For years we have welcomed interns into our home/business/life. The experience has been wonderful for us and we hope a great learning experience for the interns. We work hard during the day, and typically the evenings are filled with conversation, music and staring out over the hills and letting the mind rest. Often the interns sit outside and write letters to friends and relatives. Actual pen and paper letters.
But in the past few years this idyllic scene has changed a bit. The interns have brought with them a mental parasite; a rectangle that consumes their attention, their conversation, their ability to think clearly. The rectangle has gobbled up resources, time and joy.
As I write this, I am listening to NPR. They are telling a story of how high school kids have been asked to give up their phones for a day. Twenty-four entire hours without the rectangle. You would have thought their entire family had been killed in a plane crash or they were being asked to walk a dozen miles barefoot across broken glass.
We have tried to limit interns access to the phone here at Blue Rock Station. But like addicts everywhere, they need their fix and when unwatched, are shooting up with Facebook and Instagram. We turn off the broadband receiver – and suddenly there are errands that must be run at places with free wi-fi.
I am not sure what solution lies undiscovered. I just know this addiction to crack technology is damaging and widespread. I see students on college campuses walking in groups – but they are not together. They are each focused on their rectangle as they walk in front of cars – oblivious the the world around them and their “friends” in the “real” world.
Why wait for the zombie apocalypse? It is already here.
It’s been waaaaay tooooo long since we’ve posted something that it’s become a mind monster. What’s that? I just made it up. I think it means that the thought of updating the website gets more and more intimidating and overwhelming the longer I wait to do it. I shall slay that mind monster with an easy post about tomatoes. Many of our days at Blue Rock Station have involved picking, washing, processing, cooking, and canning tomatoes. Here is the proof.
We made sauce, salsa, tomato jam, and ketchup. The tomato jam and ketchup are life-changing. We were told it was so, we made them and tried them, and IT IS SO. If ever you find yourself with a lot of tomatoes, one day of freedom, and the desire to change for the better, make this recipe.
Blue cheese and tomato jam on a local, grass-fed, organic beef burger (thanks…
THE HAPPINESS FACTOR #3: ESTABLISH LASTING FRIENDSHIPS
All too often I meet people who have made it their sole mission in life to seek out one person who will give them indestructible happiness. This is a mission that is doomed for failure. Not only have they made an investment with impossible expectations for their significant other, but they have set themselves up to be resentful when those expectations are not met. It also creates a situation in which one will be all alone if the connection with the other ever severs. What happens if their lover dies, or they have to leave for a while, or it just doesn’t work out like it was originally planned? Happiness isn’t found in one person; it spawns from the multiple lifelong connections you have made within your world. As Aristotle once said, “in poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.”
Now, I admit that I am not the most sociable person in the world. I can even be a bit snotty about it. I only let in people who I absolutely adore, mostly because I find social interaction to be exhausting. If I get to a point in my life where I feel like I have let too many people in, or if they are hanging out with too many people I do not want to let in, I disappear. I learned quickly that people get upset if you just ignore everyone for an indeterminate amount of time, so once I got a vehicle I began finding more excusable ways of escaping. I might change jobs, transfer schools, or work as an intern in Ohio. It’s like I have this unspecified social quota that I let slowly fill up, and once it’s filled I dump everything to start again. I should probably say that I plan to work on this, but I feel like I know myself well enough at this point to know that expecting anything else would be me not respecting the way my brain is wired. Though, I suppose I will eventually need to find less drastic ways to “recharge”.
I always come back to the ones I love. I may be extremely introverted, but I am not heartless. I require their support as much as any extroverted soul. I am only less overt with my appreciation. During my stay at Blue Rock Station, I have witnessed how exponentially important friendship becomes with age. People die, careers are halted, homes are loss, children can be ungrateful, romance may fade, but true friends are always there when you need them. For this reason, one should always make room for friendships in life. They fill your days with songs of laughter and joy, whose melodies will give you comfort in times of sorrow.
I have excelled at every job I have ever had. I may not have always been the most efficient or skilled worker, but I am almost always one of the favorites. Much of my success is likely due to the fact that I smile constantly. Coincidentally, in most of the photographs from my childhood I am wearing this awkward smirk because I was never quite sure what it felt like to smile. My family would always get after me about it. “Why are you making that face? You have such a nice smile, cut it out!” In which I would further contort my face into a catawampus mess in an attempt to please them. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized smiling was more or less my default face. I am sure it has been a greater asset to me then I will ever know.
What has also been beneficial is the positive attitude I try to bring with me in everything I do. To the best of my ability, I try to match my supervisor’s sense of importance when accomplishing assigned tasks, and I set off to accomplish the tasks enthusiastically when I am asked to. I don’t do this because I want to kiss my boss’ ass; I do it because it genuinely makes my job more enjoyable. Additionally, I make a point to avoid co-workers who emit a negative aura. The complaints, the poor attitude; it is contagious, and I do not want to be miserable while I work. However, I have still never quite been able to be fully satisfied with whatever job I have held. I inevitably reach a point where I wake up each morning, sit on the edge of my bed, stare at my feet, and think, “What the hell am I doing this for?”
You see, a sense of accomplishment is important, but it will only get me halfway there. In my search for meaningful work, I lacked a sense of purpose. My personal values and morals have never been aligned with the values and morals required to do my job. It feels as if I am always forced to put on one mask at home and put on another at work. I am not merely referring to formalities, but the clear disconnection between my ideology and the goal of the companies who employed me. One can lie to themselves for a while, but their own life may eventually begin to haunt them without a connection between their work and their soul (i.e. midlife crisis). I have witnessed this firsthand, as the many male role models in my life have begun to quietly unravel from their experiences in the military.
At Blue Rock Station, sometimes the connection to my values are obvious. For instance, when I muck out the goat stalls I am not only contributing to the health of an animal that provides me with milk, cheese, and laughter; but I am also creating soil that will be used to grow food in the future. Considering that sustenance is incredibly valuable to human life, it makes standing in shit not seem like such a bad deal. More importantly, though, I want to live in a way that shows a deep appreciation for my environment. I want to minimize the negative impact I have within the scope of my world, and cultivate healthy relationships with the people around me. The people I am currently working for not only support my lifestyle goals, but push me to pursue them. This not only makes the work I do more meaningful, but it kind of makes it not feel like work. Rather, it feels more like, as Annie says, “I am just living my life.”
The life expectancy in this country is nearly 80 years old. At 24, the time I have experienced on this planet will be experienced another two to three times before I die. I do not want to spend it invested into something I hate. I am aware that this will likely make my initial journey into the workforce difficult, but it will be well worth it. Following Jay’s advice: I will find something I enjoy, and when I do not enjoy it anymore, I will find something else to do.