Archive for April, 2014

I think that one the one thing about turning 30 that bothers me almost as much as the still being single is the still feeling mostly unsteady professionally. It’s my own fault, really. You see, I started college as a sophomore and then didn’t take advantage of that like I should have. I graduated in three years, so I got that part right, but then, rather than get an early start on graduate school, since I knew that was something I wanted to do, I applied to one place (the MFA program at George Mason, where I graduated from with my BA) and then decided that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. The truth is, at the time I was just tired of people assuming that my English degree automatically meant I was going to teach. I wasn’t against education. In fact, I was actually excited about the prospects of that being one of the career choices I had, I just didn’t want people to assume that a certain degree meant a certain job.

So rather than do what I should have done, which was go and make sure I had my teaching license situation taken care of just in case I decided to go that direction, I went out and got jobs in other fields, including working in customer service for an Internet VoIP telephone system company, a job I loathed entirely. In reality, those choices I made almost a decade ago have impacted where I am today. Instead of being done with graduate school, I’m still chugging along. Instead of being 5 or so years into education, I’m only in my third year. Yes, there are a lot of “instead of’s” here, but the fact of the matter is that this is where I am, and looking back won’t change anything.

I’ve found that concerning myself with the past doesn’t really do me a whole lot of good. I’m glad to say that I believe I’ve gotten better at focusing on what’s ahead as I’ve gotten older. Still not perfect–nor do I ever believe I’ll get there–but I’m more aware of my tendencies in that regard, and I think I’m making strides to do better in those cases. There are more lessons to be learned, that much is for sure, but I’m smart enough to know that this will always be the case.

I can rest in the fact that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and that I’ve never walked alone along the path that I’ve walked. There’s no doubt in my mind that good things are still on the way, that God will walk me along and never let me go.

 

God bless,

Robert

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Spring Break of 2013 was a strange one. I went down to Orlando because my friends Andy and Baja promised me free Disney tickets. Oh, and I hadn’t seen them since they’ve moved down there from Charlotte, so I was excited to relax, see my friends, and…oh, heck, I’ll say it…friggin’ Disney World.

Things started going south before I even got there, when Andy called me and told me that he was being suspended from his job at Disney due to some strange misunderstanding of a procedure in his new position driving the train in the Magic Kingdom. This was a sort of blessing in disguise, as it meant that I wouldn’t be left to my own devices in the mornings, but it did mean that his job was in a perilous position, something that’s never good.

When I arrived, it rained some, and, due to Andy’s new situation, he wasn’t allowed on Disney property, which put the brakes on my hopes of visiting all the parks before I left (I know, I know, I’m an adult, but how often do you get to do these things…especially for free!?). A few days in, they found a friend who offered to trade Disney tickets for Sea World tickets, something that was more reasonable for the 5 of us (Andy, Baja, their two girls and myself) since the girls were young. The rain started up again late in the day, so we started back towards their house, only to find ourselves in the middle of a three car accident on the interstate off-ramp, smushed between a British family on vacation (lovely, since Andy’s a Brit, too) and a young man and his sister, there for her 16th birthday, who were both absolutely beside themselves with horror about the entire ordeal. So yeah, maybe strange is the wrong word.

We spent the next few days on the phone with insurances companies of various kinds, and it wasn’t until almost the end of the week that anyone really felt like heading back out into the world. Finally, the Friday before I was set to leave, we ventured out into Disney’s Hollywood Studios, me, Andy and two small girls. Early in the day, Andy suggested that I audition for the American Idol Experience, a contest they hold in the park that is meant to emulate the experience of being on the TV show, only live for any random person who happens to be at the park to see. I relented, and got past the first round of auditions and finally made it into the later afternoon show.

It was me against two high school kids, both of whom were pretty good, but very unrefined. So yeah, I beat them, and made it to the finale show against four women. I won that, too. Lots of confetti, smiles. It was awesome. A little girl asked me later to sign her Disney autograph book. The poor thing won’t even remember who it is that signed it in a few years.

