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I Paid Off My Student Loans, But I Still Support Student Loan Forgiveness

After I graduated high school, I was a mess. I was not yet equipped to charge into the adult world and start a career. I didn’t even know what the hell I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know where to begin.

That’s why I went to college. I didn’t go there thinking I would find all the answers, but it felt like the best decision for me at the time. In hindsight, that feeling was spot on. I really blossomed in college. I learned more my first year than I did in my past four years of high school. It’s there where I made new connections, developed my sub-par social skills, and started building my future.

For me, college was incredibly beneficial. At the same time, it was expensive. Even though my parents had saved up some money, I still had to take out loans in order to attend. I also had to work a summer job in order to help pay for it. Even after I graduated, I still had a sizable debt to pay off. I won’t say how large it was. I’ll just say I had to live at home for a while.

Eventually, I worked long enough and hard enough to pay it all off. Around 80 percent of my paycheck went just to paying down that debt. I didn’t have much money for anything else, but I sacrificed and my parents helped me every step of the way. By the time I moved out of my parent’s house, I was completely debt free.

I understand that makes me more than an exception to the ongoing student loan debt crisis. Some might say it makes me a freak, paying off my entire student debt before I was 26. I don’t deny my situation was unique and not everyone could’ve done what I did.

I personally know some people who attended college for the same years as I did, but graduated with way more debt. One girl in particular had over $100,000 in debt by the time she graduated, but it wasn’t because she was irresponsible. Unlike me, she had no major parental support. She was also going to med school, which is very expensive.

That kind of debt isn’t just big. It’s crippling. I can seriously impact your mental well-being. That’s not a trivial amount for college. That’s a goddamn mortgage for some people.

On top of that, we expect these kids to just start their lives and become productive members of society when they graduate? We expect them to do what their parents did, getting married and having kids despite the limitations of this debt and the cost of living going up?

Regardless of your politics or party affiliations, I ask you honestly. Is that reasonable?

I say it isn’t. In lieu of recent economic trends, I’d say it’s downright absurd. If that weren’t bad enough, there are still a bunch of older, less indebted people whining about how young people are too lazy and entitled. That is not a healthy dynamic.

That’s why I am totally in favor of large-scale student debt forgiveness.

I know that’s a politically charged statement these days. The idea of the government just canceling or forgiving a certain amount of student loan debt has become a legitimate political issue in recent years. Chances are, it will get worse.

Even with the recent global pandemic, the debt levels are increasing. As of this writing, the average loan debt per student is $37,500. That’s more than what I had and that’s from someone who had support from his family. I can’t even imagine how much harder it would be for those who come from poverty.

It’s not like canceling the debt would be that difficult. It might even be possible to do so by executive order. With a stroke of a pen, this financial burden could be lifted for millions of students.

Now, some might say that’s not fair to those who worked hard and paid off their debt. To that, I call bullshit. We’re not talking about forgiving the debt incurred from people who bought too many Beanie Babies in the late 90s. We’re talking about an entire generation who is trying to better themselves by going to college and getting an education.

Why not support them?

Why not make it just a little bit easier for them?

Would there still be a cost and consequence to canceling so much debt? Yes, of course it would. There’s always a larger impact to consider. I still believe the benefits outweigh the cost.

If ever there was a time to give a large swath of indebted students relief, it’s this. We’re coming out of the worst pandemic in over a century. We’re dealing with record levels of income inequality and a job market that is becoming increasingly limited. Doing nothing in a situation like this can be just as damaging as doing something wrong. I’m not a student anymore and I have no student loan debt, but I remember how relieved I was the day I paid it off. If we can share that feeling with millions of students in need of help, I say it’s worth doing.

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The COVID-19 Pandemic: One Year Later

At this time last year, the world was a very different place. There’s a running joke that people now refer to this as “the before times,” but in retrospect, it’s no laughing matter. The world, as we knew it, before the COVID-19 pandemic might as well have been a different universe. Honestly, I look back at those times with mixed emotions now.

Back then, we could go to a crowded movie theater and not feel unsafe.

