Making Myself Useful


Image courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

This is the fourth time I’ve tried to write this blog post. I had a couple of ideas for topics, mostly centering on this John Green video about becoming an adult, but they all wound up mopey and self-absorbed and awful. They did not begin to approach the level of fun of, say, my piece on bears on leashes.

Basically, I am aware that being 22 sucks for a lot of people, but that does not make it less terrible for me, right at this moment. I feel like I’ve screwed something up by being in Atlanta rather than New York or LA or Tanzania, and even though I know that nothing about this is permanent, and that my life is likely to change more than I can possible imagine in the next 10 (or even five) years, there is a giant gulf between what I know objectively to be true and what keeps me up at night feeling somewhat adrift.

However, it is also totally possible to autopilot my weird bout of self-loathing and sadness–that’s part of what makes it so boring to read about. I am able to realize that I’ll probably feel that way no matter what I do, so it is easy for me to rationalize getting back out in the world to make myself useful. To that end, I went out to volunteer over the weekend.

I’m glad I did, because you know who’s super-nice, particularly after you’ve spent most of your weekend talking to no one but your cat and immediate family? Volunteers.

They are the actual nicest. Rather than being frustrated with me for not knowing what I was doing, every single person who was working with me over the evening thanked me for coming out, helped guide me through what I was supposed to be doing, and then made perfectly nice smalltalk about how I wound up volunteering there. It was really pleasant to be surrounded by kind people who were also not talking about tech support.

Plus there was free beer and cupcakes, which is not a bad volunteer perk.

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Meeting John Green

A few nights ago, my sister and I attended the Atlanta portion of the 2012 Tour de Nerdfighting. For those not in the know, this was a promotional event put on by John Green as part of his promotional tour for The Fault in Our Stars. In addition to the book reading and after-speech signing that is sort of standard at these events, this particular presentation included sock puppets, Hank Green (John’s brother) singing a song about quarks, and an 876-person audience getting rickrolled by two guys from the internet.

John Green talked to my sister about the Mountain Goats, though she thought he was talking to her about mountain goats.

It was pretty cool.

I enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, which is a well-done book that manages to combine very sad things with very funny things in a way that is neither callous nor overly-emotional. It’s about two kids, ages 16 and 17, falling in love for the first time after meeting in a support group held in the Literal Heart of Jesus. Both of them have cancer. They’re also really funny, in a way that only literary teens can be. They’re also empathetic and selfish and worried about their parents in the way that actual teens are. You should read the book, if you haven’t.

Though I found some of my fellow book event attendees a trifle overenthusiastic (which, given that they’re in the intended age range for young adult fiction and I am not probably just means that I am crotchety and old now), everyone there seemed like good people. I don’t think I was that friendly and open and enthusiastically weird at 15, and so it’s cool to see people who are. Young adult book events are like incredibly friendly concerts. They’re their own little fandom community come to meat space.

I find the Green brothers interesting on a professional level, as they have managed to both create successful careers with multiple income streams facilitated by the internet. But on a more personal level, they seem like good people. I like that good people exist in any space, and I am even happier that they can sell out an auditorium so that it is full of enthusiastic, weird, friendly people who like what they’re saying. It’s a good sign.