Anyway, I bring this up again, over a year later, not because I’m bitter (although I am a little, probably), but because of how the situation ended. The prize for winning the AIE was a Golden Ticket that got me past the lines at a real AI audition, something I’d considered doing before but never felt strongly enough to really sit through only to be sent away because they were looking for something else. Not that I don’t think I’m a pretty good singer, just that I understand that those shows are looking for something specific most of the time, and if you don’t fit the bill, then you often get sent away even if you are good. It’s not about talent, it’s about selling records and making money.

The thing is that I missed the cut by a year. No, sorry, check that, I missed it by about three weeks. See, the cut-off age for American Idol is 29 as of the first week of June. It’s April 29 and I turn 30 in 2 weeks, so I’ll let you do the math. Again, this isn’t driven by bitterness. Sure, it would have been cool to experience American Idol for real, and who knows what might have happened just by walking through those doors, but I think it says something larger about our society.

What is so wrong with being older? Why can’t older people accomplish things? Obviously they can, obviously lots of older people are doing great things all over the world. Now, this isn’t to say that I’m “old” or that getting into the Hollywood round or winning American Idol would be “great,” but it seems to me that our society is so focused on the “next big thing,” generally to the detriment of whatever already exists. Do we always need “new” and “cooler”? I don’t really think so.

The point I’m trying to make is that I feel like I owe it to myself to not make this same mistake. I can’t American Idol myself and convince my own mind that I’m too old for anything. There’s still time to do so many things, and if I allow myself to be sure that just because I’ve lived a certain amount of years that I can’t do this or that or the other thing, I truly believe I’m going to miss out on something huge.

And in the mean time, I’ll just go win that Voice show instead.

 

God bless,

Robert

There’s a song by the band Deas Vail called “Sixteen.” I like this song, even though it’s been a while since I’ve been 16 (or 21, for that matter, which is how the song begins, “Just 21, but it feels like 16”), mostly because of a line that comes in the middle of the bridge section that says: “All this growing up, lately I feel like I’ve had enough.” I feel that. Probably more in the last few years than I would have a decade ago.

The striking thing about that line from is the song is where the songwriter, lead vocalist Wes Blaylock, takes it next. The line that follows goes: “Love is where we turn to get us through. I will always turn and follow you.” I choose to believe that the “you” in question here is God, mostly because I know that the band is a band of Christians who write, often in veiled manners like this, about their faith. I see this, and honestly, it makes me feel awful about complaining about aging and getting older at all.

Like most things in life, it is so easy to settle into the ebbs and flows of life. It’s easy to get down, or at least it is for me. Other people are better at optimism; that’s not really my style, as I tend to waver between realism with a dash of pessimism mixed in. As it is with a lot of things, I’m not sure where this comes from, but it’s something in my life that I work to overcome rather frequently. A song like this reminds me that I don’t have to revel in the pessimism, I don’t have to be so concerned about these small things. And yes, getting older, in the larger scheme of things, is really a small thing.

Then there’s this: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7). I’ve heard this so many times, but I find myself coming back to it in this moment. It’s true, I know this. I’ve known it for as long as I can recall. But it’s not going to mean much if I can’t allow it to penetrate my heart, something that should be a major priority as I embark upon the beginning of my fourth decade of life.

May that be true for all of us. I think we all could use a little less anxiety and a little more rejoicing.

 

God bless,

Robert

I think that the advertising world is trying to get me to stop watching television. The number of obnoxious/creepy/odd/inaccurate television commercials out there on TV right now is astounding. I’m not even sure I could list all of the ones that are throwing me off, but since this is a nice little forum to talk about such odd things, I will start with a few of the latest commercial ideas that should have been scrapped before they ever saw the light of day.

