Sign of adulthood, no. 1*

Deciding it’s worth it to pay someone 25 dollars to file your taxes for you, rather than doing it yourself.

*This is not actually the first of these I have come up with, but it is the first in this current list.


I love television. I used to not. I don’t want to say I bought into the idea that television isn’t a thing for the intellectual crowd, but I did. I wanted to be one of those cool intellectual people–and they didn’t watch television. Sure, it was okay to check out some DVDs someone else lent to you, but that wasn’t really watching TV. My junior year I met a girl named JK.

JK loved television without shame. She loved the shows that smart people are allowed to love, things by Aaron Sorkin, and those shows that you were just too young for when they were on. (Buffy is a good example for me.) But man, did JK love them.

Suddenly it was, at least a little bit, okay. And not just in the sense that my roommate wanted to watch Gilmore Girls, so we sat with her, or seeing Arrested Development while everyone else in the dorm watched it. Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip was one of the first major forays into shows on the air.

This past fall I picked up Grimm, Once Upon A Time, and Pan Am. This fit into the already rotating docket of various things I catch up on in batches. Shows on hulu I watch as they come out. Sometimes a small stack will fill up–there are some four episodes of Sanctuary (something I mostly use for background noise) waiting. Otherwise, I binge. I wait and wait and then grab them all at once and drop them into a queue to devour nearly non-stop.

I became reliant on television while living alone in Korea. My hours left me at a loss most of the time, lonely in my apartment–the whole place was as big as the room I have now. It was quiet and I would fill the silences and emptiness with any voice I could pluck off the internet and feed into my room.

One of the things I did when I came back to America was to sit with my dad and work our way through Stargate Universe and Caprica. We’d always bonded over scifi shows–it had been a family thing–but the tivo allowed us to treat it as a visual feast of Thanksgiving like proportions. And there was something pretty great about that.


Ken Jennings claims that his success on Jeopardy is directly related to his love of geography.
When you have a location to pin something to, you can picture the place and it can help remind you of a fact. To him, maps are a visual mnemonic.

I love maps. I do not love maps like Ken Jennings loves maps. I do not love maps like David Imus loves maps. But I love them none the less.

When I was a child, my father gave me his old copy of Doctor Dolittle. I still have it. It had a profound impact on my life, practically imperceptible to an outside observer.When Tommy Stubbins first appears with his injured squirrel and hears the Doctor talk to animals, he too wants to learn to talk to animals. Dr. Dolittle tells him that in order to learn to do this, one must be a good noticer. Much like Tommy, I decided to be a good noticer. I spent a lot of time trying to remember details from the world around me, trying to pick up little things that I saw. I am not <a href =””>Paul Ekman</a>, but I don’t want to be like Paul Ekman–I want to be like the Doctor.

Similarly, Dr. Dolittle is quite well traveled. He goes as far as to play a game called Blind Travel, where you take the big atlas, close your eyes, open it, and then point. You proceed to voyage to that place. I always wanted to play Blind Travel, and would pour over maps and globes, randomly pointing at places again and again and imaging what it would be like to go.

Out of this staring at maps, I began to have a shallow appreciation of their beauty.

I don’t pretend to play Blind Travel anymore. I haven’t had an atlas since I was seventeen and moved out of my parents’ house. When I was young, there was a potential–the hope–that one day I would have the resources to go to actually random places. As I got older, time became more scarce and my values changed. Rather than trying to placate my own desires to be a pawn of fate (or chance), I am trying to accomplish things I think will help others. I have responsibilities–financial and social–that keep me from running off to Pushkino, Kazakhstan. Besides, playing Blind Travel with google maps is much less satisfying than the atlas.

I still do use google maps to fantasize. When google earth first came out, AG and I would go on trips together. We’d sit in her room and pull up satellite views of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Havana, Mexico City. I still do this, tracing routes that I could take, looking for how the streets fit together, and trying to imagine what my feet would sound like as I walked.

Everything seems so small and close together on a map. One-thousand three-hundred ninety-four miles becomes inches. I tweak lines, back and forth, to maximize the right towns, national parks, dirt roads, or daylight hours. I follow the interstates, county routes, train tracks, and rivers. I go down the Blue Ridge through Roanoke and past Asheville. I-17 from Phoenix, the 89 to I-15, through Provo and Salt Lake. The two lone highways that go through Wyoming, which I had to take to get to Boise. But really, I just went through Wyoming so I could take the 287/30 through Medicine Bow over green spotted rock piles and lazy mountains. Route 101 and I-5, with through rainforests, impossibly tall trees, mountains, and deserts. With the ocean on one side. I-40 to Memphis and Nashville and I-65 up to Louisville all through green, green, green. That one point in Rhode Island where the hard bike path became a gravel and dirt road for five miles that I slowly slid down. I-10 runs through parts of the South I’ve never been to. When I look at the thousand mile path I want to ride around the UK, I can see the grey skies and the rolling hills. The fields of bright green grasses with flat buildings made of stone, or dub. The train rides I never had the chance to take across Korea. The train ride I did take across a continent. I remember the train stopping at Novosibirsk, getting a gold-foil wrapped ice cream bar with a picture of Lenin on it and wondering if it was the only time I’d ever be there.

Geography is tied to canonical fantasies or memories that make up who we are. The dreams we have, of places we want to go or things we want to do (often in a specific place) are just as important to us as individuals as what has actually happened. The places we have been shape us, by affording opportunity to exposure.