Posts Tagged ‘deep thoughts’

Gun Laws and Mental Health

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

With recent events, the debate on gun control has been renewed. After abortion and gay marriage, it is probably the most hotly debated topic in America today. I’ve found my thoughts on the topic in flux over the last several years and I’ve never written them down, so I think it might be time.

I grew up in a household where guns were seen as, for lack of a better word, evil. For a long time, I was not allowed to have anything that resembled a gun and it wasn’t until I got a bit older that I was reluctantly allowed to own water pistols. Granted they were all very realistic in those days, but the idea of me running around pretending to shoot others was not something my mom was a big fan of. I did not see a gun in person until I was well into my teens and I remained very intimidated by them for years after that. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that, through the friendship of several friends who grew up in the heart of Virginia, I was exposed to guns on a semi-regular basis. I still never felt the need to own one, but I’d grown into a belief that guns were not only not evil but they had a legitimate place in a sportsman’s life. I understood that with the proper amount of training and respect, they could be a safe part of any household.

For the record, I do not believe growing up in that environment was harmful. We did not grow up around wild animals, we did not need to hunt for food and we did not have to prevent the King’s men from taking our land, so we really had no occasion to use guns. It was not a naive existence, but rather a choice to not exercise our right because all of our daily, immediate needs were provided for.

Then, I bought a shotgun. I still didn’t need a gun, but there were two main reasons why I felt I should own one. First, I’d gotten to a point where I was shooting clays with friends on a semi-routine basis and, like anything, having your own equipment helps you in more ways than I care to explain here. Second, I’d realized I had a lot in common with the Libertarian Party who, as major proponents of independent freedom, heartily supported the Second Amendment. A few years later, I learned of a shotgun floating around my family that was owned by my grandfather who’d passed 20 years prior… and it blew my mind. Guns were never something “in the family” and it was amazing to learn something about a man who’d given me my last name but died long before I could really know him. Being a recent gun owner and my dad having sold his dad’s 911 (more on that in a later post), I volunteered to take it. Not only would it double the size of my collection, it would also serve as the one true item of inheritance from my grandfather. Besides, owning a 50 year old shotgun is just plain cool.

Recently, I find myself becoming increasingly interested in being armed for my own well-being. I don’t say this because I’m afraid the world is going to hell in a hand basket or I’m afraid of the gubberment taking away my guns. Rather, I believe I’ve become more aware that I am the only one responsible for the safety of myself and those I love.¬† I’m not talking carjackings, I’m talking Hurricane Katrinas. Anyone who knows me well knows I believe in being prepared. Whether it’s food, water or the supplies I need to get the heck outta town, I’m not interested in fighting the masses after the bad happens to get my needs met. Being prepared means nothing if you can’t defend against all the desperate hungry masses who were too busy watching Jersey Shore to prepare themselves. The police are too busy working for the greater good and the National Guard are too busy in Afghanistan to keep order, so I owe it to myself to be ready.

Protecting against tyranny? Maybe not. Protecting against crazy, whether random or as a result of an event? Definitely. Does that mean conceal carrying a gun into a movie theater or internet cafe? I’m not really sure, but I firmly believe in others’ rights to do so. I think a much better national discussion should be centered around truly caring about/for others and identifying how we’ve gotten to a place where someone can feel so alone, isolated and angry that they want to slaughter others. I cannot and will never condone harming innocent people, but as someone who struggled with the anger and isolation of being a divorced-parent-having latchkey kid, I wonder if there isn’t more we can do to identify and help those in need. Mental and emotional problems lying untreated deep within our seemingly “normal” fellow Americans are the culprits, not gun laws. I speak from experience (more than you probably realize) when I say having others that truly care about you.. and understanding it… is The Answer.

Six Months in Seattle

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Today marks six months since Melissa and I stepped on a plane with one way tickets to Seattle in our hands. I’d love to say it’s been a walk in the park; one that’s been full of rainbows and unicorns. Truth be told, it’s been very difficult. Make no mistake, I am so glad we made the move and I really and truly love this city in so many ways that I could not begin to explain them. It just feels so… comfortable… compared to other places I’ve lived. The hard part comes in moving to a place where you know no one and nothing.

There are really two main things worth noting.

You live really, really far away from everything you’ve ever known. The internet, especially Facebook, makes your family and friends seem closer than they really are. This is good in that you can feel like you’re still a part of everyone’s lives but it’s also bad because you can be lulled into a false sense of connectivity. When you realize that by the time you get up in the morning most people are at lunch and by the time you get into the swing of things in evening most people are thinking about bed, it reinforces that you’re on your own. Sitting on your couch reading status updates, a life does not make. That’s actually kinda ironic, since that’s what we used to do before we moved. Hmm.

