Less Than Three

Hate, as they say, is a strong word…but I have always held a special distaste for the type of person who lets nebulous fear of negative outcomes they cannot control rule over their behaviors. Someone who restricts their life to only the most safe and the most predictable, “because ____ could happen”.

The way that I see it, if it’s in the cards for your parachute to lock up when skydiving, or if ISIS decides to target your subway car, or if you’re the one who gets the fatal slice of blowfish sushi…that’s just how you died. We’re all lucky to be here in the first place, and it looks like that’s just the hand you were dealt. They say that constant vigilance is the price of freedom…but if constant anxiety is the cost of safety then safety is something I truly do not want.

I should have known that my hate was not any special blend. My hatred, like all hatred, was misguided, ignorant, and ugly.

My best friend who is settled down says he lives vicariously through my “spontaneous” lifestyle. I was the first guy in my grade to cross the dance floor in middle school and chip away at the mystery of middle school girls. While lifeguarding, any given day could be the day that some drunk tourist drowns in your water despite all your best efforts. I’ve seen it happen to a couple friends.

I’ve always liked taking risks…with my body, with the law, etc. I want all the experiences in life. I am willing to try and test and experiment. My friends and I travel to foreign countries with nothing more than a plane ticket and a couple weeks to kill…and wing the whole thing.

Well, it looks like everyone is a hypocrite. As much as I like to take risks, and fly by the seat of my pants, and jettison excess anxiety about things…I realized that I have been doing the exact opposite thing in my personal life.

When it comes to relationships, I have been nothing more than a basic tourist. The equivalent of a tax accountant from Cleveland wearing velcro sandals, zinc caked on my nose, and a god damned neon fanny pack. The people who travel all the way to Cambodia just to spend the entire time at the resort, never daring to leave the comfort of english speaking service staff, high thread count sheets, the familiarity of cable TV, and the culinarily unoffensive room service breaded chicken tenders. The equivalent of my worst nightmare.

“Once the board is set, who plays to lose?”

I learned over the course of a handful of years the rift between what women say they want and what women actually respond to. I watched close female friends in their experiences and frustrations with men, I observed my friends interacting with girls they were dating, and most importantly I saw what worked and what did not with the girls I would mess around with.

I say “mess around” because I prefer not to let things get too serious, I tend to keep people at arms length, and I enjoy the unpredictability and thrill of making someone chase me. I have been very measured and tactical when it comes to dating and relationships, always positioning myself to win the game, because I view nearly everything as a competition and I do not want to lose. I do not want to be vulnerable, I do not want to be hurt. I do not wish to relinquish control because I feel that things are safe so long as I’m at the wheel.

And it worked. A lot. However, what started out as exciting, trailblazing behavior legitimately inspired by my feelings of desire became so predictably effective that it turned into borderline rigormorale where I rarely felt challenged and could always see five moves ahead. Perfunctory seductions…a contradiction in terms.

For some reason as a child I used to wonder if given the choice someone would prefer to be the worst player in the MLB or the best player in the minor leagues. In the same way that I disparaged people’s worries about totally uncontrollable negative outcomes, I’m clinging to what I know works, what will never get too dangerous that I might get burned. Winning the game, stacking up chips, feeling like a boss…but in a way, sitting at the low stakes table. A minor league All-Star.

I’m not sure if it’s innate human nature or if it’s a strictly American phenomenon, but here I am in an outwardly awesome situation, and I am in turmoil about it. After dating plenty of beautiful girls who I could not really care about, I strangely met someone who I really like, who I’m interested in equally for who she is rather than strictly how she looks, someone who is threatening to decalcify my heart and agitate the long dormant Yeti of my emotions.

A neighborhood of feelings that I have avoided for many years… probably not coincidentally since right around the time my dad converted from the living to the dead within a couple of days. The world around me was out of my control and I promptly catapulted from the calm of base camp straight to the peak of volatility…with no sherpa.

I’m confronted with the danger and unpredictability that I ostensibly enjoy so much. No roadmap, no pre-existing trail. I have to hack through the tall brush with my machete, unable to see through the risky unknown ahead. I have never felt so vulnerable and exposed while simultaneously feeling so confident and powerful.

