I indulged in ugly behavior yesterday. I’ve spent some time sorting out why and here’s what I came up with:
I believe that when people disagree about things they care about, any ensuing argument is only “won” if two conditions are met:
Each party contributes meaningfully to the others’ understanding (though they need not always fully agree).
Through the process of arguing, their relationship is strengthened rather than harmed.
This can be devilishly tricky to achieve, even face-to-face with your closest friends and companions. It takes a balance of confidence, humility, and respect, and maintaining all three is like spinning plates, especially when emotions are raw.
So what happened when I argued something I cared about over the internet with a stranger?
Without feeling responsible for maintaining a relationship, I let my victory condition change to “force a concession to my point of view.” I should have known the very best I could hope for was a pyrrhic victory. I didn’t even achieve that. I behaved badly in public to no good end.
As many of you know, public shame isn’t much of a deterrent for me. I do, however, bristle at failing to live up to my values. I don’t argue with strangers. I’m not sure why I did it yesterday- jet lag, maybe? Loneliness? Disorientation? In any case, I regret that I did.
EDIT: deleted a sentence that didn’t make any sense. I’m not getting enough sleep.
These things occurred to me while flying through the air:
Useless Non-Update: airplane food is still unappetizing and hard to swallow. American Airlines prizes canned mushrooms above all other ingredients.
Still… we had 7 suitcases, a stroller, a car seat, a cat, two kids and about 5 carry-ons. Despite that American Airlines and the customs and security people at each airport jumped through hoops to get us onto our planes on time. The trip only hurt half as much as planned. Our kids were paragons of cooperation, too. I was stunned.
Homeland Americans are weird. I’ve lived in England long enough to be surprised by some things non-expat Americans do. These are not value judgments, just observed behaviors. Judge for yourself whether they are virtues or flaws.
They talk to strangers without invitation. Except for at the bar in a pub, this does not happen in London without drawing alarmed glances.
…and not just about the weather. Personal questions and revelations abound. I’ve had friends overseas for three years without knowing how many siblings they have. This is something I can expect to learn within a half hour of talking to a fellow American. A relationship in England is typically bound within a specific context, and very rarely strays from it. I’m not used to Fred Myers employees asking me what I’m majoring in within two minutes of meeting me.
…loudly. I caught myself wincing a few times in the checkout line at Heathrow.
…about money. I overheard an American mention (loudly to a stranger) that she had just spent an “obscene” £85 each on William and Katherine commemorative couch pillows. I thought, if it’s obscene, why do you discuss it in public? I’m moving from a place where bar patrons offer the bartender a beer instead of tipping to avoid exposing the commerce driving their relationship. Some people subconsciously avoid even using the word “bought.” I have to adjust to how readily incomes and costs and so forth spring from peoples lips over here.
As with any generalizations, they don’t perfectly apply to everyone. These are just things I noticed about the way some people act on either side of the pond.
I’ve been around 30 years - every single one of them safe and well-fed. Reflecting on people’s lifestyles and longevity over humankind’s tenure on earth, I conclude that I’ve already lived longer and happier than anyone should ever expect. I find this calming. It grants a sort of existential courage and peace of mind.
I just finished my last day at the office. As it happens, I’m last out today. I’ll do a final walk-through, turn off the lights, and lock the door. When I walk away I’m going to imagine a camera shot lingering for a few minutes on the empty space before an executive producer credit pops up on the screen. You know, the same credit that appears at the end of every sit-com episode, but you never think twice about it until the series finale. Then it’s suddenly swelling with meaning and emotion because it means the end of something you’ve gotten used to (even if it was just mediocre like Two-and-a-Half Men).
I might pause and wonder who gets the executive producer credit for my last ten years. Then I’ll tell myself to quit being such a drama queen and go home and have a beer with my wife.
I didn’t have a clear idea what to do with this blog before. Now, I’m getting ready to move home from overseas and change careers at 30 years old. That seems worth writing about.
Right now I’m scrambling to tie up loose ends before we fly away from London forever. Like everything else I do, there’s paperwork. I’m used to filling in forms, but this is a bit much even for me.
I keep dwelling on things I enjoyed about London and things I meant to see but missed. Life’s 10,000 daily annoyances fade to the background. I sigh a lot and gaze out of windows.
I also browse course catalogs for school, the second most exciting aspect of moving home. I’m about to go back full-time and finish a degree. What degree? It depends if I like Intro to Programming and Pre-Calc. Probably Sociology.
Next: 16-hour journey with two kids and a cat (8 suitcases!).