As of Wednesday, I am "temporarily laid off" from my job for the foreseeable future. As of Friday, the governor of Utah has initiated a "Stay Safe, Stay Home" policy. So when I'm not going to the grocery store or taking yet another aimless walk by myself, I'm supposed to be at home alone, all day, every day, until at least the middle of April. I live alone. I love living alone and I haven't changed my mind about that and I will always prefer too much solitude over too little. However, I need balance like anyone else, and I needed the precious little social interaction I was getting. This really, really blows. If the damned virus kills me it will be an act of mercy.
With normal church meetings discontinued, members of my ward were doing the sacrament (communion) in groups of fewer than ten. Thanks to the governor's directive that's also over until at least the middle of April. Still, I'm grateful for the unparalleled experience I had with it last week. It concerns my neighbors C and T, the ones I swear I fully intended to write about just the one time and never again, but who have had a lingering impact despite avoiding me completely. So this is what, the fifth time? Sorry about that.
In the immediate wake of what they did to me, I was too broken, deflated and tired to even think of being angry at them. That changed over the following days as I slowly regained some will to live. As time went on and I availed myself of gossip from various mutual acquaintances, insights from other friends who read my initial post or listened to me spill my guts, and my own hindsight and introspection, I came to understand that one of them is quite literally insane as a result of brain damage incurred in an accident for which she was not at fault, and that the other is naive and gullible and swallows everything she says without question. The insanity bit probably comes as no surprise to anyone who read the post. The surprise, rather, is how I could have been so stupid as to not realize it sooner. All I can say is that as long as they're not harming anyone, I believe in people's right to do their own thing without explanation or apology, and I don't believe in stigmatizing mental illness by jumping to blame it for everything bad somebody does. Obviously my open-mindedness bit me in the butt this time.
In this light, though, I was finally able to reconcile what I thought I knew before about my neighbors' character with their childish, ridiculous and deeply hurtful actions. One was simply not accountable, while the other was carried away by personal weakness that I can relate to, empathize with and even find kind of adorable. They were both victims as much as I. My heart softened toward them and I forgave them. Except when I didn't. Because every time I thought for more than a few seconds about that hemorrhoid in a police uniform coming into my apartment and bitching at me, the trauma resurfaced as fresh and raw as ever and my anger rose with it. So I went back and forth and experienced cognitive dissonance over this several times a day.
The whole thing, the mere fact that this thing happened that should have been a nightmare but was in fact real and irreversible, weighed on me almost constantly whether I was thinking about it or not, an ever-present burden subtly but unmistakably squeezing the joy out of my life. I broke through it for one day when I learned that I'd been accepted to graduate school and that my sister is pregnant. I can announce that now. My sister is pregnant. I don't know the baby's gender or whether it's still legal to force a certain gender on a baby, so I don't know yet if I'll be an uncle or an aunt, but it's thrilling nonetheless. The burden returned the next day though. Friends started telling me I should see a therapist which, yeah, they were right. But what does this have to do with the sacrament?
So any priesthood holder in my ward was authorized to administer the sacrament, but a handful in particular coordinated to do it in their homes and let fewer than ten people show up for it. I knew which group I wanted to join because I literally have two friends in this ward. I realize that's my own fault and the price I have to pay for not wanting to put myself out there more and answer the question "Where are you from?" eight billion more times, but it is what it is and I wanted to go where I knew Katie would go because she was friends with the guys doing it. The trouble is, I knew C and T would be there too for the same reason. And they wouldn't want me to be there and maybe they would complain to the one guy in particular whom they previously fled to when they were afraid of me for no reason - and he agrees with everyone else that they were being childish and ridiculous, but nonetheless he supported them in their own time of trauma and I'm grateful for that. But I figured if they said they weren't comfortable with me there, he would side with them and not let me come even though he knows I did very little wrong.
