It’s Cold At Night In Tampere

I like the idea of minimalism.

I really do.

Unfortunately, I have this problem. It’s not the usual problem where someone says yes to everything and then ends up overwhelmed and letting everyone down because they’ve got too much on their plate.

That’s for people with an obsessive need to please. I’m not super interested in pleasing everybody, just the people I like. I don’t think life is particularly fair to those who think everybody can be pleased all the time.

Punk rock roots, I guess, though that’s a bit of a misconception. I love the ethos, but I was hardly the mohawked kid in the centre of the circle pit of some grunged-out warehouse.

That’s not to say I’ve never been in a circle pit or a grunged-out warehouse. I saw Fugazi in 1994 in Tampere, Finland. There were two sets of bleachers and an empty space. There was a girl dressed up like a flower child dancing on a patch of empty floor all by herself, in twirls and pirouettes. Everyone else was losing their shit.

Me and the other guy I was with, Craig, talked all night, unfortunately ignoring a wonderful girl who not only brought us to the concert, but was clearly going through a hard time, homesick maybe, in need of a friend. Instead, we shot the shit with each other and barely talked to her, which was super shitty.

Molly, we were assholes, if somehow you ever stumble across this. I apologize for both of us. You were right to ditch us and yes, the streets of Tampere are cold at night. At least they were safe. You deserved better and I hope you got everything you ever wanted when you got back to Kitchener.

Of course, none of that has anything to do with why I like minimalism and why I can’t seem to condone it in my life.

My problem stems from an inability to take things in just their small chunks.

I see a person behaving poorly and I need to know why. What drives them? What are their methods? Why are they doing things the way they are? What keeps them from changing?

I find an author I like and I’m forever tied to them. I can’t just read one book. I have to read their entire canon.

I can’t read an issue of Captain America and leave it at that. I need to know everything about him, ever. Oh, and if I could find all the appearances of Falcon, Nomad, Diamondback and the Serpent Society, then that needs to be done as well. Marvel and DC tend to be very fraught for me. Every cool character that comes along becomes a whole new world to explore.

That’s why I stick to the smaller Image press, mostly, these days. It’s a lot easier to explore the world of Wytches or Pretty Deadly than it is Doctor Strange or Deathstroke. Don’t even get me started on Batman or the X-Men. Trying to navigate those worlds is like untying a Moebius strip tied in a knot with six other Moebius strips.

I’ve learned to rein it all in a bit, but it’s still a problem. A cool world comes up to explore and I’m all in. If there’s interesting side plots not yet explored, I start writing them in my head. The tenets of minimalism (applied as loosely as they are) keep me from going insane or getting crushed under the weight of all the things I’ll never have time to get into, even if it’s largely ineffectual.

It happens across the whole spectrum of media – books, comics, music, video games, movies, television shows, office politics, actual politics, religious beliefs, human psychology, name it.

Where there are worlds to explore and connections to be made, I can be found, losing my mind in trying to dissect what’s going on and bring some order and reason to it in my mind (along with whatever craziness and chaos it brings).

I’m still trying to figure out the reasoning behind the system they implemented at a job I left five years ago, before the system was implemented. Still, I get told about it at every Christmas party and every chance meeting at Walmart or the grocery store, and it makes no sense to me.

It’s filled with the kind of bullshit buzzwords that mean nothing that I hate, and as far as I can tell, both philosophically and practically removes any and all accountability, productivity, communication, intelligence and ability to actually get good at anything. Hell, it actually penalizes people who excel. There’s no common sense. It lacks even a basic understanding of human nature and individuality. The whole place, as far as I can tell, is going down the shitter, and if it wasn’t for the fact that working there left me suicidal, I’d love to go back as a fixer and start dropping hammers to straighten everything out.

See what I mean? Five years, still trying to dissect the system and see how it all fits together. I’m only a little ashamed that I actually googled the system they were using and read their entire manifesto. It was bullshit and applies terribly to time-constrained environments like a call centre.

In the interest of minimalism, or rather to find myself productive enough to move forward with the things I actually want to do, I have to learn to let stuff like that go.

There’s no “value-add” to my life, as the purveyors of this particular method would probably say.

No, my problem is not saying yes to too many requests from others, but yes to too many areas of exploration for myself.

It fills every portion of my day, and when it overwhelms me, I end up feeling like I just got ditched at a concert for being an idiot. Alone, in the dark, in the cold, desperate for a place to stay, and knowing that it’s all my own fault.

And I do it anyway, because ultimately, shitty as it was, both behaviourally and in consequence, it’s a story and cast out into the streets as I was, at least a little quiet. Eventually. Plus, you can’t turn back time. You can only suffer through, do what you can and ultimately, start again and try and do the next thing the right way.

Minimalism. Forget what’s past. Focus on now. Try not to repeat the same mistakes.

It’s all we can do.

For the record, the concert was fantastic. Top three all-time, in my life.

At least, until I realized I had nowhere to go.