Hey, it's election day! Remember to vo---Just kidding. I'm not here to remind you of politics. This will be a post about slowing down and looking inwards. Got it? Let's begin.

So let's say you're an unemployed urban dweller, and you meet some chick at a coffee shop.

"What? I don't meet chicks. And I don't visit coffee shops either. I came to your site to inspect the 'hole in my heart', which means I'm either a depressed lonely young 浪人 or an depressed lonely NEET."

But I was right about the unemployed part, right?


Also, you misinterpreted me when I said "chick". Here's the chick you met:

Pictured above is a Black Phoebe, also known as the "Tuxedo bird" for obvious reasons.

"What a beauty! And this bird's name is Alice?"

Yes, I christened her as such. Alice the Phoebe.

"A girl wearing a tuxedo? That's my fetish."

Calm down, depressed lonely young 浪人.

"So what does she do?"

What an awful, atrocious question. But if you must know, Alice is a pilot. Or, like any other Phoebe, we can call her a flycatcher. In other words, their main source of food are small insects like flies. Phoebes typically hunt like this: they'll perch on an elevated spot, scanning the area--head bobbing hither and tither, tuft fluttering in the breeze--and suddenly you'll watch them swoop down in pursuit of a fly or what have you, often performing some really fast paced weaving, bending, hovering (on the hovering: not as "in-place" as hummingbirds, but still enough to give plenty of other birds a run for their stimulus), and other fancy manouvers. Then they swoop back up to the same spot or another elevated spot, munching on a newly earned meal if their dive succeeded.

"Okay, I like it! Alice is a pilot! Or a flycatcher! That works."

And her airbase is called "The Nest"

"The Nest!"

You got it, depressed lonely NEET! High five!


"Alright. Alice the flycatching pilot, you say? I'm all in! So what happened? I met Alice, where?"

You were out on a walk and you met Alice while strolling by a coffee shop. You see, Alice was perched on the rim of an emptied coffee mug at the outdoor seating area.

"What did she order?"

She wasn't drinking coffee, dummy. Well, maybe she had a sip or few. But she was mainly there to hunt for flies, and was performing the usual procedure: Perch, scan, head bobbing hither and tither, tuft fluttering...

"Oh, there was a breeze, huh?"

There was! But Alice wasn't having a very successful hunting day. The flies weren't so populous. And the ones that were present were moving a little too fast for her.

"Does she have other mouths to feed?"

Nah, she's single.

"Oh! Is that where I come in?"

Who'd want a depressed lonely NEET like you?


Just kidding. Turns out there are some romantic comedy antics coming up. You see, at the time you were walking by, Alice spotted a fly, and swooped down to catch it, only to miss once again on this unlucky day.

"Poor Alice."

But not quite giving up yet, hovering in place, Alice watched the fly zip and zoom, and eventually it started buzzing around your cheek. Of course, with a fly in your vicinity, you responded by shooing it away, and it just so happens you shooed it in the direction of Alice, allowing her to gobble it up.

"Poor fly."

That's nature.

"But I helped Alice! That's pretty great!"

Yes, it was an accident, but you did help her. And Alice was grateful. So grateful that she even briefly came up to you, and you know what she said?




Let me translate that.

"Hayyyyyyy! Thx 4 the help. *Wink wink*"

"Oh, she's a flirty bird."

Which is a little odd. Phoebes are usually extremely shy. If you, as a human, try to get up close to them, they fly away before you can even get a good look. You can't get as close to them as you could with other birds you see at the park or your backyard. So it's a pretty big deal for Alice to come up that close to you.

"So I got on her good side? Nice! What happened next?"

Well, the same sort of deal would happen approximately daily. You'd be out on your walk, pass by the coffee shop, and shoo a couple of flies into Alice's direction. Eventually, out of gratitude, she actually invites you for a cup of coffee.

"Wow, I've never been asked out by a bird before."

Actually, you've never been asked out before, period. But anyway, you ordered an Americano to share with her, and sat across each other at a table in that outdoor dining area (well, by "across", I mean she was perched at the opposite side of the rim of your Americano mug, facing you, dipping her head every so often to take a sip).

"Cute! A date with a bird? I like it!"

And it was a good date. Nothing special. But a nice pleasant time, where you enjoyed each others' company.

"Seems like a budding romance."

Correct. You two would continue these coffee dates, as well as the cooperative hunting, quite often. And the more and more you talked, the closer and closer you two became. To the point that, before you knew it, your frienship evolved to be at the brink of a romantic relationship, or some kind of deeper bond of that caliber. And one day, you guys were talking over the usual Americano, and it went something like this:

You: Nice weather today, huh?

Alice: You really have to stop using that as a convo starter. Anyway, you know how said you're unemployed?

