25 things I’ve done that weren’t smart at the time and aren’t smart in hindsight

1. I was very into Trivia Crack, that iPhone game in which you impress friends with your pretentiousness. It was great. I loved Trivia Crack. I won around 80-85 percent of my Trivia Crack contests, did you know that, it’s very impressive and it’s actually my biggest achievement.

There was a girl I knew in Warwick, before I left for a different high school, who was essentially Jane Gallagher to me1. In my senior year, despite not speaking to “Jane Gallagher” for three years, I saw her name as a suggestion on Trivia Crack.

Jane was perfectly average at Trivia Crack, but she was unfortunately playing the great Trivia Crack overachiever of the modern era. We never talked, never acknowledged anything from the past, never said anything. We just played around eight games of Trivia Crack. I finished a game, and she would propose another one. The games brought me a sense of peace. Then, one day, she stopped playing. Soon enough, everyone had stopped playing Trivia Crack.

I always regret winning seven of the eight Trivia Crack games we played. Perhaps if I stopped my brain for five seconds and let her win, we’d have played for longer. Alternatively, she just deleted the app and decided to never play me again.

2. Marilynn went to middle school with me and she was standing around on the rocks in Bowdoin Park. She gave me a hug, for some reason, even though I didn’t want to give her a hug and I was busy searching for my teammates circling around the stupidly large hill at Bowdoin, you know, the one that almost every Section I runner from Westchester has either seen or raced. I once collected the school notebooks from everyone in my middle school in order to never buy a notebook again. I still use them in college, those notebooks I collected in eighth grade. I usually don’t read through the notebooks, but Marilynn included a “books I need to read list” on page one. Lord of the RingsDuneHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, all books I had read, all books I could’ve loaned her, all books for bonding. The stupid part was reading the damn list and realizing that we could’ve been…something or other, but no. Still took the hug.

She ended up dating this rather nerdy runner throughout high school, I’m not bitter or owned, I’m not bitter or owned, I’m not bitter or owned.

3. The great theme of this article will be reading things I should not have read. Deep down, I wish to know everything, but I would like it to be delivered in a Charles Xavier-esque mind control session in which I understand everyone’s hopes, thoughts and desires all at once. The second-best option is to peak over shoulders while people tap away on smartphones. It works for me. You can gain more information in three seconds of privacy violation than in 20 years of reporting and talking. This is just a general note of this bad thing I’ve done, which stretches into the entirety of my 21st-century existence.

4. Most of the romantic tension in my life has been extremely mundane. I pretend to be rational and functional, so most conversations are conducted in a “proper” sense. To be passionate, in a way, is to betray the fake identity I project onto the world. This may be a grander problem, but it certainly ruins the atmosphere.

5. Trawling around Fanfiction.net as a bored 15-year-old, I once searched for the large subset of Pok√©mon-related smut stories. That’s all.

6. The last time I cried over a sporting event was a random R.A. Dickey start against the Yankees during his Cy Young-winning season in 2012. It was a random Sunday Night Baseball game during the Subway Series. Sabathia was pitching against him. Dickey got shelled that day, and I took it personally. For me, that game meant everything. It was the downtrodden underdogs getting their one shot at glory, only for the damn Yankees to take it away. It was my dream for life in macrocosm, a baseball game that sustained me, the tortured underdog, a chance at glory, a chance, brought forth by a strange but brilliant knuckleball.

7. Spending the first…I don’t know, 16 years identifying as the “underdog” in my personal life narratives was not smart, in hindsight. For one, I’m not the underdog and will never be the underdog in anything, having gone to the best schools and having enough money to buy new running shoes every three months or so. To be the underdog in something, I would have to, you know, have been blocked from something through circumstances out of my control. This is actually the complete opposite of what has happened. Most of the tests I’ve failed, girls I wistfully liked and disadvantages I’ve had to overcome are entirely self-inflicted. There is no aspect of society’s superstructure that has forced me to be impossibly moody, a habitual procrastinator, and bad at emotional confrontations. I’m no underdog. I’m no R.A.

