Stay Focused

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The internet will probably go down as the greatest inventions of all time. Fire and the wheel have been the Magic and Bird of our time and its about time they’ve been dethroned with a Michael Jordan. The capabilities of the internet are far from drying up, but there are also plenty of downsides that come with it.

Like a siren’s song, social media has attracted young people, old people, and even the weird people to partake with all their friends. These sites provide almost instantaneous to connect with friends that moved to Thailand “for work”, but at the same time you’re free to compare your social-media-centric life to people who actually do stuff. I never found the appeal of social media only because I don’t need to compare my life to others to understand how horrible it is.

One downside I hate the most is its tax on focus.

There’s always something happening somewhere. Did World War 3 start yet? Sometimes I can’t tell when I read the news… Between the Youtube videos, Facebook updates, Twitter spamming, Reddit uh-redditing, there is never a dull moment. Class time comes and I can’t focus on what the derivative of John Stamos is before I need to sneak a peek at my phone in case I miss the biggest story of all time. I mean it makes sense that I’d rather be engaged than stare at some textbook that I paid $200 too much for.

Being entertained for hours with no downtime could lead to some strange psychological shifts for these newer generations. The only stops of entertainment occur at school and that can be avoided with ease and the discretion of parents.

My parents were horrible with stopping me from watching television. I’d spend hours watching reruns and I could quote most shows that ran from 3,when I got home, all the way to 7 when I made my dinner. Outcries from parents about television rotting young minds would fill PTA meetings and blamed for everything from global warming to autism.

Now just replace television with the internet and you’ve got today’s kids. Great I already sound like I’m 60 and bitter. Can’t be helped I guess.

Downtime is just as important as being engaged. It allows the mind to figure out what the hell you let it process and store what it deems appropriate. Even though some of the community can get a bit nutty with their claims, meditation has some serious benefits. With how easily our minds can be engaged for these days, lulls become rare and its more difficult for the brain to find the time to do the maintenance it needs. There are a plenty of reasons to avoid playing video games before bed. The blue light makes your body think its day, MULTIPLAYER IS A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT THAT JUST RILES ME UP, and the constant action makes my mind race. Going 100 to 0 from gaming to heading to bed is not as easy as it sounds. Sure its possible and does happen, but slowing down your mind before bed may be a better alternative.

Some days that even while I am not actively doing anything my mind is racing. I’ll be walking to class and its as if my brain is hungering for stimulation. I’m always tempted to put in my headphones to alleviate this feeling, but I manage to catch myself every time. It’s just going to prolong the feeling and it will be impossible for me to focus in class. Sure class is boring without the insatiable hunger of my mind, but it does not help in the slightest. Throughout the day, I try to catch myself and figure out ways to stop myself from always being so stimulated. It is crazy the amount of media available to us. That little phone of yours can keep you entertained for the rest of your life. Don’t get me wrong this is a good thing as well. Much better than living in the medieval times where all you could do for fun was not die.

Is what I’m saying just complete anecdotal fake-science? Probably. After all don’t believe everything you hear on the internet. It’s probably just some placebo effect I get when I actively seek to calm my head down, but it works for me at least. Sometimes when I’m studying I’ll notice that my mind is screaming at me, “Put in some headphones. Listen to some music. Do anything.” A reasonable request. But as soon as I hop on my phone there is not turning back. The music itself will have me more focused on the same songs I play  every day over the class material that is brand new to me. Stupid brain.

Granted I’m a rather extreme example. Growing up an only child with old neighbors, not a lot of friends, and parent who had to work a lot of hours, I was pretty much left to my own devices. Or device really. The tv became my only means of entertainment and I’d watch the same dumb shit every day. I would be able to see a title card of a cartoon and instantly know what happens and who says what. I had seen the episodes that much. I’d go days on end with no social interaction. The television was my only stimuli and I’d watch it from when I got home all the way to bed time.

I could never figure out why I couldn’t fall asleep though…

Wait what was I talking about?

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Finals Season is a crazy time

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Finals.

The worst concept ever created. Death is a more welcoming idea. Whoever thought that it would be a good idea to test students on every single class they’ve had in a matter of a week and have each of those tests be worth anywhere from 20% to 50% of your overall grade should get prize.