Back then, we could go to a restaurant without a mask and not feel at risk.

Back then, we could go to a concert or sporting event and enjoy being surrounded by thousands of cheering fans.

Back then, we could decide to travel on a whim, going wherever we pleased without concern about what was closed or cancelled.

I long for those times, as well. I miss them as much as everyone else. Even with all the encouraging news about vaccines and improved treatment, the world is a long way from returning to those fanciful times. Some wonder if we’ll ever go back. I hope we do, but I don’t want to dwell too much on that.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because, here in America, we’re nearing the one-year mark for one things really went south. The COVID-19 pandemic may have begun in late 2019, but the world didn’t really start feeling the effects until February 2020. That’s when the news started to get scary and dire. That’s also when things started shutting down, from major sports to major events.

However, it really didn’t sink in until March 2020. That’s when it became painfully clear. This was not going away quickly. This was not some storm that would pass. It was not going to go away after a few weeks, despite what some claimed. It was when the harsh reality sank in. The pandemic was here and our lives were never going to be the same.

I remember where I was at this time last year. I was having coffee with my mother on a Sunday morning. She too had been watching the news. We were both concerned, but didn’t know just how bad it was going to get. On that same day, I started getting notices from friends and family. The next day, the state made it official.

Everything was being locked down. Schools were closing. Movie theaters were closing. Everything that wasn’t essential was being locked down. People had to either start teleworking or lose their jobs completely. Nobody could travel outside their state. Some states even began stopping people with out-of-state plates from entering. It was that serious.

It happened so fast. In just a few days, the world as we knew it shut down. We didn’t know how long it would last. We didn’t know how bad it was going to get, but it got pretty damn bad.

To date, over 2.5 million people have died from this pandemic. Millions more have been sickened and left to suffer. Numbers like that are impossible to wrap your head around. This pandemic crossed borders, cultures, and classes of all kinds. It didn’t matter what you believed in or who you voted for. You were still vulnerable.

It’s hard to overstate how much this pandemic has changed our world in the past year, so I’m not going to try. I don’t doubt that it will have a major place in future history books. It will also be a traumatic moment in our collective memories.

Regardless of your age or background, you’ve felt the effects of this pandemic. This past year has seared itself in your memory for all the wrong reasons. We’re at a point where we can barely remember what the world was like before all this happened. It’s a painful reality, but one we cannot and should not ignore.

I’ll definitely remember this past year. No matter how long I live, I suspect I’ll feel the effects of this year until my dying days. I don’t claim to know what will happen in years to come or how much the world will change from here on out. I just know that, one year ago, the world as I knew it changed forever.

We all took it for granted. We can look back on it fondly, but let’s not dwell on it too much. We can’t change the past. We can only effect the present.

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Remembering (And Learning From) My First Date

man-woman-first-date-smiling

We all remember our first crush.

We all remember our first kiss.

We all remember the first person we ever fell in love with.

These are pivotal moments in our lives. They help form the core of our romantic identity. Who we are and how we go about loving others starts with those moments. Ideally, we get better at them over time, as do our lovers. They aren’t always great. Sometimes, they’re terribly awkward. I admit I’ve had a few. As awkward as they were, I learned from them.

With that in mind, I’d like to get a little personal again. I know it’s been a while since I shared a little anecdote from my life. I’ve told stories about my sub-par flirting skills. I’ve also recounted stories that definitively prove how awesome my mom is. I like to think these are stories people can relate to and learn from. I hope this one is similar.

This personal story is about the first date I ever went on. It’s another one of those pivotal moments, but one that tends to be more mixed. Sometimes, a first date is a prelude to an epic love story that culminates in two people getting married, having kids, and building a life together. It can also be an unmitigated disaster. You don’t have to look far to find stories like that.

For the most part, first dates tend to be a mixed bag. They can either be utterly forgettable or a moment you treasure for the rest of your life. The story of my first date lies somewhere in the middle. I hope my now ex-girlfriend feels the same way because it was her first date too. She and I were both young, romantically inexperienced, and socially awkward. In a sense, our date was destined to be mixed.

