Trump, gay marriage, and any number of other issues. Issues no one in their right mind would broach with a casual acquaintance, or someone you rarely see. Imagine going to a party, seeing someone you’ve spoken to five years ago, walking up to them, and proclaiming, “The second amendment needs to be defended at all costs. Let me tell you about this study I read the other day.”

We know better than to do this. Not because these issues aren’t important to us, but because that’s just not an appropriate party conversation to lead out with. (Sure, you could argue that it’s an issue everyone should think about, and that THEY ALL NEED TO AGREE WITH ME, but we can see that’s not going to happen, right?)

It can get even worse, of course. You don’t just see and interact with casual friends, you’re stuck talking to their casual acquaintances as well. And so social media can devolve into this sick, hellish reflection of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where you’re debating with your dentist’s high school friend’s college roommate’s aunt about just how racist Donald Trump is. And it feels in that moment like it’s the most important thing in the world that you win that argument.

And social media encourages us to take sides. Not overtly, but by its nature. We make statements and read things we disagree with, and the next thing you know: argument.

Which is all just a really long way of me explaining why I hide so many friends on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. If I get to a point with a person where my main interaction with them is to read their status updates and get upset by what they believe, I hide them. Not because I want to insulate myself in a bubble, but because I have no real desire to let social media ruin relationships with friends, family, and business associates. Sure, I suppose this means I might not be Changing the World one Facebook update at a time, but I still write this blog every day and interact plenty with anyone who cares to comment, so I think I have that done.

What I mean to say is that you can (and should) get a wide spectrum of news reporting in your life, but it doesn’t have to come from Facebook. In fact, it shouldn’t. Go directly to a variety of news sites. Read it. Come up with an opinion on your own. But don’t rely on your roommate’s distant relation to fill you in on it all.

It’s not personal when I hide someone. I’ve only defriended one person in the past decade, that I can remember. I stay friends with everyone else, because I still consider them friends. But because I want to stay friends, I know when it’s time to not be quite so close.

That’s my policy. What’s yours?


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How Did You Choose Your Career?

I’ve been involved in a couple of job searches recently (not looking for one personally, but on hiring committees), and it got me thinking: how do people end up doing what they do for work? How do you go from high school to a 40 hour/week job?

For me, it all came down to a fairly random set of circumstances. I had come back from my mission, and I was back at BYU. I needed a job, because money. My sister had gotten a job at the BYU library, and she suggested I work in her department, because it was a good job and paid well. I applied and was hired.

Up until that point, it wasn’t like I’d had this life long urge to be a librarian. The “paid well” part of what my sister told me appealed to me far more than the “good job” part. The BYU Periodicals Department paid something like $8.30/hour, which at the time was one of the best paying jobs on campus.

That job got me a job at Orem Public Library while I was getting my Masters in English. I enjoyed it, but I still didn’t really view it as a Career until my plans for going to get a PhD in English grew shaky. So when the outlook became precarious, I began reevaluating things I had been doing. Lo and behold, I discovered plenty of people don’t just work at libraries as a stop gap. They work there as a Career. I applied to a Library Science program at Florida State and got my degree.

Even then, I wasn’t sure what kind of librarian I wanted to be: academic or public. I double majored to prep for both. I’d worked in both types, and I liked both types. I applied for Young Adult librarian positions and Academic librarian positions. I got offers in academia before I got offers in the public area.

And here I am.

So as I take a step back and look at things, a lot of different factors had to come together for me to end up where I am. That could lead me to think this whole Career thing is pretty random. Except I had done other things before I became a librarian. I had worked at McDonalds, read gas meters, been a writing tutor, taught Freshman English, been a missionary for two years, and interned in Public Relations. I’d dabbled in computer programming, tried writing books, played instruments, done drama, worked at the school paper, and taken a slew of classes in different subjects. I’d majored in linguistics and English.

At any point in time, any one of those other paths could have sparked an interest in me. If I hadn’t enjoyed working at the library, I would have quit. Money only gets you so far when it comes to a job. If you’re miserable, you start looking elsewhere. What I mean to say is that it’s easy to look at the path I took and think it was a series of happenstance, but I think once you take into account all the different ways I could have done something else, it comes more into focus.

Choosing a career (for me, at least) boiled down to being drawn to a particular area over time. Deciding to major in English instead of physics (my second choice, believe it or not). Quitting reading gas meters to return to the BYU Periodicals Department, even though it meant a substantial cut in pay. Over time, I eventually honed in on something I enjoyed and excelled at. If libraries hadn’t worked out, I would have kept on searching.

Taken in that light, I think it makes sense to dabble as much as you can in your early years. Try a wide variety of things. Ditch what you don’t like, and stick to what you do.

But that’s just my path. I’m curious: how did you arrive in your current career?


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Fighting Burnout

The end part of a drive is always the hardest part for me. It doesn’t really matter how long the drive itself is. If I’m going on an hour drive, then I begin to get antsy at the 45 minute mark. If I’m on an 8 hour drive, then the last hour or so will be rough, but I breeze through that 45 minute mark. (This is one of the reasons that I try to trick my mind when I go on trips. I say to myself that an 8 hour trip will be 10 hours, and I keep focused on that 10 hour mark the entire trip. Surprisingly, this actually works for me. Perhaps I’m just that good at deluding myself.)

It’s been a tough semester. Denisa’s been teaching three classes and tutoring students, we’ve had multiple renovation projects going on, I’ve had writing deadlines to worry about, I’m pushing my diet hard, and I’ve gotten a new calling at church that’s keeping me on my toes. And I’ve been handling it all pretty well, more or less. But the closer we get to the end of the semester, the harder it seems to have gotten. This past week there have been multiple times when I just have felt like I have nothing left in the tank. I’m persisting on sheer will power alone, and there’s not much of that left, either.