I recognize that when it comes to other people, any control I felt I held previously was purely illusory in the first place. That the fact I feel anything at all indicates that I should… and maybe even need to… move toward it.

I need to be willing to venture off of the resort. The major leagues are calling me up.
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Breakup Letter

It never takes very long before I’m reminded just why I tend to avoid you altogether.

Our relationship has been what I like to describe as contentious. Like any good relationship there has to be some push/ pull…some give & take. Some great moments that live on in the cosmic highlight reel and some moments you’d wish you could forget. Stealing glances, late nights together, truly delighting in the raw sensation of one another. I loved to smell you and taste you, to light your body on fire…

As magical as it was, putting Disney to shame with its caricatured grandeur, it seems that our love carriage has hit a snag.

I’d rather not suddenly start to second guess all my friends and their intentions,
I’d rather not have a hard time making basic eye contact without overthinking it.
I’d rather not spend the next 20 minutes in the shower trying to figure out if it’s right or left for hot water,

I’m not good at smoking weed.

Shit…I guess I’ll have to take that line off my résumé.

In one of my most unoriginal moves, college was the time where I started smoking weed more frequently…and I used to really enjoy it. I can vividly recall rocking many a room with my impersonations, my antics, and my newly reinforced commitment to giggling. If I wasn’t taking on the role of Jim Carrey of the living room, I’d often try to instigate some type of lofty adventure based on far too much ambition for a room full of people who just got high. Something involving blueprints and coordination and possibly hard hats or flying in expensive European consultants. The type of mission that would make that rocket scientist kid from October Sky call the whole thing off. These schemes usually stalled out somewhere in pre-production but my determination would hardly ever settle for less than a longboarding excursion or at an absolute bare minimum—some frisbee.

As fun as it was, at a certain point it all changed. I went from exceedingly giggly and gregarious to highly uncomfortable (pause) seemingly overnight. I kept trying to give it another chance, but like seeing the Jesus face in the grilled cheese, it was consistent and seemingly irreversible.  I’m over it. I’m done. Weed has turned its back on me and it appears time I return the favor. Picture me, nonchalantly dusting my hands clean of the whole situation.

I got extremely lucky that my natural disposition tends toward the positive. I’ve been told I have a proud chest and a mischievous smile. Someone once said I “couldn’t be” from New York because I grin too much. This is not to say I’m naive, but at least when I’m thinking clearly I know everything will ultimately pass.  When I’m stoned my thought process can only be described as anxious, apoplectic, apocalyptic. This could hardly be any further from what Jah intended when he blessed the herb.

I truly do not need anything external to make me happy, to put me in touch with the present moment, to ease my pains, or to quiet my thoughts. THC completely flips my mind on its head and makes me feel the complete opposite. Weed, it appears, does not quite agree with me. And full disclosure: I ate half of a cannabis cookie earlier; that’s what kicked this off.

Now, as I’m coming down, I’m less stratospherically high (thank you Zeus, Zuckerberg, Allah, Kanye, etc.) and I’m starting to experience some of the positive effects. I’ve felt my body loosen up a ton and I feel like I’ve self-administered an excellent chiropractic session in the past few minutes. The chipped playoff hockey rink of my brain brought out the Zamboni to smooth over the ice; my thoughts are less obscurely cataclysmic and more of their amusing standard.

I literally just unlocked a tension in my back that has been living there rent free for longer than I care to remember. Now I’m halfway to convincing myself that I need to smoke all the time. In reality it seems clear that I should just try microdosing somehow.

I need to figure out how I can write and do all this great impromptu physical therapy without getting so high I get annoyed being in the same brain as me.

Until I am able to do that, I think we should call this quits. You’ve only just blossomed; you’ve still got some of the best years of your life ahead of you… and I just don’t see this relationship going much further. I’m confident you’ll find someone else who you can make happy and who will do right by you.

I think it’s time we broke up. We’ve tried taking breaks, we’ve tried the friends thing. Time and time again one of us proves that’s all in vain. Do what you must. Call me names. Tell all our friends what an asshole I am. Write a nasty Facebook post about me if you want. Just please don’t bother texting me to know if it made you feel better.

