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Posted by gustav at 08:01AM, Saturday, December 01st, 2001

Having a Happy Life

I always wonder whether there are people who are capable of just viciously rearranging everything in their lives until they're perfect.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit, as it's become clear that my workplace will never improve enough to be bearable. This might be a blessing if I could use it as a reason to work up the willpower to change everything in my life.

You see, the idea behind me going into programming, after I decided to leave it behind to go to graduate school in music, was that I could find a decent job where I'd happily plug away, making lots of money with little stress, work perhaps three or four days a week, and be able to come home, leave work behind, and compose. It's a proposition that sounds reasonable enough until you actually start to try it. Then you realize that it's one thing to work full-time while you're in grad school, and have professors demanding projects, and deadlines, and various other motivation to get off your butt and work; it's quite another to completely self-motivate the personal side of your life, when all you want to do when you get home from work is go get some food, run some errands at Target, play with the cat, listen to that new record -- basically anything but devote total concentration to sitting down at a keyboard with a sheet of staff paper in front of you.

On top of that, I'm finding it takes more time than I would have thought just to do the normal maintenance of what's called a Life -- things like going to the grocery store and the drug store seem to take inordinate amounts of time here in blessed New England. Actually, they take more than just time; I've been feeling that they take years off my life, draining my energy to do anything, vicious little vampires just sucking up everything. It's not that these things were totally painless when I was living Out West, but, Jesus. What is it with this part of the country? Why does no one in Boston revolt because life is so painful and unrewarding? It's not just the weather. It's the stony, unhelpful, unfriendly people. There are so many of them now that new immigrants to this area might try for a while to remain cheerful and pleasant and polite, but sooner or later just get dragged down to everyone else's level. And, in contrast to the stereotypes you might hear from New England natives, I haven't found that they're unapproachable at first, but deeply moral, loving, strong folk underneath, in contrast to the superficial airiness of Californians. They're just prickly and unfriendly at all levels, fickle in friendship and as apt to stab you in the back without any prior indication as anyone. What I wouldn't give for some pleasantly laid-back California friends out here these days.

Strangely, I have no reason to be surprised by this. I grew up out here, and experienced almost exactly the same futile attempts to make meaningful friendships with shallow, insecure, backstabbing, homophobic creeps that I'm going through now. I wrote that time of my life off as a bad college choice, but it's becoming clear now that it really is just the nature of New England.

The question then is why do people put up with it? Why isn't everyone making plans to move back to sunny San Diego or San Francisco or Napa or the Valley or Portland Oregon or Vancouver? If New England is this unpleasant, and practically unchangeable (since even people who arrive intending to remain happy get smashed down to rudeness in a matter of months), why doesn't everyone evacuate to somewhere with contagious pleasantness? It's not because New England is some super-cultured mecca. That's a misconception usually held only by sheltered people who've never actually seen any other part of the country, and are weak-minded enough to be persuaded that New York is a pleasant place. Culture in New England is much like anything else here -- outdated, self-limiting, constrained, super-breeder, caught up in conceited notions of propriety and establishment, and, underneath it all, not even the equal of supposedly hick states like Iowa or Arizona.

On the other hand, I'm glad that there aren't too many people abandoning this hell-hole for California. Better real estate prices for me, and more steals on yard-sale Hermann Miller. Maybe I'll really be able to set up a nice house, have a yard in which to play with the cats, and time and money to stay home and do music again.

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