Saturday, January 2, 2016

World of Salt

Lots of change, every year. That’s how it’s been in the four years since finishing high school. Often I make the mistake of wanting to include the majority of other people my age into my own life’s trend as if to somehow bring understanding to our snippet of a generation. But I can’t fit us all into one category because that would be boring.
Upon graduating high school, I went to Union College in pursuit of an English degree. I wanted to write books but hated the idea of being a teacher. Then I thought maybe I could be an English professor for a couple years while I pursue the writing. But grades slipped, as did my mind, and I found myself stuck with academic suspension and fruitless loans.
“It’s okay, I’ll sell kuchens to support myself. And I’ll work a little dinky job on campus for a bit. Maybe I’ll get back into car detailing. Sure, I’ll be fine.”
Unemployed and unsuccessful in pursuits, I told myself the same things over and over.
Mental illness played a role in all of this. I truly wanted to succeed. I just didn’t know how.
I considered finding a “regular job.” Sure, it would make me want to step in front of a train, but it would be some money. And money is required to feed vices that help you cope with your “regular job.”
I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote stories, I wrote songs. I thought: ‘If I could finish a story and publish it, everybody would see I’m on the right path. They would stop pestering me to find a “regular job.”
I thought more about college. Based on the two years of time and loans I’d pissed away, college was kaput. And what could I do anyway? Everyone was becoming a doctor or a business person or a teacher or something that made me want to do the train thing again.
As I did the “regular job” dance (work it, quit it, find another) over and over, I noticed how my perspective changed. I began feeling as if I was viewing myself from a very great distance. I felt very small. And, though seemingly capable and skilled and intelligent, I’d been misplaced in the grand scheme of things. I felt like a snail born into a world of salt.
When you put salt on a snail, a process called osmosis begins. The salt draws out the water from the snail’s cells and eventually they shrivel and die.
Of course, I thought I may finally lose all of my metaphoric water and blink out of existence. Whether by some quantum mishap or by my own means, I would just disappear. I often wanted it. I realized that I didn’t want to actually die. I just wanted to not be around anymore and death felt like the closest thing.
At some point, a shift started. It started when I caught a glimpse of independence and realized I could attain the goals that haunted me. Sure, they still haunt me and sometimes I slip into the old modes of thinking. But I learned there’s a place for me in this world. It’s not all salt.
And listen:
I’m not writing this to tell you that I have all of the answers,
Or that I’m completely cured of something.
(Because, by the way, this thing that makes me sick
is the thing that keeps me sane.)
I’m definitely not writing it to tell you how great I am.
(You should know that already. Ha.)
I’m writing this shit to tell you it’s not over. Whatever “it” is for you.
I’m saying the world is full of incredible things.
Knowledge to be learned, places to visit, things to do, people to meet.
The world can be so amazing.
And it can be hell.
A hell composed of poverty, violence, and horrible people.
And the external hell is minuscule in comparison to the internal hell.
The memories stuffed so tight around your vital organs it’s hard to breathe.
You can make a living, get away from violence, end toxic friendships.
But your inner hell?
It’s a cannibal child tugging at your shirt, always in tow.
“I think hell is something you carry with you. Not somewhere you go.”*
If you can figure yourself out first, everything else will be easier to handle. Why run a race with a broken leg?
Solving your personal Rubix cube is a huge feat in itself. It requires introspection and asking yourself, “Why do I feel this way?” “Why do I want this or that?” Open up a conversation with yourself. If that’s not working, start a conversation with a trusted friend or family member. Ask them how you could improve as a person. It’s a really vulnerable place to put yourself, but if you can siphon out some honesty, you might be surprised how much it helps.
I suppose I started writing all of this to give you a glimpse of where I’m at in life and hopefully it gives you some perspective if you’re feeling like 2015 was a turd pile. Don’t let 2016 be the same way. Hate your job? What would you rather do? Make a list of how to get there. Stop saying “I’ll do that thing someday” or “Boy that’d be nice to do eventually.” Make 2016 the year you started toward that thing. It doesn’t have to be the year you accomplish the thing. But by December, you’ll be able to look back on your year with pride. You’ll feel less snail-like and the salt won’t be as scary.
Alright, I’m done. Sorry for not editing any of this. I have more writings to do.

