Everything All At Once

I’m not one to get overwhelmed. I know how to prioritize, how to make sense of the world swirling around me. I know how to take a step back, slow down, and formulate a plan so I can crush anything in my way.

I approach obstacles like a whack-a-mole arcade game, batting down each one as it arises. It’s like a fight scene in a cheesy superhero movie — the hero battles the villains one-by-one until all are incapacitated. But life isn’t like that. It’s not as clean and simplified as an arcade game or a choreographed melee. What happens when multiple moles begin popping up at the same time? Or when a bunch of enemies attack simultaneously?

What happens when everything — the good and the bad — seems to be happening all at once?


To continue reading, follow this link to the full story on Medium.

Point A to Point B

Stories about my first car

My dad drives with both feet. He uses his right for the gas and his left for the brake. I’ve seen him do it for years, and he’s the best driver I know. But you can’t pass the road test using two feet, so he didn’t teach me to drive like that. He didn’t teach me much of anything when it comes to cars. I never really wanted to learn.

I’ve picked up a few things about batteries and tire pressure along the way, and I get my oil changed every five-thousand miles. But I always just wanted something that would get me from Point A to Point B.

The car I deserved but not the one I needed

I got my license in December of 2007. Because of my black 1999 Hyundai Tiburon’s appearance, I named it the Batmobile, even if it couldn’t handle conditions like snow, heavy rain, or strong gusts. My whip sported a black cover on the front-end (sometimes called a bra, or more appropriately a mask) and sweet silver pinstripes across the sides. These, of course, came with the vehicle I’d “inherited” from my father (for the price of $2000).

Once I got more comfortable driving, I took full advantage of my sporty, all-black coupe. Late at night, when nobody else was on the roads, I used to turn the lights off and reenact that chase scene from Batman Begins. I have always been against texting while driving and I realize the hypocrisy here, but this type of danger was a rush for me. Cops and deer aside, I considered this a calculated risk and it made me feel cool as hell.

Train tracks and tow trucks

On the way back from a sweet sixteen party, I got into my first accident. Thankfully, it didn’t involve any other cars — just myself, my passenger, and the Batmobile.

I pulled up to a five-way intersection, on a road that I’d never driven at night. At this point, I had only been licensed for about four months. A few streetlights were out, making it difficult to see the road in front of us. The street forked ahead, split by railroad tracks that ran through the center of town.

As the driver, all I had to do was choose either left or right of the tracks, but apparently I couldn’t make that decision. The Batmobile wound up directly on the train tracks, wedged in a spot I had originally suspected to be asphalt.

My car had to be towed, suffering two flat tires and a bowed front axle. My dad arrived about five minutes after my passenger’s mom left and about ten minutes after the cops showed up.

RRtracksThe police stayed until the tow truck guy hooked up my car to his winch. They didn’t even ask me if I had been drinking — I guess my face told the whole story.

“You’re probably the 40th or 50th person I’ve towed from this spot. They should put more lights around here,” the tow truck guy offered some reassurance. “But then I’d probably go out of business.”

The commotion attracted one intoxicated man from the corner bar, located less than fifty steps from where my vehicle was stuck. “I hope you’re not drunk, man. You’re in a lot of trouble if you are.” I wasn’t. Just young and stupid.

Camera phones and blue balls

We pulled over to a stretch with no streetlights, in between two houses. There were no lights on in the house in front of us, and the one behind us appeared void of life.

This wasn’t the first time she said “I love you,” and it wasn’t the last time I said it back. But it was the first time I’ve tried to have sex in a car—and perhaps the last.

Sliding over the center console, my pocket caught on the E-brake (maybe a sign of things to come). We were veiled in the shadows of the darkest road in town, yet in such a secluded place, I felt anything but alone. She ran her fingers up my leg and undid the button on my shorts. I returned the favor because I’m fair like that. As we began to slip out of our skin, a flash went off outside the car.