You: Huh? Oh yea. I'm unemployed alright. I feel like it's pretty much hopeless for me to get a job at this point. Pandemic or not, I've been so incompetent for so long that I've lost the motivation to even look.

Alice: Listen... You've helped me out so much over this past month. You've helped me catch so many flies at a time where it's been hard for me. And I just like you as a person. Do you maybe wanna help me out at The Nest with piloting?

You: ...A-Alice! Wait, is this a job offer or a marriage proposal?

Alice: A bit of both. Anyway, what do you think? I dunno if me and The Nest is good enough for you, but I thought I just had to offer at least.

You: Alice, I'd be honored! Yes please! I'd love to spend more time with you!

Alice: Really? I'm so happy to hear that! Hold on, I'll be right back!

*Alice flies off, you sit there giddy with excitement, and she returns with a big stack of forms.*

Alice: Just sign these forms and we can get started!

You: ...

Alice: What's the matter?

You: Sorry, Alice. I'm appphobic.

"What? 'Appphobic'? The hell is that?"

Appphobia? It's a term I made up. Short for "application phobia."

"The triple p in there is real weird."

I think it's cute.

"I guess, but what do you mean by 'application phobia'?"

It's fairly self-explanatory, I think. The fear of filling out applications.

"Err, and you're saying, I have this so called appphobia?"


"Okay, dude. You're right that I'm unemployed and unmotivated. And thanks to that, I do hate filling out applications. Applications are a nuisance. But I wouldn't say that I have a debilitating fear of them."

Okay, fine. Filling out an application is a nuisance to you then, not a debilitaing fear.

"Alright, so then I'll fill out Alice's stack of forms."

No you won't.

"Why not?"

Cause you're appphobic.

"What!? The application is no big deal. Why would I turn down an entire future with Alice just because I don't want to fill out some flimsy application?"

Are you sure it's no big deal? You just admitted that it is. The future of your relationship with Alice depends on you filling that application out. The application is all-powerful.

"It's not all-powerful. It's just an application! All I have to do is fill it out and we can live happily ever after."

Oh but it is. You see, if you fill it out, you get to live happily ever after with her. But if you don't, your relationship can't move forward. At least, it can't consummate in The Nest. Your relationship hinges on the application. There is, very much, an application standing between you and her. The application is the arbiter of your future.


I think applications are something worthy of being scared about. Their subtle, creeping importance, and the power they hold over your life. Their ubiquity, in the form of college applications, drivers license registrations, replace-your-card forms, medical forms, annual tax forms, and of course, job applications. They're everywhere, those dry fields lurk, quietly gluing society together.

"Did an application cheat on you or something? I've heard of people cheating on applications, but..."

Well, you see, I used to be a job app junkie: For the first few months after I graduated college, I had to look for a job, and I indeed applied left and right to positions in my field. Oh, the memories. Name: ________. Past PAST EMPLOYMENT 1:, Employer: ______, Years employed: ______, Still working here? (Y/N), If No, reason for leaving: ______ (*This field is mandatory), EDUCATION 1:, School: _____ Degree: _______. Graduated? (Y/N). + Click here to add a school. Please attach your resume here. Blah blah blah blahblah blah. Appphobics, feel free to take a moment to puke if that triggered you.


"You sound exactly like a crazy ex."

Anyway, in that job app frenzy, I got back mostly rejections and silence. Discouraging, sure. But even more frightening is that even when I DID get an interview, I'd often ignore and pretend to not see it. Sometimes I'd even accept an interview and the cancel it in the last minute. What was going on? Didn't I want a job?

Well, I think what terrified me at the prospect of getting an interview was that it basically felt like an extension of the application process. What's the interview? It's just an in-person, on-the-spot job application. They ask you questions, you have to respond with the right words, check all the right boxes, recite your Resume again. Sound familiar? And after that? Even if you get a "you're hired", you have to deal with more papers and documents (I-9, W-2, non-compete agreement, arbitration clause, ...), and hey, let's extrapolate further: What do you do in a job? Use the right words, check all the right boxes, make yourself look nice and pretty. The daily grind is very much in the spirit of the initial application. It's a 9-5 application. The application spirit exists even when you're not filling one out: In the typical workday, in career advancement, in socialization, in marriages, in funerals...

So getting a response from an application wasn't a relief. It wasn't, "Oh, the application process is finally over, thank goodness." It was more like, "Ah fuck, this is only the beginning."

I mean just look at any application. When I see one, I think of a top-down view of a residential zone, or downtown area. The fields are the streets, the field names are the street names, the bubbles are the traffic signals, et cetera. It's all nice and rectangular and so deliberately partitioned, paved for convenience.