So yeah, I got pretty angry just thinking about that possibility before anything even happened, which just made me feel more defiant and determined to give him a piece of my mind if/when this scenario did happen. Eventually I realized that this was a bad attitude not conducive to what was supposed to be a sacred spiritual experience. I decided, out of respect for my neighbors' completely misguided but nonetheless real feelings, to not go and to just do the sacrament privately with my other neighbor and friend Steve instead. So when the guy asked if I was still planning on coming I told him that.
Oh, but his roommate was out of town and he needed someone else to help with the blessing...
A few moments earlier I had felt compassionate and legitimately concerned about my presence would affect C and T; now, however, I couldn't help laughing to myself for several minutes as I thought, They're really not going to like this. I wasn't sure why I was laughing. Not to be intentionally derisive, but all the stress I'd been through just made this development inexplicably hilarious.
As the time approached, though, I just felt nervous. I nervously showed up a few minutes early and nervously made some small talk with the guy. It was like my second time talking to him but he remembered things and asked me about graduate school and that was nice. Then the sources of my nervousness arrived. DUN DUN DUN!
T was super awkward. The entire time, she kept her eyes pointed in literally every direction except mine. C was her usual awkward. They greeted the other guy, and then she looked at me. I looked at her. It was very important to me to just act chill and not like I had something to be embarrassed or ashamed or scared about. It was the first time I made eye contact with her since before the incident, and she spoke to me for the first time since before the incident. Her face typically blank, her voice typically monotone, she said, "Hello."
I almost responded out loud before I remembered that the police warned me in no uncertain terms not to talk to her. So I just mouthed it. I mouthed, "Hi." To an unfamiliar observer it must have looked like I felt too embarrassed or ashamed or scared in her presence to speak.
My neighbors took a seat on the giant beanbag across from me and perpendicular to the other guy. As T found a dozen fascinating things to look at besides me, C chatted with the guy, but occasionally shifted her gaze to me as if to include me in the conversation. I felt fully included, for example, in her recommendation not to buy peanut butter in Germany. (Apparently it's bitter.) I also caught her looking at me a couple times when I wasn't looking at her until I looked at her because she was looking at me. That gave me a sense of satisfaction, a sense of Ha, you can't be upset at me for looking at you because I wasn't looking at you but then you looked at me first so that's on you, not me.
Looking into her eyes was quite an introspective experience. There have been times when she has this smile that lights up her face like a Christmas tree and leaves little doubt as to her mood, but the rest of the time it's anyone's guess. Her blank expression gave virtually no indication of sapience, no hint of any gears turning behind those eyes whatsoever. And yet I knew that wasn't the case. I knew she was thinking something, that a process was ongoing on her mind to which I had no access. And the best part? I knew my expression was the same way. I've learned from experience that I can be impossible to read, even for women who are supposed to be experts at that sort of thing but aren't. I knew she couldn't read me any more than I could her. Two blank stares, two inscrutable minds locked together. I can't explain why that's such a powerful concept for me but it just is.
As I sat across from this beautiful awkward woman who probably still hated me, though, my nervousness was displaced by inexplicable joy. What I wish I could have said with my eyes is this: "C, I am not upset with you. I forgive you. I love you. I am not a threat. You have nothing to fear." And because the words were in my eyes, she would know they were true. And then I wish T would have looked at me so I could say the same thing with my eyes to her.
Katie arrived, and for better or worse she was the last of us, so we got started with a hymn. I requested "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty". That seemed agreeable to everyone, but Katie needed to know what page number was it on? "Um," I said, wracking my memory, "sevvventyyy... twooo?" For a moment of silence, everyone else looked it up. I didn't bother because I know all the words. When the silence became unbearable I asked, "Is it actually seventy-two?"
"Yes," Katie said, "good job."
"Wow," I said. Then I hastened to add, "I mean, of course I knew that."
It wasn't hilarious or anything but C laughed. I don't mean laughed the way a normal person laughs. She made this little "Heh" noise that most people wouldn't bother to make unless they were being sarcastic. I've made her laugh like that before, and I've also made her actually giggle a few times, and I don't know the determining factor between those options but this unexpected bit of levity was nice regardless.