“What the fuck was that?!” We panicked.

I jumped into the driver’s seat and turned the key, shorts barely on. The headlights shined on a woman walking a tiny dog. She squinted to see who was in the car, but I sped off before she could make us out. My girlfriend worried that we had almost hit the woman; I worried that we’d almost hit the dog. Then we both wondered if the woman had photographed my license plate.

Low gear

Fresh off a breakup, I was driving around with my best friend. On our way home, I slowed down at the top of a hill. It was one of those nights I wished I could just hit the gas and take flight, to hover over my moonlit town.

My friend looked down at the gear shift. “Dude, what’s L?”

L? I don’t know, I’ve never noticed it before.”

“Maybe it’s levitate…”

Suburban_night_skyWe were both pretty sure it stood for low gear, but neither of us said it out loud. That type of negativity wasn’t welcome in the Batmobile. You know when you’re aware something’s not possible, but you want it to happen so badly that you kind of hope you’re dead wrong?

I took one last look at my friend before shifting into L and gunning it towards the hill.

When we reached the bottom of the slope, tires still on the ground, we shared a laugh and a shrug. He opened the glove box and checked my car’s owners manual to see what L really stood for.

“Is it low gear?”

“Yeah.”

***

I’ve driven two cars since I traded in the Batmobile — an SUV named Sophia and a sedan I call Nancy. The names change, the passengers change, the ways I tell the stories change, but the habits don’t. Things I used to double check, like the positions of my mirrors or making sure my lights are off, have become second nature. Mindless rituals, instilled in me since that first car, force me to think that maybe I’ve learned more than I wanted to. Sometimes I’ll look down and notice I’m driving with both feet.

Do you remember your first car? Tell me a story about it.


A different version of this piece appears in the Medium publication Human Parts.

The Things We Keep

I am in the midst of a (major?) change in my life. Now, I am not someone who believes our careers should define us as people, but I do believe that once our careers develop a stranglehold on our happiness, it’s time to make some moves. Without going too much into it, let’s just say I’ve decided to make some moves. Even though it’s something that’s been a long time coming, I’m not sure the gravity of the situation hit me until last night.

The Nostalgic Cleanse

I was in a weird mood, so I began browsing around my bedroom. I may have been looking for something specific when I started, but within minutes I was staring at a garbage bag full of old papers — college schoolwork, songs I could never quite finish, notes about ideas I was never proud of conceiving. After creating some much-needed space on my desk, I resolved to do the same with the rest of my room. Within an hour, I filled two bags with me.

I say me because that’s exactly what it felt like. Throwing away some of those papers and knick-knacks constituted a step forward. Filling those garbage bags was my way of letting go of a bunch of things I didn’t feel I should worry about anymore. I wasn’t giving up on the unfinished songs and incomplete ideas; I was just acknowledging that maybe they never panned out because they weren’t that good to begin with. I was accepting the fact that I need to churn out a lot of shit to get to the good stuff.

Well, now there’s room for the good stuff.

And I made sure of that. Basically anything I couldn’t find immediate use for (or predict near-future use for) went directly into a trash bag. Anything that represented the old me — anything that symbolized thoughts or feelings I no longer care to experience — is now in the past with those thoughts and feelings.

My thought process was as follows:

I’ve gotten all I can out of these items, these notes, these concepts. I’ve learned from these experiences and can now use any of this in the future, whenever I want. And if I’m unable to recall the lessons these items have taught me without physically holding them, then the lesson was never important to me in the first place.

But while I was unflinchingly disposing of items I would’ve never even considered trashing a year or two ago, I found myself saving certain items with the same decisiveness. There were some things I just wouldn’t throw away. Or couldn’t, perhaps. Without hesitation or remorse, I distinguished the worthy from the worthless.

