I want to know who the person was who thought “tell about your most embarrassing moment” was an appropriate team building exercise. Can we collectively re-evaluate this decision? First, how do I comb through the hall of stored cringey memories and choose the worst one? There isn’t a Dewey Decimal system for this shit. I don’t rank them as they happen and put them in their corresponding aisles – I’m too busy tormenting myself with the agony of the residual discomfort (which, when possible, I make worse than the actual moment). We don’t need to go opening up old perseverations or revealing how small and ordinary something can be for me to find it embarrassing. Ain’t nobody got time to explain how a look, a pause, or a suggestion can still be classified as an emotionally scarring experience. Mark this as the beginning of the movement to never ask this question.
But while we’re here and I brought it up, you better believe I’m going to drag you through one with me. Gird your anxious loins.
I have One Friend at work – we started at the same time and she’s just like me except in outspoken extrovert form. So really she’s nothing like me but we’re both in the LGBT group and she’s the only person I regularly talk to. She actually participates in the wider work community though and she planned an event for National Coming Out Day - pub trivia - an event that combines absolutely all of my weaknesses. As Kaitlyn aptly asked, “Why did you sign up for it? You don’t know anything.” We’ll look past the insult to my total intelligence and look at the kernel of truth she intended – I know absolutely no trivia.
You know how Tig Notaro has that show Under a Rock where she doesn’t know celebrities? That’s me, except with trivia. While my brain is on constant analysis of the world and society and psychology and the meaning of life, I’m terrible with facts. I can rock the hell out of an existential crisis but ask me to play Trivial Pursuit and it all falls apart. I use Google purely to learn how to do things, not to learn more information about random stuff. I perpetually gloss over all things history and don’t really have any sense of exactly when things happened in time. The amount of trivia I can spout off can be counted on one hand. At one point, Kaitlyn paused one of our conversations to ask, “You do know basic biology, right?” That’s the aura of knowledge I exude into the world. While with other things in life you can fake it ‘til you make it, trivia is something you either know or you don’t. Either that or you have enough other trivia knowledge to be able to make some kind of reasonable guess.
So why the hell did I put myself in this situation? 1) I can’t not support One Friend and 2) the prizes were gift cards to the company swag store.
I’ve never gotten over my love of free swag. In college I realized, “I’ll do anything for a free t-shirt,” which is as desperate as it sounds but at a school like BYU means wild things like participating in the world’s largest water balloon fight. What I should’ve said is, “It takes a free t-shirt to get me to do any social activity.” Fast forward 15 years and this is an area of immaturity I haven’t outgrown.
It’s enough to get me to commit. One Friend was obviously busy hosting this event so I signed up as a solo player to get randomly matched with another team. I figured anyone who signed up would have stronger trivia skills – surely there were enough people to compensate for my lack of knowledge and could carry us on the road to victory. That or there had to be participation prizes, right?
The announcement for the event had the note that even though it was for National Coming Out day, it’d be general trivia, as could be found in the regular Trivial Pursuit categories. I spent two hours before the virtual event frantically googling sample trivia questions, hoping to somehow compensate for 30 years of lack of knowledge in 120 minutes. 95% of the questions I read I didn’t know the answer to, nor did I recognize the names or have any place to file away dates and numbers in my mind to possibly retrieve them later. I knew my efforts were futile but I hoped there would happen to be a couple questions I knew the answer to. Okay, one. I just wanted to know the answer to one question.
The way virtual trivia works is the whole group starts off in the main Zoom room where the host reads the question and then you’re broken off into breakout rooms for 5 minutes to discuss and submit your answers. To start, we all joined our rooms to practice the setup just to make sure we were all in the right place. Teams had been divided out evenly, but it turns out two of the people in my group didn’t show up (50% of my safety net!). If there's a singular moment where I knew without a doubt this whole thing was a grave mistake, this is the one. There were only two others, and one about as soft spoken as me. What’s worse is that they were both part of my larger team – in that terrible spot of not being comfortable around them but still definitely going to be interacting with them fairly regularly in the future. Immediately I felt the gravity of my mistake and more than a dozen times considered the option of just flat out leaving the call with no explanation.
