“Women hold up half the sky,” – Mao Zedong

I was brought up with this crazy idea that women can do whatever they want. I was raised pretty traditionally, such as: having a stay-at-home mom, two sets of grandparents, dinner every night when Dad came home, etc. We fit very much into the nuclear-family ideal. But it never would have occurred to me as a kid that my mom’s job was considered “lesser,” or that she stayed home with us because she was a woman.

My mom graduated college before my dad did, with two Bachelor’s degrees to his one. She lived alone while he finished his program, and within a couple years had started her career as a designer. I’ve asked both my parents several times why my mom was our primary caregiver, and from what I can remember they said, “[she] was worried that kicking so much ass professionally would cut into her time being a kick-ass mother,” but I might be paraphrasing. Regardless, I’ve had the pleasure of watching her go from a Cub Scout leader and field-trip chaperon to a head-standing yogi and karate Black Belt, so it’s safe to say the ass-kicking hasn’t stopped.

Mom was no exception, either. Both of my grandmothers graduated with Bachelor’s degrees, and while I’d say my paternal grandmother was a force to be reckoned with and a matriarch without equal, my mom’s mom is more akin to a force of nature. Neither one was content to sit in the background. My aunts are no different; It’s my mother’s sister who I know saved at least one kid’s life in her time as a Lifeguard, and my father’s who is being sent all over the world on business. The men in my family certainly aren’t known for messing up, but it’s the women who don’t mess around.

For these reasons it’s always amazed me when I’ve encountered misogyny, because it’s very clearly a learned behavior. My parents never sat me down and said “Now listen up son, women are equal to men.” Instead, they showed me with their mutual respect and their actions. Even if their life decisions were guided by a more patriarchal and traditional background, they never presented any of my mom’s many domestic qualities as something other than a necessity or a choice.

The bottom line is that old rule we all should know: people should be treated as equals. When I came to my parents, young and heartbroken, complaining about how unfair it was that some girl didn’t like me back, they reminded me that it wasn’t my fault because I have no control over her actions. They told me they knew how it hurt, but I had to acknowledge her decision. At the time, it may not have been much comfort, but it was a necessary lesson in agency and respect. It’s a lesson I can only assume that many young men have not learned.

The world, and especially the Internet, is full of angry rants about Feminism, rape culture, and now the ever-ridiculous Men’s Rights Activists, or Meninism. There’s a lot of really unnecessary angst clouding up a lot of serious issues, and it’s mind-boggling. How can you grow up and not see the strength and the ability of the women in your life? How can a father never show his tender side? How could you think that anyone was less deserving of your respect based simply on a thing like gender?

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Hey, my blog is back!

If you are or were one of my loyal readers (i.e. my friends and family, probably) you’ve likely noticed I took a several month break from writing for my blog. I want to say a big thank you, for reading my blog when I was on my every-weekday schedule, and I hope you’ll read it as I pick back up with some regurlar, albeit less frequent, posting.

I also want to give a quick shout out to those poor souls who stopped by my blog during the hiatus, and I hope you had a fruitful search through the depths of the Interwebs on your quest for entertainment. Somehow along the line I ended up with 12 people a week at minimum, which is pretty humbling seeing as I wasn’t posting anything new. So yeah, thank you.

Wait, last one, I promise: Another quick shout out to the “United Plankton Pictures/Nickelodeon Animation Studio” blog which picked up one of the GIFs on my Squidward post and brought me a buttload of web traffic for no discernible reason. You guys are the best.

The whole thing got me thinking a lot about starting to write for my blog again, because let’s be honest, it’s probably one of the most enjoyable creative outlets I’ve ever had in my life. Which of course meant I was really hesitant to start it again, mainly because I like to be confusing. I told myself it was because I knew I couldn’t maintain the posting schedule, and/or feeling like I ran out of things to say, and/or because to how many new struggles and experiences I would have in China. To be fair I wasn’t lying, but none of those reasons really resonated in a way that made me feel like I was making the right decision. So I’ve done some thinking, and came up with some actual reasons. And so, without further ado and in celebration of reviving my blog, I give you: Reasons why I’m glad I wasn’t blogging this whole time.