“Two Guys,” Sonic Drive-In

I have no idea if that’s what those two guys who always go to Sonic are called, but I’m sure by saying this, you know exactly which guys I’m talking about. Seriously, Sonic has been running essentially the same add for years now (a quick Google search indicates their first commercial aired in 2004, although they did go away for a while…allegedly), and I don’t even recall ever thinking any of them are funny. The one in the passenger seat is a buffoon to such levels that I don’t understand how he gets around from day-to-day or has a job to pay for his clear Sonic addiction. The guy in the driver’s seat…well…let’s just say that if I had a friend like the Passenger, I’d have stopped hanging out with him a while ago. Please, Sonic…stop.

“The Framily,” Sprint

The first set of “Framily” ads for Sprint weren’t too bad. Just people standing in front of a curtain naming other folks they’d include in their framily. Harmless, really. Got the idea across. Well done, Sprint. Then they introduced this cast of characters that includes, for some terrible reason, Judy Greer, a little French girl and a hamster for the father, as if to remind us that no matter how odd your family is, it doesn’t matter, they can still be a part of your Framily. I believe these commercials are meant to be quirky and off-beat, but I find them terribly creepy to a level that I’m not even sure existed before Sprint launched this ad campaign! Bonus negative points because one of the commercials includes Kevin Durant, who I like tremendously as a basketball player and absolutely hatehatehate seeing him in these things. Again, Sprint, please…stop.

“Man a man out of my son,” Old Spice

Old Spice had such a good run for a while. Then they got rid of that muscle-bound guy who talked fast and started moving into stranger and stranger territory over the last few years. This campaign featuring mothers lamenting (through song, no less) about how Old Spice’s fragrances and shampoos and deodorants and whatever else have turned their sons into objects of desire for all the young woman around them. First of all, I’m slightly bitter because I use Old Spice deodorant and I have not found this commercial to be true, so I feel like I should be able to sue Old Spice for false advertising. Secondly, these ads are just plain creepy. The mothers are eavesdropping on their sons, but not in traditional ways. The one has the son and his lady at the bowling alley, so naturally, the mother comes scooting up the ball return, singing and crying her heart out. Another features a gaggle of mothers in a tree, bawling to unnatural levels and singing that same song. The original ad, as I recall, featured a longer version of this song and even more mothers who were sad and upset about their sons dating conquests. I can handle quirky, I really can, but Old Spice, you’ve wandered into dangerous territory here. This is not quirky; it’s creepy. So please, Old Spice…stop.

“Hump Day,” Geico

I don’t have an issue with most of those “how happy are customers that switched to Geico” commercials…but I pretty much loathe the phrase “hump day” to describe Wednesday, so this one goes on the list on that alone. The fact that other companies (M&M’s, Regal Cinemas, I’m looking at you) have taken Mike the Camel and are helping to make him a thing? So much worse. So yeah, please, Geico, just this one…stop.

 

Okay, so that wasn’t the most constructive use of the blog for the day, but I have to go back to work tomorrow, so I thought I’d close things out with a little fun. Feel free to add to the list or try to talk me out of my picks. I doubt you will.

God bless,

Robert

I don’t really remember what vacation actually feels like. It’s likely, I suppose, that this is true of a lot of people, but I feel it quite strongly right now. I got back from Greenville around 3:30 this afternoon, after getting up early and spending several more hours finalizing a few things on the record. My producer still has work to do, so I’m hoping it’ll be ready for mass consumption early in the summer. More on that later. I digress.

I haven’t done anything useful since I got back home. I actually haven’t been home yet–in fact, haven’t been home since a week ago yesterday–but instead came to my parents’ house since it’s closer to church, where I have to be in the morning anyway. I’ve been watching basketball pretty much all afternoon. I actually still am. Mostly because I just feel tired and I want to turn my brain off for a while, seeing as my return to normalcy is coming sooner than I’d like.