We started into the quiz questions and it was exactly what I had expected . . . and yet so much worse. I knew 2% of the questions but it turns out they were all LGBTQIA+ related. So I guess the posting was accurate in that it wasn’t exclusively about “coming out” but I felt so deceived. Never once in my googling had I added LGBT to the search. Again, I feel like this perfectly summarizes my trivia prowess.
What’s probably the worst part is that I was the token gay in my group. I was the sole community representative, these are MY PEOPLE, and I still tanked. It was also kind of this unspoken thing that I should be the one to carry the team. Even in the best of circumstances I can’t handle that kind of pressure.
It was an hour and a half of repeated acknowledgement that I know nothing mingled with the incredibly awkward small talk that surrounds making blatant guesses in the dark. I really hate not knowing things and looking like a fool and it was exactly that. Let me repeat. . .for 90 minutes.
“What kind of questions did they ask?” Kaitlyn asked when she got home after I had already sent her a slew of in-the-moment-panic-texts. By that point I had already blocked most of them out – the details are irrelevant – but here’s a few just to give you the flavor.
Label each of the twelve LGBTQIA+ flags – I knew 3 and couldn’t even muster all 12 possible options. 0/9 for my guesses.
Where was the first pride parade? My coworker got it (New York) after correcting me that it was definitely NOT San Francisco and I was dumb for thinking it possibly could be (emphasis hers, insult mine). 0/21
When did the APA remove homosexuality as a disorder? The one I most confidently (and pessimistically) incorrectly guessed was the oldest date, 2001. We had even moved to multiple choice at this point. 0/45
Identify the artist and song based on 5 second song clips (I got the only one that had the song title as the opening lyrics). 1/89
The only questions I confidently got correct were about Ellen DeGeneres and David Rose in Schitt’s Creek. Feels on brand.
Needless to say, our team came in last, scoring little more than half of the points of the winning team. And no, there were no participation or worst scoring team prizes. All I walked away with was another cringey memory to add to the embarrassment pile and hours of residual social anxiety (including all that came back in writing this). No wonder I don’t have any mental space for trivia. This library’s already full.
I’ve vacillated between selling my car immediately and keeping it until I run it into the ground approximately 500 times in the past couple years. It’s a 2004 Chevrolet Aveo I bought in 2013 with 7,400 miles from a 92-year-old couple who I can only assume drove it to the grocery store and back. I got it for $4,800 which, at the time felt like over extravagance. I was in grad school, living primarily on student loans supplemented by a very part-time job. But I needed a car for school so I could get to my practicum schools and eventual internship. You might interject here and say, “well, you didn’t need one. Buses exist.” But believe me when I tell you I have a longstanding history of getting lost on public transportation. If I wanted to have any semblance of dependability at my schools, this was a need.
It's a weird looking car – a sky blue hatchback that looks like a European minivan shrunk in the wash. It never felt incredibly safe, more like a glorified go-kart, but it ended up being a pretty reliable, economic car. And with the mileage being so low, I had the advantage of having any problems well documented on car forums, making preemptive repairs or instructions for DIY work that much easier. But in the past couple years I’ve gotten tired of trying to figure out repairs, needing to shout over the road noise on the freeway, and bracing myself for potholes thanks to the worn-out original shocks. Also, my father-in-law was selling his plug-in hybrid so opportunity was knocking.
So in December I took the plunge. Kaitlyn is our resident salesperson because when I see garbage she sees $150 on Facebook Marketplace. I arbitrarily thought my car was worth about $800 (it’s a gut thing) and would’ve felt great with $1,000. But she researched (including Kelley Blue Book!) and to my shocked and sheepish dismay, she posted it for $3,200.
Our friends are going to see this. They’re going to take one look and immediately judge us for how much we think it’s worth.
Well that may have happened (we can only assume the worst) but it certainly wasn’t the universal response. Kaitlyn posted the car one evening and messages came POURING in. One awkward test drive and 24 hours later and Little Blue had a new owner.
It was exciting and a relief. But even still, I don’t like change in any form. I suddenly had a rekindling attachment and a surge of doubts. It’s frivolous. It’s been like an anti-lemon. What a noble little car! I’m clearly making a huge financial mistake.