8. Receiving bad advice is an exceedingly rare occurrence. How much bad advice, [sic], bad advice do people even get? There are mountains of bad suggestions, but when you legitimately ask someone for help and guidance, you are far more likely to get vague platitudes and general suggestions that aren’t bad. Thus, the vast majority of life advice I’ve received in my life is good and decent. Thanks parents, grandparents, friends and extended family. I’ve also ignored almost all of your advice in the last 17 years, starting from when my parents told me to watch television screen straight-on rather than at an angle.

9. I really empathized with the lyrics of Funeral by Arcade Fire. Maybe it was because my grandfather was in the hospital post-heart surgery and the lyrics are about losing family members, or maybe it’s the general angst of late high school, late capitalism, late text messages and late pizza deliveries, but I really thought Funeral spoke to me at age 17, sitting in my bedroom hoping for the problems to just go away. But my grandfather survived the heart aneurysm and then another heart surgery the year after that, which automatically made the Funeral part of the album irrelevant. I also didn’t have any parents from Haiti, or people whose names I would carve across my eyelids.

10. Actually, that was a lie, of course there are names I would carve across my eyelids while simultaneously trying to block out of my memory forever. Haha.

11. I mean, carving someone’s name across your eyelids (a reference to “Crown of Love” from that album, which earned a 9.7 on Pitchfork upon release, which is how you know I care about it) wouldn’t be that bad. You could only use a small knife anyway, and no one ever sees your eyelids unless you’re asleep or intentionally shutting your eyes from viewing past loves while simultaneously hoping for solace. It’s grand. Just grand. I once punched a wall in anguish and bruised my hand for two weeks. Compare that to carving a name across my eyelids using nano-technology. Can’t be worse than a tattoo of someone’s name.

12. Every fraternity party I’ve ever attended falls under this list. Fraternity parties are tremendously bad, objectively bad, and something you grow out of after about 20 minutes, unless you are Greek, in which case…

I don’t want to rip on Greek life because, honestly, find me someone there who is less-adjusted than me…waiting…nope…yeah. I’m sure they’re out there, but they’re not blogging about it on Forget the Protocol.

13. I also used to identify with Ender from Ender’s Game when I was younger. Ender, the tormented, misunderstood genius misused by adults, has been the scion of insecure young adults for two generations now. Everyone wants to be Ender. Everyone wants to be unique and tactically brilliant and rational. Let’s be real though, I’m not Ender Wiggin, the calculating genius who just needs friends. I’m Bonzo. I’m the bully who thinks he’s all that, is mildly talented, and simply gets through things because he’s insanely prideful, jealous and a tiny bit mental. Okay, so I’m not a bully because I have no muscle mass, but Bonzo has a level of underachievement and arrogance that I can get behind, especially spending the last six years of my life shuttled between places where high achievers dominated proceedings.

There’s that whole “little fish, big pond” idea, and I think Bonzo was just a little fish in a big pond. He got overpromoted and then everyone realized, shit, maybe this guy is just a crazy Spanish dude and he shouldn’t be in charge. It’s not just that Bonzo expects to be the best. Bonzo arrogantly tries to the best even when he knows he’s fucking up constantly. Then, he violently defends himself from any criticism and gets totally paranoid when people aren’t doing what he says. I’m not that bad, I think to myself, often, but then I look at the orange clementine stains on my fridge.

There are an awful lot of Bonzos in the world, and not too many Ender Wiggins.

14. Every year, I think I know what love is supposed to be. I think I understand what drove my parents together, what drives that couple that dates from 9th grade onward into eternity, The Notebook, etc. Every year, I’m not only wrong, but I’m catastrophically wrong.

15. In fifth grade, I thought love was like the relationships within the novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I read the Children’s Illustrated Classics version of this novel over the summer. I basically thought love essentially boiled down to what Laurie searches for in the book–finding someone to make up for and manage your stupidity, like managing a garden, or something. This was actually, possibly, the best of my explanations! And maybe, I thought, at the time, the girl who played the cell–

16. In sixth grade, I thought that love was about mutual admiration. Mutual admiration, rather than pity, and an equitable distribution of words, ideas and beliefs. People who disagreed or argued weren’t actually in love. There was a sense of always being nice to the person, always understanding, and any deviation from this could not be anything.

17. In seventh grade, I became very cynical, and thought love was merely the brain wrapping biological desires for reproduction. There was nothing “good” about it. It was all nonsense, perpetuated by a society trying to sell you things. I also set an all-time high in getting kicked out of class.