Sincerely,

Ryan Charles Dent

Driving Through

I drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and then from Vegas to Denver, traveling across California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado on the way. Almost 1,000 miles total, Google Maps projected around fifteen hours from start to finish, while Apple Maps tried to take me down the yellow brick road to Narnia. I expected that a trip through large portions of flyover states would yield nothing but beaten down rest stops, dirt, and maybe the occasional fireworks store/ elementary school combo.

It actually revealed jaw-dropping beauty on an impossible scale.

It’s awesome when something you anticipate will be so ordinary turns out breathtaking…like a first kiss. You’re forced to shake your head in amazement at life’s simple, understated beauty. In fact, I was compelled to do much more than that. Not only did I shake my head with my mouth agape, not only did I decide to write about it, but I would come around the corner or over the horizon and inadvertently blurt expletives at the incredible rock formations, the endless mountain ranges, the mind bending gorges.

In some ways it was like traveling in outer space. I could see an incredible number of stars when it was dark, and in the daytime it felt like I was exploring multiple different planets. Desolate, beautiful planets with valleys ninety miles wide and colors that even Crayola has yet to patent. Jagged ridges punching forth from the earth, towering over the interstate and one another…You get drawn toward them as if by a tractor beam and then at the last minute, the road winds through them and you hug the edge as you curl around the wrinkled sheets of rock that make up the relief map.

The afterthoughts of prehistoric oceans and rivers gave way to these prodigious canyons over the course of hundreds of millions of years, and here I was, burning eons-old fossil fuels to propel myself across the earth at speeds faster than any other land animal.

This is the only area I’ve ever seen a speed limit sign reading 80, and the only time I’ve seen a billboard advertising “This exit: last services for 110 miles. This is no joke.”

110 miles…with no gasoline, food, or hotels. No people, really. Considering how remote the interstate was, I’m amazed at how well the roads were maintained…who is paying for this? Last I heard, rattlesnakes and tumbleweeds are notoriously bad taxpayers. The cell phone service was also predictably atrocious, providing a somewhat welcome respite from the built-in expectation that one should be permanently tethered to their cell phone.

Occasionally I’d spot a tiny snowglobe town among the nothingness, or in more extreme cases just a single house alone on a mountain. I have to imagine these people live out there to avoid many of society’s other expectations. Tough to have family Thanksgiving dinner over at Aunt Kay’s house when she lives in a galaxy far, far away. I literally passed an exit for a place called “No Name” …Why even bother have the exit?

I worked my way through all my playlists, including dusting off some that had nearly drifted into retirement.

I honestly did 100 almost the entire way, and still felt like I was crawling. This was the true embodiment of the saying, “going nowhere fast” and with all this time and these incredible views, I had a lot of time to think about my life and my way through it.

I am very curious to see how one day I will look back on this time in my life.

Hiring.me @ Greenhouse.io: Getting Candid About the Candidate Experience

The first human footprints on the moon. Designing the iPhone. Mapping the human genome.

At first glance, these achievements appear to share little in common.

Another look reveals that every project, every mission, every goal…share one critical requirement.

Achieving it took people. The right people. Committed people.

Achieving it took a diverse group with intuition, vigilance, and intellectual agility, unified by one idea. It took individuals eager to nurture a vision and faithfully contribute toward an intermittently nebulous outcome.

In a world that we’re frequently reminded boasts an astronomical divorce rate, with fewer and fewer millennials buying cars and taking on home mortgages (to say nothing of horrifying student loan obligations), the covenant between employee and employer might end up the longest standing and most demanding commitment a person makes during their lifetime.

Greenhouse decided to make hiring its mission. The innovative and intelligent software makes identifying, vetting, interviewing, and hiring the best talent quick, painless, and effective.

Before I ever saw the company in person, I could tell they knew what they were doing. My experience passing through the hiring process proved the best of my young career by a measure of between three and forty. At every step, I felt as though I had a good idea about where I stood. The communication was professional and consistent.