My new car is great, said mostly with confidence but also a hint of self-reassurance. It has state of the art features like automatic locks and windows and a rear trunk deeper than a Costco box of protein shakes. Bluetooth! Heated seats! But with all change comes a certain amount of skepticism. And I’ve traded an 18-year-old car for a 10-year-old car so it doesn’t mean it’s free of problems. Granted, right now they’re less “problems” and more “making the car suitable for Kim.” Like, the passenger door had a creak that only took one time for me to open to know I couldn’t abide. It needed immediate attention.
I attempted WD40 first which helped 0%. So I turned to the internet where posters on Chevrolet forums told me it was the door check (the part of the door hinge that keeps the door from opening up too wide) and the new part was $25. Two YouTube videos later and I was 80% confident I could do it. It was enough to buy the part and give it a go.
I’m motivated enough by wanting to save money and also filled with an endless belief in “how hard can it be?” that I regularly embark on DIY projects with nothing but a YouTube video. I’d say I’m successful about 2/3 of the time. And I always seem to follow the same cycle: Confidence, What was that step again?, Profanity, What have I done?, and then sometimes to the glorious Breakthrough and Success. And it’s not necessarily linear – sometimes the inner three steps get stuck in what feels like a never-ending loop.
“Okay, but if you know that’s the cycle, why do you keep taking on these projects?” Answer: Frustration Amnesia, or the blurring, shrinking, or downright forgetting of the fateful time between Confidence and Success. Time to amnesia is directly proportional to the length of frustration cycle - the longer the frustration, the longer the recovery - but once it sets in, I'm good to go!
My only hang up with this one particular repair was that it required taking off the interior door panel which I did with a repair on the Aveo. While I had been successful, it ended up needing to be redone by a professional only a couple months later so the bill really cut into the amnesia effect. But, I reasoned, it was at a time in my life when I was still gathering tools (I had hammered on the back of an IKEA bookshelf with a dumbbell) so I made the level of difficulty harder than it needed to be. This time will be totally different, I concluded.
The YouTube videos averaged about 5 minutes so naturally it took me an hour. The more significant statistic though is that it took a mere 30 minutes to get from Profanity to “Well that wasn’t so bad”, which honestly is record speed. The sweet relief of a silent door opening really helped move things along.
So yes! I’m ready for the next thing!
And for now, that next thing is trying to figure out the solution to my blinker problem. For those of you who don’t have a constant barrage of sensory sensitivities, this probably won’t make sense, but I’ll do my best to explain it anyway. I’m talking about the turn signal indicator, the blinker lever, that thing that's on the left side of the steering wheel column. The blinker lever functionally works exactly as it should – it moves up and down, turns on the blinker, and turns the headlights off and on. For most people it’s totally regular and not at all noteworthy. For me, though. . . many a late night has been spent researching how to change it. See, it just takes a little too much pressure to move up and down. Like, you press down and you think you should’ve moved it but it takes one more effort to get to the abrupt, unsatisfying, clunk. What’s more, the end of the lever isn’t rounded enough to feel…I don’t know…ergonomic? Not that the pinky really takes a beating when pushing down the turn signal but there’s just something about it that’s off for me. It’s noticeable. As in, every time I use it, I think about it. And we use blinkers a lot, y’all.
“Why don’t you replace it with an aftermarket blinker?” offered Kaitlyn, who just so happens to own a car with the perfect blinker lever (why are these things wasted on the unappreciative?!).
“If you can believe it,” I said, “There isn’t a thriving market of people looking for a different Chevrolet blinker design. I’ve checked.”
And really, I hate to say it friends, but that one’s on you.
I’m addicted to solitaire. Yes, as in the computer gaming smash hit that I’ll forever associate with my grandparents and a beige Windows PC circa 1994. Except unlike a PC, it’s a decision, not a default, to put solitaire on your phone. There was a day (admittedly one I don’t precisely remember) where I thought, “You know what I’m missing in my life? What my phone really needs?” and then actively followed through. If I only I'd known how much time it would mysteriously absorb.
