Thursday, November 19, 2015

New Look, This is Legit

After years on my humble little blogger platform, it is now time to make things look a little more legit. Yeah, I'm super cereal now guys. This is not just going to be a blog. This is going to be a website in earnest.

 Actually, I just got tired of how I couldn't really get my logo on the other page. It looked kinda beat and I got irritated and finally said, fuckit, let's do this thing. This change was more for me, but I figured you would benefit from it too because it would be easier on the eyes.

The old blog and posts will be up at this address indefinitely, so you can read it all anytime you want.

 The new site can be found officially at jamescantus.com

Friday, October 23, 2015

why don't you just........

Everyone is guilty of placing judgment on others.  EVERYONE.  Don't lie, you know that you have placed judgment on someone at least once this week, whether it be a person you know, or even a celebrity you have never met.

I don't think people mean badly by it, for the most part. As I try to process my own past ways of thinking, I realize that one of many possible reasons for passing judgment is that it is a coping mechanism.

To take a moment at all to judge is to take a moment to imply that we care at all in either direction.

To judge is our means of rationalizing the world around us to fit our own personal agendas about how things should be and what we view as perfection for ourselves and those whom we surround ourselves and care about.

One way that I think many of us, including myself, judge others, is when they make decisions that we do not understand. Decisions that worry us because we perceive that they have a high risk of a negative outcome.

"Why didn't they just do ...... instead?"

I have recently found myself on the receiving end of this judgment for the choices that I have made to improve my life.

Life is messy.  We make the best choices we can using the information that we have. Often, all we can do is hope for the best possible outcome.  We make plans, but the world is full of chaos and plans don't always go as intended, even with the best of intentions.

Specific tidbits of judgment came to light today.

It came as no surprise. In fact, I had been waiting for it.  Wondering how it had taken so long for it  to show up.  How long people were probably whispering behind my back. I was curious about the half-informed recommendation for how I could have/should have created a "better" outcome. Curious about the uninformed assumption that was likely to follow. I shouldn't have cared, but I did, just a little.

I waited for it.  The judgment came in the form of a "should have." One that actually had crossed my mind as an option. An option that had terrible alternative outcomes if things went awry, even far less favorable than the current unintended scenario.

The judgment, however, came from a good place.  But, had the decision been made on my behalf, it would have been ill-informed at best and downright reckless at worst.  I entertained the thought and took it as what it was--a misguided display of solidarity in the midst of an outcome that disrupted their sensibilities.

"No. That would have never worked."  "You don't even know the half of it."

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cravings

I used to be terrified of sushi.

The idea of consuming raw fish inspired the most intense fear in me.  I recall my 8th grade teacher telling us about someone who got an intestinal tapeworm from eating it and at that point I said NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE. NOPE.

Flash forward to high school. I slowly warmed up to the idea of California rolls. California rolls consisted of "imitation king crab" and since that wasn't real crab, there was no way I could get tapeworms from eating it. As it turns out, this California roll stuff was a gateway drug. Eventually, I lost my fear of the real thing and I became a sushi addict.

The one thing that I didn't lose my fear of was the price. I went through the last decade feeling extremely guilty every time I bought sushi, and mostly anything else, for that matter. Sushi was so good, but it was so costly. On my salary, or lack thereof at points, I shouldn't have been indulging. But sometimes, I just needed a taste.

During the same time that I evolved from a sushi-fearing child into a raw-fish-addicted-barbarian, I also evolved from a high school kid with a weekend job, to the purveyor of the Natty Light Lifestyle, and finally to a non-purveyor of that lifestyle who still drinks the shit because I got so used to it and don't like anything "better."

My cravings for sushi have become insatiable. As insatiable as my ambition for success and any other thing that I decide I want. But the difference is that I finally have worked myself to a point where I can satisfy that craving without guilt. For the first time in my life, I can eat sushi every day if I wanted to, without hesitation. I realize it is impractical to actually do this, lest I want to develop some strange form of malnutrition resulting from a lack of diversity in my diet (think about that headline: Woman hospitalized after eating sushi every day for 5 years).

But now that I have gained the ability to buy all the sushi I want, I have gained a new craving to reach goals, which has also become insatiable. The freedom I crave involves a level of risk perhaps a little higher even than the Russian Roulette that is eating sushi and not getting a tapeworm. It involves the chance, that if things don't go according to my plans, that I might go for a little while, or maybe a long while, where I will not be able to buy sushi anymore, without the return of the intense feelings of guilt over spending any money at all. It may seem small to someone who doesn't understand how far I have come, but to risk giving up one milestone to reach another is a tough trade-off.