Make it a great year, peoples.


*Neil Gaiman - The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists

Monday, January 19, 2015

Four Hour Poop

Whether it be my mental health or just me not knowing how to deal with things, I've recently been finding myself overwhelmed; sometimes to the point of not being able to function or think clearly. It's understandable, considering all the irons I have in the fire. I've never had so many irons trying to heat up at one time. Most days, those irons keep me motivated and happy because they give me purpose and direction. And for the most part, I like the irons. They're positive things, but they're also big things that demand time and focus, both of which are not my strong suits.

I've talked about these irons in previous posts, but let's review. There's the kuchen business, the YouTube channel, my writing, my music, a part time job at Juice Stop, and intern work for Sower Records. I think that's all of them.

Anyway, I went to work yesterday feeling pretty optimistic and upbeat and that lasted for about two hours until I found myself getting into a mental slump. It's the sort of slump that can turn into a hot stove if things don't cool down quickly. The slump began as I was trying to organize my to-do list for this week. Sometimes when my mind races, it starts thinking about all the tasks at once and that causes it to boil over (Wow, stove reference again). My mind gets hazy, my attention span is shot, and everything becomes a bit of a monotonous blur.

I could feel myself nosediving and at one point the thought crossed my mind that I very well may have a panic attack right at work. Or maybe it'll be a heart attack. You know that feeling? Things come rushing at you like water from a broken levee and suddenly you have to remember to breathe. And when you do breathe, it's a really deep breath that feels like pushing the floodwaters back down into the basement.

Oh, but that doesn't solve anything. The basement is still ruined and will begin to decay and mold and smell bad. And while you're sitting upstairs, your mind is consumed thinking about that mess beneath you and how much time and energy and money it will take to fix it all. That has been my habit for as long as I can remember. Shove it down, tuck it away, out of sight, out of mind. It's all too much to handle.

But yesterday, I decided to try and face that rising water, despite knowing I metaphorically can't swim that well. Nevertheless, I began talking myself down into a calmer state of mind, I said a little prayer, and I also remembered a blog post by Donald Miller. In it, he says that people can usually accomplish only about three big things a year. He and I are similar in many respects. Here's a quote from the blog, which I would recommend you guys read.

"Most people I know who aren’t having much of an impact in the world suffer from one of two problems. Either they don’t know what they want to do or they are trying to do too much. I’ve never really had trouble knowing what I’ve wanted to do, but I’ve had tons of trouble trying to do too much."

Most people I come into contact with fall into the first category: they don't know what they want to do. I've written about that before. The whole "finding your passion" thing. But like I said, I've been consumed trying to do all of those things that I'm passionate about.

So yesterday, as the floodwaters were rising and the stove was warming, I thought of this post. Part of me thought it sounded logical and useful. The other part of me hated the idea of limiting myself to only do three things. So many things excite and intrigue me, so it's hard to focus on just one thing at a time.

I used to be at one end of the spectrum. I had nothing going on. I knew I wanted to write and play music and be successful, but I wasn't taking a lot of steps to attain those goals. That end of the spectrum contains corpses. Whether buried bodies or bodies that are simply breathing but not living, they are corpses. Now I've discovered the other end of the spectrum. You would think the other end of the spectrum would be "living" or "alive" or something, but "alive" falls in the middle of the spectrum I think. This end of the spectrum is like flames. It is unhealthy and ultimately self-defeating. It's like putting jet fuel in a car engine. It'll burn, but my god, that car will be done. The car was not built to harness the power and intensity of jet fuel.

In the same way, measly human bodies don't possess the parts needed to do so many things. They're made to accomplish fantastic, wondrous things, but they also can burn out and die. And I guess I've been scorching my insides. So, I've begun to prioritize and set my three big things apart from the smaller things that might be more like hobbies... for now. Here we go.