The ‘Leftovers’

Like the HBO series The Leftovers, I’m less interested in discovering why certain people disappeared and more interested in exploring why the others were “chosen” (if that is the case) to stay. The things I threw out — or the people who vanished, in the show’s case — are not coming back. But whatever remains is tangible; it’s real. And I bet there’s a damn good reason I chose to hang onto particular items while consciously disposing of others.

So, allow me to pose the question: Why do we hold onto things of little or no practical value?

Is it because of a sentimental value we assign to specific items based on the fondness of the memories associated with them? What makes these “leftovers” different from all of the things we decide to part ways with?

When it comes to items that belonged to loved ones we’ve lost or gifts we’ve received from these important people in our lives, the answer is relatively simple. In an article featured in the alternative Seattle newspaper The Stranger, Rebecca Brown writes:

We keep these material things because they represent the people we no longer have. We keep them to remind us we can do or be or mean something and that the people we admire can inspire us.

[Source: “The Things We Keep: Why Do Relics of the Dead Mean So Much to Us?” by Rebecca Brown]

Brown’s notion of finding inspiration in these material possessions extends beyond “relics of the dead.” I believe this idea pertains to my situation as well. Maybe the items I purposefully trashed wound up in the garbage because I felt they could no longer inspire me. Perhaps I still find inspiration in whatever I decided to keep around.

While I originally viewed my decision to keep these things as a refusal to let go of the past, I am now beginning to consider this alternative explanation. Maybe the items that survived this “purge” of everything useless in my room aren’t just a fail-safe for when I want to return to my comfort zone — maybe they have some sort of unfinished business in my life (à la Casper the friendly ghost).

On Detours

According to Merriam-Websterdetour is defined as “a deviation from a direct course or the usual procedure.” Most people — myself included, until recently — consider detours a major inconvenience. A detour is often deemed a hindrance, viewed purely as an obstacle we must overcome on our way to work, school, or wherever we may be traveling.

About a month ago, construction started on a road I take to work in the morning, leaving it open only to local traffic. This construction has forced me to take a detour every morning, adding anywhere between five and ten minutes to my daily commute. To arrive at work on time, I should probably be leaving my house a little bit earlier, which would mean waking up five to ten minutes earlier on most days. As one might predict, I’ve been 5-10 minutes late to work almost every day since the construction began. (Whoops.)

Though seemingly unfortunate, I now consider this detour my favorite part of the day.

These moments I’m referring to occur between 7:55 and 8:05 each morning, and they rarely last for more than a minute, depending on how fast traffic is moving. If I time it right, I have the pleasure of passing a specific house at what is probably its most genuine moment of the day — and in many ways, mine as well.

As I approach the end of my morning commute, I get to witness a mother and her two daughters waiting for the school bus. On most mornings, they play games. They laugh. They smile. The older daughter assures her mother that she did all of her homework as the younger one gets her hair fixed for the school day. I never get to watch the entire scene play out, and I certainly can’t claim to know anything more than the fact that I see them and that they are real.

I don’t know their situation. I don’t know if there’s a father and/or husband in the picture. I don’t know if I’m the only one who sees them; I assume I share this sight with at least dozens of other drivers each morning, though I’m unsure they appreciate these experiences the same way I do.

Some mornings, I pass that house before 7:55am. I get to work on time on these days, but I miss out on everything I’ve described above. I don’t enjoy these days as much.

And sure, it sounds like nothing. When reading those first two paragraphs, people may have suspected I was writing about something extraordinary, something mind-blowing. And while I believe I am writing about something extraordinary, I do understand the criticism of my sentimentality. People have every right to ask, “Ryan, what’s so special about two kids waiting for a school bus?”

But I have every right to counter that it’s something we need to see to understand.

So, while I used to groan when I heard the word detour or saw a ROAD CLOSED sign, I now know it’s not always such a bad thing. There’s a reason it’s often referred to as the “scenic route.”