Whether you live in America or not, you’re probably aware that a lot of messed up stuff has been happening in my home country. Between the shootings of young, unarmed black men like Tamir Rice and Mike Brown, and the more recent Chapel Hill shooting that resulted in the death of three young Muslim people, there’s a number of racially- and prejudicially-charged situations in the US at the moment. On top of this, congressmen who don’t understand the female reproductive system are trying to limit women’s medical rights, and friends of mine back home are fighting for equality and a better Earth. It’s not just limited to the US, either; There’s mass abductions happening in Mexico, there’s the rising attacks in France, there’s even larger abductions in Africa.

The point of this is that I was inundated with very serious, very precarious issues. I have very strong opinions about a lot of today’s issues, and I’m really, really glad I wasn’t making regular blog posts throughout this period. I’ve hemmed and hawed over posting about important topics before, and I’ve always maintained that I didn’t want this blog to become a political soap box. After all, I like to write in a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek manner, and I’d be afraid to lose that kind of rapport with my readers. Strong feelings are fine, as long as I have done my research and can support my claims. Some of these issues make me so mad, however, that I’m pretty sure my witty retorts would just devolve into “Rawr grar this is bullshite,” and that’s not the kind of outlet I want Not to Clear the Air to be. So that’s one reason.

My other biggest concern was this: I started writing this blog because I was unhappy with my job, and generally unhappy with my situation. I hated driving to work every day. I hated working in an office (though I learned that coworkers can eventually make that better.) Essentially, I was using the blog as a reminder that I didn’t want to live that way very long, and certainly not as a career. Like most hobbies, my blog was a bright spot in an otherwise-gray world. In retrospect it’s unsurprising that I wasn’t motivated to begin writing again; in a way it would feel like admitting that my life was once again largely unhappy.

I could have used it that way again. As is common with moving abroad, I went through about a month of homesickness and culture-revulsion. Every world traveler and ex-pat recognizes this point, where the culture-shock seems to never end, and you find more to complain about than to celebrate in your new life. So yes, I could have tried to brighten up my days by writing about them, but I was pretty sure my readers didn’t want to slog through regular updates of me complaining about how the Chinese try to pack a hundred people onto one bus. I know I didn’t actually want to write and edit a piece like that. So why write something no one would want to read? It doesn’t help you accept your situation any more to reinforce your distaste.

By the time I visited the US again, however, I’d gotten over my “Why are you all staring at me? Yes I’m foreign,” phase and honestly had altogether too much time to do not much at all in the US. It was good to see my friends and family, but a vacation isn’t a way of life. So I, rather gratefully, packed up my bags and headed back out of the country. There are a lot of ex-pats who don’t suggest visiting your old home, in case you decide not to come back, but it honestly never crossed my mind as a serious option.

So here I am, glad to be back, and happy to be writing again. This blog does not need to be a release from my situation, and it does not need to be the authority on social and political issues. I will update regularly again, though not as often as before, and I’ll do my best to relate to you what it’s like to live in another culture.

Or maybe I’ll just post more things about Squidward.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” -Abraham Lincoln

Most of my friends have now graduated college. As they emerge, one by one, into the harsh light of what most people like to call the “real world,” more than a few have turned to those of us who came before, a half formed question on their lips: “So what to I do now?”

It’s been more than a year and a half since I was in college, which is scary in itself, but I think it’s worse because it’s already been so long and I still have no idea what I am supposed to be doing.

What do you do after university, when up until then you’ve lead a structured existence? I started kindergarten at the normal time, progressing into the next grade with every one of my late-August birthdays (It took me until second grade to understand things were not planned this way on purpose.) I spent every year from age five to twenty-two deeply immersed in our education system. Learning was my purpose. It was a fact of life.