Like the complete opposite of a Nobel Peace Prize. A Hitler War Prize maybe.

Finals week is where the men are separated from the boys and it turns out everyone are boys. It really makes you put into perspective what important in your life. If you’ve been through it you’d understand and everyone should go through at least one finals week in their life because you can really find what your purpose is.

Just imagine this. You’re 2 finals in. They’ve weathered your confidence. Studying for Saturday’s two tests is looming over your head. Your eyes ache, your head hurts, and you have not moved from your spot in the library for hours.

What would you rather be doing instead? You start bargaining in your head. “If I study later tonight I can game for about an hour” or maybe “If I just study all night tomorrow, I’ll be able to write that novel I’ve been picking at for the past couple of weeks”

Whatever you’d rather be doing is the real you. You find out what you miss most and it can get pretty mundane. At one point, laundry became an escape from finals for me. I hate doing laundry.

Everyone is a little stressed about finals, but some either have such good grades that one C won’t hurt them while others need a 102 to pass the one last class they need to graduate. Semesters are defined in about a week. I remember freshman year I had A’s and A-‘s across the board. I was content. I was cocky. Why study for finals when I could watch some old cartoons I watched as a kid? I knew what happened in the episodes, but they’re still cool to watch. My good grades so far must mean that I already know everything that I need to know for the finals. I never stood a chance. My naivety was my downfall. That and my fascination with superhero cartoons.

I won’t give out any exact numbers, but it got ugly quick. Like 2017 politics ugly.

I vowed to never let that happen again. The pointless slaughter of my freshman GPA would not be in vain.

I started prepping. My notes marked dates and what the finals would cover. I’d figure out all my finals dates and when I should start studying for each weeks before finals reared its horrible mug. I can’t say that finals for me are easy in anyway, but I sure feel better during the week.

I got time to workout and write (with the occasional cartoon thrown in there). I mean sure I could study more to get that 89 on the final to a 90, but as long as my grades didn’t completely falter I’m content.

Other people I know don’t even bother preparing and it works fine for them. The stress finals puts them into some next level state where their sole purpose in life becomes to absorb information and then spout it out at given times during the test. It’s quite a sight. I’d ask them why they did that to themselves. Why hurt yourself for an entire week? It was the only way they knew and it got the job done. I feel like far too many people hold this philosophy and I respect that.

Some people don’t crack under pressure.

Finals affects everyone differently. At some base level everyone is stressed. I feel like I can relate better with other students because I know they’re feeling something similar to me. However, I don’t handle stress well. You can tell from a distance when I’m stressed; I dress worse, my hair is messy because I play with my hair when I’m unnerved, and above all else I’ll get a forehead full of bright red pimples. Don’t let the appearance full you, I’m used to the stress. I am always some level of stress about something and it is a habit I’m trying to fight off. I’m more focused when I’m stressed, hence why my high school baseball coach referred to me solely as “Mr. Clutch”. I stepped up when it mattered, but man do I feel horrible the whole time doing it.

I try to keep to my routine during finals. Try to eat as healthy as always (with obvious failure), workout everyday, and sleep in a regular cycle.

Some people show no signs of change. A girl I know still dresses like its just another day, her makeup is on like nothing is new, and her demeanor is just as happy as if she was at Disney World. It’s sickening. However, when we sat down to study, she broke down mentally. “I am so screwed, I don’t know anything. I should just drop out”. Fucking hell. Finals got to her too.

Finals induces stress which is dealt with in a variety of ways or not at all. It pushes you mentally and that can leave your body in a way worse off space.

One of my friends from back home always posts stories about him working until 4 AM and then starting his day again at 7 AM. It’s both a shame and a marvel to watch. The kid always tries his best, but putting shit up can add up quick. If I had to choose one piece of advice I could tell myself about finals when I was younger it would either be get as much sleep as you usual do (granted that isn’t much), plan waaaaaaaay ahead for finals, or maintain a routine so your body doesn’t go into shock from the sudden 3 all-nighters in a row.

My high school teacher would tell us while studying for the AP exams, “The hay will already be in the barn the day of the test”. You either know it or you don’t. At some point forcing anything else is only counterproductive.

Or at least I think that’s what that meant. Whatever, I should be studying right now anyways.