Let's be real, solitaire isn’t the most thrilling of games. It’s the same cards, same objective, same level of difficulty. I’m sure the app developers recognized that, so they manufactured complexity by building in “levels” based solely on quantity of games played. And unlike the 90s variety, the app doesn’t ask you if you’d like to play again; they adopted the Netflix mindset to start the next thing 5 seconds before the first thing is actually over.
I say all this to try to justify why I sometimes get lost in playing. There’s something about simplicity that’s kind of nice – black on red, red on black, sorting and organizing in chronological order. It’s the perfect amount of cognitive load - minimal enough to multi-task yet just enough to keep an illusion of intellectual stimulation. I mean, you can have success in 3 minutes or less and the cards throw a party when you win! No one’s doing that in real life. And the brain doesn’t seem to discriminate between Video Game Wins and Real-Life Wins - either way you get a boost of dopamine and feel like you’ve done something meaningful. Why would I ever do the dishes when I can sit on the couch and also feel success?
Oh but let's not forget what time of year it is - the magical month of January. The time of year that marks the beginning of a new me, a TRANSFORMED me, a non-lazy-willing-to-sacrifice-and-be-uncomfortable me. January 1st is the day I change out one calendar with another and am filled with the motivation to forever more be my best self.
It's true, though, that January is a character-defining month, but it's less about the goals you make and more about your response to the concept of goals in general. January is when we start drawing lines in the sand and sort ourselves into one of four categories: those who make New Year’s resolutions, those who loudly refuse to make resolutions like goals are an assault on humanity, those who collectively groan but half-heartedly commit to change, and those who solely invest energy in trying to come up a unique quip about how goals will be broken in two weeks. I think I’m somewhere in the third camp, unable to help myself from making goals but also an established record of accomplishing only a few.
I was listening to Glennon Doyle’s podcast We Can Do Hard Things and she put it the best of any Resolution Commentator. Instead of setting goals, she simply asked, “What’s some old shit you’re considering letting go of and what’s some new shit that you’re considering trying?”
She lured me in with the word consider. That’s the level of commitment I can get behind. Thinking about change – the Video Game Win of behavioral psychology.
We’ll start with the obligatory consideration we all believe I need to make: just delete the app, yo. There. Verbalized and immediately placed on the Maybe Later But Probably Never shelf because *plot twist* this isn’t actually about solitaire.
Where my mind went next feels a lot more meaningful but also infinitely harder. It diverges from my typical goals where I can easily track success and wanders into the realm of shifting paradigms. Really, it’s just a bunch of questions I rarely make space for.
What if, and stay with me here, I embrace mediocrity? Like, full on just said, "Yes! You're performing mildly okay! Great job!" What if I just accepted the could-be-better and the half-effort? Or, what if I acknowledge that .1% is greater than 0% and, this last part is revolutionary, actually let that apply to me?
See, I have this ongoing struggle with setting unrealistic expectations and then stopping before I start so I don’t embarrass myself with the work in progress. Productivity paralysis is made even worse by society’s constant escalation of success. Don’t even show up unless you have some dramatic before and after pics. That video? Not worth uploading unless it’ll make you a national treasure. And fall in line behind the independently wealthy with ten streams of passive income. There's success and then there's internet-inflated success. Keep up.
But what if I just let the result go? The amount of weight lost, the job title, the number of books read -- what if just the doing is enough instead? This is somehow starting to feel like a Dr. Seuss poem but let me tell you, the idea itself is freeing. It’s surprisingly (dare I say?) motivating. Most of all, it feels like a relief.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn't some magically defining moment – that To Do list of expectations is still prominently on my desk and I’m still, you know, me. I don’t suddenly look at all my shortcomings with grace, applaud every effort, or feel proud of just showing up. And a part of me that I don’t really want to acknowledge just looks at the thought experiment as a means to an end rather than the end itself. You know, the old bait-and-switch from “just do anything” to “it must be absolutely perfect".
For now, though, I’m going to choose to lean into the semantics of the goal – just “consider”. Outside of writing this post, I’m guessing that lasted a solid 15 minutes which is at least 5 sacrificed games of solitaire so I’d say I totally nailed it. And that means I already have my first 2023 Real Life Win. Cue the flying cards.