I loved my education. I love learning, and I hope I never forget that there are still plenty of ways to broaden and sharpen my mind. I had the good fortune to be handed an institutionalized schooling, a good brain, and parents who encouraged me to use both. I was taught to think critically. I was taught to be aware of possibilities. I was taught that there are many ways to go through life, and that my education would allow me access to more paths. I was taught that, while there are many careers and roads out there, a college degree would lead me to a better one.

This, we have found out, is not the case.

A lot of us have been told, time and time again, that our degree does not matter. Many jobs ask for a Bachelor’s degree, but also 5 years of work experience in your field, which you haven’t had time to do because you were spending that time getting a Bachelor’s degree. Which you only did, again, because otherwise you can’t get a job in your field. I wish I was joking. I am not.

We spend our lives being helped and guided through a process which promises us a bright future but doesn’t necessarily set us up for the next step. When we apply to jobs, get rejected, and then ask the people who are a part of the system why, we get told we’re too entitled, too lazy. We don’t have enough experience, we don’t know what it’s like to be responsible. Every magazine laments the poor work ethic of the “Millenial” generation. Everywhere we turn we see our peers in jobs they are over qualified for. We spent our spare time on summer jobs in order to pay for the unpaid internships that will set us apart for future employers, we shouldered tens of thousands of dollars in debt, we followed every piece of advice we were given by our “mentors,” and when we start on the path to our future we are ungrateful, that we shouldn’t expect hand-outs.

So what do I say to my friends graduating after me? What comfort or direction can I give to someone who is just as lost as I am? How is this not just the blind leading the blind?

I don’t have an answer. I may be embarking on an exciting new journey, but like so many of my friends before me I can’t help but feel like I am simply running away from the problem. Those of my friends who seem to have their lives put together have been working day and night, heart and soul toward their goal, and some of them haven’t made it.

Some have decided that more education is the answer, since their undergraduate career is seemingly for naught. Some have accepted corporate positions, hoping to climb the ladders already established, betting that their path is simply too well traveled to lead them to a dead end. Some have started out on their own, forming small businesses and chasing their dream. I can’t say that one is any better than the others. They all have their obstacles.

The best advice I have ever been given is the only thing I feel comfortable passing along: Focus on the thing you would do for free, if you were simply allowed to ignore all other factors. Isolate this desire, and do whatever thing you think will start you on that path, no matter how big or how small.

Set yourself that goal, and do whatever it takes. Because you’re the only one who will take you there, and you have the rest of your life to arrive.

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” -Lao Tzu

You know, I think I’ve mentioned I’m going to China here shortly. As in, very shortly. In fact, at this moment I am in Chicago, submitting the application for my work visa with the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic. It’s all very official. Lots of stamps and signatures, mostly on forms covered in Chinese characters that I can’t read.

Going to Chicago is always an adventure. The city itself is a lot of fun, but certainly not a place to save your money. Furthermore, as my uncle says, “Nothing gets done efficiently in Chicago government.” After filling out forms in triplicate I might be lucky enough to get sent to the back of the line only twice. Despite the promised same-day pickup for my rush-order visa, I’ll be happy if I only have one more night to wait.

As far as blogging and going to China, I am still hoping that I can even access this website once I’m there. The truth is that China and the Internet mix about as well as oil and water. Or oil and the censorship of water. Or the Internet and censorship, which is, you know, the thing I’m getting at.

Anyway.

I wanted to let you reader folks know that since I will probably not be able to post daily while I’m abroad, I’m going to start the regimen now. For the next two weeks before I leave (and hopefully while I am in Korea and China as well) I will try to post twice a week, with occasionally a few goofy bits mixed in. I’m hoping this will help me focus on some quality thoughts and observations, and still keep my writing skills up.

I wanted to say thank you for reading my posts so far. I am looking forward to blogging a lot more as time goes on, but as my daily goings-on are kind of up in the air I don’t want to make promises. At some point I’ll have a regular schedule again. Until then, I hope you enjoy the silly things I can find the time to write.

