On Survival (and Getting Robbed)
July 15, 2012 1 Comment
How to Survive:
Kate (Juliette Lewis, surrounded by vampires): Seth, should I save the last bullets for us?
Seth (George Clooney, also surrounded by vampires): No, use ‘em on the next two fucks that try to bite you!
On Getting Robbed
I’ll save the suspense: my house got burglarized recently while my roommates and I were out. When I lived in Pittsburgh, my car was broken into about once a month, but this was the first time I’ve had the ol’ hearth-and-home turned over. Having your home broken into is a slightly-different experience, in terms of how invasive the whole deal is.
The first thing you always notice after a robbery is that something is amiss. I am fairly obsessive-compulsive about how I leave my room, and one thing I always do is close my bedroom door so the dog does not funk up my bed with her fur. The night the place was robbed, despite having had a few drinks it immediately registered that my bedroom door was open. Because I have a very stunted emotional range, I started getting angry, assuming my roommate or his retarded, druggie friends had been nosing around in my room.
The next thing I noticed was that the candle on my bookshelf had been blown out. I leave a small candle burning (fire hazard!) before I go out, and someone had taken the time to extinguish it. Promptly after that, it hit me that my laptop was not directly next to the candle, as I usually leave a Pandora list playing on “date nights” in case I have to hold an impromptu dance party.
My laptop was gone. It was not in my car or in the living room, it had been in my bedroom on the bookshelf playing Kill Hannah. Now it was not there.
One of my best character traits is that I do not panic in the face of overwhelming circumstances. It’s why I am going to be an excellent fire-fighter. I have to give all credit to hockey, which has conditioned my heart rate to slow down as events get more stressful. It’s the “Playmaker” gene: the ability to get better as the stakes get higher. While I am literally ready to pick a fist-fight if the dishes sit in the sink for more than 12 hours, both my disposition and my ability to think decisively improve in direct response to how trying the circumstances are.
I call down to my roommate, as my first suspicion is that his shady friends were the likely culprits. After brief discourse, it becomes obvious that the entire house was ransacked, including my roommates’ 52″ HD TV and MacBook, respectively.
Gone were my laptop, Xbox, digital camera, about $500 in cash, and a few assorted odds-and-ends; all told about $1200-$1500 in merchandise. Monetary considerations aside, my particular situation has the potential to psychologically cripple someone because of the amount of writing I had on the laptop (years’ worth, plus the books I’ve been working on), to say nothing of most of the pictures I’ve taken since college. If I didn’t have my head screwed on so straight, this whole deal might be devastating.
Fortunately for me, I am an expert in Loss. As I said, my car would get tossed once a month when I was living in the ghetto of Mount Washington, and this is not the first time I’ve had a laptop’s worth of written material taken away. The best advice I can give someone about living is to keep Life running in one direction: Forward. Regret, Monday-morning Quarter-backing, and second-guessing are counter-productive at best and detrimental at worst. Even if you live Life in abject paranoia and try to steel yourself for every conceivable body-blow Life can deliver you, some things simply cannot be prevented. You can fight to find someone to blame, or you can accept that you could not have prevented a well-timed home break-in.
As you may know, I am an irritatingly-relentless Optimist, and I see absolutely no value in dwelling on the loss of material goods that are no longer in my possession. If you had asked me one day prior what the one loss I would have trouble dealing with would be, I would have said my laptop. As you know, I write a lot, and as I said in addition to the Blog I had large chunks of multiple books stored on the laptop. In theory, the loss of the laptop and its contents would have been devastating. Guess what? It happened, and I am still here.
(Note: everyone asks, “why didn’t you back everything up?” Answer: I did. On a USB that was plugged into the Xbox 360 that was also taken from my locked home. Like I said, you can try to prepare for every worst-case scenario, but sometimes the hurricane is headed directly toward your house. Some things you simply cannot anticipate on a reasonable level.)
