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Overthinking It

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The other day, I was reading through a thread on Twitter.  (Note: Do NOT try this a home, unless you are a trained Twitter observer, as I am.)  The thread started out with a discussion on the Senate health care bill, which led to varying opinions on the sexual habits of porcupines and eventually concluded with a discussion on everything wrong with the holodeck on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Now that’s some serious twittering there, and I could think of a thousand different directions to go with that, but really three points stick out above the rest.  1) I think porcupine sex could be a fascinating topic, and one which I intend to explore further once I get that plum job as a journalist for National Geographic.  Or maybe Playboy.  Whichever one can pay me the most.  2) The holodeck really is a lazy plot device on TNG and episodes involving it were rarely any good, although that episode where we found out that Lt. Barkley was using the holodeck exactly the same way every nerd I know would be using it was pretty cute.  3) I really need to quit overthinking things.

I bring this up because I went to my high school reunion last weekend and it was for real, too, not some program I cooked up for the holodeck.  A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post in which I posited I might not go to the reunion.  It wasn’t that my fellow alums are bad people or my past experiences at reunions were bad experiences.  It was just that most people look back on their high school experiences nostalgically (Surprise!) and my memories mostly involved hiding in plain sight, an activity I continue to engage in at social gatherings to this day.  I had doubts that I would have any fun.  So, I agonized over it for months and then I started getting texts from former classmates, gently asking if I was going to come.  They meant well, but I’m not sure it helped.  I waited until the last week before sending in my check.

As it happens, the reunion was a lot of fun.  I give much credit to the organizers.  Early on, they made the decision to have the reunion at an outdoor venue, a highly risky proposition in Kansas in June.  But the weather was perfect and there’s something about being outside that gave the event a more mellow feel.  It was easy to simply hang out, enjoy the encroaching dusk, and just be yourself.  I’ve never had anything but admiration for the great majority of my classmates, who are, on the whole really good people, so it was easy to get into a good rhythm socially.  So all of that overthinking was a waste of time and energy that would have been better spent working the kinks out of my “Destination: Tahiti” holodeck program, which is woefully behind schedule (I think my wife may be sabotaging it when I’m not home).

In the aftermath, I’ve been thinking a lot about overthinking.  We all do it from time to time, unless you’re a sociopath.  I believe they call that phenomenon is “paralysis by analysis.”  Sometimes, overthinking is a good thing.  If we’re deciding to launch nuclear weapons, I want my leaders to overthink that decision a lot.  Most of the time, it just gets in the way.  If you’re a Christian like I am, it could be getting in the way of what God really wants for you in this life.  I believe they call that phenomenon “lack of faith.”

This week, I had a brief e-mail exchange with a classmate of mine about a television program we’d both seen.  It’s an enjoyable program, but one that strains credulity from time to time (I wrote about it a while back). She said that her method for dealing with that situation is GWI (Go With It).  As long as it’s enjoyable and harmless, then it shouldn’t be that hard to ignore the plot holes for a while.  GWI seems like pretty good advice for most situations, even beyond the television world.  Perhaps not for nuclear war.  Most situations aren’t nuclear war.

I could go on in this deeply philosophical vein, but I’m scheduled for some holodeck time, this time with the “Woodlands” program.  National Geographic just called and I’ve got a lot to learn about porcupines.

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Reunion Blues

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Well, it’s reunion time.  When an event only happens every ten years, as high school reunions usually do, it’s pretty easy to forget that it’s just around the corner and I’m old enough now that I’m sure that senility played a significant role my memory lapse.  I was a little jolted when the great Facebook god informed me that a committee had been formed and the committee was digging up alums with all the subtlety of a hungry Dachshund in a prairie dog colony.  Well, it may have been a bit more subtle than that.  I got a really nice email from the really sweet and highly persuasive Linda (she’s a real estate agent, so those characteristics come in handy) asking for current information.  I took it on faith that it wasn’t a phishing scam and sent it in, along with a brief statement that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.

It pained me to say that, especially to Linda (did I mention that she is really sweet and highly persuasive?).  I had to carefully wordsmith that short sentence in my email response (“As of today, my attendance is still a little uncertain.”), so that it had some thin connection to honesty.  The reunion is at the end of June and I don’t usually make plans for five minutes from now, much less three months ahead of time, so I couldn’t say that I had a previous engagement that night.  I only live forty miles away from the venue, so the travel excuse isn’t going to fly.  And I’m still a little in disbelief myself that I’m actually thinking about not going.  I’m guessing it’s about 70% I’ll go and 30% I won’t.  It’s pretty embarrassing that the “I won’t” percentage is that high.

This is the fortieth reunion, which makes it the fifth one that this class has celebrated, (we also threw in a 25th reunion for good measure). Except for the 25th, I had a lot of fun at all of them, and the 25th was simply weird, rather than bad, so I don’t have a good excuse for not attending.  There’s no Biff Tannen waiting to settle an old score, no old girlfriends looking to exact a measure of revenge.  I am on somewhat friendly terms with almost everyone I’d meet and Facebook friends with a lot of them.  Linda’s email made it sound like it will be an enjoyable experience.  The exact quote was “fun, bonfires, and memories.”

Memories!  “Aye, there’s the rub,” as I overheard my old friend Bill saying the other day.  I know that there are a lot of people that look back fondly on high school and, for a few of those people (very few, I suspect), those days were the bright spot in what’s been an otherwise difficult life.  That’s not me.  My memories of high school are mostly memories of awkward attempts at fitting in and futile efforts at trying to glean some meaning out of life.  I had far better memories from my life before high school and, once I headed for college, life almost immediately got better.  If the Tardis were to land in my backyard today and Dr. Who popped out and gave me a one time only offer to relive any year of my life, I’m definitely not picking one of those three year.  It’s not like those years were completely meaningless or troubled.  My senior year in particular shaped a lot of who I am today, as I finally began to sort through the garbage of my spiritual life.  But reliving most of those memories sounds like about as much fun as leprosy.

And that’s no one’s fault but my own.  One the most awesome and terrible facts of life is that I’m ultimately responsible for my own joy.  The years that I didn’t gain a measure of joy are on me and no one else.  That’s probably the most important lesson I learned from all of the spiritual garbage sorting I did back then.  But part of maintaining joy once you do have it is staying away from situations that take away from it.  If it’s mine to lose, what is the upside of risking it?

So given all that, why am I still likely to attend?  As it happens, that shy, socially awkward teenager has, forty years later, grown up to become, well, a shy, socially awkward adult.  I am, after all, writing a blog on a Sunday afternoon, rather than hanging out with real people.  But at least it’s a shy, socially awkward adult with the highly developed and truly awesome coping skills that come with maturity.  And being more mature means knowing that you don’t have to let your memories destroy the future joy that you can experience.  Staying home is just being a slave to your past.

So I’ll be there, probably.  I shouldn’t be too hard to find.  I’ll be the guy in the corner mumbling, “Oh, joy!”

Mitch Teemley

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