“Ohana means family. And family means no one gets left behind… or forgotten.” -Stitch, Lilo & Stitch (2002)

I almost didn’t get a post up for today, which was really starting to bug me.

Even though it doesn’t matter in the log run whether I manage to post every weekday, it’s become very important to me that I keep to the schedule I made in my statement of intent for as long as I can.

I appreciate my readers very much, but this isn’t for your sake. I made that clear very early on. I love that you read what I write, but at the end of the day I am maintaining this blog just to prove to myself that I can.

Recently it’s been harder to keep up. Preparing to leave the country has kept me very busy, and I don’t spend as much time distracting myself as I used to, hence the decline in goofy posts. I used to write posts roughly a week ahead, now I’m lucky if it’s 24 hours in advance. Fitting in blogging with the rest of what I am doing has put other things on standby, like sometimes personal hygiene.

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Poof levels are high.

Yesterday was supposed to be a catch-up day. A day to write some posts, finish some prep work for China, you know. But no plan survives first contact with the enemy. There were factors in play that would hinder my productivity. For example: I had family in town.

Basically, I never stood a chance.

So instead I took some time to relax and have breakfast (which I appreciated.) I had a shower and a shave (which everyone else appreciated.) I took my uncle I drop off his rental car. I visited my grandfather’s grave. I had dinner with my aunts and uncles.

The truth is, I may not be able to keep up my writing pace once I leave the US. It may not be my choice, since China and the Internet don’t always mix. I may simply just be busy.

But sometimes life just happens, and instead of a burst of productivity, you get a day with your family.

And that’s okay.

“I don’t know what they want from me. It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.” – Kelley Price, “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G.

It’s funny how my perspective on money has changed. From an early age I learned that a lot of the world runs on the exchange of funds. Even though I had no money of my own, it’s kind of hard to miss how my parents paid for pretty much anything we needed. Still, since I was not involved in the exchange I had no real concept of what it all meant.

It wasn’t long before I started the simple, and fairly typical, process by which I earned money by completing chores for my parents. I may have started earlier than some, seeing as I needed to be involved in everything my older brother started doing (which he absolutely loved. Never complained about how unfair it was at all. Not once.) This development brought me to an interesting cognitive turning point.

The thing is, once you start earning money and using it to buy goods and services, your perception of value changes. In your child-mind, things you buy are more important than things you don’t need to pay for, because they’re worth something. Even the cheapest of items is inherently better than something that’s free.

Now, fortunately for all the parents out there, it’s obviously more complicated than that, since fun is factored in to the equation. So yes, a picnic with your mother may be worth more than a piece of candy, even though the candy costs you 25 cents and the picnic is free. However, some turkey sandwiches with your mother is much less exciting than a trip to the ice cream parlour. You pay more, and ipso facto, it’s worth more.

This is a pretty common idea in the marketing world: If you make a customer pay anything, even a petty charge, they will feel like they got more out of the experience or product. If you give something away, well, it obviously wasn’t worth very much. This doesn’t mean you have to charge for everything, but your target population will enjoy themselves more if they have to shell-out some cash.

It is also not uncommon, however, for a person to start cherishing their free experiences, and I am no exception. There’s some point at which a person’s priorities change from price-less to priceless. Family reunions, which generally are a pain while you’re growing up, suddenly become irreplaceable memories. In contrast, a night at the bar (which can easily cost $30) just becomes a minor expense that you become less and less wiling to pay.

Still, even though I am more focused on the experiences than the price, I find I’m more willing to pay a higher price for a better quality item. For example: all throughout high school I rarely bought a pair of shoes that cost more than $20. Now that I have had a job and am used to comfort, I consider a $100 pair of shoes to be pretty cheap.