Cravings. It is a strange thing to go from fearing something entirely, with every fiber of your being, to craving it with the same level of intensity.

It is an even stranger thing when you have to give up one former fear turned craving to give way to another.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Too Good To Quit

The first real time I voluntarily just quit something was when I quit water polo.  It was my senior year of high school. I was suffering from back problems and needed to take a few extra days to recover.  I explained the situation to my coach and she told me that if I missed another day of practice, that I was off the team.  She had acted as though I were just ditching practice to make out with the whole football team under the bleachers like Kelly Bundy or something, but the reality was that I cared about my health more than I cared to play polo on a team that clearly didn't value my well-being. I calmly told the coach that I understood.  I walked off the deck. I never returned. Folks were mystified as to what happened.  My good friend tried her hardest to convince me to return "You're too good to quit." People expected me back for my last swim season, too, but I never set foot on that pool deck again in high school. Looking back, I guess I was good. But my health came first.  The coach knew full well what she had said to me, but it was better for her to stay silent and save face.

In the end, all that remains of this is the story. I have been back in the pool since, I'm still a beast but it doesn't matter. My friend was right, I was too good to quit, but I did it anyway. The world is still turning.

The next quitting incident occurred when I quit singing for a hot minute. I brought up the notion of quitting to my choir director in college, a professor who was not exactly generous with giving compliments for any old reason, and he had a knee jerk reaction that I remember clearly.  I said to him that I was looking for a group to sing with after graduation, but that I wasn't sure where to go or if I should even continue at all - we both knew that my voice had deteriorated from stress, overuse, and singing notes that are too low even for most men to sing. He looked up at me, shook his head and said, "You're too good to quit."

Ultimately, I quit, but it didn't last.  It wasn't long before an opportunity presented itself to jam. Shortly after, someone else asked me to join a new group they had just started. Apparently, I really was too good to quit because this twenty-something year-old grandpa got brought back from early retirement.

Today, I was at work. I was teaching a class. It's funny, I do not like teaching classes because it takes a lot of energy out of me and I get too invested. But I have been told that I do it well. I was trying to reassure the student, who had said that they viewed the technology that we were learning as "legendary" and described how cool yet intimidating they thought it was. I told them that it was true that there was a lot to learn which is what makes it harder, but that once you get used to how things are supposed to look and get used to going through the steps, it becomes easier over time, as most things do. As I answered more of the student's questions, I accidentally broke the 4th wall and I said that I sometimes thought about leaving the field.  

"Why?" the student asked me. "You're too good to quit." 

I paused for a moment. I recalled every other time I had heard anyone say that to me and I laughed.

"That's just it. It's why I haven't left yet."
 


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

F%# the Haters: No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

That's how the quote supposedly goes.  It is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but this is actually just the Reader's Digest version.  The full quote implies that no one can make you feel inferior if you already believe yourself to be superior, or if people believe that you are immune to their attempts at putting you down.

Some folks will try very hard to make you feel bad if they want to gain power over you for whatever reason.   Those same people might even try to make you look bad if they start realizing that their attempts to make you feel like crap aren't actually working.

Does what they think matter?

No.

If there is someone out there bringing you down, remember that it most likely isn't a result of anything that you did.  In the end, it says more about them than it does about you. If you truly are being targeted by a bully, it is likely because they are already insecure and the only way that they can control the situation is by putting you down.

"Why would they be jealous of little ol' me?" you say.  

Fine.  If you're asking that, maybe they're not jealous.  Maybe it goes beyond just boiling down to insecurity and jealousy and actually vaporizes into a rotten fart.  Yes, I'm going there.  When in doubt, fart jokes are always there for us. Whoever is being an asshole to you, trying to make you feel all shitty (pun intended) about yourself is probably a stale, rotten fart and a meanie. Is that better?

Anyway, if haters are getting you down in life...

NOPE---STOP.  Fuck the haters! ...actually, don't.  They're probably terrible.  Soon enough, word will get out that they have STDs and they won't be able to fuck with anyone else.

But really, jokes aside, we're all too classy for this fuckery: haters won't get us down because we will not allow them a place in our lives or take them seriously.  Stay strong.

*Post is a shoutout to a pal who was targeted by an intense fb hater the other day.