Dealing with Stress in College

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Everyone gets stressed. Or at least every human gets stressed. It’s a good feeling to have, but not exactly a good one to feel. It reminds you what you have to do and the significance of doing it right. Stress is good until it screws up what you’re trying to do.

However, that was more for our ancestors, keeping us alert when we thought predators were nearby. It’s a bit harder to focus on a test when you can barely breath properly. You can sneak by without dealing directly with stress pretty easily in high school. The workloads can be brutal, but at the end of the day classes aren’t designed to potentially give you a 40 (except for my honors chemistry class, I hated that class)

College is the perfect storm of stress though. The difficulty jumps up to a whole new level and its entirely up to you on how to approach the problem. Do you not go to your 8 AM classes so your not as tired? Or do you skip your night class so you can go to bed at a reasonable hour? And that’s just classes. Imagine a part time job, relationships, sanity, all that can really add up.

Stress is as common as the common cold on a campus. Most people just kinda ride the waves, only really freaking out when Finals come and other major tests. Is there a cure doc? Meh, depends on who you are.

I know a girl who would just bounce a volleyball on a wall for a couple minutes and completely simmer down. As her neighbor I could hear every single instance and would shoot out a quick, “What’s wrong?” text until it stopped. I tried something similar in retaliation with a football, but it worked me up more than anything. At one point I was pretty sure the wall was going to give in before my stress. Sometimes all you really need is that small activity once in a while to set things straight. If there is a basketball near me, I’ll throw it up in the air and catch it. Nothing revolutionary, just a nice feeling.

Some find that one athletic activity that gets their mind off things. Weightlifting makes you feel more powerful and in control. Nothing feels better than letting out all your frustration on a barbell stacked with weight. If you can move it, then you can do anything. Running and other cardio workouts can give you the time to either work out what you’re going through or give you that clear head you need to resolve what you need to. Sports as a whole can encompass either of the above and usually include that added social element. Even during finals, my roommates and I would find the time to play basketball. Trash-talk is a great release is all I’m saying and plenty social.

Being social is something I’ve never been good at, but socializing can be that exact mental break one needs. Being around other people you enjoy being around, especially those who are more positive can really alter your perspective on things. Whether it be talking about what is stressing you out or shooting the shit with your buddies can do wonders. Sometimes stress reaches the point where it consumes you and all that is needed is a step-back. People (and animals) are pretty good at helping others out in their time of need.

A more unusual approach I came across in college is meditation. Now I’m not saying you need to give up on all earthly possessions and shave your head. All it really is is taking 10-15 minutes where you sit in silence, taking deep breaths, and not think about anything. It gives your head a little break from a day full of stimulation and constant nagging. It is not an end all cure and it won’t make you some sort of enlightened person, but a little “mind time” never hurt.

Not all stress releases are good though. Some people have a release that works once for them and it becomes their crutch. In the long run they may hurt more than the stress being dealt with.

A vast majority of kids drink and smoke until they don’t remember why they were even worried in the first place. There are plenty of reasons why this is not the best approach, but sometimes the biggest hindrance is stress itself. My friend’s best papers were written while he was not sober. He’d stress over his diction and grammar when he wasn’t smoking, but once he was in the right state of mind, he’d just let his ideas flow out. It reached the point where he required to be high to do homework. God forbid he ran out of weed, the kid would come to a complete halt academically and it was pretty pathetic. Alcohol and drugs are okay if its a one and done kind of arrangement, but reaching the point where they become a necessity is never a good sign.

Others just live with it. Every second is stressful, yet what’s the harm? Yesterday I was stressed so what does it matter if it continues? Riding out stress is a brutal habit I had early in high school. Why deal with the stress if I was gonna get stressed the very next day. I rode the wave of stress and did not do shit to stop it. I’m not going to say it was the worst option, it did get me through some rough patches, but man did it suck. Life was just a blur at the time and the only constant in my life seemed to be the stress. It’s not a part of my life I look back at fondly.

There are definitely other ways to deal with stress out there. I’m sure I’m forgetting a good chunk of methods. Feel free to share your own and who knows maybe I’ll pick it up too. Stress sucks, but it’s not an impossible solution. We’re only human.