After that I had privilege of helping administer the sacrament to my de facto enemies. It could have gone either way for them - it could have been a really uncomfortable experience to accept this sacred ordinance from someone they believe to be a creepy stalker, or it could have been a cathartic experience to mutually humble ourselves and put aside the considerable tension between us for a few moments. I know it was the latter for me. I'm so grateful that I was able to do this one nice thing for them after they forbade me from doing almost anything nice for them. C used to like it when I did nice things for her. When I left her a bag of Tootsie rolls, she announced to the world that she "couldn't be happier". And then the hemorrhoid in a police uniform cited those same Tootsie rolls as a reason why I'm a stalker. But I'm getting off-topic.
The point is, the joy I felt that evening lifted my burden entirely. Maybe I'm jinxing myself, but it's been gone for a week. I don't feel weighed down and I can think about what happened without having PTSD. Of course, I would still very much like for them to both grow up and wise up and have this unfortunate situation rectified. Especially now, when I'm stuck next door to them almost 24/7. Being able to at least text them would make the soul-crushing boredom and isolation of the foreseeable future a bit more tolerable. But whatever. I really do feel better, I swear.
A "Come Follow Me" lesson followed the sacrament, but as soon as the latter was over, T said she wasn't feeling well and practically ran away. C stayed a few more minutes for the cookies Katie brought, and then before she left she thanked the other guy and me for administering the sacrament, looking from him to me to include us both in the statement.
I almost responded out loud before I remembered that the police warned me in no uncertain terms not to talk to her. So I just nodded.
Remember the demonic mosquitoes I wrote about? The mosquitoes that, before I bought a handheld bug zapper, attacked me en masse every day on the way to work and bit me more times than I can begin to estimate? Yeah, so I read the other day that some of them, this exact mosquito population on this exact block, were trapped and tested positive for West Nile virus. I'm sorry, what century is this? What country is this? And why in the seven levels of hell hasn't anyone in Logan done anything about this mosquito infestation, which has existed for years, until I bought a handheld bug zapper?
So by my calculations, there's a zero percent chance that I haven't already been infected with West Nile virus several times. Nothing has happened yet and maybe nothing will happen because actually 8 out of 10 people who get infected with West Nile virus aren't affected at all. And only 1 in 150 people develop super severe and potentially fatal symptoms. If that does happen to me, though, I don't have health insurance so I'll just be screwed. Yay, America!
Probably I'll be fine. But the unwelcome revelation prompted me to think even more about my mortality than usual. What would I do if I found out from the doctor I can't afford to visit that I only had a few days or weeks to live? I would tell my least favorite people in no uncertain terms exactly what I think of them, write a brief list of instructions for what I want done with my corpse, and then relax and look forward to never having to worry about money again. I have no fear of death. None whatsoever. I do have a considerable fear of death being preceded by protracted high levels of pain, but the actual prospect of transitioning out of this craphole into a far better plane of existence is a happy one. I think about it at least once a day. Every morning, and I do mean every morning, I wake up so exhausted that I fantasize about slipping into oblivion so I don't have to get up or open my eyes. Meanwhile President Russell M. Nelson, who turns 95 tomorrow, says "I can hardly wait to bounce out of bed each morning."
Maybe on resurrection morning, for the first time, I won't wake up more tired than when I went to bed. I read all about resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 this week with a study group, and was touched by the entire chapter but particularly verse 19: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." If I believed that this life was all I'm going to get, I certainly wouldn't tolerate it for another moment. And my life isn't even that bad in the big scheme of things, but it's completely not worth drudging through if I'm not going to be compensated at some point.