That didn’t make it any less meaningful. In fact, it gave us an experience to build from, one that would serve us well throughout our relationship and even after we broke up.

It started out simple. I planned to take her to a restaurant at a nearby mall. She loved seafood and this was one of my favorite places. It was also the first date in which my parents let me borrow the car. It was exciting, but still nerve-racking. I saw it as a critical first step in our relationship. I wanted it to be part of a real love story for us. It didn’t play out like I’d planned, but it was still a story.

Before we even got to our destination, there was a setback. While driving to the mall, I take a wrong turn and end up in some office park across the street. Keep in mind, I knew this area well. I’d been going to this mall since I was a kid. Now, here I was, getting lost in familiar territory with a girl I’m trying to impress. It was not a good start.

Much to my ex-girlfriend’s credit, she didn’t make a big deal out of it. She even thought it was funny. I doubt she knew how much I was panicking. I remember gripping the steering wheel so hard, wanting this to be a dream I woke up from before going on the real date. I still put on a smile and tried to make small talk. I’m pretty sure I started talking about comics.

Despite that setback, we made it to the mall. We then make our way to the restaurant without incident. I’m still recovering. I’m also being extra-vigilant. I’m holding her hand, smiling at her, and staying close like a respectable man should. All the while, I’m trying hide how nervous I am. I know she was nervous too, but she wasn’t the one who got lost less than five miles from his house.

Things finally settle once we’re at the restaurant. It’s not an overly fancy place, but it’s no fast food joint either. It’s a place with waiters, menus, and a cocktail list. At the time, we’re both poor college students so this is a nice change of pace for us both. I tell her it’s okay to splurge a little. My parents even gave me some money. We certainly made the most of it.

It’s here where the most memorable part of the date played out. At first, I struggle to keep a conversation going. I’m still socially awkward. I met this girl on the internet. I’m used to having time to think my responses through before answering. It’s not an easy transition. However, after we ordered, something amazing happened.

We started really connecting.

I know it sounds corny. It may even sound mundane because it was a date. Connecting is kind of the point. However, keep in mind that this is my first date and she is my first girlfriend. I’m in uncharted territory. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do. I’m just talking to this girl, trying to come off as the kind of guy she wants to be with.

Despite that inexperience, I managed to build that connection. We started talking about school. She started talking about her family. I started talking about movies, comics, and books I’ve read. At some point, I stop worrying about keeping the conversation going. I just talk to her like the person I’ve come to know from our interactions online. She really is that same person and that just endeared her to me even more.

The rest of the dinner goes great. I do recall eating a little too quickly and sloppily, but that didn’t matter. She ate the same way. I saw it as a sign. She also cursed a lot more than I did. She wasn’t big on making things too formal. She wasn’t trashy or anything like that, but she wasn’t the kind of person who censored herself. That ended up helping me navigate the night.

After we eat, we just walk around the mall together. I feel more relaxed. She’s more relaxed, as well. At some point, it doesn’t even feel like a date. We’re just hanging out, doing the kinds of things we like to do by ourselves. This time, we have someone to share it with. That, more than anything, is what made that date feel special.

It wasn’t a chore or some elaborate ritual. We were a young couple with a blossoming romance. We wanted to get to know each other and have a little fun. That’s exactly what we did. I learned a lot from that first date, both about the girl I was dating and the dating process, in general. If there are any lessons I hope to impart from that experience, it’s this.

A first date doesn’t have to go perfectly in order to be successful.

It can start off badly. It can even have a few setbacks. You can still make it work. You can even learn more from those setbacks than you would have, if everything had gone according to plan. I had a plan for that first date. That plan collapsed within five minutes of leaving my place. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing. It forced me to get back to basics on why I wanted to date this girl in the first place.

Even though that relationship didn’t work out, that first date set a good tone for us both. We were together for a good nine months after that. In that time, we had a lot of fun. We shared a lot of great moments, some of which I’ve recounted. There’s a lot I learned about myself during that relationship. It marked a major turning point in my social life.