Presenting the irritating optimism, here is the Good News:
1) The thieves did not see fit to carry away my rank hockey equipment. That saved me at least $1500 in cost of replacement. The sun will still rise, and I will still get to get slashed and tripped by extremely-feisty female hockey players on Wednesday night. This is huge.
2) Yes, I lost completed portions of some of the books I have been working on, but they were basically 1st/2nd drafts that would have been EDITED and revised multiple times before seeing print. Thankfully, I have the bones of the books up here in the ol’ Concussion-Vault, and I can make an effort to get them back onto digital print before the dementia fully takes over and I start acting like this guy. In a fucked-up sort of way, this is actually an incentive to get these books written before I either forget them or another abysmal pseudo-porn hits the shelves and captivates millions of women in my stead.
3) The dog was unharmed. I like my roommate about as much as most people like black licorice, but the dog has grown on me. I do want to take this opportunity to thank her for being such a menacing guard dog and for chasing away the thieves before they got 8+ years of my personal life. Guess it was a good thing I did not follow through and delete my Facebook account, or I would have zero photos of my epic 20s.
4) Thankfully I was not at home; had I been, right now I would be in jail for killing one or more thieves with my sword. I have not been in a very forgiving mood recently, and I think if I walked downstairs to find someone unhooking my Xbox, I would have beaten him within an inch of his life.
In keeping with this optimistic and pragmatic way of thinking, here were the steps I personally took to temper the sting of the robbery:
1) I need a laptop, as I communicate with my clients and employers on a multiple-times per day basis. Checking one out from the public library or using the internet at Kinko’s, while effective in a pinch, are not realistic long-term solutions. Alas, I had very recently paid out $1800 in car repair (see The Walking Dead Diet) as well as my monthly expenses. On top of that, as noted above my cash nest-egg was taken. At the time of the robbery, I was not “liquid”, as they say.
This does not change the fact that for professional purposes, I need a laptop. Rather than wrapping myself in a pink quilt and crying myself to sleep, I carefully weighed my options before realizing my most valuable remaining asset was the HD television the thieves had neglected to take from the living room. I guess one TV was enough for them.
After much finagling and multiple trips, I managed to return the TV to Best Buy in exchange for a new laptop. While this is not a fun way to spend a day, for the reasons described above it was a necessary recourse. The lesson you can take away from this is that you likely have many more resources at your disposal than I had a day after the break-in, and that sulking over the losses does nothing to mitigate them. Be creative and find a way to deal with losses. Acceptance and Solutions, rather than Despair and Problems, are the terms you need to come to grips with and remember during times of duress.
2) Making the best of a Bad Situation (a discipline I am getting my Doctorate in, with a minor in Seduction), using my new laptop I went through my “Sent” e-mails for scraps of the books I had been writing and exercise programs I had sent out. While these excerpts from the books were rough drafts that I had given to select friends for content review, having them was still better than not having them. I was suddenly no longer starting from complete scratch. Ditto for the exercise programs; at least now I had some of the dozens of academic papers I had written over the last few years.
3) Addressing the Xbox situation, I am not a big “gamer” by any means. I use the Xbox 360 for two purposes: one, to watch Netflix, and two, to play NHL ’12 and thus gain better insight into hockey. Seriously, I use it more like a simulator than a video game, and damned if my understanding of positioning and systems play has not improved tenfold.
(Note: I am obsessed – obsessed – with hockey, if that is not evident. I think about it like Batman thinks about ridding the streets of Gotham of crime. I think about it while I am working and while I am having sex <start at the 03:30 mark>. It inspires me to buy $300 video-game systems and plan both my work and social schedules around ice-time availability. I strongly suspect my love of hockey will continue to repay me as it has to date, with character traits such as confidence, fearlessness, and poise, in addition to physical traits like stamina and strength. To cite one example, Hockey has given me the tools necessary to handle a burglary with the calm of someone picking out wall-paper at Home Depot. I cannot say enough positive things about the sport.)
While I do not need to replace the Xbox as quickly as I did the laptop, it would be nice to have. A cursory check at Game Stop (a video game re-sale store) tells me that I can get another console for $120. That sets the base price. A second check on Craigslist.org shows that I can probably replace the console for as low as $60, if I choose to go that route. This is far better than the $300 cost I was anticipating.