I was struck also, for related reasons, by this comment from an anonymous twelve-year-old who's recently decided to spend his one and only life drive-by trolling the Deseret News Facebook page. In its few sentences, wisely ignoring the centuries of Christian theologians and philosophers whose prior musings on the subject would only bog him down in semantics and critical thinking, and refusing to be baited into actually engaging with or demonstrating the slightest cognizance of the contents of the article on which he posted it, he undertook to singlehandedly once and for all resolve an issue that lesser minds have debated for as long as they've grasped their own mortality. Behold:
I'm not sure which he needs more - the gospel of Jesus Christ, or a grasp of basic English grammar. And what kind of responses, I have to wonder, do such simpletons think their asinine comments are going to trigger from the faithful? "Oh, you mean to tell me there's suffering in the world? I had no idea! That completely disproves my heartfelt beliefs in a higher power, which were entirely contingent on my misconception that the world was made of rainbows and butterflies, and on my never having considered the problem of evil until just now, thanks to you, you brilliant free thinker, you! This also explains the mystery of why the least prosperous nations in the world have the lowest levels of religiosity, except actually the opposite of that is true, but who cares because reasons!" That's what I'm going to say the next time I accidentally read such mindless blathering from one of these jackasses.
Also, "cult members"? I've never been called that before, and it really hurts. Really.
To my shame, though, I must admit that I took a couple minutes to actually look at his page. This is his cover photo:
I guess the implication is that God can't exist because stars exist? Or something?
If the worldview he's proselyting for is correct, then the existence of life, let alone sapient life, is a tragic accident of astronomical proportions. Even the happiest life on this planet is a pointless existential nightmare from which one is only released by the endless and inescapable void of death. There is no ultimate justice. Nobody ever really gets what they deserve, for good or evil. Any and all "lasting" achievements that people may focus on to delude themselves that it's worth it anyway, that they can take comfort in collective progress and some cheap bullcrap counterfeit of immortality, will die with the human race in a couple centuries at most, to say nothing of the eventual demise of the entire known universe. If I believed this, I would also believe that my only rational course of action as a thinking person would be to kill myself and escape the nightmare as soon as possible, and that's exactly what I would do.
I'm not suggesting for a moment that I think atheists, either those who coexist in mutual respect like adults or those who spend their pathetic lives taking personal offense at other people's sense of purpose, should kill themselves. I'm just being honest about what the problem of evil looks like to me. In pretending that theists are the ones who can't solve it, Mr. Delusional has got it exactly backwards.
Dr. Daniel C. Peterson said it very well: "Most of the world's population, historically and still today, does not live, well fed and well traveled, to a placid old age surrounded by creature comforts. Most of the world has been and is like the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, the slums of Cairo, the backward rural villages of India, the famine-ridden deserts of northeastern Africa, the war-ravaged towns of the southern Sudan and of Rwanda. If there is going to be a truly happy ending for the millions upon millions of those whose lives have been blighted by torture, starvation, disease, rape, and murder, that ending will have to come in a future life. And such a future life seems to require a God.
"Yes, the problem of evil is a huge one, but to give up on God is to give evil the final say. It is to admit that child rapists and murderers dictate the final chapters in the lives of their terrified and agonized victims; that Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot really did triumph, forever, over the millions they slaughtered; that, in the rotting corpses of Darfur and Iraqi Kurdistan, we see the final, definitive chapter of thousands of lives; that there is, really, no hope for those whose health is in irreversible decline; that every human relationship ends in death, if not before.
"This would not be good news, and I see no compelling reason to accept it. In fact, I see numerous persuasive reasons to reject the claim. But that is a subject not just for another occasion but, necessarily, for a great number of other occasions."
I love these words, even if the God I depend on for this hope is the same guy who thought it was a good idea to invent mosquitoes and West Nile virus.
I may have mentioned before that late in summer, the entire block leading up to my workplace becomes infested with demonic vampire bugs. This may have something to do with the pond next door that used to have turtles in it but doesn't anymore. It may also have something to do with the moat of stagnant, putrid water surrounding the farm across the street. Whatever the cause, though, I call them demonic vampire bugs because they're like no mosquitoes I've encountered anywhere else in my life. They don't loop around in erratic patterns and settle in carefully for a landing. They just dive-bomb me. And apparently nobody else. Some of my coworkers walk through the same area and don't seem bothered at all. They don't have to run the entire block while twisting, shouting and slapping at their legs. Apparently I'm special. It took only a couple days of perpetually itchy legs for me to fantasize about premeditated, fatal revenge.