18. The rest of the years have varied between a definition of love found in Edge of Seventeen, a movie with Hailee Steinfeld released this year, in which Steinfeld’s character rejects what high school tells her and eventually decides to hang out with her Korean best friend and support him (I am not owned, I say), some philosophical justification for Snape/Lily (facepalms), and the healthy relationships I observe on a daily basis.

19. For some reason, I never think anyone is paying attention to detail. This is complete bullshit. Everyone, tacitly, pays some attention to detail. And yet, I have a perpetual belief that all my ideas and bank statements and Internet histories are secret to everyone.

20. One time, I was stuck in Tarrytown without any running shoes and I decided to do a long run in old spikes. For those who don’t know, spikes are racing shoes. You are not supposed to do long runs in flimsy track spikes because they have no support and depth. I ran it anyway.

21. I threw a clementine at my refrigerator yesterday and the orange fruit stains won’t come out of the door. I did this because of a post on social media, but really I did this because of my neverending fear that happiness will elude me for eternity. This is a normal occurrence (the neverending fear part, not the clementine) and I’m certain that my eternal fear of future unhappiness is the largest contributor to my present unhappiness. This is also somewhat critical to my work ethic, so I let it slide.

22. For a bit, I truly believed that I had won a free cruise. During a trip to Florida, my sister told me to drop my name and address into a free cruise sweepstakes box. I won. Everyone, presumably, won. The cruise was a scam and actually did cost money, but for a few seconds I allowed myself to believe something.

You can trick people in a much more effective manner through mail than by email. The spam filters that exist on email do not exist, and if I saw a free cruise award drawing to give my address online, I would block that shit before you could say “Nigerian prince”. However, letters lie. I’m not accustomed to this sort of thing, being a millennial, as I take almost all written correspondence with a seriousness reserved for smooth jazz concerts and reruns of Lost.

23. The American youth tennis system remains permanently against the one-handed backhand. I do not understand this. When I was young and in tennis camp, my instructors would ban me from ever hitting a one-handed backhand. This is, of course, ludicrous. I would’ve enjoyed tennis much more if they let me hit with a one-handed backhand. Every two-handed backhand I hit would skip off my racket and fall into the net.

24. There are moments in my life when I’ve just been a giant troll on the Internet. In elementary school, my friends made a website on freewebs.com to interact and post things. However, I decided to destroy the website. I created a fake account called “Spammer101” and sent around 1,000 messages to our “chatpage” and all the comment sections to ruin it for everyone. The website was unusable within a few days. Actually, my best friend in elementary school created this website, and we no longer talk.

Obviously, the idea of creating a website to talk about life took root in my brain.

25. Every moment that I spent on Instagram is a waste of brainpower. The site pains me. Every single photo I see of people having fun or living lives to their fullest pains me. Every damn columnist over 30 ranting about “millennials” has spoken about how Instagram is a complete lie. But that’s false. Instagram is not a complete lie. There are people who have amazing lives and post about themselves frequently. They have manicured captions and “finstas” and filters that can provide ersatz photographic talent. Instagram is the truest version of what we value in society. We value our significant others, our physical appearance, the wealth we generate and spend, and, maybe, the natural world that we observe.

Of course Instagram isn’t a real impression of what someone’s life is. It isn’t even a representation of what a person wants to be. It is a reflection of the conversation between the subconscious and conscious minds. The subconscious provides what the person truly values. The conscious mind posts it on Instagram. If Instagram is totally false, why are there real-life moments in which we say, “this should be Instagrammable”? If Instagram is fake, everything should be manufactured.

So then, if Instagram is not in a permanent state of fraud, why do I think it’s a waste of time? Well, at some point, there are things that you don’t want to know. There are subconscious beliefs and undertones within people that I simply do not care about. Not all memories deserve photographs2. Instagram belongs in your mind. They are your memories. I have enough things to worry about.

Footnotes

  1. Look, before you groan about my Catcher in the Rye reference, no, I don’t think Holden Caufield is totally me. I’m not 14. Here are some Holden Caufield takes: I don’t understand the people who hate Holden Caufield. Sure, he’s a whiny bitch and doesn’t deserve what he has, but then again who does? I respect the book for its honesty.
  2. Just like how not all books deserve movies (@EndersGame)

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