Finding Yourself in College

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It’s such a cliche isn’t it? College is where you figure out who you are and where you fit in. High school had you still under the control of your parents for the most part, although I’ve seen some horror stories of parents continuing their reign into college. College gives you a degree which is amazing in itself, but almost as important is how you react to such an increase in freedom.

You wanna drink at 3 AM in your bathroom? In college that’s a typical Wednesday night. Wanna drive a state over to drop acid at some concert? No one is gonna stop you. The sudden shift from subservience to almost complete freedom (within legal confines of course) is yours. Some people feel almost no difference. More of the same for them. Others can’t function. They have been told what to do and why for years and now these fledgling adults were expected to do laundry and homework without someone telling them to do so.

Is it really that simple or is it one of those Hollywood moments? You come in a piece of clay. You exit molded by your experiences and understand exactly what you want to do in life. Some kids just want that dream career or the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a degree. Others just want to find people to make memories with, through video games, clubs, or alcohol. How many ways can you really find yourself though?

I have no clue who I am. Quite frankly I know even less about myself than before and only have one year left to go. I’ve hung out with the partiers, the stoners, the athletes, the nerds, the loners, the weird kids, whatever. The list goes on and on. If there is a cliche for a type of person, I’ve hung out with them. From all of that I found that I have no idea who I fit in with best. There are ups and downs with how each of them handle themselves and it seems so clear-cut from their perspective. For me I was none of those. I was just a wanderer. I enjoyed being with these groups, yet that’s it. Being with them is different than being them.

I get it. Woes is me. The tragic tale of the guy who doesn’t have a place. How horrible it must be to fit in with almost anyone (though I’m not that good at that still trust me). I surely can’t be the only one right? I’m not worried I’ll never find my purpose in college. It’s just a strange realization to be having. Am I missing something? Probably. There was definitely a lecture that explained how to determine who you were in college and I was taking a dump somewhere else at the time.

Maybe the point of college is to show you that you’re never just one thing. Or at least that’s what I’ll use to justify my situation. I mean there is still time for me to figure out who I am, but clearly I’m not looking in the right places.

Maybe my spirit animal got run over by a car on its way to my college.

The Importance of Planning Ahead

Growing up, I was decent at school. I had above average grades, but I mucked about like any of my friends. From a distance it would be difficult to understand why I was so much better with my grades compared to my “under-performing” peers. Do I think I was smarter than them? No, not really. After all, I once tried breaking up a random fight I had not dog in. I’m probably on the dumber side of the population if anything.

What I did do well was plan. I was extremely rigid about it as well. If I missed even 5 minutes of studying, I’d remove my break time and study more. Punctuality was a consequence of my planning, nothing more. Every semester I’d plan my day down to 15 minutes and barely enough flexibility to keep me sane. Whenever I got a new class or job, I’d throw out my old schedule and make something completely different. Deviation from the schedule was intolerable, but there were instances of me doing so without my consent. However, I did everything in my power to avoid such horrible tragedies. One of my most embarrassing secrets is that I did a fairly good job of studying other people’s tendencies and schedules and factored that into my own. “No I can’t go get food at 6 because I’ll see Tom on the way and I’ll have to listen to him for hours”. In a perfect world, everything would have been like I was one of those super villains watching the hero beat up their thugs and saying, “It’s all going according to plan”.

Now the most obvious reason for why I planned so much was because of my household, but that was not the case in the slightest. My parents were not helicopter parents, they never asked about them. They were always impressed when they’d see my grades at the end of the year and how I managed to do anything else in the meantime. Deep-down the planning obsession was all mine. It was not healthy.

Why did I start or care about schedules so much? I can’t be certain, but it’s probably the control. Life is a bunch of random event occurring one after another. Each day has new problems along with older ones that still linger. Planning gave me that cathartic release from the stress of my life. Frankly there was not that much happening in my life at any one given moment, but that single ounce of stress made me want a life completely filled with.

The schedule became worse than the stress than the stress being mitigated. Missing one study period to hang out with friends sent me into a frenzy all-nighter to recover. I was always checking my phone to make sure I did not miss my 5 PM break-time. Yup, I reached the point where missing my time intended for relaxing was stressing me out. Don’t get me wrong, I stuck to the schedule probably around 90% of the time. However, I forgot to factor in two things.