While I had NHL ’12 in the Xbox (of course), I happen to have NHL ’11 in my bedroom closet with the rest of my DVDs. Problem solved. NHL ’11 will more than tide me over until NHL ’13 is released in two months or so. In the mean time, I can spending my leisure time focusing more on work and writing, which is never a bad investment in my estimation. I will re-buy a TV after I replace the Xbox, which I can now do at pretty much any time I choose.
4) The loss of my digital camera, while unfortunate, is an opportunity for me to join the 21st Century. I use a rather antiquated cell phone, mainly because I have had zero incentive to upgrade. A routine call to Verizon turned up the fact that I am long-overdue for a phone upgrade, and of course all these new Jetsons phones have cameras on them. Kicking and screaming, I am about to be dragged into the modern technological era because I would like to have a camera to take compromising photos of my lady friends and I (or at least to replace the ones I had on my digital camera – you know, the sort that violate Facebook’s Content restrictions).
As for the cash, as my friend John Twaddle likes to say, BAD BEATS. I do not have renter’s insurance, and both my landlord and the housing development I belong to have thrown their collective hands up in the air over the incident. Thankfully, a cash loss has one Solution: Get Back to Work. Shake Your Tail-Feather. Move Forward and do not cry over spilled milk. Do not dwell on what you would have spent the money on, and do not sulk – it is undignified. Invest the emotional energy you would have spent fuming over the losses on drumming up new business or otherwise making more money, and before you know it will be like the theft never happened.
At some point, everyone gets robbed. If it has not happened to you, I assure you it will. While it is unlikely you will be able to control the circumstances of the robbery, you can control how you respond to it. You can mope and pout all you want, but that is not going to bring your stuff back. Taking a breath, and showing a modicum of poise in dealing with something like this, is a major character-builder, to say nothing of how attractive and bad-ass it makes you look to the opposite sex.
A Closing Word On Survival
(Note: that is not Blake Schaub, but it should be)
“…Life for you, (who we are) has been less than kind
So take a number, (who we are) stand in line
We’ve all been sorry, (who we are) we’ve all been hurt
But how we survive, (who we are) is what makes us who we are…”
As I have come to understand it, Survival is based upon accepting loss and moving forward. I think this article demonstrates and reinforces those concepts, and there is plenty more I have to say about Survival at a later date. For now, the lesson is that Life is going to take nicks out of you at one point or another, and some of those nicks are going to be harder to take than others. However, as I alluded to above, the sun will still rise in the morning, and unfortunately you will probably have to go to work without much time for sympathy from the cold, cruel world.
The ability to Survive and to adapt is a skill more people could stand to learn. While I am not wishing bad things on anyone (except maybe the douche who ran off with my laptop), I do think that valuable lessons and character-strengthening can be derived from incidents like a home burglary. Most people will be stronger for having undergone experiences like this, which ultimately makes for a stronger, tougher, and better person.
Unlike my rapidly-improving dancing skills, it is not easy to convey excellent survival-skills when you first meet someone. The intangible traits I listed above, such as calm-under-pressure and poise, do not translate as easily to the Saturday-Night bar crowd as the ability to do the Robot. But Survival Skills, and the ability to deal with external stress, are highly-desirable traits, and something anyone worth their salt would want in a partner or a spouse.
NBA Player Kobe Bryant has a quote I really like: “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.” This is an attitude I have long adopted, but I really like the way Kobe put it.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but I really like to see what I am made of. The challenges Life is certain to pose, and the ability to cope with them, to me is what separates a worthwhile person from a worthless one. As you are sure to encounter your fair-share of emotional and financial problems, I encourage you to see them as an opportunity to both grow and succeed. While this may come as poor consolation to someone who has recently experienced a loss (especially the loss of a loved one), my experience has been that facing, accepting, and dealing with Loss, rather than being consumed by it, is the only action a Survivor will take.