Before that first date, I was still the same socially awkward mess I was in high school. I used to even joke about how pathetic I was because I’d never been on a date. Now, I couldn’t make that joke anymore. I also couldn’t say I was as socially awkward anymore. I’d gone on a successful date. You can’t make that claim without having some social skills.

That should give hope to anyone out there who feels like they don’t have good social skills, either. I’ve been there. I know how hard it can be to develop those skills, especially when it comes to dating. It is possible, though. I’m living proof of that. You just can’t stop yourself from trying. You can’t make excuses, either.

Those moments that I mentioned earlier are powerful and precious. After a year like 2020, you tend to appreciate them even more. Moreover, you can’t just wait for them to happen. You have to pursue them. It took me way too long to do so, but I did it. I encourage everyone else out there to do so as well. Hopefully, your first date goes even better than mine.

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Sir Reddit: Stories Of When Sleeping Naked Backfires

As someone who has been sleeping naked since college, I am a strong advocate for the practice. If you haven’t tried it yet, even in the middle of winter, I highly recommend it. You may be surprised by how great it feels.

That said, there are some potential drawbacks and I’m not talking about general health. Sometimes, the simple act of sleeping in the buff goes wrong. It’s usually situational and it’s usually due to forces beyond anyone’s control. When it happens, it’s still mortifying at best.

I’ve been lucky enough to have not experienced that situation yet, but not everyone has been that lucky. Below is a video inspired by a Reddit post of people sharing their stories about when sleeping naked backfired, courtesy of the SirReddit YouTube Channel.

I wanted to share it, just to help balance out my vocal advocacy of sleeping naked. I still recommend it, but these are just some of the situations that can result from doing so. Enjoy!

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Some (Cringy) Thanksgiving Incidents To Get You Through Thanksgiving 2020

Let’s not lie to ourselves. Thanksgiving is going to be very different this year. Pretty much everything has had to be different this year, thanks to a once-in-a-century pandemic. There’s just no way around it. All we can do is adapt and endure.

For some, that means Thanksgiving is not going to be quite as festive. If you enjoy large family gatherings, hanging out near malls for Black Friday sales, or traveling extensively to meet up with relatives, then your Thanksgiving spirit is going to be tempered this year, by default. That’s just the way it is in 2020.

I’m already bracing myself. I’m still getting together with family, but it’s going to be on a much smaller scale than usual. Given how big my family is and how much they love get-togethers, that’s going to make it rough. We’re still going to try and make it work. Thankfully, most of us have already learned to have large gatherings through Zoom and FaceTime.

However, I’d rather not dwell on what this Thanksgiving will lack. In the interest of keeping things balanced, I’d like to do my part to help us endure these pandemic-hampered holidays.

To that end, I’d like to share a video from the channel, Best Posts & Comments. It’s a simple complication of Reddit posts that recounted infamous incidents that occurred on Thanksgiving.

I must offer a clear warning, though. Some of these incidents are quite cringy. Trust me. You’ll know it when you hear it. Cringe or not, I hope it helps you feel a bit better about Thanksgiving this year. Enjoy!

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A Personal Story (And Perspective) On Daylight Savings Day

It’s that time of year again, at least if you’re in these countries. Daylight Savings day is upon us. It’s not a holiday, nor a means for major celebration. It just means that this weekend, we can all look forward to an extra hour of sleep.

Honestly, after the year we’ve all endured, an extra hour of sleep is literally the least we can hope for. I’ll gladly take it.

Now, I don’t have an opinion on daylight savings, why it’s observed, or whether we should continue observing it. That sort of contention is just not worth my time or anyone else’s. Instead, I’d like to take a moment in these last few days before we fall back to share another personal story.

It involves high school, but I promise it’s not nearly as awkward or angst-ridden as some of the others I’ve shared. This story is more an observation than a personal account and one I think is more relevant. Say what you will about teenagers and young people in this current environment. They do have issues and they’re worth highlighting.

To appreciate this story, I need to offer a little context. While I was in high school, the last week of October was uniquely difficult. It wasn’t just because the weather was getting colder, mid-terms had just wrapped up, and the holidays were still too far off to warrant excitement. Much of the difficulty, in this case, had to do with sleep.