This isn’t limited to shoes or clothes either. In the past month I have spent an inordinate amount of money in the process of getting ready to move to China. In fact, I have spent more money in the past month or so than I have ever had to my name before this year. What I am saying is, I am readily spending more cash in thirty days than I could have imagined possessing throughout my childhood and adolescence. It’s a big leap to make.

Trust me, I have not been paid well enough to simply write off major expenses, and I do not have enough money in the bank to be careless with my funds. If anything has changed, it has to be the end-goal I have in mind.

I started my first full-time job in November 2013, and quickly realized that, despite my bump in salary, this money would not go as far as I had hoped. Before long I had car trouble, and resigned myself to paying for the rental house I left in my college town, as I was still on the lease. Every gain I had in the eight-month period I worked at this job was quickly followed by an expense. I was paying for a room I couldn’t live in, and paying for repairs and gas for a car I only needed because my job was across town. But I had to pay for these things to work the job, which was a position I mostly needed so that I would have enough money for those things. It was a pretty solid catch-22.

Mostly, it is not an experience I wish to repeat. I will do everything I can to avoid a similar situation, where I am dependent on a salary so that I can pay for the things that allow me to keep my salary (confused yet?)

People say money is the root of all evil. I’m not sure they are wrong, though I think it’d be more apt to say “money is the foundation for evil action,” or maybe just “money kind of sucks.” Regardless, I certainly won’t recommend you focus on making money just for the sake of affluence. Personally, I’m planning on keeping just enough money around to get to the next country.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

I like taking long walks.

I’m talking about the kind of walk where you keep moving so long you get lost. The kind of walk you take on overcast days, and with the sun behind the clouds you get so accustomed to the half-light you forget you’ve ever had any other feeling. You forget how long you’ve been moving, forget how to turn off your body’s autopilot. Only then does your mind wake up.

I used to measure my walks in the miles that I had travelled. I would wear pedometers and check mile markers. I don’t do that any more. Counting my steps tethers my mind to the present, to the ache in my legs and the sweat on the small of my back. On a hot day one single mile can be more prolonged and more painful than four times the distance at a nice, cool temperature. So now I walk until I’m tired, and then about face for the return journey.

You see, I’ve never been very good at the “working out” thing. I find gyms to be overcrowded and uncomfortable. I don’t mind lifting weights, but I’d rather do that in the privacy of my home. I don’t like to run, and even if it wasn’t a bad idea due to my weight and weak ankles and my corrected club-foot, I probably still wouldn’t do it. I can’t convince myself to sweat and struggle through a workout every day. I’d rather approach it on my own terms.

I do walk to work out, but I don’t approach it the same way. I walk so that I don’t have to stand in a line next to other, more in-shape guys and lift weights. I walk so that I don’t have to lay on the ground and try to head-butt my crotch in pursuit of six-pack abs. I walk because I’m fighting years of video games and pizza and beer, and even though I’m taking the slow way ’round, I’m winning.

“If you live to be one hundred, you’ve got it made. Very few people die past that age.” -George Burns

You probably don’t know this, but this is my 100th post! At five posts per week I should be at 20 weeks, though that won’t be until Friday because I have had 2, two-post days. You may think this means I’m cheating but to me it just means I get to celebrate twice in one week!

Since my post count has reached 100 I figured I would celebrate other things that there are 100 of, or that have turned 100 (yes, I know my blog isn’t turning 100, but since that is fairly unlikely to happen…) No, I am not going to do 100 items.

So here we go:

1. There are 100 US Senators.

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Hmm, not starting off very well with my celebration, am I? But at least Congress serves to employ a bunch of unqualified and unskilled people, right? Moving on to something more exciting and infinitely more useful…

2. There are 100 turns of thread on a spool.

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See? Much cooler! Isn’t that just an interesting fact? And now you know it! Even if you wish you didn’t.

3. There are 100 ways to love a cat, apparently.

I didn’t know this was a thing, but apparently the Internet has determined the 100 different ways to love a cat. Which is what the internet is good for, it seems.