In general, I think I’ve gotten to a point where I’m not very good at just sitting still. I mentioned this a few days ago regarding my OCD with the technology, but I think to same can be said regarding any opportunity I have to just relax. I’m not very good at it. There are things I want to accomplish, and often there’s just no time with which to get to those things, so I fill up what little free time I have with so much going and doing that I can’t relax and just feel refreshed. I don’t think that what I spent this break doing was a bad thing. Quite the opposite. I’m proud of how much work I did over 6 days, and I’m looking forward to the time when I get to share the work with everyone I know and hopefully beyond those people I know and into the general public. But in spite of all that, part of me wishes I could have taken a day and just sat and did nothing. Allowed my brain a time out. To be fair, I’m not sure if it’s possible at this point to get my brain to stop, but I’d like to try.

I’ve never been good at finding the moments of quiet or taking advantage of relaxation. I like being busy, I like having things to do, I like feeling like I haven’t wasted precious time. I’m very aware of the fact that we are only granted so much of it, so I want to use as much of it as I can as best I can. But then I miss this: ““Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10). It’s easy to do, especially when I’m involved in things that have long lasting value and a chance to make a difference. But I do think there’s a benefit to allowing for the rest. God did it when he was done creating. So maybe I should be doing the same thing now.

God bless,

Robert

Earlier today, I sent out the following run of Tweets:

Ever since then, off and on throughout the day, the idea of not “adding to the noise” has been prevalent in my mind. As an artist, I am very concerned with the notion of being as exceptional as I possibly can be. Too often–and this is the case, I think, regardless of what kind of art you’re creating–we let mediocrity become the norm. We accept musicians who aren’t very good at their jobs just because they fit a certain look or mold. The same can be said for actors, writers, etc, and it’s rather absurd. As a teacher, it would be ridiculous to think that I could get away with being bad at my job just because they thought I “looked” like a good teacher, but yet we allow it for our popular arts on an almost constant basis.

Christianity is probably more guilty of this than mainstream arts. Even though we are supposed to strive for excellence, we are actually stuck behind the mainstream in terms of what is going on in the arts, making it appear as if we are running to catch up rather than setting the pace. So rather than getting excellence, we are left with anything from ho-hum copy-cats to just plain awful artists, and the sad thing is that there are people out there who want to do better and, in many cases, are doing so.

So when I said that I didn’t want to add to the noise, I am saying that I am hoping and praying that what I’m doing here this week is actually something that is as exceptional as I can make it. That I am putting something together here that people can think is not only excellent, but also worthy of their time. I truly believe that I am. But I suppose only time will tell if such things are true.

God bless,

Robert

 

P.S. Here’s another Tweet from today. Glad to share this small sample!

I missed the boat again. That’s twice in the first 11 days. Not such a great percentage. Unless I were playing baseball. Then it would be okay. But I’m blogging, so that doesn’t apply. So here we go.

I turned in the final draft for a paper yesterday, meaning that I’m essentially 3 semesters into my MFA program. Why do things seem to be going by much faster as I get older? I always heard people talking about how much time flies as you get older, how it seems like time takes forever when you’re a kid, but I wasn’t really sure if that was just hyperbole. For the record, it wasn’t.

I keep coming back to this, but 30 used to feel so far away, and that was only just a few years ago. Now that it’s coming, I can’t help but reflect on the way that time flies. Regarding my MFA program, I have this summer, next fall, next spring and the following summer and I’m done. That seems unreal. I know that when you break things down like that, nothing really seems like it lasts a very long time. There are ways to make time seem like it’s dragging and other ways to make the same amount of time seem like it’ll be gone in a flash. But I think there’s something to the aging and time flying situation.

I believe it’s mostly a matter of perception. When you’re younger, there are so many things coming at you that are new and different; as we get older, that becomes less the case, which I think is sad. Maybe the way to slow things down is to take away the predictability of our lives. Change things up. Try something new. I don’t know if this is a solution to the problem, nor do I think it’ll immediately make everything better, but I do think it’s worth the effort. And I doubt you can go wrong trying to meet new people, trying new places, hitting the road and just driving until you see somewhere you’ve never seen before.

I know I could do for a change every now and again.

 

God bless,

Robert