Through The Looking-Glass Self

I will admit that, at times, I’ve gotten by based somewhat on my reputation. I may have earned “good” grades in elementary school, middle school, and high school, but I can’t shake the feeling that my teachers assessed me based on who they knew me to be — er, who they thought me to be — rather than who I actually was.

This is also true in other aspects of my life. For instance, I get away with plenty of things other people don’t normally get away with. Sometimes, an extremely mean or insulting sentence escapes my lips and my friends simply laugh it off. Other times, I act the way a good person wouldn’t usually act and people who are familiar with me look the other way because they consider me good (because I constantly remind them I’m a “good” person by telling them/writing about how I’m a “good” person). Whether this is because of my reputation, my above-average (8/10) appearance, or a reason I’m completely overlooking (my incredible modesty, perhaps?) I cannot say for sure. Though, these occurrences continually leave me wondering: Do I deserve this?

Do I deserve to be considered a “nice guy”? Do I deserve forgiveness when I make a mistake simply because I feel/feign remorse? Do I deserve to be judged based on who people assume I am? Do I deserve a pass on anything?

I ponder this because, at times, it feels as if I’m not even trying anymore. I wouldn’t say I’ve become a robot, but I feel like I’ve checked out mentally and emotionally — a feeling I experience much too often. So, maybe it’s time I wake up and start thinking again. And I think maybe it’s time I shift out of AUTOPILOT.

We live in a time period (and a country, for most of my readers) in which we feel entitled to various things. While I do believe we are all entitled to a number of basic human rights, I’ll argue that we are NOT entitled to special treatment just because we view ourselves in a certain light. I’ll contend that we are undeserving of this special treatment whether our opinions of ourselves are heavily influenced by those of others or simply because we’re self-righteous douchebags.

But maybe I’m being too harsh; we all deserve some slack. Everybody wants to excel in at least one thing and receive the credit they believe they are due. At some point when I was younger (probably middle school but possibly earlier), somebody somewhere planted the seed in my head that I was a talented writer. Of course, some teachers/parents have a gift when it comes to identifying talent, but how well can a 7th grader really write?

My best guess of how events transpired between then and now is the following: Several reputable teachers threw around the idea that I was “good at writing” and people — myself included — began to believe it. Without even knowing what “good” writing was, my parents, my friends, my classmates, and other teachers recognized this notion as the truth and moved on. I followed suit.

Similar to the concept of Charles Horton Cooley’s “looking-glass self,” it’s much easier to just accept the things we don’t fully understand. By acknowledging these hard-to-grasp ideas as facts, we can avoid the mountain of confusion and inevitable headache of attempting to figure them out. Once we get past the doubt sprouted by our lack of understanding, living this way makes it a whole lot simpler when forming our beliefs. Like a shortcut, I guess. (Note: I use the terms “easier” and “simpler.” Not “better.”)

So, do I actually believe I’m a “great writer”? I mean, I’ve been told it enough times to assume it’s true. But when I write something — an article, a story, a song, a tweet, or whatever it may be — and I’m not 100% proud of it or confident in it, how should I react if other people recognize it as some of my best work? I understand that each piece means something different to everyone, but I can’t help but question whether or not people are truly being honest. I also don’t know how to identify “good writing.” (The bad is a hell of a lot easier to pick out.)

Most people who know me and interact with me on even a semi-frequent basis judge me based on who they believe me to be — based on the “Ryan” they’ve constructed in their heads. My biggest question is: Do these people actually know me better than I know myself? Who am I really?

Cooley would say, to you, I am whoever you think I am; but to me, I am whoever I think you think I am.

I believe I am the aggregate of my words and actions. I am anything that comes out of my mouth and everything that goes into it. (So, today I am a bunch of dumb jokes and two cheeseburgers.) I am the sum of my experiences — the positives like wings and negatives like anchors. The weight of my past and boundlessness of my future pull with equal but opposite force, keeping me grounded for the time being. While one pulls me up and away from everything I think I know, the other serves as a reminder of what I can be sure about, scars and all.