4.  There are 100 pence in 1 pound sterling.

Well, since the UK went decimal, there are. The old UK system used to have 240 pennies in a pound. If you’re confused as to what I am talking about, just know foreign money is always more fun. And they have funny names!

5. Dubliners, by James Joyce, turned 100 this year (published 1914.)

So did Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Two great literary contributions, though they live on differently.

6. The Dodge Challenger released it’s 100th Anniversary model.

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No, they haven’t been making Challengers for the past 100 years, but the automotive company has been around since 1914-ish, which is good enough for their marketing team.

7. There are 100 cL in a Liter.

Okay, you knew this one. But I don’t think at this point I want to make a whole post complaining about how the US doesn’t use the metric system, so I’ll allow a little blurb here. Wouldn’t it be so nice, though, if everything was just divisible by 10? Wouldn’t that make sense for your measurement system?

*Ahem*

8. When you collect 100 coins in each stage of Mario 64, you get a star.

But you knew that already, right? Right?

(I’m not a loser I promise.)

9. July 2014 was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

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Um, no. Close, but no cigar. Franz Ferdinand was the Archduke of Austria, making his name and title an alliteration double-whammy. Also, he was assassinated (see above) in 1914, which is commonly regarded as the even that started the first World War.

10. I just switched to Ubuntu, which is 100 x better than Windows 8.

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Seriously I can’t imagine actually using that thing. Where is my start menu? What are all these apps supposed to do? Also Ubuntu is open source and awesome.

 

Well that’s it. If you all hated this, I may never do it again. But it was fun for me. Thanks for reading my 100 posts!

“I purge compulsively. I’m constantly shedding things.” -Andrew Sullivan

Following my “goodbyes” post from Friday, I figured I can write about a huge part of this whole China adventure, which has been weighing on my mind a lot lately. (Also it’s a quick way to write a post.) So today’s subject is the process of packing.

As you may or may not be able to imagine, packing to go live in another country for an extended period of time is not the easiest process. Having done this sort of thing before, I know that I have to be careful as to what and how much I take with me. I’m allowed one 50 lb. suitcase and a carry on. Anything additional will probably cost me $200.

On top of the prospect of packing exactly what I need for a year on the other side of the planet, there’s a good chance that my folks are moving out of my childhood home before I come back. So I can’t just leave everything else behind, I have to single out what is important so that they don’t throw it away when they move.

I have two things going for me: I have done a few purging processes over the past few years (so my closet is only full of fairly recent junk), and I love getting rid of things I don’t need. If I was a psychology major I could probably find some sort of reasoning behind the relief I feel when cleaning out my old junk, but as an English major I’ll just put it down to an Ernest Hemingway-esque minimalism, except without all the inherent misogyny.

However, even though I like the feeling of watching clothes I don’t wear and junk I’ve accumulated just disappear, it’s not always that easy. There’s always stages of packing just like there’s stages of grief. This applies to any time you’re moving out of a place you’ve been living in.

Anyway, without further ado, here are Samwise’s quick-and-dirty stages of purging:

Stage 1: Procrastination

Stage one can last anywhere from a few days to a few months (anything more should be considered preprocrastination, which isn’t covered in this how-to guide) and starts exactly when you say to yourself, “Yes, I am officially moving.” You don’t have to believe yourself, but it’s important to know when you actually start putting off the things you need to do to make it happen.

This stage is a pretty easy concept and I won’t spend much time on it. Basically you know what you need to do, but you’d rather watch Netflix.

Stage 2: Denial

Stage two lasts anywhere from ten minutes to a half hour. In this stage the packer still has yet to address the reality that they are purging their possessions, and usually spends this time laying out their items and just looking at them. They refuse to admit that they are getting rid of anything, but they feel like they’re making progress by pulling things out into the open.

Stage 3: Nostalgia

Stage three generally lasts anywhere from a half-hour to several hours, and in case you’re not sure; you do actually have to start the purging process to reach the Nostalgia phase. You may experience some nostalgic feelings during your Procrastination period, but that’s just a side effect of you ignoring your anxieties.

