Reflecting on the “what ifs” in life

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After a week in Washington DC, and then a week in Dallas, I decided to take back-to-back four day weekends.

It was VERY needed.

Too many after-hours “get togethers”, hot temps, high humidity, and airports.

One thing that I completely enjoy living here in Montana is the ability to go fishing for some massive trout.

Fishing is an interesting activity, especially when doing it by myself. Each day I spent at least four hours out on the water with nothing to do but think…and recharge.

After the mandatory thoughts about if my bait is still on after casting, do I have enough leader, is it the right bait, and if I should put on bug spray, my mind started wandering to more reflective thoughts.

Mostly I spent many hours thinking about “what if”.

Having just recently turned 42 and dealing with depression, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my life, and how it would have been different with some of the decisions I made through the years.

Probably the most important decision I made early on was to join the Army. I joined the summer of my senior year in high school, mostly because I really didn’t have any plans for when I graduated. I wasn’t the best student, and honestly I never really considered what was going to happen when I was no longer in school. College wasn’t an interest, but neither was working in fast food.

It’s hard for me to imagine my life had I not joined. The Army allowed me to travel the world. It allowed me to see how my life growing up was really sheltered to the struggles people in other nations suffered. This was way before the Internet age, so the only real knowledge I had about poverty and suffering was the commercials about the drought and starvation happening in Ethiopia. That was basically it.

I knew nothing about Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, or any other war-torn country. Terrorism was something that was happening in Ireland. Racism and gangs were newspaper articles.

But much of my time reflecting on the “what if” goes back to the day I decided not to reenlist. Where would I be in life had I decided to stay in? As much as I struggled in High School, once I was out I became a sponge for knowledge. I re-took my ASVAB and scored very high. In fact, when it was time to reenlist the recruiter told me that I could have nearly any job I wanted in the Army and could choose whatever base I wanted.

I was seriously considering becoming a combat photographer. But I was too young and dumb and figured I could just get out and become successful wherever I landed.

It was a major wake-up when I landed here in Montana with no skills, no job, and no money.

That was 20 years ago.

A lifetime ago.

Where would I be had I stayed in?

We have been in war forever. People I served with have died in battle. Would that have been me too?

Would I be married? Would I have children?

I know that I wouldn’t have the son I have now. Wyatt is the most important thing in my life. Yes, he even rates above my wife. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. I think she would say the same about me.

That’s one thing that I always thought about in the movie “The Family Man” with Nick Cage. He ends up with the woman he should have, but the children are not there. Yes, they will probably have them, but would they be the same?

I always think back to that time in life when I made that big decision. Many times I think my life may have been better, but a major piece would be missing.

I think I made the right choice.

Those exhausting social events

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The past two weeks were exhausting for me. Too much output, not enough recharge.

First I had a trip to DC to work on a project with a group of people who have never met each other before. The weather was in the upper 90’s with high humidity. Keeping in mind I live in Montana, it sucked.

I was the only person who was familiar with DC, so I became the appointed travel guide.

Awesome.

The week wasn’t actually too bad since the rain kept people somewhat close to the airport. Plus I used the “jet lag” excuse to get back early.

Saturday we went to a wedding so we didn’t get home until late, and then Monday morning I was back on a plane. This time heading to Dallas.

More heat.

A lot more energy.

This was with our region. Except for management, most of the people haven’t met each other in person, so this was a big deal.

So big that every single night after our meetings there were social events planned.

EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.

And being management, I was expected to be there.

Sometimes in life you just have to bite the bullet and do things that are not comfortable.

The first night we all got in was a get together at the hotel bar.

I’m not much of a drinker. Especially when it involves work. Not only was my boss there, but so were my employees. Just not an environment I like to put myself in.

Unfortunately within minutes I had three beers sitting in front of me.

Great.

The next night’s event was a Texas Rangers game. I am a big baseball fan, but I was not looking forward to being in a group in the 100 degree heat. When I go to a baseball game, I am there to watch the game.

I was the only one wanting to watch the game apparently.

The next night was dinner at a fancy steakhouse. Me traveling to another state for steak is like me traveling to another state to look at the mountains. Just doesn’t make much sense…but I sucked it up and had an overpriced steak which I could have cooked better on one of my grills.