It wasn’t so much about getting enough of it, which is a challenge in its own right, as it was about waking up. I lived in a school district where high school classes started at 7:20 a.m. If you weren’t in your first period class by that time, you were late and you could get in trouble. That might not have been an issue if you lived nearby. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky.

My family lived on the boundaries of the school district. That meant I had to take the bus to school, which wasn’t too big a deal. However, in order to get to school on time, the bus had to pick me and my classmates at 6:30 a.m. to make it on time.

Now, I know some people are already rolling their eyes. We had to be at the bus stop by 6:30 in the morning. Why is that such a big deal? There are people with jobs that require they wake up even earlier.

To those people, I have a simple message.

First off, we don’t get paid to go to high school. We’re forced to, by law. Second, we were teenagers. We’re not exactly used to night shifts at the salt mines. We’re still going through puberty, trying to transition into adulthood, and dealing with plenty of awkward feelings along the way. Have some goddamn sympathy.

With that in mind, take a moment to appreciate what it’s like the week before we fall back with daylight savings. You wake up at 6:00 a.m. and it’s still nearly pitch black outside. You can still see stars in the sky. You can barely see any hint of the sun.

If you’re a functional adult who is used to early mornings, it’s no big deal. If you’re a teenager who’s several steps away from being that functional, the world is basically asking us why the hell we aren’t still sleeping. Our collective response is the same. We have no choice. This is what we have to do, by law, to get to school on time.

Make no mistake. Waking up this early and standing outside when it’s still dark out is jarring to a teenager’s mind and body. The last week of October was just the most pronounced. During the first weeks of school, you could at least depend on the sun coming up, which helped wake you up. By this time, however, you had no such benefit. It was still dark out and it stayed dark until you got to school.

This is where my story comes into play. It’s not just one particular incident on one particular day, either. For the entirety of my high school career, this sort of thing played out every year on the last week of October. If I were to catch up with my old classmates, they’d probably share the same sentiment.

It went like this.

We wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for school. It’s pitch black out.

We take a shower, eat some breakfast, and gather our things. It’s still pitch black out.

We go out to the bus stop at about 6:25 a.m. It’s still pitch black out.

The bus arrives, we get on, and we settle in for the ride. It’s still pitch black out.

For the entire trip, we’re all only half-awake. Nobody talks. Nobody socializes. We just sit there, try to keep our eyes open, and get whatever sliver of rest we can before we arrive. Most of the time, the sun is just barely starting to rise when we get to school.

I know it’s not the most harrowing story about high school, but it does stand out and it wouldn’t be at all possible without daylight savings. It’s because of that time shift that it’s still so dark out in the morning on that final week leading up to it. An adult may see that as a trivial detail, but from the perspective of tired teenage minds, I assure you it isn’t.

I try to forget a lot of things from that time in my life. I’ll never forget those early morning bus rides on the last week of October. They always had this strange, ominous feel to them. Setting aside the ambience, the impact it had on me and the rest of my classmates was distinct.

Being out at that bus stop when it was still so dark and riding to school before the sun came up just put everyone in a drowsy, lethargic mood. Riding to school in that environment wasn’t just quiet. It was dead silent at time.

Nobody said a word.

Nobody talked, socialized, or screwed around.

It was just too dark and we were all too tired. You think packing a bunch of teenagers in a bus is bound to create something rowdy and decadent? Well, when it’s that dark out and that early in the morning, you don’t have to worry. When you’re still tired, you’re not going to have the energy.

Now, that did change to an extent the following week. Once we set the clocks back, there’s usually daylight outside when we go to the bus stop. That does make a difference. In fact, it makes a big difference. There’s even some science behind it.

I was still a miserable high school student, but at least it easier to stay awake when the sun was out. I also noticed that once we had some sunlight, people talked and socialized more on the bus. It was just less depressing overall. Being less tired will have that effect.

In hindsight, I’m amazed that we all functioned as well as we did in those conditions. The science is also catching up to the sentiment. More and more people are uncovering the negative effects of having high school start so early. Teenagers may be immature and dumb at times, but they’re still human. If they don’t get enough sleep, they’re not going to function well.