First I’m human. Sometimes it would take me 32 minutes to learn something even though I only allocated 30 minutes. Spotting a random guy at the gym added 5 minutes to my workout time and I cursed him out the entire drive back in my car. Also, always doing the same things at certain times really grinds you down eventually. No one likes being in a rut, but the schedule made the rut. How could I plan to not be in a rut, when planning was what threw me in it to begin with? The mind needs to be stimulated and after a while it’ll figure out your everyday patterns.

The second was that life has too many variations. How could I possibly know that my grandparents were moving in the summer and therefore need me to help move their stuff instead of working more hours at my summer job? How could I have known that the girl living in the dorm suite next to me was going to have an emotional collapse and need at least 3 people to help her through it? The schedule did not always have the answers. It could account for the mundane stuff, but outliers completely screwed it up.

Schedules are good in determining what you know you need to get done and figuring out how much time you have to do it. However, they shouldn’t become your personal Bible. I still make schedules, but now I place much more flexible hours to allow for unexpected events. If I miss some time for studying, well I guess I’ll just have to study harder later.

Maybe I shouldn’t be having these thoughts right before finals though…

How Smart Are You?

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There are a million different ways to measure intelligence. People often think of academic intelligence, the classic nerd that we see in the movies. No doubt some of the most intelligent people in the world are a part of academia, but there are other ways to be smart. It’s usually the non-academics that say that kinda stuff, ” I may not be book smart, but I’m street smart”. Not the best way to say that you’re no good at school, but there is some truth behind it. There is no doubt that excelling at academics is one of the most notable types of ways to show your intelligence, but there are some other types of smart out there.

You got your emotionally smart people. These ones are some of the most dangerous because not only can they read people, they can manipulate them. They can be some of the hardest to find, but when you spot one its best to keep an eye on them. I’ve only spotted five or six in the wild, but man can they work a room. No matter how academic someone is, there is always the danger that their emotions take over. Sadness can make a person do something they would never do in a heartbeat like some new heavy drugs or even suicide.

Intensely rational/logical people are often lumped in with the academics. They may not come into a problem knowing how to solve them, but give them the time they will fix it. Its the application of knowledge that certain people excel at. Old people usually fall into this category since they’ve seen the same shit going on for years. Problems seem to follow patterns and even though they may not always have a full deck of cards never underestimate an old person.

The social smarts is something that entirely escapes me. Some people may not know they are even doing it, but working a room is nothing to them, It irks me when I meet people like this because they make it seem so effortless meanwhile I can barely string together a sentence. Some of the more nefarious ones will know exactly what to whisper into their boss’ ear to get a promotion and manipulate others to get their own agenda through.

Then there’s the philosophers, or the “life smarts” as I call it. Some people just have life figured out and there isn’t a curveball life could possibly throw at them that would take them by surprise. Its usually pretty closely tied to the wise/rational, but there’s a distinction. Life smarts people will often only think about stuff in the largest picture. They zoom out enough in perspective and give a better view of consequence associated with the problem at hand. They’ll see the perspective that you couldn’t and are often the extremely optimistic and pessimistic people. After all everyone thinks they’re a realist.

One can’t forget the creative smarts people. If you give them a blank piece of paper and an hour, they’ll give you back something worth a couple thousands dollars. Painting, writing, singing, whatever. Some people were born to create something larger than a single person could ever hope to become. I feel like this is one of the more underappreciated smarts by those who aren’t as gifted (not that I’m creative in anyway). There is a difference between color on a canvas and a painting and it is up to the artist to do so.

I’m sure there are plenty more types of intelligence. Everyone is at least predisposed to one of these types, despite what others may say or think. It can take time to figure out what exactly you are good at. However, there are some people who just seem all-around smarter than you and its horrifying. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met people smarter than me in the traditional sense, but I rarely feel like there is someone who is smarter than me in every facet.

Those are the people that intrigue me the most. It may not seem like much at the time, but if you come in to contact with someone like that keep an eye on them. Its a sobering experience. What will they do with their clear superiority over me? Are they simply just toying with me?