What others see is the “Ryan” caught in the midst of this tug-of-war. I write, sure. But that doesn’t mean I should be classified as a “writer.” I’m more.*

 

*I didn’t exactly mean for this to rhyme, but it does. I guess I’m a writer then?

What (I Think) I Want

I am a firm believer in the following statement:

Nobody knows what they want until they have it.

However, I’d like to think I at least have an idea of what it is I want in a romantic partner. Clearly, I’ve been tuning in to way too many romantic comedies lately, but I often spend my drives to and from work thinking about my ideal girl. So humor me, please…

I want a girl who knows things. I thrive on connecting seemingly unrelated ideas, so it’s important for me to find a girl who knows what the hell I’m talking about (most of the time, at least). I don’t only want — I need a girl who understands my pop culture and movie references, and I want somebody who stays informed about the world. Current events, trends, problems, basic historical knowledge. These things are all important to me. She doesn’t have to Google something every time we converse.

I want a girl who is passionate. About life, about a cause, about her family. About anything. Disinterest is boring.

I want a girl I can take to family gatherings. One I can take to parties and trust to mingle and make new friends. One I don’t have to worry about leaving alone with strangers for five minutes. She’s independent, or at the very least independent enough.

I want a girl who likes to read. Books, news articles, screenplays. Stuff that I write, maybe?

I want a girl who likes to talk. I like to talk, so I want somebody who at least enjoys expressing herself. We can talk about movies, music, whatever’s in the news, or even our deepest fears — as long as she opens up about something and isn’t hesitant to share her opinions.

I want a girl who lets me cheer her up (or at least lets me try). Sad? LET ME BE CHARMING. IT’S IN MY GOD DAMN DNA FOR SOME REASON, SO LET ME USE IT.

I want a girl who does the right thing. First and foremost, I want a girl who knows what the right thing is; and on top of that, she goes ahead and does it. Or at least thinks about doing it. Nobody’s perfect.

I want a girl who’s not embarrassed easily. I act a fool sometimes. When appropriate, she straightens me out and puts me in my place. But sometimes she’s completely okay with being just as foolish.

I want a girl who’s not afraid to laugh. I’m a riot. Act accordingly.

I want a girl who’s not afraid of being called “perfect.” I say a lot of stupid things without thinking. Inappropriate jokes for cheap laughs, insensitive comments because I forget who my audience is sometimes. But don’t ever — ever — think “perfect” came out of my mouth accidentally.

I want a girl who’s strong but not ashamed to feel weak. Vulnerability is what makes us human. I want a human.

I want a girl with an open mind. She understands and accepts that not everybody thinks the same way as her and not everybody shares her beliefs. We probably won’t agree on certain things, but she listens and acknowledges that sometimes there is no right or wrong. She’s also not afraid to try new things and venture out of her comfort zone.

I want a girl who can surprise me. I want a girl who’s creative. I want a girl who’s not afraid to put herself out there and feel vulnerable. I want an artist — whether she draws, paints, sculpts, designs, acts, sings, writes, dances, cooks, builds, styles, or plays an instrument — a girl who expresses herself in her own way.

I want a girl who’s good at what she does for a living but better at the things she does to feel alive. Our occupations don’t define us. I want her to love what she does weekdays nine to five (or whenever it is she works), but I also want her to care about other things. Hobbies, sports, traveling, whatever. I want to make my life worth something, and I’d rather leave my kids with knowledge and stories than a monetary inheritance. Though, I guess the money would be nice… (Read: I want a girl who makes a lot of money so I can write all day.)

I want a girl who doesn’t need me but wants me around. She’d be just fine on her own. She’d be successful, happy even. But for some reason unbeknownst to me, she wants to hang out with me. She might even love me.

Whoa, that got real for a second.