A lack of sleep has all sorts of negative impacts. Add the rigors of adolescence to the mix and you’re just going to make both much worse. It’s something I find myself contemplating every year in the days leading up to daylight savings.

We have a lot of problems in this world and teenagers have a lot to deal with. Nobody can do much of anything if they’re too tired or sleep deprived.

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Recounting The Dumbest Injury I Ever Got

We all like showing off scars. It doesn’t matter how big they are. We still use them as a catalyst to tell stories about ourselves. I don’t always get it. It’s just one of those weird things people do to make them seem tougher and more badass than they really are.

It’s not just a man thing, either. Women do this too. They just tend to be more subtle about it.

I have my share of scars from lingering injuries over the years. Each one of them has a story behind it. Some are more painful than others. There are a few I’d rather not share. Instead, I’m going to share a different kind of story about bodily injuries. Specifically, I’m going to tell the story about the dumbest injury I ever got.

It left no badass scar.

It didn’t make me tougher or stronger.

It was just a stupid fluke of an injury that taught me how hilariously frail the human body can be. More than anything else, I hope this story makes you laugh and appreciate the less foolish injuries we endure.

This particular injury occurred when I was playing little league baseball. For a time, it was a spring tradition. My dad would sign me up for little league and we’d build our weeks around it. For the most part, it was great. I loved baseball. I loved playing. I won’t say I was that good, but I certainly wasn’t that bad, either. I had fun, for the most part.

Like with any sport, you’re bound to get a few injuries here and there. I’d endured a few in that time. It was nothing I couldn’t handle. It was nothing that left a scar, either. I got lucky, compared to some of my teammates.

That changed one fateful day at practice. I think I was in the 4th or 5th grade at the time. I wasn’t doing very well that day. I don’t know why. My game was just off. I wasn’t hustling as much as I usual. I was content to just get through practice and prepare for the game.

Then, during fielding drills, the coach hits a ball my way while I’m playing outfield. Rather than glove it, I reach down to pick up the ball so that I can make a play at third base. In doing so, I badly jam my middle finger right against the ball.

It was the flukiest of fluke plays. I reached in and hit the ball with my finger at just the right angle to do some damage. I felt that damage too because I immediately whined about it. I still tried to shake it off, but by the end of practice, my middle finger was noticeably bruised. Part of it also started swelling. By the next day, my finger looked like it got stung by multiple bees.

It hurt like hell. On top of that, it was the same hand I used to write with. That made doing school work more painful than it already was. However, that wasn’t what made the injury so dumb. What truly made it stand out was that, for nearly a week, I could not bend my middle finger.

That meant that, for reasons beyond my control, it looked like I was giving everyone the finger. It was funny at times, but it hurt so much at the time that I don’t remember laughing much. I didn’t need a splint or anything. I just had to wait for it to heal. That was a long wait and there were plenty of embarrassing moments in between, especially at school.

I’m sure my parents remember some of those moments. I complained to them a lot and the best anyone could offer was a bag of ice. It was a miserable time, to say the least. I almost preferred a more serious injury. That would’ve made for a better story to tell. You just can’t tell a great story about picking up a baseball awkwardly and jamming your finger.

It did eventually heal. I did eventually go back to playing little league. I was just a lot more careful when it came to fielding ground balls. I endured more injuries over that time, but none were quite as dumb as that.

If you’ve got a dumber injury you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. Let’s not pretend every injury is epic. We’re all fallible human beings at the end of the day. We’re going to do stupid things and hurt ourselves in stupid ways. The best we can do is laugh about it and learn from it.

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A (Real) Story About Temptation, Peer Pressure, And Spicy Chicken Wings

I love spicy food. I make no secret of that. I’m the kind of guy who gets weird looks at a restaurant when I put buffalo sauce on potatoes. Some think it’s strange and a little unappetizing. I refuse to apologize for it.

