Book 5 of 52: Denial by Jonathan Rauch – I’m…Part Six

Posted by Dan Billings on May 28, 2013 under Either Sadness or Euphoria, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five

When It Began To Bother Me

In your mid-twenties, your friends and family start getting married. Your life is supposed to get started. Just like how I assumed that one day I would be as built as a professional wrestler without doing anything, I assumed that in my twenties, I would meet the girl of my dreams and we would get married like my parents and their parents and their parents before.

Graduation - 2007I was almost done with law school and ready to set out on a career path. All of the hard work that I put towards my goals instead of worrying about who I was going to date was going to come to a culmination. At the ripe age of 24 years old, I had graduated from law school.

Most of my family were there and I couldn’t have been happier. But it was really difficult. Most of my friends had wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, or at least a significant other who watched them cross the stage. Nothing against my family – my parents, my siblings, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins – but it was hard to not have someone like that at that event. Or any event.

I began to question myself. I began to wonder exactly who I was. The hardest part was that I began to understand who I was and I never had a feeling that my parents were going to hate me or that anyone in my family would treat me different. But I just kept thinking that same thing: that isn’t me. I’m not that person. And if nothing else, I feared being differing in another regard.

My therapist and I began talking about it. She would ask questions about work and my job hunt. But the stresses there lessened, especially after I found work. She began to ask about dating. She asked why I didn’t think I could do that. And I explained that it just didn’t seem for me. I explained that I wanted to just be happy on my own – that I never imagined someone else being in my life. I would discuss how content I was. I almost wrote off happiness seconds after saying I would be happy by saying that I would be content in my life by myself. But in reality, I knew I wouldn’t. I built up a circular logic that any first year philosophy student could poke a dozen holes into.

I wanted all those things that all my friends and family were having. I wanted to walk down the aisle. I wanted children. I wanted to have a good job. I wanted to be just like everyone else – for once. And I would go home pleading that I would be normal – that I would just fit in with everyone else.

Katie's WeddingIt took one event for me to really sit down with myself and be honest. It was New Year’s Eve. My parents were with my grandmother but I didn’t want to go. And my sister and her boyfriend were in town. I sat at home watching Veronica Mars on DVD and they came home to announce their engagement. My younger sister was now on the same road that my friends were on. I was happy for her, but I was also jealous. I felt like I was doing something wrong and that I was cursed. “By now I had grown used to knowing that I was the strangest creature in the world, one whose wiring was seemingly random.” But it was time for me to determine if I was as strange as I assumed that I was.

I began talking to my therapist and she told me that I had to figure that out. She told me that it wasn’t going to be easy and that I would have to put myself out there to figure out exactly who I was and who I wanted to love. It took almost two years of prodding and discussion. For anyone who knows me, this is a short amount of time for me to commit to do anything. I have a difficult time putting myself out there , but I did. In 2009, I went on my first date.

About a month later, I told the first person. My brother and I were watching TV and we began the news on an issue I don’t remember, but it involved homosexuality. He said something along the lines of: I guess I don’t know for sure what I think about being around a gay person cause I really don’t know any. He wasn’t saying it to be biased because he isn’t. He was saying it because in our little suburban world, it was foreign. Not something to hate or dislike, but just foreign. In response, I said, you kinda do. He said, “I do?” And I said, yes, me. I told him that I was trying to figure things out and we didn’t talk much about it otherwise. A little while later, I told my sister when she was home for spring break, she was a bit more animated and cried because she assumed I was struggling with this for a long time and that it had hurt me.

It did hurt me, but not in a sense that deserves tears. Rauch put it perfectly: “I never did recover from the loss of my adolescence: from the vacuum where my awakening to love and sexuality and self ought to have been.” But I knew I would survive. I then told my parents and we were off to the races.

Concluded in Part Seven

I’m Back

Posted by Dan Billings on May 2, 2013 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

Today begins a new season and a new focus on writing.