Death As We Know It

My grandmother passed away recently, making both of my parents orphans, in turn leaving my brother and me grandparentless. She was my father’s mother; his father passed away early last year. I never had the pleasure of knowing my mother’s father because he died months before I was born. And we lost my other grandmother in 2010 — she was better known as “Nanny.”

Fortunately, my parents never had to explain death to my brother or me when we were young. Nanny was really our first loss of somebody very close to us, and my brother and I were fifteen and nineteen years old at that point, respectively. I’ll say again that these circumstances are certainly fortunate, but I feel that they also contributed to my parents skipping an extremely important conversation with their children.

From what I recall, my first real experience with death — that is, attending a wake and/or funeral — was in third or fourth grade. One of my classmates had lost a brother who suffered from a crippling medical condition since birth. I remember hearing it was a relief, in a way, because my friend’s family didn’t have to watch their loved one in pain anymore. They no longer had to witness him being subjected to that type of lifestyle, clinging onto the withering hope that his condition would improve. Since we were in a Catholic school, the entire class attended the funeral mass and sat in the back of the church out of respect for our classmate and his family.

I would say my parents laid the proper foundation for my brother and me to understand the concept of death, but we never got the chance to have that talk about what death is — what it actually means when somebody dies. Perhaps it’s easier that way, allowing kids to formulate their own conceptions of life and death.

Of course, there is no way to know for sure what happens when we die, but this doesn’t stop kids from being curious, from asking questions. It shouldn’t stop us from being curious either, nor should it stop us from trying to comprehend what death truly means — and through experiencing death, comprehending what it truly means to live.

I have a five-year-old cousin who has much more experience with death than I did when I was her age. But still, I don’t believe she genuinely understands it. (Do we genuinely understand anything at the age of five?) To my knowledge, this upcoming wake and funeral will be (at least) her second experience of the sort. She was present at our grandfather’s wake and funeral last year, even though she didn’t have a relationship with him. However, my cousin had a very close relationship with our grandmother, which makes this situation particularly delicate.

Does she feel sad? Does she know to feel sad? A five-year-old is going to ask questions about her grandmother, and yes — it’s important how we answer them.

Is it right to tell my cousin that Grandma fell asleep and is never going to wake up? Wouldn’t that make her afraid to fall asleep? We can’t tell her: “Everybody dies, and someday you’re going to die, too.” That would traumatize her, however true it may be.

So, what do we say to a five-year-old?

Do we lie? Do we involve our religious beliefs and tell her that Grandma went up to heaven and is now an angel watching over her? Isn’t that just a way for people to avoid accepting death’s permanence?

How do we clarify that death is permanent? We can’t just tell a five-year-old she’s never going to see her grandmother again. Can we?

Do we make it a dialogue and say, “Haley, what do you want to know about Grandma?” Do we answer all of her questions candidly, even if it means responding “I don’t know”? Would she accept “I don’t know” as an answer and understand that sometimes there’s no way of knowing something for sure?

Or do we avoid the situation altogether? I know my family is good at that, so should this conversation wait until my cousin is older and more mature?

Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions here. Maybe instead of wondering how should we, I should be thinking how could we. If we don’t even know what happens when and after we die, how could we explain the concept of death to a child? What knowledge about death could we possibly have that makes us more qualified than a five-year-old to field existential questions?

What we know about death (pertaining to life as we know it) is limited to the fact that 1. it is inevitable and 2. it is permanent. All of the other details — the ones kids tend to ask about — get a bit fuzzy after that.

So, unless we want to explain how to organize a funeral or how to purchase a coffin or how to close bank accounts or how to write an obituary, maybe we should just stop trying to explain death to our children. Maybe we should just let them ask their own questions and form their own beliefs. And the way we do that is by simply answering honestly: “I don’t know.”