As much as I love spicy food, I have my limits. There is such a thing as too spicy for me. I’ve had chicken wings dipped in sauce that caused me to run to the nearest sink and pour cold water on my head. I learned early on in my diet that there’s a fine line between spicy food and devil spit. I’ve since become quite capable at walking that line whenever I order chicken wings.

I’m glad I did because when it comes to spicy food, you don’t want to learn the hard way how hot it can get. While there are real methods for gauging the spiciness of a food, namely the Scoville Scale, there’s only so much numbers can tell you. For some people, the dangers of using a sauce that measures 1,000,000 Scoville units just doesn’t register.

Those people are destined to learn the hard way how much spice they can handle. As it just so happens, I have a story about one of those people that I’d like to share.

With summer upon us and barbecue foods dominating our dishes, I think the time is right for a quick reminder of what happens when spicy foods go too far. It was also around this time of year that a former co-worker of mine learned just how far it can go and paid the price.

To set the stage, this happened at one of my first jobs out of college. I’d been at this company for about a year or so. I’d made some good connections and quality friends. One of them was a fun-loving guy who I’ll call Derek, out of respect for his privacy. When you see how this story plays out, you’ll appreciate that.

Derek was a lot more extroverted than me. I was still coming out of my social awkwardness shell from high school. This guy, who was also fresh out of college, just loved hanging out and connecting with people. He frequently led other co-workers to nearby restaurants for beers and wings after long days at the office. Sometimes, I attended. Most of the time, I didn’t.

As it just so happens, one of the nearest restaurants to the office I worked at was a well-known buffalo wing place. Like many wing places, they had a broad selection of spicy wings to choose from. One, in particular, was so hot that you had to sign a waiver before ordering it. They called it the Widowmaker. It was said to use the infamous Ghost Peppers in its sauce, but the specifics were a well-kept secret.

I can’t remember too many people who dared to try it. For reasons that are still the stuff of legend, Derek decided to take the plunge one fateful evening after a long day at the office. I can’t get into too many specifics. I’ll just say that there was a considerable amount of beer and peer pressure involved.

To the credit, and chagrin, of my co-workers, they cheered him on. They offered to pay for the entire tab that night if he took up the challenge. It took surprisingly little convincing. Derek wasn’t even that drunk. He’d had only one beer at that point. He still signed the waiver and ordered the Widowmaker.

He was excited.

He was determined.

He claimed he could handle spicy foods better than most.

He would come to regret that boast.

When the Widowmaker wings came out, he was so confident. He looked like he was ready to take on the heavyweight champ in a boxing match. My co-workers were still cheering. He prepared himself mentally. It was a tense moment for everyone involved. He wanted to go down in history as one of the select few who’d finished those wings.

Then, he took his first big bite and swallowed quickly. It turned out to be his last of the evening.

The details after this get a bit fuzzy, but he went from determined to defeated in the blink of an eye. One second, he had the eye of the tiger. The next, it looked like he’d been punched in the jaw, gut, and balls by Mike Tyson on crack. He keeled over, started coughing, and started chugging ice water by the gallon.

Some laughed. Others cringed. A few had to help him to the bathroom so he could wipe the sweat and snot from his face. Needless to say, we all figured out why the restaurant demanded that people sign a waiver.

Derek didn’t come into work the next day. He claimed he needed a sick day. I think his pride was the only thing seriously ill after that experience. He also claimed that he had to stay within 10 feet of a toilet for the day. I don’t doubt him.

When he did come back, he was in good spirits. My co-workers did apologize profusely for goading him into eating the Widowmaker, but he just smiled and accepted. I think in hindsight, it was a humbling experience for him. It’s the kind of experience I think we all need at some point in our lives. Some are just more painful than others. This was one of them.

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My Father’s Day Tribute To My Awesome Dad

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The following is a brief tribute video that I made to honor my awesome dad on the eve of Father’s Day. It also includes a brief story that helps convey just how awesome he is. For all the other awesome dads out there who deserve to celebrate tomorrow, this is for you too.

To my awesome dad, Happy Father’s Day!

I love you man.