The point is that applications, including their form and spirit, are one of the most ubiquitous interfaces for the basic functioning of modern society. Maybe even the basis. What happens when you get scared of them?

You disappear.

I hope I'm not sounding overphilosophical here. I'm trying to pick at the root of a very real, repulsed reaction and fear when I'm faced with the prospect of filling out an application. Even if the application takes just 5 minutes, it's an exhausting, draining process for me.

I know that I can't get health care without signing a medical form. I know I can't be recognized as a citizen without renewing my passport. I know I can't get into any higher education institution without filling out the relevant applications. Applications are necessary. But that's precisely why I'm terrified of them. I'm terrified that they are necessary. The course of my future can depend on the existence or lack thereof of a dry, flimsy application, with respect to a cold, arbitrary deadline. Each of those mundane, asterisked fields matter to the world more than me. The boxes I check are more important that what I feel. I don't matter, only my application does.

So back to you: you tell Alice that you're appphobic. That you're unable to fill out those stack of forms. Your future with her is in Bayesian jeopardy. And what does she say?

"Lol, well anyway I'm a bird so I don't give a fuck about applications. It's cool bro, just pay me back w. another Americano sometime."


Welcome to the nest.

"Wait, I made it after all? Without filling anything out? You were hyping up power of applications, but in the end, it doesn't even matter!?"

Not with you and Alice. Like she said, she's a bird. She wears a tuxedo, but she's still just a flycatcher. She doesn't live by applications. Turns out that the application is irrelevant--at most supplementary--to your relationship. There is no application standing between you and her.

"Whew. Thank goodness I'm dating a bird!"

Indeed. The Black Phoebe world doesn't run on applications. There is no bookkeeping. At least not to the extent that there is in the human world. Nesting, migration, hunting, courtly love, mating, raising, are rife with patterns and practices, but nowhere is there a sheet of paper with fields to fill out. Everything is done and communicated in the raw. It's a tough world, certainly: Predators left and right, the daily struggle to not starve to death, the need to find a significant other and raising successful offspring within a short lifespan. But it's applicationless.

Alice: Our love has no barriers. At least not in the form of applications! Let's overwrite your appphobia with appphoebia! Meet me at The Nest!

You: Yay, thank you Alice! How do I get there? Do you have directions? Is it down this road, or...?

Alice: Pffft, where we're going, we don't need roads. Let's fly!

You: No, sorry, I'm human. I can't fly.

Alice: Ugh, okay, a mile northwest from here, you'll see a sycamore about 20 feet high, with a hollow facing approximately west. Move in that direction for 50 feet and you'll see a building. On the east-facing side of that building, you'll see a rain gutter lined up below the eave of the roof. Go towards the left edge of tha--

You: Woah, woah, woah. Can you give me an address, or something? Or at least which streets I should follow? I'll just plug it into Google Maps and

Alice: Heh, pathetic! Your hippocampus is as tiny as your dick.

"Man, Alice can be soooo rude!"

You're right, depressed lonely young 浪人. But she has a point. Humans used to have a better handle on geography and navigation, but with the advent of navigation apps, we no longer have to rely on spatial memory so much, and research suggests that it has had a measurable effect on our hippocampi sizes. But think of it from Alice's perspective: Her world isn't organized in streets and fields and rectangles and squares. The city is prepaved convenience for us, not her. She uses the rim of a coffee mug as a perch, the elbow of a rain gutter as a nesting area, a puddle at the park as a bath.

When I watch a Black Phoebe perform all the aforementioned fancy swooping and weaving and hovering and other aerial trickery, there is an odd sense of envy I feel. It's not the fact that they can fly, but the fact that they have so much control in the air, without any reliance on any external gadgets or vehicles. They can pilot their own bodies.

"Fuck technology, amirite?"

If you're starting to see this as some kind of anti-technology statement, I don't blame you. But you're sort of missing the point. Remember: I started this post off by saying it would be apolitical. After all, someone that can't self-navigate may already be doomed. If you're appphobic like me, you're probably an urban dweller with no survival skills. If you were dropped into the middle of the woods, you'd get pwned in no time.

"So what's an appphobic supposed to do? How am I supposed to get along in this world, if my life is a contradiction? How am I supposed fill in the hole in my heart?"

I don't know, but you can try following Alice's lead. Adapt to the environment, but in such a way that the objects aren't being used in the way they were intended. The coffee-stained perch. The hokey pokey shelter. The impromptu bathtub. Don't burn your application: turn it into a paper airplane and launch it from a rooftop terrace. Watch it swoop and weave, while your tuft flutters in the breeze. Follow the Phoebe, and follow her directions: a mile northwest from here, across the sycamore...

"What the hell are you talking about? Be more concrete."

Okay, I'll be more concrete. Just do what you did. Marry a Black Phoebe.