It’s not a pleasant feeling to have. Some of it must be because I know I’m going on vacation soon. I’m at the tail end of the drive, and I’ve hit the point where I know I’m almost done, and so it’s the hardest to keep going.

At times like this, I try to think of what I would tell someone else if they came to me asking for advice on how to handle it. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. You can lighten up for a few days and be just fine. This is a marathon, not a sprint.” But it’s one thing to know what the advice would be, and quite another to actually follow it. The thing that I’m having to push on the most the past bit is my writing. I get home from work and am just fried. I have pretty much no desire to do anything other than read a book, watch a movie, or sleep. But I know I have writing to do, and so I plop myself down in a chair and get it done. I always feel better having done it, but I wish I could feel better when I’m actually in the process of writing.

I didn’t really set out to complain about stuff in this  post. Many many things are going great, and I have to remind myself of that. But the end part of a drive is always the hardest part for me, and that vacation can’t come soon enough.

Speaking of which, I’m hereby stepping back from the blog for tomorrow and all of next week. This is me, giving myself permission to not blog if I don’t want to. If I have something I really want to say, I’ll pop on here and say it, but don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me until the 27th. I’ll be on Facebook. You can catch me over there.

When You Lock Yourself Out of Your House at 6:30am

I’m not a morning person. I’ve never made any claims to the contrary. It takes me a while before my brain is fully functional each morning. It’s not unheard of for me to forget my lunch at home, or forget my computer even. (Which is a great reason to live not too terribly far from my workplace.)

But this morning, I forgot my car keys.

Typically, that wouldn’t be a problem. You just go back inside and get the keys, and all is well. Except I’d already closed the garage door when I realized this, and my car keys are with my house keys. Also, we have no front door right now, since we’re working on building a new staircase to the front door. So basically, I discovered myself locked out of my house at 6:30am.

The whole family was asleep. I didn’t want to wake the kids up, so calling the home phone was a bad idea. I tried calling Denisa on her cell, but it was in quiet mode. (6:30am, remember?) It didn’t ring. Our bedroom is on the second floor, so after some thinking, I decided to go with the old “throw rocks at the window until the girl comes” approach. It works in all the movies, right?

Step one: find small enough rocks. It’s dark that early in Maine right now, so that wasn’t quite as simple as it would seem. How many rocks would I need? I got five.

Step two: throw the rocks. Our bedroom windows are particularly high, so I had to really chuck those rocks to get them to hit the window. Also, there are screens on the lower half of them, which muffle the rock noises. Of my five rocks, only 2 actually made contact with the glass. But they made a satisfying plinking noise.

Step three: wait. I waited to have Denisa come to the window. I waited some more. No dice.

Step four: repeat step one and two and three until Denisa shows up. The good news is that I got a lot of practice throwing rocks. Of course, cars kept driving by, and I felt like an idiot standing in front of his house throwing rocks at it, but maybe it was too dark for them to see me. I think I threw about another 10-15 rocks.

Step five: since Denisa still hasn’t shown up, try calling her again. I got out my phone and noticed she had sent me a text! Exciting! It was a simple question: Is it hailing outside?

Step six: text your wife that no, it isn’t hailing. I’m locked out of the house, and would you come open the garage door?

Step seven: wait. Surely she’ll see that text soon.

Step eight: repeat steps one, two, and three. Begin to ponder whether waking up the rest of the family would be so bad or not. Just when you’re getting ready to do it (after 12 minutes of rock throwing) . . .

Step nine: Denisa shows up at the window!

Success. I got my keys and got to work, and I can now say I’ve personally done the “throw rocks at the window” schtick from the movies. Not quite as romantic in real life as it is on the silver screen.

Maybe that’s just because it was below freezing.

My First Rain Day

I woke up this morning to a text from the kids’ school: canceled. In January, this is nothing unexpected. In late October, when the temperature is above 60? I hadn’t seen that coming. Yes, I’d heard there was some wind on the way and a couple inches of rain, but it didn’t seem like it would be too big of a deal this far inland.

So I chalked it up to the school being abundantly cautious.

Of course, then I looked outside when I went downstairs, and I saw the police car next to my house, blocking off the road because of a downed tree and power line. Since my road is one of the main ways to the high school, suddenly the closure made more sense.

Still, I got in the car and trekked off to work as normal. It was quite gusty, but not even raining at that point. Thirty minutes into my emails, the power at the university flickered and died. And never came back. So the university decided to delay opening until noon.

I trekked back home (in much windier, rainier conditions) noting a whole lot more power out along the way. Again, this wasn’t crazy driving. I didn’t see any other downed trees, but it looked like something had taken out a whole lot of electricity recently.

Once I was home, I got my writing done and prepped to go back again, checking the news from time to time. Then I saw how many people were without power. (Currently over 400,000). And I read an article about how the power company has said they won’t be bringing power back online until tomorrow at the earliest.

And then the university threw in the towel, and Denisa and I both got the day off.

We’re lucky. We have power and internet. About 1/3 of the state does not. And of course it makes me think of the people in Puerto Rico, and how long they’ve been without power, and how much more extreme the situation is for them. We got some gusts up here in Maine. Nothing hurricane force, but it’s still going to be a few days before we get it cleared up.

That said, I’m grateful it’s not snow. (Not something I typically ever say.) When people have no power in the winter up here, people freeze to death. I’ll take the warmer temperatures for this one.

In any case, I think I’m going to use this time to clean my room some. Here’s hoping the rest of the state can hunker down and have a quick recovery.

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