What Me, Worry? Yes, All The Time

Posted by Dan Billings on July 2, 2012 under Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

I have been in therapy for approximately ten years. I am a few months away for the ten year anniversary of the major nervous breakdown I had in college. For those who weren’t there, I had woken up, gone for a walk, and got back to my room to basically freeze up and eventually be brought to them hospital. It was one of the scariest days of my life and was the culmination of years of stress and worry.

I don’t know what brought it on but it did lead to three years of medication that didn’t make it better. In many instances, it made it all worse. One year later, I was seeing the school counselor at Ripon. Then I left there, went to a psychiatrist, and have been seeing the same therapist since December 2004. I started going to Mary when Identity Crisis was being published by DC Comics. So, that series has an important place in my life even though it is a controversial story. It was the major event comic-wise that occurred when I began to turn my life around.

For years, I worked on social anxiety. Recently, we have begun to focus on stresses at work since my job changed and I still haven’t adapted well. But i think the next thing I have to work on is my worrying. I don’t understand why I worry about everything, but it leads to many problems.

I think the worst is always going to happen. When I was a kid, I used to wake up in the middle of the night crying because I thought my parents were dead. The same thought process would make me run around while walking to school to make sure my mom was alive. She always was, but I still have the thoughts about people I know. I think about them getting into car crashes, their houses burning down, and other awful things. I lie awake at night, sometimes, thinking about all the things I am doing wrong and all the mistakes I have made.

Of course worrying is not always the worst thing. Some worry is normal and probably good. It keeps me organized. It makes me think ahead so bad things may not happen. But at times, it consumes all of my thoughts and paralyzed me. That’s never a good thing and it is never helpful.

I have been in a blue mood for about two weeks. I have no reason to be. But I do have a lot of good things being juggled together. I am maintaining them all and I believe doing a good job, but I fear and worry that the balls will drop. I have become unmotivated and just a bit somber. I am trying to piece things together that do make me feel better.

For example, I have set up a new point system based off of The Nerdist plan that I discussed earlier. I have given myself daily activities to do. Next, I am going to work on weekly tasks. And then monthly tasks. But daily seems like a good place to start.

The five tasks are meditation, writing, running, reading, and strength training. Part of meditation includes going back to church on Sundays (which may become its own weekly goal) and starting my day with at least ten minutes of good meditation to start my day. My goal is to write for at least 30 minutes a day, including posts to this blog. My goal is also thirty minutes of reading, including comics. And running and working out makes me feel better about life, but it is also the first thing I drop when I feel down. So, if I can maintain running, I hope to stay positive. Cue the Hold Steady song.

I wish there was a point to writing this. It isn’t a woe is me blog or anything specific. I have a lot of good things going. And that’s the hard part. I need to focus on them and to focus on me doing the things I love. It seems easy.

The Haircut – A Conclusion

Posted by Dan Billings on June 25, 2012 under Uncategorized | 2 Comments to Read

I got a haircut. After all of the hubbub about what I want to look like and the image Imwant to portray, it came down to my friend Cathy saying that I should get my hair to look like Jude Law’s.

I was told I had his hairline. I believe that means receding, but my hairline is just that far back by genetics. So, when other people would ask me if I made a decision about my hairstyle, I told them about the Jude Law theory. And everyone I mentioned to agreed. I was a little surprised that anyone had an opinion, but it was very flattering to have people asking me what I was going to do.

But the next step was deciding where to go. I was told Supercuts and the Hair Cuttery were out of the question. The quote was, “You’re almost thirty. You have some money. You can go to a place that costs more than ten dollars.” Keep in mind the Hair Cuttery was $15. And for many years, my hair stylist was my cousin Ashley, who did a fantastic job. but Ashley moved on to bigger and better things and I suppose, so should I.

The Internet provides an individual with all of the information that they could possibly want about a salon. I looked at Google Maps for nearby salons and checked out the reviews. And decided on a place called Jason Alexander’s Salon. I called and made an appointment for the Wednesday before my best friends’s wedding. (A lovely event for a different post.)