These are some great resources I found about this subject (obviously, every situation and every child is different, but it doesn’t make these any less useful):

Explaining death to a child – The Washington Post

Talking to children about death – National Institutes of Health

My Wet Dream

We all want something. Some of us know exactly what we want and exactly how to attain it, others know what but are iffy on the how, and some — myself included — are still trying to figure out how anybody can claim they know anything.

I asked myself a simple question: Why do we postpone pursuing our dreams?

I pondered this question for hours, developing a “brainstorm web” (recalling when middle school teachers used to tell me to create a web of ideas before writing an essay). My web included potential reasons for the postponement of dreams, as well as possible consequences for putting these dreams on hold. After reflecting on my own dreams, I decided to pose the same question to some family, friends, and acquaintances. Several people responded with the idea that maybe people don’t postpone their dreams. Maybe our dreams change based on life occurrences that are out of our control. But this notion didn’t sit well with me.

We all have dreams — that is to say, aspirations. I’ve read that goals are a way of making our dreams become reality. If we don’t set realistic, attainable goals, then dreams are just… dreams. For example, I could dream of changing the world someday, but that’s awfully vague, isn’t it? How could I possibly measure whether or not I’ve achieved it, let alone whether or not I’m even working towards it? Reshaping that dream into a goal of participating in a charity event and donating x amount of dollars to breast cancer research each year is much more perceptible. With less abstract versions of our dreams, in the form of goals, we can sort of figure out what we want out of life and ensure that every action we take moves us closer to achieving said goals.

I agree that dreams can change. But, like with basically everything else in this world, a fire burns inside me, asking: Why?

When I originally webbed out the potential reasons people postpone their dreams, I thought about why I, personally, would ever push my aspirations aside. (Now that I have written the previous sentence and read it aloud, I realize how depressing it is for me to have actually brainstorm-webbed the concept of “postponing dreams.” People are out there feeding the hungry, curing the sick, and getting laid — getting laid, man — and I’ve mapped out a web that can tell you why people give up on what they want in life.) Tying into the idea of life “happening” and changing our dreams in the meantime, one of the reasons I came up with was responsibility. Sometimes, we have to rearrange our priorities based on the well-being of others, ie. children and other loved ones. And that is completely understandable.

But what if I played devil’s advocate for a moment and argued that this responsibility and “prioritization” wasn’t the real reason people put their dreams on hold? Maybe — just maybe — this is a means for justification of their actions, or lack thereof. Some of us do postpone our dreams; it’s no secret. Some of us are hesitant to commit to goals because we fear everything from rejection to regret to failure. The reasoning behind this is tough for me to pinpoint — whether it is a confidence problem, a comfort zone issue, the crushing weight of expectations, or a combination of the three. But the truth is, this lack of commitment to our goals is failure.

Sometimes, postponing our dreams eventually leads to giving up on them, and that’s the worst part to think about. Because, when we give up on a dream (or when we allow it to “change”), maybe it means we never really wanted it in the first place — or maybe we never really believed it was possible.

To me, allowing a dream to change because of “circumstances” is inconceivable. A dream is a dream is a dream. Sure, some are outlandish and farfetched even, but if we really — and I mean really — want something, what’s stopping us?

Is it the aforementioned lack of commitment caused by our fear of failure and regret? Is it our hesitance to venture out of our comfort zones, or the fact that some of us feel anchored down by feelings and people and people’s feelings? Or is it our past experiences that seem to serve as warnings, cautioning us not to dive head first into anything without first dipping our toes in the water?

This experience that forewarns us of any potential danger usually protects us. After all, we are the sum of our life experience and without it, we wouldn’t know much of anything. But perhaps this experience — the same experience that reminds us not to stick our hands into a fire because hey, fire is hot and the same experience that advises us not to venture into relationships with people who are eerily similar to our exes because hey, there’s a reason we broke up — is actually holding us back.

This is why I believe children are so important and downright fascinating. They haven’t developed this umbrella of experience that unconsciously shields them from bad weather. Instead, they dare to dream and they don’t get bogged down with the details — they just play in the rain.