To begin with, I somehow managed to pass the obligatory “make-sure-this-person-speaks-English-and-is-not-a-psychopath” five minute phone call screening, prompting them to set me up with phase two: the thirty minute phone interview.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I do not typically spend half an hour on the phone with anyone… unless of course I need customer support from Time Warner Cable. The thought of spending thirty minutes on a phone call with a potential employer initially struck me as intimidating, but thanks to the clear structure of the call and the demeanor of the interviewer, I found it breezed by as we were able to engage in a good discussion and work through a few thought exercises. In as much time as it takes to watch an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (with commercials) I passed through to round three: a take-home research and writing assignment.

Riding the jet stream of confidence created by the success of the phone interview, I knocked out the research and writing assignment within thirty-six hours…earning me a call from the Procrastinators Society of America, threatening to indefinitely suspend my membership; Predictably, they ultimately balked.

Following my research and writing assignment, I moved on to the championship round, the in-person interview… or, as it was titled in the Google Calendar invite I received, “meet the team”.

*Queue Rocky style training montage*

The face-to-face interview, allotted two hours, turned out to be a truly enjoyable experience.

I met with a handful of different employees, all of whom seemed to embody a seamless combination of serious and personable.

The process was clearly well organized; they were prepared for me. They had all the necessary information on hand, digitally: my resume, my writing assignment, and the history of correspondence between us. During the interview the lines of questioning, instead of generic, random, or overly complicated, were deliberate and purposeful.

More than just a rote search for technical skills, the interviewers, using rapport as excavating tools, dug for answers to determine if I could place myself within a rapidly growing movement with its heart and mind set on greatness…to see not just if I could work for the organization, but if I would work within it, adding to the momentum of the team and adding to the overall experience for all the employees.

What I mentioned before as easily the most positive interviewing experience of my life led to a position within a company with a borderline unassailable corporate culture, where every employee fits and contributes, and maybe just as importantly, everyone is borderline evangelical about the product, the mission, and the environment we work in.


And the people we work with. Must not forget about the people.

Inside the Barrel

It is a familiar feeling. Like getting tossed by a huge wave, whipped around under the water, pulled down by the undertow, surrounded by silent fury. Caught in a rip current, disoriented and momentarily uncertain how, when, or if you’ll make it to the surface. A challenge to some sense of security I used to face with frequency throughout my childhood and adolescent development that has unfortunately had a hard time locating me lately.

The last time I experienced it to this degree was when I was about sixteen.

It was the very first time my parents had ever left me alone with the house—each half of my parental unit out of town with my little siblings in tow.

Completely impromptu, a party (which truly overachieved by high school party standards) materialized that night at my house and we all proceeded to take full advantage of our deliciously rare lapse in supervision. One of my friends even lost his virginity that night—needless to say, some pretty damn groundbreaking stuff.

The next morning after powercleaning my house to leave no trace like the good Boy Scout does, I got a ride from my two best friends to the Volusia County Beach Lifeguard tryouts.

I showed up, one of 100 or so prospective lifeguards ready to take the prerequisite swimming test. The Ocean Rescue corps maintain minimum swim times and other physical benchmarks to ensure that the people endowed with the responsibility can rise to the occasion of saving someone’s life when the ocean decides to remind us of its capacity for murder. In reality the County (which was later involved in a bunch of scandals of matters including but not restricted to sexual misconduct and racial insensitivity) probably required it mostly for reasons far less heroic-sounding, like “insurance” or “liability” but it makes no difference now.

Skinny and pale, I had not been training for the swim and had the added luxury of a few of my friends (and maybe even my mother) having expressed surprise that I would even want to try out…wondering if I would be ABLE to pass. Reflecting on it now, this chip on my shoulder probably deserves a good deal of the credit for my attendance at the tryout that morning.

At times I wish people other than me would doubt me more often.

Before any actual swim tests started, they informed us that there would be a drug test approaching in approximately six weeks, plenty of time, they said, to stop smoking and pass the piss test.

I watched somewhat in awe as about a dozen or more people shamelessly & immediately headed for the door, including not least of all, my two best friends and therefore, my ride.

I was likely nursing my first ever hangover, certainly a bit intimidated by the prospect of the swim and other requirements and could have easily taken this opportunity to leave.