#1: Kuchen business. Starting a business is obviously a huge thing, but I've been steadily making progress and am continually motivated by the vision of my future self. Guess what that future self does for a living? Yes, he bakes kuchens, but guess what he doesn't do? He doesn't work for a boss. He has stopped sticking it to The Man and instead has become The Man. His own Man.

#2: YouTube Channel. Yes, Thomas and I are still going strong on our channel, Pumpkin Plays. It's so much fun and crude and raunchy as ever. Our hope is that once we build a fan base, we can start bringing in revenue in order to buy better equipment and put out higher quality material. And who knows? If the channel becomes successful enough, maybe Thomas will be able to flip The Man the bird and become his own Man. Shit, he's already manning up and, dare I say, finding a bit of a passion? He has and continues to put hours into editing footage and enjoys the hell out of it. I'm proud of him.

#3: Writing. If anything should intend on taking writing from me, it should plan to lose some limbs. I've been rediscovering my love for the written word as of late. Blog posts have been a bit more frequent, journaling has been consistent, and story ideas are always buzzing around in my head. But there's more to it. Writing is on my list of big things this year because I'm planning to start submitting stories to magazines and contests like a madman. If accepted, there can be some seriously decent prize money. I don't like to think about the money being my motivation, because I love writing. But I also have to be honest. Anyway, I figure if I can do something I love and also make money from it on the side, that would be awesome. Plus, winning contests are great accomplishments to list when submitting to other publications or maybe to a publishing house if/when I finish writing a book.

So those are my three big things this year. The unfortunate thing is that music is not on that list and it makes me emotional to even think of. In the past few months, my guitar playing and songwriting has decreased significantly and my voice is not in optimum condition. My insides burn (in a positive way) for music and performing and that whole scene. But I've had to be realistic and honest with myself lately and it sucks. Pursuing the music dream might have to wait until 2016.

I still plan to do things for Sower Records as I can, because I want to be a part of the Lincoln music scene, even if it isn't as an artist yet. *hangs head*

Then there's Juice Stop. It's a job. That's all it is. It's not on my top three accomplishments. It's not on my hobby list. It is next to nothing to me and here's why: It is necessary to have a little money to keep myself afloat, but it also takes up my time that I could be spending on the other three big things or even music. As I've mentioned, I am sick of working for The Man and bitching about The Man on blog posts. The Man can suck it.

Therefore, Juice Stop makes none of my lists. It has no list. It is its own stupid entity. I regard it with the lowest regard I can regard anything and so it is basically feces. Yes, feces. I equate the time of my life Juice Stop takes up to the time taken up by relieving myself on the toilet. It's annoying, but necessary. For (usually) about four hours each day during the week, I am tied to a location, caged by customers, and weighted down by duties. Heh heh, I said duties. Which brings me back to poop. I know you guys were wondering how the hell that title was going to be relevant to this post, but there you have it. Juice Stop is a four hour poop.

Well, that's all I have for today. It was a bit longer than I'd anticipated, but give some thought to your year and what you want to do.

Are you trying to do too many things? Prioritize.

Are you doing nothing? Take a breath, slap your face, and come back to life. It's waiting for you.


PS: Random, but I actually thought of the title and the idea behind it before I even began this post.

PSS: I ordered a memory card for my camera today! I don't use exclamation points, really, so you know I'm excited. You guys can expect some short videos and hopefully more pictures in the next couple weeks.

Monday, January 12, 2015

What Say Ye?

Hey guys,

I've been giving some serious thought to the idea of amping up the media on my blog. I know I should be posting more pictures and whatnot, but what do you think about videos?

I figure there are plenty of you that might read this but are more partial to watching a three to five minute video instead. I don't know. Just a thought.

The videos could be me rambling about crap that I normally write about, so I guess they'd be like little vlogs. Or I could make some vids of me playing music, cooking/baking, or other random stuff. I need to get a memory card for my camera, but I think it'd add a different touch to the blog some might appreciate.

Anyway, just a thought.

Let me know what you think in the comments.