I didn't waste much time weighing the ethics of the situation. I'm pretty sure killing mosquitoes is not a sin. And the Book of Mormon teaches that "Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies." And honestly, given that I'm 5'11" and weigh about 140 pounds, there are probably enough mosquitoes there to literally kill me, literally. But the "premeditated" and "revenge" parts gave me a bit of pause. Is it possible to take so much pleasure in killing a bug that it becomes sinful? And granted, I'm a bit of a bug racist anyway. Recently I saw a bug crawling across the kitchen counter toward me and I was like Eh, it's just a box elder NO WAIT IT'S AN EARWIG GET IT AWAY GET IT AWAY GET IT AWAY! Box elder bugs can crawl in my mouth for all I care but I hate earwigs because they're gross. And my hatred of mosquitoes now extends to not just the women, but the men, and the children too. I would kill them all if given the chance. Even if they've never bitten me, they contribute to the perpetuation of the species and I hate them for what they are.
So my heart wasn't pure, is what I'm saying. Even if Jesus killed a bug at some point, would his heart ever be in the place that mine was at this time? Would the hatred in my soul come back to bite me harder than the mosquitoes?
So I resolved that issue by not worrying about it anymore, and after visiting four stores I got one of those things that's like a tennis racket but it's electric and you hit bugs with it and they die. The device and a twelve-pack of AA batteries together cost a little over twenty dollars, and spoiler alert, they were the best purchase I ever made. Okay, so I brought the racket thing to work with me the very next day. And despite my proverbial bloodlust (not literal bloodlust because the only blood the mosquitoes had was taken from me to begin with) I was very cognizant of the responsibility inherent in carrying such a dangerous weapon. Mostly the responsibility of not hitting myself in the crotch with it. What really unnerves me is that you push a button on the side to start the flow of electricity, but aside from a little red light on the handle, there's no indication that the flow is flowing. The racket doesn't glow or hum or anything. And sometimes as I carry it I thumb the button by accident. So I took the ammunition (batteries) out until I arrived at the enemy territory.
It was as if they knew somehow. They didn't swarm me right at once. I walked half the block before a handful of them dared to try it. They were on me before I knew what was happening, but brushed them off and shooed them a safe distance away from myself and though my hand-eye coordination is godawful, the racket is a fair amount bigger than the average mosquito and it didn't take long to ensure they were all dead. Whenever I hit one, I knew because it made a spark and a crackle noise. I would have preferred something more like a tiny little voice screaming "AAAAARGH IT BUUUUURNS!" as a tiny little fireball spiralled down to the sidewalk, but the spark and crackle were satisfying too. After the first wave, they seemed even more cautious, so I found myself lingering in the shadows of trees where they lurked in greater numbers. Maybe invading their territory and provoking them to attack was slightly more sinful than waiting for them to come to me. I think there's something about that in the Book of Mormon too. But I had to get my money's worth, didn't I?
This is how my killing spree felt (guess which one I am):
I mean, honestly, there are already so many obvious reasons I'm going to hell that this potential one seems absurd to worry about. I'm going to do it again and again and again and it's going to put a smile on my face every day that I have to work and if that makes me wrong, I don't want to be right.
First, some unnecessary backstory. Pretty much everything I know about Tinder I learned from a classmate's essay in my Creative Nonfiction Writing course. Like all the creative writing courses, it was uncensored and unfiltered, but this was the only piece of writing I ever heard from a classmate that shocked me and made the professor be like "Um, that's kind of offensive." The questionable parts of the essay were her claims that she looked on Tinder for guys "who don't look like rapists" and that "Mormon men with beards look like they're part of the Taliban". I think I wrote in my comments, "What does a rapist look like?" But it was an informative essay nonetheless, and the only meaningful increase in my knowledge came a couple weeks ago when I was forced to take the first sick day of my life and spend it on the couch waiting to die. I somehow got to reading screenshots of funny, weird, and/or creepy Tinder profiles and messages, and that made me think about Mutual.