I met a girl in college like that. On the surface she seemed normal. Nice, pretty, and social. There was no indication at the time when I first met her, but there were hints. She seemed to just luck her way into whatever. Good grades, plenty of friends, and she had to constantly reject guys from asking her out. She was the perfect storm. The scariest part though was that I didn’t even notice. I guess I’m just too dumb, but she knew how to manipulate everyone and do so in secret. In every area she excelled and all I could do was try to figure out how she did it after the fact. The worst part was that she masked it so well. To most people she was just a pretty face, but retracing what she said and how she acted it was clear that she had ulterior motives. Yet it seemed so natural for her. At first meeting her she seemed like a typical ditzy girl, which is exactly what she wants.

Maybe in another post I’ll go into, but at some point you have to sit back and marvel at the prospect. You ever see those anime moments where the hero’s friends see the hero/villain’s power and go, ” His power is unreal. How is something like that even possible?” It’s like that but with intelligence. How are there people like that in this world? They must be seeing the everything in a whole different way. Are we all just pawns to them? Are there people out there that even outclass them?

It’s humbling and terrifying all in one. I’m gonna keep my eye on her from here out and try to keep up. Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two.

Everyone is smart in their own way. How they use it may not be apparent at first. Who knows exactly how smart anyone else is. You can only gauge them in relation to yourself and its impossible to know if its their real selves you’re seeing.

You can never truly know if you’re getting played, all you can do is a keep a look out.

What’s The Worst Place A Ghost Can Haunt?

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Long car drives are both a blessing and a curse. You need to give most of your concentration to the road to you know not die, but even potential death can be boring at times. Staring straight ahead while sometimes cursing at Toyota Camry going just under the speed limit- I’m getting bored just thinking about it.

The one positive you start to think about weird stuff. Like all the rules that go into ghosts. Depending on what logic we follow, being a ghost has plenty of ups and downs that may deter people from sticking around after death.  Are we going with standard cartoon logic where ghosts can freely move and do whatever the hell they want? They kinda just keep doing what they were doing in life,  occasionally befriending some person alive. That would be one of the worst ways to go out I think. Stuck in the era’s clothes and dialect while the world goes on. They don’t really have a purpose, they’re just ghosts that appear around Halloween and help the main character with some Halloween problem that is strangely paranormal. They can phase through walls and that’s about it. That is Hell in itself right there. Then again, ghosts in those can usually still move stuff and most people can interact with them so it would be like I never died. Then again that would mean I’d still have to socialize. I would hate to be a ghost in an old Saturday morning cartoon.

Or maybe you’ll be one of the more mature ghost movies that haunt shit that they feel like. A grandfather’s clock or something that you saw as you were dying. You know these movies where ghosts don’t look like they’re people with sheets over their heads. It would be cool to haunt a computer for a while and open a bunch of horrible porn and when I’m board I can just surf the web. It would be like me being alive except I wouldn’t need to eat or poop. Pretty dope- well as long as I pick something cool to haunt. Some haunted movies just make you haunt the place you died in, which is a serious risk. Great if you die in a school or something. You can fuck around with the freshman or spook some kids who snuck in to the school late at night. If you’re feeling lazy you could just listen in on the gossip. Hospitals, schools, populated places that aren’t always busy would be ideal, but imagine dying on a sidewalk. No roof over your invisible head and not much to do except look at the occasional cool car drive by. That’d be horrible. Plus you’d really have to spook the few people who walk by, and cyclists would be way too fast to spook. I take it back, haunting rules would be too much of a gamble. If you get a hospital great, but sidewalk ghosts probably can’t wait to kill themselves again.

Then there’s the religious angle, where your stuck in Purgatory or something similar. Regardless of the specific religion, ghosts in general just stick around either to serve some sort of light divine punishment or tie up any loose ends. When I’m about to die there’s no question I’ll remember something important I forgot to do before the whole dying stuff turned up. Oh crap I forgot to feed my cat. Welp guess I’ll see Alfred Whiskers in the next life. Or maybe I got murdered and I have to help some girl help solve my own death. One last screw you before I ascend (or descend). Purgatory as a punishment would suck. Just see how the world progresses without you. A year or two wouldn’t be bad, but after a couple 100 years I might get bored of watching other people play video games or whatever. If there was a lesson I was supposed to be learning I would assuredly not learn it until Jesus himself told me.

If I had to choose I guess I’d go with the lesson one and I’d try to speed-run it. What kind of ghost would you want to be? I also know there’s plenty more types of ghosts, but I’ll get to those later I guess.