During the Nostalgia stage, packers find themselves pouring over each and every item they uncover, reminiscing about where it came from. Nostalgia is an important phase, because it allows the packer to fully consider the object’s value. It is also a dangerous phase, because it’s really easy to feel attached to the items that you’re pulling out of storage and haven’t even looked at since you moved it from your last residence. (There are two technical categories these items fall into; heirlooms and junk.)

Stage 4: Apathy

Stage four begins as soon as the packer realizes they’ve lost most of the day in the nostalgia phase. Typically the Apathy mindset is accompanied by a lot of trash bags and phrases like “Yeah, but I don’t really need it,” or, “I haven’t used this in years,” followed by trips to Goodwill. The Apathy phase can be dangerous because packers might accidentally throw something useful or valuable away. This stage can also be important because, honestly, no one gets anything done in the Nostalgia stage.

Important: What is interesting about the Apathy stage is how it changes when there are multiple packers. Stages 3 and 4 may occur at different times for each packer, and usually not simultaneously. In a situation where two packers are at work, such as a married couple, generally one partner is in the Nostalgia stage while the other has reached Apathy. Even more significant are situations with more than 2 packers, where two or three packers may be engrossed in Nostalgia while there is still only one Apathetic packer, who generally wishes the other packers would just **** off.

Stages 3 and 4 also have a tendency to repeat themselves, and should not be taken as a rule.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Stage five begins when a packer has completed stages 3 and 4, potentially multiple times, and the packer stops for a breather. At this point the packer will look around the room and realize they have mostly just made a huge mess. They will then look at the trashbags full of clothes, count the number of times they have visited goodwill, and decide enough is enough. A packer in the Acceptance phase decides to put the remaining heirlooms/junk back in the storage area and resign themselves to starting the whole process over again tomorrow. They inevitably will not follow through with their promise, starting back at Stage One.

It is recommended that the Acceptance stage be followed by a cold beer, or treat of the packer’s choice.

“Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.” -George Carlin

I have decided to stop believing in things.

In the words of Chris Rock’s character Rufus, “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier…” (Dogma 1999). I wish I could say that I don’t make a habit of taking advice about life from low-budget films, but that would apparently be a lie. Comedy usually makes a lot of sense to me, even if a lot of the time it comes out as anger. This is, admittedly, one of the stranger sources of inspiration that I’ve chosen to take to heart.

Rufus does, however, have a point. Beliefs can be problematic. They can be hard to change, even in the face of some solid evidence to the contrary.

Beliefs become part of you; they are a statement of allegiance, of purpose. People feel called to defend their beliefs, and think they are entitled to forcing their beliefs on others. They try to use their beliefs as factual evidence, as the foundation of an argument. Heck, people go to war over their beliefs.

Ideas are not quite so stringent. Ideas can be malleable. Having ideas is easy, and when confronted with new information it’s much easier to change your mind. After all, it was just an idea.

I’m not actually saying I think beliefs are bad, but I feel we’ve come to the point where people are more concerned with shoring up and defending their beliefs than anything else. We attach our beliefs to our political parties, to our friends, to every aspect of our lives. We are making a habit of not allowing new information, new ideas into our lives

I still believe in a lot of things. I believe it is never okay to take away someone else’s agency. I believe it is not my place to decide who lives or dies. I believe in people, individually and as a whole, that we have the capacity and the ability to always be better. I believe in myself, that I will make a life for myself that will be worth living.

I only think, however, that I will find someone that I want to marry. I think that I will be a great dad, if I have the chance, because I have a great example to follow. I think that our best shot as a species is to branch out into outer space. But I can’t hold these things as beliefs, or it will be much harder to find out that I am wrong.

I think we started adding belief to our ideas in an attempt to give them more weight, but all we have managed to do is polarize our opinions. I think we should use our belief sparingly, because otherwise it may start to mean nothing at all.