Oh well. Only one night left.

This was the worst.

For one, I was on my last leg. I didn’t feel very well and was totally exhausted from not having been able to recharge at all.

The last night was bar food and karaoke.

Yeah, karaoke.

No, I didn’t participate.

Yes, I was asked…and asked…and asked.

Anyway, I am finally back home. I got some fishing in over the weekend which helped refresh myself a bit. I am taking two four day weekends off…so that should help too. My son had his first pitch baseball game last night and got his first hit of the season. That was awesome.

Aerosmith still hasn’t contacted me.

Odd.

#Depression is a Bitch

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This is going to be a tough discussion.

Not easy to type either. Or talk in person, or even think about.

But depression is a bitch. And I have it.

I don’t know when. I don’t know where. I don’t know why. But I have it.

On the outside, you would never know it. Hell, people in my “inner circle” wouldn’t even know. I’m an excellent actor. After all, I am an introvert that does a ton of public speaking.

I’m not in the medical field. I have no real research, so this blog is only going to be about my experience. Don’t take it as medical advice.

Seriously, please don’t.

But I have to talk about it. If anything maybe it will be beneficial for me. I don’t know if we introverts have a higher rate of depression or not. It would seem to make sense to me since many of us cherish our alone time. But with alone time comes that dreaded thinking time.

A little history about me.

I grew up in a middle class family. A happy family for the most part. After graduation from High School I joined the Army and spent four years being a soldier. A successful soldier.

When it was time to get out, I did. A buddy and I drove around the country in a U-Haul truck until we ran out of money in a small town in Montana. If you have been to Montana, most towns are small.

About a year later I moved to the capitol city, and even though I struggled to get back in “civilian mode”, I was fortunate to land a decent job that allowed me to pursue my degree while working.

College came much easier to me than High School did, and I graduated with a 3.5 gpa.

I met my wife (The Hippy), we got married and enjoyed travel vacations as my career became more and more successful. We were able to buy a house, and though it took a long time, were blessed with an awesome son. We’ve also been blessed enough that The Hippy has been able to be a Stay-at-Home mother for that awesome son.

So why do I battle that bitch depression?

I don’t know.

I do know that I would go through what I called my “blue” periods at times before my diagnosis.

They didn’t register much to me though. It was in my mind it was just my time that I needed to be alone to recharge. Perhaps it was.

Perhaps I just didn’t recognize the truth.

Finally a little over a year ago I told my doctor that I thought I might have a little depression.

But when I got my prescription, it was an eye opener. My bottle had the lovely diagnosis on it of treatment for “major depression.”

MAJOR.

To be honest, it was kind of a relief. I didn’t have to wonder. I didn’t have to WebMD myself. It was in black and white.

MAJOR.

But treatable.

So it’s been over a year now. My meds have been increased slightly once, but for the most part it helps. People still don’t know. People would be shocked. When someone asks how I’m doing as part of opening a conversation, I don’t really answer. My answer is, “How are YOU doing?”

I still have times when I am sitting alone “recharging” when I wonder if I am really recharging or being depressed.

When I was down in Denver last week I had the opportunity to have dinner with a high school buddy of mine. I haven’t seen him since we graduated nearly 25 years ago. I haven’t seen anyone from high school since then since I don’t live in Colorado anymore.

I actually was hoping during the day of our bro-date that he would cancel. This was a good friend of mine. Someone I still consider a friend through Facebook. But I just wanted to sit in my hotel room, order room service, and do nothing.

He didn’t cancel.

I’m glad he didn’t.

I enjoyed reconnecting with him. It was by far the best part of the entire week. He’s also kind of a hippy dude, like my wife.

The moral, if there is one…if you “think” you may be battling depression, talk to your doctor about it.

I didn’t want to. I don’t know how long I have been suffering, but I didn’t want to admit any weakness. But I am better for it.

Yeah, I have to take some meds each morning. If I miss them I have some pretty jacked up dreams at night. But ultimately I think it makes me a better person.

You deserve to be better too.

Trust me.

Air Travel as an #Introvert

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I’m flying to Denver on Sunday afternoon for a week of meetings.