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Drunks Vs. Stoners: How College Shaped My Opinion On Both

College is a weird and wonderful time. The experience varies for everyone, but it’s remarkable in that it gives teenagers on the cusp of adulthood their first taste of real independence. Most handle it fairly well. Others don’t. We know who those people are. We can identify them in almost every college movie ever made.

My experience was special in so many ways. I often credit college with finally cracking the thick shell of misery, social anxiety, and self-doubt that I’d built up over four years of high school. It was an experience I needed. I’m a better adult because I went to college. I learned many life lessons there, but I’d like to share one particular lesson that stands out more than most.

It has to do with stoners and drunks. Depending on your college experience, if you had one, this should bring back memories.

Specifically, I’d like to highlight why I preferred hanging out with stoners more than drunks. It’s something I confronted early on in my college career. As a freshman, I lived in an all-male dormitory. It was quite rowdy, to say the least, and I have any number of colorful stories that I could share. One in particular stands out and it set the tone for how I’d deal with both groups.

Even for those who didn’t go to college, there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with heavy drinkers before. They come in many varieties. Some are happy drunks, like me. When I get drunk, I tend to laugh, stumble, and hug random strangers for no reason. I’m overly affectionate, albeit sloppy. I tend to make a fool of myself, but in a not-so-messy way.

Then, there are the not-so-happy drunks. They’re the kind of people who, when they drink, have a tendency to get more confrontational. They’re not always violent, but they are uninhibited in terms of their willingness to pick fights. I remember being at a bar and seeing someone get pissed off because some girl laughed at his shirt. I could tell from how he was standing that he had a few too many.

While these types of drunks weren’t as common as the happy drunks, they often left their mark and not just with hangovers. Even among happy drunks, they did some damage and not all of it was physical. They would say things and conduct themselves in ways that made for some awkward conversations once they sobered up. One guy in my dorm had a bad reputation for pissing in the elevator every Saturday.

With stoners, the story was different and a bit more consistent. I got to know a few in my sophomore year. They were, by and large, the easiest kind of people to hang out with. Once they got stoned, they weren’t too picky about how they wanted to spend their time. They were happy just watching TV, listening to music, and lofting about without a care in the world.

For someone with sub-par social skills, like me at the time, they were a pleasant surprise. I was able to get along with them a lot easier than heavy drinkers, who instinctively wanted to do something crazy every half-hour. Stoners are just content re-watching Star Wars and bad sitcoms.

That mellow attitude was also gender neutral. There wasn’t much variation between the male and female stoners. The only thing I noticed is that the women just laughed more when they got stoned and were less likely to get paranoid. The women drinkers, however, tended to be a bit more volatile. They rarely got violent, but they were a lot more inclined to yell at people for no apparent reason.

One girl I knew through a roommate once got into a shouting match with her TV because the speakers kept shorting out. I’m pretty sure the TV won.

However, when it comes to incidents that best highlight why I prefer stoners over drunks, one stands out among the rest. It happened during my junior year. It was late at night and I was just returning from a friend’s birthday party. I’m almost at my dorm when I come across four guys who were definitely drunk, as their inability to stand clearly demonstrated.

They weren’t violent or confrontational, for the most part. A couple smelled awful, though. I suspect vomit was the source. They were actually really friendly with me because I was wearing a football jersey. They laughed and joked with me. Then, for reasons I still don’t understand, they decided to start throwing lit matches at each other to make one another dance. They even offered me a chance to throw one.

I politely declined and was on my way. I was laughing for most of them, but I was genuinely worried. It only took one mis-thrown match to make their antics dangerous. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. It’s still a memorable incident in that it made stoners a bit less stressful to hang out with.

To this day, I know plenty of people who drink and smoke pot. They’re all genuinely wonderful people with jobs, families, and heart. I’ll gladly have a drink with any of them. When it comes to just hanging out with no discernible goal in mind, I still prefer stoners. Their so affable and mellow. They’re also less likely to puke in my kitchen sink.

Yes, that happened once.

No, I’d rather not go into detail.

It’s just one of the many insightful experiences I gained in college. It might not be the most groundbreaking, but it did prepare me for the adult world in a strange, yet wonderful way.

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