I was nervous all day. I have had the same part for as long as I could remember, outside of the summer my dad wanted my brother and I to have widow’s peaked crew cuts. My friends at work told me not to worry. It was going to be fantastic. They promised the hair stylist wouldn’t get too handsy with me since I am not a big fan of being touched. They promised that I would look great. They promised it would go better than I think.

I got to the salon ten minutes early. I had just bought my share of comics including Batman #10 with its big reveal of who was behind the Court of the Owls. I hope that storyline turns out better than the reveal. Seriously, Scott Snyder, is your brother a pain or something? And I started to read it. About page six, Stephanie told me it was my turn.

Stephanie was very nice. She just moved up to Lake Villa. Sounds like its a nice place. She was interested in the wedding and in the fact that I had the same haircut, which she deemed too long in length, for so long in time. Twenty five minutes later, I was shampooed, given the cut, and taught how to use product. I bought the clay stuff she used for as much as my haircuts used to cost and asked when I should come back. Like with the dentist, the recommendation seems too soon, but I nodded and will probably go back in two months.

When I got in the car, my hair touched the roof of the car. It’s not a high roof, so the extra height of about an inch or two really changes everything. I liked how I looked in the rear view mirror. It wasn’t really any different. Just shorter. Basically, if I went to get my haircut every two months instead of four months, I would look like this more often than not. Damn laziness.

But the real test was waking up the next morning and trying to put product into my own hair and then showing off at work. I still don’t understand how to use product and I have tried watching YouTube videos where really attractive people make it seem attractively easy. I’m clumsy and goofy. I would rather act ridiculous than pretend that putting some sort of gray substance into my hair was a science or interesting. But again, I’m not someone making attractive people YouTube videos. I got to work and I was called handsome. Doesn’t matter by whom or how often. The words were vocalized. So, I asked Cathy to take a picture of me making a similar face to Jude Law – just add my ridiculousness.

Photo by Cathy Agdeppa - See, I told you I would give you credit.

I think it’s funny that I give a damn about my hair. I have had the same hairstyle for a long time and really, I don’t look any different. But I wanted to look a bit cleaner for my best friends’s big day. And honestly, that’s the important part. Whether or not I ever learn how to use hair products or get my hair cut to look like someone that wasn’t just near a wind tunnel doesn’t matter. I decided to do something and I did it. Along the way, I made some new friends, I made people laugh, and I complained a lot about stupid things that normal people don’t complain about. I suppose that’s why I write in a personal blog about my hair.

Let me know if it works or if you have seen me in the past couple of weeks after the trim. Was I more attractive, less attractive, or the same goof who talks about Elongated Man and the Flash too much? As if anyone could talk about them too much.

What I Want My Hair To Look Like

Posted by Dan Billings on May 18, 2012 under Uncategorized | 3 Comments to Read

How do I make my hair look like that? How does one style hair? I have no idea. Any tips would be great.

I have basically had the same hairstyle and haircut since I grew hair. I don’t always want to look like a frazzled teenager.

Basically, I’m looking for advice, assistance, and pointers on how to look better.

I subscribe to GQ and Details and all I gleaned from those is that I need to have nice abs and a lot of money. I have neither, so I want to fix my hair up a little.

Game Theory – Coursera.org

Posted by Dan Billings on under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

I turned in a final exam for the first time since 2007. However, this final exam came without a student loan bill. In collaboration with Stanford University, Coursera.org provides free online classes with a promise of a certificate at the end if you pass. I have no idea what the value of this will be when all is said and done, but it whets my appetite for learning and that is what I need right now.

The site states that “We offer high quality courses from the top universities, for free to everyone. We currently host courses from Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and University of Pennsylvania. We are changing the face of education globally, and we invite you to join us.”

Each day, I worry that I am losing my edge. I have a law degree but I don’t want to practice law and I’m getting farther and farther away from my math background. I have also lost that educational distaste that I had after and even durian law school. With coursera.org, I have an opportunity to study things I always wanted to study. Additionally, other online resources are available through other universities and individuals. Like TED talks, learning isn’t confined to schools anymore. I have the degrees and I have experience now, but I need to stay informed and ready to learn.