I’m not excited about it.

At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I’m going to tell you why…and my pet peeves about air travel.

Before I get too far into this, let me throw out this sort of disclaimer:

1. I tend to get impatient when traveling.

B. I completely understand that there are people who do not fly very often. My wife (The Hippy) is one of those people. She flew to Vegas last week and was clueless. Fortunately I was there to provide a detailed checklist on what she needed to do J

Third. I really am probably going to sound like a jerk.

With that said, if you read this and I am complaining about someone who sounds like you, I apologize. Like I said in my last blog, I have my quirks.

So first let me mention the awesome thing about flying. I am flying out on Delta. Most airlines now have the kiosks to get your boarding pass (unless you do the even better phone app). This is right up my alley because it allows me to avoid additional conversation. I type in my confirmation number (which I will have verified about 100 times on my way to the airport), pay for my luggage, change seats if I want, upgrade if I want, or take a later flight if I want to completely mess up my detailed schedule I have already planned. I am completely in control without having to talk.

Perfect!

Once that task has been completed, however, it goes downhill from there.

I travel by air probably 5-10 times per year. For some, that’s nothing. For others that may seem like a lot. I get it. I really do.

I know what to expect when I go through security. I’ve done it enough.

The airport here in Helena, Montana is a small regional airport. There is only one security line. It “usually” moves pretty quickly. When it’s slow it’s not because of TSA. More times than not it is because the traveler isn’t prepared.

When you pass by multiple signs and announcements letting you know that you can’t have liquids over a certain size, don’t wait until you are at the gray bins to decide what to leave behind.

When you pass by multiple signs and announcements letting you know that you that you will need to take off your shoes, don’t try to walk through the metal detector with your shoes on, only to have to hold everyone up as you move back to take them off.

When you pass by multiple signs and announcements letting you know that you need to take your laptop out, don’t have a conversation with the TSA asking if you need to take out your laptop. You watched everyone in front of you take theirs out. You are not unique in this requirement.

And for the love of God, please don’t put on 70 metal bracelets on both wrists then act like they want to give you a colonoscopy when the alarm goes off.

Seriously.

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I know that sometimes accidents happen. Believe me… I KNOW.

Shortly after 9/11 I had a multi-destination trip that I did. I flew to Dallas, and then over to DC, and then my final stop was Boston. By the time I was leaving Boston, I was not in any mood to deal with delays from people who were not prepared.

But it happened.

As I was waiting for my backpack to come out of the x-ray machine, TSA stopped the belt and asked who had a knife in their backpack.

I nearly had self-inflicted whiplash from shaking my head back and forth from the idiocy of someone trying to bring a knife through security. Especially in Boston right after 9/11.

No one admitted, so they pulled out the backpack.

It was my backpack.

Well, it was The Hippy’s backpack, but I was traveling with it as my carry-on.

Buried deep inside one of the internal pockets was a small pocketknife. How I got through three different airports with it is beyond me, but there I was, the idiot holding everyone up with a knife.

Ok, not really “holding anyone up” in the literal sense.

Like I said, I get it.

Anyway, back to my gripes.

Delta, like many airlines, has seating zones. In other words, the “elites” get to board way before the rest of us. I am not an “elite.” I did get to fly first class back from Germany in the 90’s when I was in the Army because the flight attendant thought I was someone famous.

Best flight ever.

But I am not a diamond level, or whatever level, traveler. At best I sometimes upgrade myself to the preferred comfort seats because at 5’7 it’s really important to me to have the extra four inches. Plus I get to board in Zone 1, right after the elites.

My point to this is that we all know, for the most part, what Zone we are to board. But it never fails that people in the Zones that board last create a wall of humanity blocking off everyone who is supposed to be boarding.

Makes no sense.

The instant I step on the plane, I am already counting the rows to see where I am sitting. More importantly, to see who I am sitting with. Not that it matters, since I don’t plan on talking. And if it’s an extremely attractive female, I’ll probably just sweat nervously anyway…lol.

Now to my next complaint…carry-on luggage.

Two things. First off, you are not going to get that antique trunk from 1889 to fit in the overhead bin. Don’t act like you thought it would fit. It barely fit in your car. Now that you suddenly came to the realization that it won’t fit, everyone behind you are forced to either climb into the overhead bin so you can exit the plane and check it, or to give free lap dances to the person already sitting down right where they were standing.