Mutual, from what I understood, was like Tinder but only for Latter-day Saints. It was named after the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association and the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association (formerly the Young Ladies' National Mutual Improvement Association, formerly the Young Ladies' Cooperative Retrenchment Association) because I presume the far superior name "Tinder Mercies" would have triggered an unwinnable lawsuit. I thought about this app because I was reading about all this scummy stuff on Tinder and I presumed that Mutual wouldn't have this scummy stuff. I'm sure it has some scummy people, but I presumed they had to behave themselves while on the app. And then I wondered if the app was free and then I figured it was probably free but with a Premium version required to actually make it useful, and I verified that and then, being very ill and bored, I downloaded it for reasons I still don't know. And I had another learning experience.
So of course you have to start out by making a profile. You have to have at least one picture, and that's where I hit my first snag. I couldn't find any non-group picture taken of me within the last year that I didn't hate, and even if I could have, I would have considered it misleading. I could concievably get a picture taken at just the right pose and angle and lighting to make me look moderately handsome, but I can't stay at that pose and angle and lighting all the time in real life. Nightmares flashed through my mind of women from the app meeting me in person and being disappointed by my mannerisms, voice, facial expressions, and outlook on life. So I ruled out that route right off. I used the picture of my dead dog (who wasn't dead at the time it was taken). I knew nobody would swipe on that and I didn't care because I just needed a picture so I could move on.
You have to set your profile somewhere on a scale between "Down for Dates" (because alliteration) and "Relationship Ready" (ditto). I couldn't be honest because "Just Browsing" isn't an option. I set msyself toward the former end of the scale but since I wasn't planning to get swiped, I didn't stress about the precise placement. You can say whether you've served a mission and if so, where. I said "Korea Pyongyang North" and got away with it. You can select some interests, hobbies and such, from a list and write a bit about yourself. There are a few prompts, but you can only use one. "Most embarrassing moment? Downloading this app." I should have tested to find out how much you can write but I didn't feel the need to duplicate information already available on the internet. So I just put an invitation to my website, but I didn't get a spike in traffic and I didn't expect one anyway so that was fine. And of course there are cool things you can only do with the Premium version, but I wouldn't have sprung for that even if I could afford it. That would be like paying Spotify every month with no guarantee that I would actually get to listen to music.
Then the app started bombarding me with other people's, specifically women's, profiles, and I immediately noticed what I regard as a tragic design flaw. Each profile just comes up as the woman's default picture, name, age and location. Sometimes she has more pictures you can scroll through. Then you can tap on it and bring up her common interests with you, DD vs. RR status, and whatever she chose to write about herself. And most of them didn't write much about themselves. A lot of them just listed their Instagram names in that space, so I went and followed their Instagrams where I could see several more pictures of them and, in one case, her boyfriend. Sometimes they had a little quip that attempted cuteness but gave little information. "I'm not gluten-free." Oh, good to know because that would have been a dealbreaker. Definitely more useful than your feelings on vaccines or Donald Trump. I admit that one made me smile, though, and I quote: "Just please don't murder me."
So the design flaw is this: I believe the Mutual app, whether by design or practice, encourages shallowness.
With so little to go off of, I was basically supposed to decide based on a woman's appearance whether I would bother messaging her. And yes, this is a natural human tendency, and like most humans I am more inclined to want to get to know humans who have certain physical traits that humans have evolved to find attractive in the opposite sex mostly for reasons of genetic fitness, but I feel very guilty about that. I don't want to be encouraged in it. Aziz Ansari in his book Modern Romance acknowledged that Tinder encourages shallowness, but decided that's fine because it's just like real life where people only gravitate to the people they find attractive anyway. Okay, but what if we harnessed the power of technology to make ourselves be better? What if we took the opportunity to look past the physical with greater ease by actually having access to a bunch of pertinent information right off the bat? For example, I would give virtually anyone a chance if she gave the right answers about vaccines and Donald Trump.