You have to make a concerted effort to form a new life. I spent years being comfortable in the connections I had. You have your friends/family, you get together with your friends/family on occasion and you fill in the gaps with work and relaxing at home. When you move to somewhere completely foreign, you cannot rely on “the way you used to do things” as a future predictor of success. Regardless of how tired, uninterested or uncomfortable you are, you have to step outside your box and talk to strangers under the assumption that you’re working on making friends. Attending meetup.com events and joining bocce ball leagues with complete strangers? That was so not me five years ago.

Reading¬† the above, I can’t help but think of a friend who… I guess I can’t call a friend any more… moved to an entirely different country when young. I always had respect for the courage that took, but I have a new found respect given how trying our move has been… and we “only” moved to the other side of the country! Want to turn your entire life upside-down? Move somewhere completely foreign to you. (Or have kids?)

As long as you remember that lives are built over the course of years and that you’re doing so in a place that makes you happier, it’ll be worth it in the end. Now we’re off to celebrate by taking the bus to the Freemont Fair and Summer Solstice Parade! I hear they have naked people riding bikes there. Yay Seattle!

I Wanna Move

Friday, May 20th, 2011

I’ve arrived at a time in my life where I’m ready to move on. I’ve always wanted to be “somewhere different” and dreamed of living overseas, but I’ve finally gotten to a point where I know exactly what I’m looking for and why where we currently live isn’t it. Yes, I am quite aware of my pronoun usage and you’ll be happy to know Melissa and I (more or less) agree on all these points – I just don’t like to speak for others.¬† Here’s what I know…

I want to live within walking and biking distance to much of the things I like to do. This means walking to our favorite restaurant, being closer to central social activities, riding to the market for produce or heading down to the corner cafe on a beautiful Sunday morning for coffee. This is possible in some planned suburban communities, but the location of our current neighborhood is not one of them. We (currently) can only walk to an Exxon and biking anywhere includes a fairly perilous batch of roads that pose a true safety concern. We’ve actually taken to racking our bikes to Ashburn-proper after work, just to have somewhere decent to ride. Lame.

I want to live in a place where the great outdoors is at our fingertips. Northern Virginia is actually a fairly decent place in this respect with the mountains to the west and beaches to the east. We don’t make a good use of them, but that is partially because you have to drive 2+ hours in both directions to get to the good stuff. To do any of these things, you’re talking about a seriously long day trip or looking for cheap ways to spend the night. I’d much rather be able to enjoy hiking, biking, waterways, parks, trees and nature in my own backyard or with a short car ride.

I want to live in an area with less traffic. I don’t like having to plan my life around certain times of the day and I am most certainly not into sitting at countless lights among a mass of cars every time I want to go somewhere. I don’t mind cars on the road per se, it’s being forced to deal with the sheer volume or getting stuck behind a wall of vehicles I can’t see around that doesn’t agree with me. A lot of this can be remedied by living closer to the places I want to be, but there’s just something about traffic in this area that really gets to me.

I want to live in a climate where I enjoy the weather more than four months of the year. It’s no secret I hate humidity and while it’s true I love the winter, I don’t feel this region makes good use of it. We get a solid level of cold but much like this past winter, we often suffer through it without the pleasantness that is snow. Give me real winters with legitimate winter activities, or give me an area that’s temperate all the time and within a reasonable distance to the mountains.

I want to live in a house with an interesting floor plan and an attention to detail. Don’t get me wrong, I love our house and the home we’ve made out of it. I do, however, find myself drawn to really old places that were gutted and rebuilt or trendy (gasp!) open condos with multi-use rooms. I’ve really gotten into shows like House Hunters & House Hunters International (especially) and after seeing many of the featured places, I’ve realized a big house in the ‘burbs ain’t for me. I’d rather have less space that is highly functional instead of several rooms we heat/cool and never use. Honestly, I’d rather spend time outside enjoying people, places and things than holed up in my house. I’m pretty sure France is to blame.

(Note: I typo’d 3 of 5 paragraphs above as “I want to love…” before catching it. I suspect it was not fortuitous.)

I can hear you asking the questions now.

First, I think there was a confluence of events that led to us living in the suburbs so far from all the things we like doing. After getting married, buying a house just seemed like a natural progression. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford anything closer than Leesburg, which led to jobs in Loudoun County, which led to another house in Loudoun County. Combine this with a Chris in his 20s who was unhappy and didn’t want to do stuff; you get the perfect recipe for a homebody. Now that I’m more accepting of who I am and know what I like, I feel as though my house should be less of an excuse to keep me busy. Before, I did what I thought was expected because I had no idea what I wanted. Now, I know I want.

Second, a lot of people raise kids in smaller houses located in more urban areas. No, I’m not saying we’re going to have kids. I am saying that it would be silly to discuss our future living situation and not at least consider the possibility that we’d be raising a family at some point. I think the suburbs are the right fit for a lot of families, and we might end up there eventually should we have one, but I don’t think it’s an automatic. For the time being, and at least the first five years of any yet-to-be-planned-kid’s lives, I want my family to be city dwellers.

So what does this all mean? Absolutely nothing… until Melissa finishes grad school.