Now, I am taking two more classes (computer science 101 and introduction to logic), have signed up for about ten more, and I am investigating other free online schooling. I have also started another computer science course at udacity.com. Will this lead to new degrees or a new job n the short term? Probably not, but it will provide me with trainings. And maybe options going forward.

Only The Lonely…Sit Online Waiting…Sometimes Angry

Posted by Dan Billings on April 17, 2012 under Off the New Comic Rack, Uncategorized | 2 Comments to Read

In college, everyone had America Online Instant Messenger (AIM). We all had screen names that were related to us but that were not our God-given monikers. Mine was nightwing8782.

I wish I could pull this off

I still use that today on many things, such as my Xbox. I remember sitting at my Dell for hours at night hoping that someone would send me a message to see how I was. I would post statuses that would just ask for communication. And it drove me crazy whenever no one would say hello. I would go to chat rooms or other places just to have some personal interaction. The ironic part is that only five feet away was a roommate, twenty feet away were fellow cross country runners, and within a quarter-mile was over 900 real-life people.

When I read the article Is Facebook Making Us Lonely in this month’s The Atlantic Monthly, I had to agree with the main point, but I also had to disagree with the idea that this is a new phenomenon or that it is isolated to Facebook. The Internet has created a home for the lonely in a way that even Roy Orbison couldn’t imagine. It gives us a glimpse into the good days of all of our acquaintances. It allows people to stay close but far enough away as to not get hurt. But as the writer notes in the article, it’s a tool that can be used in many ways.

Over the past few years, I have worked at using the Internet, Facebook, and even this blog, as more of a tool instead of my source of communication. I do not sit on Gmail, or AIM, or any other instant message mechanism hoping that someone will contact me. I do my best to call people and now I actually make the bold decision to have physical friends. I turn to Facebook to share in people’s joys, not to dwell in my failures. I use Facebook to post stories that I have written, this blog that I have begun to take more seriously, and share a few thoughts about my day.

But the Internet over the years has also given me confidence.

This past weekend, I went to C2E2, the Chicago Comic-Con. Yes, there are lots of people who wear costumes of their favorite superheroes (as shown above), video game characters, and other themes that they enjoy. I went with friends from work who had listened to me talk about the mundane daily interactions among the comic book Internet community. When I first read comics in high school, I did not know a single other person who went to a comic shop on Wednesday. Even in college, I would hide them under my bed because I thought they were embarrassing. No one understand my AIM moniker for instance. Nightwing is the adult version of the first Robin, Dick Grayson. But then I went online to find people who like what I like. I found communities with message boards, blogs, podcasts, and lots of other mediums. I wrote a Blue Beetle story for a fan fic Yahoo Group. I realized I wasn’t alone. And it was marvelous!

But the Internet can be an angry, lonely place. At The Iceberg Lounge, Steve K. writes blogs about recent trades or comics and recently wrote about the state of the Internet community. This is a community that I dream of becoming a part of. I imagine sitting around a table at a convention one day with all of these great critics and men and women who just love comics. I find comics so interesting and amazing and I dream of talking about it. I love talking about the different art styles, some that I like and some that I dislike. I think to myself about the great writing being done at many of the small presses.

As Steve K. notes, it is also full of vitriol, and it seems to be on the rise. The Internet (and Facebook) give us all the chance to complain to a wide audience. We all become Simon Cowells – judging people we barely know to try to be funny, iconoclastic, annoying. I am sure that everyone has at least one friend on Facebook or Twitter or whatever that is constantly complaining about their job, their spouse, their kids, their … I might be that friend to you.

And there is a reason why: people like reading angry diatribes. People like bad reviews. A good review or a good story doesn’t get the attention of someone talking about how sad they are or how bad their friend/spouse/boss/President is. Think about your likes or comments on a wall. Do you respond to positive thoughts or to negative thoughts? I know I remember the negative ones more. The same is true about comic book commentary. I remember when someone writes badly about Stephen Wacker or Marvel. I remember when someone badmouths something that Dan Didio is doing over at DC Comics. It’s more entertaining.