I've had the experience, as I'm sure many people have, of talking to someone that at first I regarded as rather plain-looking, only to find that she grows more and more beautiful with each moment of conversation, and before I know it three hours have gone by, and she asks me out, and I'm not sure at first if that's what's happened but I figure "Dinner and a movie, my treat" is pretty unambiguous, so the day approaches and then an hour before we're scheduled to go she texts and says she can't, she's sick, and I try to reschedule but her responses are kind of evasive and it occurs to me that this isn't a postponement but a cancelation, and I ask her directly if that's the case, and she says yes, I seem like a nice guy but she's just not interested, and as you can imagine I'm just a little teensy weensy itsy bitsy bit confused, so I calmly and politely inquire why she asked me out in the first place, and she says something to the effect of "I could tell that you liked me, but I figured you would be too shy to ask me out, so I thought I'd help you" and I feel like the next time she wants to "help" someone she should just, like, not, but after crying for a while I decide to forgive her but then - this is the strangest thing, I don't get it at all, but then her appearance changes again, like she has the same face as always, but now she looks like a literal gargoyle, and I don't get it at all because I'm not mad at her, I don't hate her, and there are plenty of people I do heartily dislike but they don't become "ugly" to me just because of that, so I know this isn't just some psychological perception thing on my part, and when I go with the missionaries to help teach her because she's going inactive I mention that bit to them in case it's relevant to her spirituality, only I try to be polite and call it "almost a physical change" even though there's no "almost" about it, and they seem to know what I'm talking about, and she always seems super awkward and uncomfortable being alive, too, which I never noticed before, and I don't know if she was like that before or I just didn't notice, but I confide in a close friend who happens to be her Relief Society president and shares some probably confidential information about her mental illnesses, and I understand that in her mind she really thought she was being helpful and with that reaffirmed I'm able to let it go completely. We've all been there, right? Right?
So I knew right away that I was in over my head. Unlike Tinder, instead of choosing the right, you swipe up to indicate your approval of someone's profile, and down to indicate that they aren't attractive enough for you. And I couldn't bring myself to swipe down on anyone. It seemed to me such an act of wanton cruelty toward a perfect stranger. If there had been something in any given profile to indicate that our personalities or political views or astrological signs weren't a good match, I could then have passed her by with a clear conscience knowing that it was no reflection on her. But there never was. The only real filter I could get was age. I decided a while ago that most 18-20 year olds aren't really adults and I don't want to deal with their crap, so I swiped down on those, but that still left so many more. And you can't just skip one and move on. You have to make a choice. You can go back to your own profile, you can close the app, you can turn off your phone, but as soon as you return to Mutual the same profile will be in your face demanding to know your verdict on her corporeal frame.
I kept the app for two weeks, up until the day I saw somebody from my stake. I haven't seen her since she left on a mission a couple years ago but now apparently she's back. I've never spoken to her and she's probably grateful for that. I didn't want to swipe her one way or another. But seeing her here now drove home the futility of having this guilt-trip of an app that I had no intention of using for its intended purpose and which I believe is fundamentally flawed in its execution. So I deleted it, but as I type this I realize that what I actually should have done is either a. swipe for an hour and take a shot of Dr. Pepper for every blonde, or b. make a fake profile, an attractive one, to see what caliber of messages it received and test my original hypothesis that Mutual dispenses with the unsavory elements of Tinder. But like I said, I didn't really think this through in the first place.
Today was my last day at Jenson Online, for a while and possibly ever, so that I can focus on school and fulfill my potential on assignments like I wasn't able to do last semester. Since I was such a good employee I'm welcome to return whenever I want, so that's a nice safety net to have, but whether I do or not depends on what progress I'm able to make on my actual career goals in the next few months. Like, it might help if I actually get something published. Just a thought. With any luck, I'll soon have a job in the USU English department, but that's contingent on whether I can out-compete people with equal or superior writing skills. My best chance is to focus on what makes me unique, which is that I'm almost the only person in any writing class I've ever had who tries to write funny things (and, if I may flatter myself, usually succeeds).