The other part to carry-on luggage deals when the person puts their bag ten rows back from where they are sitting. I understand if you are one of the last people on and everything is already full because the guy in the suit felt his suit jacket needed to be laid out in a bin, but when it’s a bag that will fit under the seat in front of you, put it there.

Because the chances are high you are going to want to get up and walk against the flow of departing traffic to get your bag when we land. You are not a salmon.

I know I’ve bitched enough. It’s Friday…it should be a “no bitch zone”. But I do have one more.

Getting your luggage.

My suitcase stands out. I do that so I know it’s mine, and so you don’t touch it.

There are not too many camo suitcases, but in case there is more than one on my flight, I also have a billion colored ribbons on the handle.

But it never fails there is someone who feels the need to grab it and look at the tag to make sure it isn’t theirs. One of these times I am going to stick around to see what their suitcase looks like to see why they would think the camo suitcase with a rainbow of ribbons on it made them verify it wasn’t theirs.

So there you have it. If you have made it this far, I really appreciate sticking with me through this rant. This is by far my biggest post so far.

I really do hope that some of my pet peeves are also yours. I don’t want to be the only jerk flying.

Worst Vacation Ever – Except for me…it’s AWESOME!

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My wife (The Hippy) is about 900 miles away from me right now.

She is in Las Vegas with a few girlfriends. I am sitting at home taking care of our six year old kindergartener and our nearly 16 year old puppy.

She is recharging in Sin City (hopefully without all the sins).

I am recharging in silence and solitude.

Don’t get me wrong…as introverted as I am, I can enjoy trips to Vegas too. But they really do exhaust me. Her trip just happened to fall in line with our son still being in school and our puppy still enjoying life. (Unless she is traveling with us in the camper, we always keep one person home for when she passes.)

This is the first time in nearly two years I’ve taken a vacation. Yes, two years.

It’s not the first time I’ve traveled. I have had the opportunity to go all over for work. DC, Boston, New Orleans, San Fran, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Chicago, Seattle…just to name a few. Usually I am traveling on my own, and then sight seeing on my own too. Of course, with headphones on and my cell phone ready to be at my ear in case there are conversations heading my way.

So what does an introvert do on his first vacation in forever?

Nothing.

Ok, that’s not exactly true.

I have completely redesigned our living room. And kitchen. And bedrooms. And basement.

And our camper.

And mowed the lawn. Twice.

Sound like fun? No?

How about relaxing? No?

Ok, definitely sounds like a way to get recharged for work, right? No?

Well, maybe not for you. Guaranteed not for The Hippy. In fact, she is probably freaking out right now in the middle of all the neon and slot machines dropping coins (it’s been a long time since I’ve been there and I hear they don’t actually drop coins anymore…that sucks) knowing that I am clearing out the house.

In know there are thousands of articles regarding Introverts needing peace and quiet and Extroverts needing everything else. I’m not going to reiterate all of that, except to say that for me, it’s true.

When I get back to the office on Tuesday morning, I know I will be asked the mandatory question about what I did on vacation. And I also know that when I tell the truth, they will most likely tell me, “Worst Vacation Ever.”

Shopping at Costco

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There I was, walking around Costco.

Since I wasn’t by myself, it was going to take much longer to shop.

No, I was with my Hippy wife and son, and also mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law. They like shopping. In fact, they like shopping even if there is no intent to buy anything. Just get out and look around.

Not me. Apparently it showed.

“Are you bored yet?” the mother-in-law asked.

Before my filter turned on, I replied honestly, “Yes.”

You would have thought I told them over the loudspeaker (does Costco have one?) that I was having an affair. All eyes were on me (stupid filter needs to be faster) and the only person who didn’t look surprised, or hurt, or with lasers burning into me was the Hippy. She’s used to it.

“You don’t need to be here then.” I was told.

TRAP TRAP TRAP TRAP TRAP TRAP

I stayed. I acted “not bored.”

I’m a good actor.

Instead I concentrated on looking for people I might know so I could avoid eye contact with them.