From Comic Book Resources

This creates isolation, however. If the marketplace of ideas does not hear good thoughts due to lack of voice, then those who, for instance, liked Avengers v. X-Men don’t feel comfortable adding their two cents to the dialogue. If someone is trying to get attention on Facebook posts about how great their day was and no one asks why, but if they post about how bad their day was and get five people trying to sympathize, what behavior is incentivized? The Internet can become very homogeneous with everyone agreeing and posting on a topic such as to to fit in. The Internet can become very homogeneous because no one wants to counter the points that others are making and decide to hide in the shadows instead.

Loneliness created from a man-made device is difficult. It may be ingrained into distant relationships. But when people reach out because they want to talk about a comic or their day at work, it may be helpful to try to respond to the positive ones than only the negative ones.

 

2012: The Year of The Blog

Posted by Dan Billings on January 2, 2012 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

It has been almost three quarters of a year since I posted anything here and I believe my three year contact with BlueHost is up soon, but I am dedicating myself to my writing and everything this year. I want to create the kind of blog that I want to read. So, it will touch on television, comics, movies, music, and maybe even some other stuff. Every Wednesday, I will post a review of a comic. Not sure how I will catch up or if I will write about old stuff, but I want to write often. This will be in addition to my current gig writing for Koldcast.tv. I enjoy writing and i want to start taking it seriously. So, wish me well in this endeavor and here goes nothing:

Health

Posted by Dan Billings on March 29, 2011 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

About six weeks ago, I lost one of my running shoes with one of my orthotics in it. When I finished college and started law school, I tried to continue running to decompress after a long day of what became useless classes. However, by December, I was having trouble walking. I went to a podiatrist who showed me that I had a neuroma, which basically meant that my nerves in my foot were much thicker than they should be. This was an injury I ran through in college with much pain, but it eventually caught up to me.

The doctor fitted me by using plaster casts for orthotics that cost over $500, which the receptionists assumed would not be covered by my health insurance since they were not mandatory. Luckily, the health insurance I had through Chicago-Kent paid for the device without me having to pay a cent. I wore them when I periodically ran and whenever I wore my running shoes. I had very few leg injuries that could have been caused by my lack of running. Nonetheless, I began running more often about a month ago and then lost the expensive pad. Ironically, it was the day I signed up for the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee that I realized the shoe had disappeared.

I called and made a new appointment for new orthotics so I can continue my marathon training. And again, they were not going to be covered by health insurance. About a week before they arrived, I got a bill from the doctor that asked me to remit $25 and that the expected $1230 that would be due afterwards would be expected from insurance. When I was at the appointment, I was quoted about $540 for the new pair of orthotics and did not like seeing this expensive bill sitting in the mail. I assumed that I would have to pay this when insurance turned me down again. In addition, I had called in between to inquire if insurance would be covering the bill. They told me no and I moved some money to pay the $540.

When I picked them up today, I was ready to pay the price but wanted to ask about the bill. I asked if insurance was covering this because of the bill I received. The receptionist said no. I charged the $560 that the orthotics cost and left. But I could not understand why if insurance covered the same orthotics that they would cost more than twice as much. I know this is something that goes on, but can anyone explain to me why? This cannot help any sort of health care reform if insurance companies get shafted to cover costs for people who don’t have them. If they cost $540, then the insurance company should be charged $540. All of this smoke and mirrors regarding prices doesn’t make anything easy for consumers, let alone people trying to fix a broken system.

This was a voluntary purchase of a device I need to run. I understand insurance not paying for it. But I would imagine they would be more willing to cover the cost of them if they only cost the company $540, instead of almost $1300. I don’t use my insurance often as I luckily am rather healthy. This situation just made me question how the medical industry works and wonders if the sick aren’t the only ones getting screwed by the system.

I haven’t heard one word of this in the health care debate and I like to believe that I am rather well-informed. If you have any knowledge why this happens, let me know or point me in the direction of information that would help me understand what is going on here.

Test from my iPad

Posted by Dan Billings on March 25, 2011 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

This is my test post from my iPad that will lead to more posts in the future.