When I started at Jenson Online nearly two years ago, of course I had just escaped from the call center. After much prayer and debate I decided to quit that job so I would have time to go in for an interview for this one. Even though I had zero ten key experience. I practiced really hard to make sure I could pass the ten key test that accompanied the interview, and then I did so well that I knew I would get the job despite a couple faux pases like forgetting to stand up when the guy shook my hand. And then I realized that my hunt-and-peck method wouldn't work while I was reading the ISBNs out of the books, so I had to learn it the right way within the first few days. I was very blessed to get this job, is what I'm saying. At that time I thoroughly enjoyed it but knew the excitement would someday wear off. I compared it to a marriage, or at least how I imagine a marriage would be, where you start off crazy in love and then slowly the banalities of real life take over and the magic is lost, and you have to remind yourself how blessed you are to be with this person. So I guess this is a divorce over someone younger and more beautiful.
And I learned today that a former coworker I barely knew somehow discovered my blog and told another coworker about it who told another coworker about it, and they like it. I know I'm a great writer, but I feel like my posts all summer have been hastily and poorly written, so that was a nice confidence booster. I was actually just thinking about giving up on it. Since 2018 started my previously satisfactory pageviews have gone through the floor despite doing everything I can think of to search engine optimize the site. I don't know if it's people turning off their cookies or what. As I write this my stats tell me that today I've had 64 visitors and 424 page views, meaning that each visitor viewed an average of 6.625 pages, which is somewhat typical and makes little or no sense to me. If my site is really so compelling that people keep looking at additional pages after they first stumble on it, then it should be rising organically through the search results and getting more and more visitors. It was getting more and more visitors until 2018 started. Now it won't no matter what I do. Any time the stats start going up and I think this stupid slump is over, they plummet again.
One thing I had hoped to do was have a substantial following on my blog so that when I published a book, I could advertise it here and already have loyal fans eager to read it. I don't think that's going to happen now. I've been at this for well over three years and the lack of discernible progress has been quite discouraging. But I feel encouraged now. Even if only a small cluster of local people get enjoyment out of it, that's something and I hope I can continue to please them. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts.
As most people reading this are already aware, Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has started an initiative to stop calling The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "the LDS Church" or "the Mormon Church" or "Mormonism" and to stop calling Latter-day Saints "Mormons". So I'm going through my website and change most instances of "Mormon" to "Latter-day Saint" even though it will do my search ranking no favors. I'm not going through all my old blog posts because that would take far too long. These new guidelines are, of course, less than convenient, and almost certainly will be very detrimental to the Church's visibility online and in the public consciousness, but I choose to trust that President Nelson knows what he's doing. Who said religion was supposed to be convenient? A prophet who always just reaffirmed one's pre-existing opinions would be useless. President Nelson says this can't be done, but the Lord wants it done so it will be.
I feel sorrier for people in some other languages, though. In Spanish, "Mormon" is "Mormón". "Latter-day Saint" is "Santo de los Últimos Días". Spanish speakers are now expected to say nine syllables instead of two. The full name of the Church, "La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días", is twenty syllables, while "Iglesia SUD" is seven (because the letter S is pronounced "essay"). And they're probably no longer allowed to jokingly call it "La Iglesia de José Smith y Un Dios" (The Church of Joseph Smith and One God - get it, because the words use the same first letters as the actual name. Spanish humor is weird.) And the loss of recognition overseas will be even worse than in the US. Even people I met from India had some idea of what "Mormons" were from watching "South Park", even though "Mormons" in India are literally one in a million (literally), but of course they had never heard of "Latter-day Saints".
Tomorrow: Bear Lake. Monday: College. And that's as far in advance as I know anything. Fingers crossed that this semester will be less stressful than the last one.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.