Monday, September 14, 2015

F@$# the haters: I'm Not For Everyone

Some things are an acquired taste.  Keeping the company of some people can be an acquired taste, too.

I suspect that we all can find ourselves to be an acquired taste to other folks at some point or another.
Here's the thing.  We need to all learn to be okay with the fact that not everyone is going to like us everywhere we go.  Just as there have been numerous folks who I have encountered who have "rubbed me the wrong way" so to speak, I am sure that there are other folks who have felt the same way about me.

As I approach the upcoming week, I realize that I may enter into some uncomfortable scenarios.  They say that learning new things should make you uncomfortable.  But so does standing up for your ability to learn and standing up for what you know to be true. I refuse to tone down my personality, specifically the part of me that asks questions in order to understand and make sense of the world around me, that appreciates knowing the theory behind how things work before going and just doing them, and that doesn't easily accept answers that evoke memories of the perennial parental favorite "because I said so."  It would be scarier if I were a sheeperson who accepted everything blindly at face value, but I suspect that many establishments do not prefer that.

Someone once tried to tell me after a particularly bad breakup: "You'll never find anyone else.  No one else could stand you and how you are." Don't worry, reader pals, I didn't take it to heart and have since found a someone who can "stand me" (LOL). But I would be lying if I said that the comment didn't hurt at first. I was younger and slightly more naive - it was a hurtful thing to hear from a human who at one point claimed to have loved you. It was a personal assault on the very human desire to love and be loved in return and intended to make me feel as though I were unlovable.  Ultimately, however, this was just one person's opinion. Aside from this blog post, I had not given this incident much thought in many many years, as the inner conflict it sparked has since been resolved. The only bearing that it has had on my life is that it has served as a lesson on how to avoid insecure people who use negativity to regain control of their reality.

If being as I am is a problem, and it gets me into uncomfortable scenarios, or opens me up to haters, then so be it.  I am as I am, and I am not for everyone.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Full Circle

On the about me page of this blog, I give everyone my name and the fact that I thoroughly enjoy telling people that I'm a scientist.

If you don't know me IRL, then you might have thought that I was being facetious - that I was as much a scientist as Dr. Tran is a real doctor. The truth is that I do in fact work in a lab as my day job (despite having an MBA). How did that happen?

Sometime my junior year of college, while shit was getting too real, it became very obvious that I had gotten off the medical school track and that I would have to find a regular research job or something at all (it was the height of the recession when I graduated college, so I couldn't be choosy). I continued to tread water, despite how horrifically my personal life had fallen to pieces at that time (which was a bit over 7 years ago now), signing up and passing classes as best I could a few at a time until I got to the end.

I tried to pick classes that sounded interesting. Classes that would not be so easy that they were a waste of time, and not so hard that they would also be a waste of time. It was what was supposed to be the next to last quarter of my senior year and among the classes with cool descriptions that I chose to take was a Virology class.

Virology is the study of viruses, for those of you who may not know what that is. Examples of viruses include, Epstein-Barr (the mono), Herpes Simplex (the herp), HPV (warts), and Influenza (the flu).

During one of the lectures, the professor brought in a colleague to discuss some relevant topics in more depth. The colleague came in with a technician. This technician happened to be my benchmate in an Organic Chem II lab that we had taken together almost two years prior. I remembered him well because he always used to ask me for help with his setups. When there wasn't enough working DI water or if I knew that helping would significantly delay my ability to leave, I would sometimes jerry-rig his setups to mine so that we could share the DI water and get out on time.

It was nice seeing him and I asked him about his job.  He said that he was really happy at the institution he was working for and encouraged me to apply to find a job there too.  So, when it came time to go all out with my job search, I looked at that institution and found the job that I would stay at for 5-1/2 years.

Flash forward to the last few weeks of my time in that position.  I had gotten to a point where I had designed a training program for a newer machine in the lab.  Guess who happened to be a student in the last class I ever taught?

My virology professor. 

When I went to visit my old job last week, I caught up with many of the folks in my old lab, which was really nice. It was funny, during that visit I ended up seeing way more people than I had expected, even one who had left the lab and was returning to do work relevant to her study. On my way out of the building, I passed the security desk, and as I opened the door to exit the glass foyer of the building, guess who I saw?  My virology prof AND the technician. At that point, it was time to tell them the story about how I ended up in that job, and the role that they had in my career.  It was as good a time as any.

Things had come full circle.