Next thing I know, I’m in the pool. Pulling, kicking, mind simultaneously clear of any thought but racing with some beat running ad nauseum in my head as I rotated and breathed and rotated and breathed until hitting the wall where I would tap, turn, and head back the other way.

As the time remaining to complete the challenge waned, the timekeeper’s intensity took on momentum until with only a few laps left it seemed like he found some enjoyment slipping into full-on drill sergeant mode, even kneeling next to the water to deliver his message, a fervent swirly twist cone of vanilla encouragement alongside the chocolate threat of failure.

I decided to hit the afterburners and just go all out. Commit, to it, if you will. At the very least, I did not want to have forced myself to work out this hard, THIS early in the morning, all for naught.

I managed to finish under their maximum allowable time, cutting it dangerously close. This meant that I was eligible to move on to the next round, and barring any unforeseen major setbacks they would invest in my education and training for the vaunted position. Particularly in Central Florida along the Atlantic Coast, ‘Lifeguard’ is a pretty glorious occupation. And especially as high school kids’ summer jobs go, we may as well have been cowboys or samurai…a position generally regarded with high status and prestige in the community.

The most pivotal moment came immediately after my swim but just prior to commencement of the rest of the weeklong training program.

I was exhausted. Lack of sleep, alcohol, smoking, the intense swim I just performed—I was feeling uncharacteristically lightheaded and weak, eyes glazing over in a state of semi shock standing by the water fountain not far from the EXIT door.

“I could just walk out and come back next year when I’ve actually prepared for this shit, I’ll find some other job for the summer. Do I really want this that badly anyway? I mean it would almost be cooler to qualify, get accepted, and then just walk out and do my own thing, right?” I allowed myself to think—in a very misguided devil-may-care sort of teenage righteousness that I would like to believe that I’ve now outgrown.

I ended up walking away from the water fountain, back inside…where I made a few friends on the fly who eventually drove me with them to the next phase of the training.

I ended up spending the better (the best) part of six summers between the ages of 16 and 22 lifeguarding on the beach there, making a ton of friends, getting into the best shape of my life, philandering with tourist girls on beach vacations, participating in rescues in the open water & tasting the best natural high around—saving a life. All of this while getting PAID to do so and eventually even winning the war of attrition in tanning my stubborn skin.

Lifeguarding was without a doubt one of the best things I have ever been a part of, all of it because I decided to suck it up and not give up like that little bitch ass corner of my mind wanted me to. It was momentarily very uncomfortable, but it challenged my ego far more than my actual capability. My inflated sense of “self” had a hard time sitting with that feeling. That ego that parades itself around as protecting us, keeping us somehow safe, all the while secretly crippling us by insisting on having its lazily ignorant way.

It is only through these moments of uncertainty, adversity and challenge that we learn about ourselves, regardless of whether the main goal is achieved or not.

My first few days dealing with coding Ruby at the Metis bootcamp have brought me back. Back to that feeling of uncertainty and panic that I (apparently) have been nostalgic for. Not at all helped by the fact that I got fewer than three hours of rest the night before it all kicked off, I found myself overcaffeinated and overwhelmed, even stepping out for a minute to come up for air at one point during the late stages of day one.

I did not do much better the second night than the first, this time not kept awake by anticipation as much as I was essentially haunted in my sleep by that state of utter confusion and the (mostly imagined) sensation that I’m inconveniencing others and falling behind the pack. I even wrote this piece inside the command terminal instead of in a word processor.

Communicating with computers from any perspective other than “mouth breathing consumer” is more or less uncharted territory for me, and humility aside, a sense of intimidation inside of a classroom or any educational setting whatsoever is as completely foreign a concept as the seemingly labyrinthine code itself (what does block.call(arr[index]) mean to you?). For the first time in my life I am not feeling like I’m ahead of the class, casually coasting on the luxury of my intellect, happily assuming the role of bored underachieving class clown and cockily taking the tests (and usually acing them) without having cracked the book or done any of the homework.

So for a moment at least, I’m back in the whirlwind,—back inside the wave that has crashed around me and is sending me for a violent, frothy spin. If the previous times provide any indication, I’ll emerge soon, a little shaken but ultimately ready to take on the next wave, vindicated.