I will say, though, that at least at Costco the employees don’t swarm around me asking if I need any help. Usually they are swarming to the food samples. Ok, that was probably an overgeneralization and if you are a Costco employee reading this I apologize.

But seriously, you don’t have to bump into me to get in front for that sample. I’m not grabbing one anyway.

Unless you are extremely attractive…you can bump into me. Ok, maybe not. I will overanalyze it and think that you are either hitting on me (zero chance of that) or I am being set up by the Hippy to see my uncomfortable reaction while she laughs inside.

And out loud.

And then posts it on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, text, mass email, YouTube, and Ellen.

Screw this; I’m going to non-judgmental Amazon.

Great, they even approach me with recommendations.

Hello World – and by hello I mean there you are…over there.

I am a professional introvert.

Ok…let me rephrase that. I am an introvert working in a professional environment. And I have been very successful in my field. I’m nowhere close to being a 1%er, but I am comfortable and have more responsibility than I deserve. I have been extremely fortunate. I’m not an actor, but 99% of people who know me would tell you that I am a “people person” or very much an “extrovert”.

I have them fooled.

I am a professional introvert.

I like to think of myself as a good planner. For instance, I know that the best time for me to use the break room to cook my Cup of Noodles for exactly one minute and 17 seconds is at 11:45. Not today. Today there was a lady sitting in there who I have never seen before. Can you believe I actually considered skipping lunch?

I took a chance. Of course she turned her head and allowed words to fall out of her mouth. In less than 90 seconds we had four conversations. “We” (she) talked about how there is no good news in the paper anymore. I tried my “go to” response of, “I know, right?”

Then she tried talking to me about war in the Middle East…I think I said something about how it’s been going on for generations, but by now I was already trying to use my imaginary powers to speed up time.

No, I haven’t tried the new sushi restaurant (they don’t deliver) and I have no idea when the Farmer’s Market opens for the season.

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Three seconds before the microwave beeped I opened the door and left early. Yes, three seconds. That is how uncomfortable I was having a one-on-one conversation with someone I didn’t know. I felt more guilt about the noodles not having those final three seconds than the lady who obviously had more things to talk about.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a social outcast. It’s just that I didn’t plan on meeting someone new, nor did I plan on having a conversation, much less four of them. So now I sit feeling like I just left a three hour board meeting…except I feel much more comfortable speaking in front of dozens of people.

It’s a fine balance working in an office setting as an introvert. For the most part, I make jokes about it. I talk about how I just need to make sure I’m on my meds (ok…no joking matter, I really do have some for anxiety), or how, “You know me, I just can’t stand people…ha ha!” There’s also that move of acting like I am talking on my cell phone. Just make sure the ringer is off. It IS a bit embarrassing to be “talking” on your phone when it rings.

Usually the local newspaper is sitting in the break room. Most times I will pick up a section and pretend that I am reading it when using the microwave. “Pretend” because I’ve already read it online. I’m not above putting on an act to avoid conversation. Unfortunately there is a different person who likes to stand next to me and read it as I am reading it. THE EXACT SAME SECTION. It doesn’t matter which section I have…if that person walks in and I am standing with the paper, so is he.

I’ve sat in an airport with my headphones on looking at my Kindle with the battery dead on my IPod. Yep, my ears could hear no music, but those headphones stayed on. Even that doesn’t work all the time.

Elevators are another issue. I will literarily slow to a stop just to wait for the next elevator with hopes I won’t have to go up or down. Or hold the door. Or feel guilty (ish) for pushing the close door button. I’ve even found that I can push the close door button and then push the alarm button to have the appearance that I “tried” to push the open door button, just hit the wrong one in my haste to open the door. Don’t worry, the alarm button doesn’t do anything but make a ringing sound. At least that’s all I think it does.

So there it is…my brief introduction to what I plan on “talking” about. As I look over this before hitting publish, I realize that I sort of sound like a dick. Yeah, well, perhaps that’s part of the reason people think we just need to “come out of our shells” or “try a little harder.” We can’t change who we are. It’s in our wiring. Yeah, I can fake it like no one’s business, but my shell is my battery charger. You don’t want to see me without my shell. I don’t want to see me without my shell.