Maybe we can learn from them.

The Blame Game

I lost my salt shaker the other day, and I’ve got a funny feeling somebody took it. I’ve been looking for someone to blame this entire time, but then I got to thinking about the concept of blame

It’s silly, really. There’s no use in pointing fingers in a bad situation. Of course it’s frustrating when the situation is avoidable altogether, but placing the blame on a particular party never solves anything. We can’t go back in time and change what happened (yet), so the best we can do is deal with the circumstances in front of us and learn how to prevent a similar situation in the future. That’s why they teach us history, right?

Blaming other people makes us look weak. And while it might make us feel better temporarily, we will feel helpless not too long after. When we blame others for everything, we acknowledge a lack of control over what happens in our lives. Could it be true that we are powerless when it comes to the way everything plays out in front of us? Absolutely not.

We should accept some of the responsibility for everyday occurrences and remember that there exists a consequence for every action — no matter how insignificant the action may seem at the time. This is especially true when we find ourselves dealing with unfortunate circumstances.

But that doesn’t mean every bad situation is entirely our fault, either. We can’t blame ourselves for everything negative that happens in our lives. Sure, we can do more to prevent certain situations, but we deserve a little slack, too. Everybody’s human.

We live in a world in which it’s always somebody else’s fault. Most of the arguing that goes on around us isn’t about how to fix problems but rather who caused the problem in the first place. Many people believe that if we can find a specific person or thing to blame, then everything will be right with the world. But the truth is that we can point fingers and blame whomever we want — nothing can undo the past.

People make mistakes. And I can’t figure out for the life of me why it’s so hard for me to grasp that concept. If everybody makes mistakes, then why am I so afraid of making one? Why can’t I just accept the fact that I’m human and these things happen?

I recently watched a movie called The Sessions, starring John Hawkes as a writer suffering from polio. Diagnosed at the age of six, he uses an iron lung and a portable oxygen tank to survive, and he doesn’t have control of many of his muscles. Hawkes’ character is not entirely paralyzed; he can still get an erection, so that’s got to count for something. At the age of 38, he decides to hire a sexual surrogate to help him: a.) lose his virginity, and b.) write an article about the disabled and sexual intercourse.

(For those wondering, a sex surrogate is a glorified prostitute with not as many daddy issues.)

(No but in all seriousness, these people probably do great work and this movie actually moved me.)

At one point in the film, John Hawkes’ character is talking to a nurse about faith and religion, and she asks him if he believes in God. He replies: “I believe in a God with a sense of humor. I would find it absolutely intolerable not to be to able blame someone for all this.”

And that’s the way many of us feel. When forced to deal with unfortunate circumstances, we look for somebody to blame. Then when we can’t find a definitive person to blame, we attribute responsibility to something more abstract. The truth is, sometimes there isn’t anybody or anything to blame. (Basically what I’m saying is that God doesn’t exist.)

As for my lost shaker of salt, I’ll have to keep searching. Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame, but I know it’s nobody’s fault.

Ways To Beat Me in “Never Have I Ever…” Because of 2013

With 2014 approaching, I found myself scrambling to identify the highlights of this past year. While I had some trouble at first, I realized that 2013 was a year of big changes for me. But amidst all of this progress and change, there is nothing to worry about — I’m still me. I’m just more well-traveled and a little bit more experienced in the falling-out-of-the-sky department. So here’s a summary of my year, through “Never Have I Ever”s that are no longer true*:

Never have I ever…

  1. been grandfatherless.
  2. had an Instagram account dedicated to my dog and newspaper headlines.
  3. run a 5k.
  4. been *this close* to packing up my things and driving out to California.
  5. quit JCPenney.
  6. (I’m too lazy to try to phrase this in “Never Have I Ever…”-talk, but Emma Roberts read my letter.)
  7. gone ziplining.
  8. been the target of an all-out bird shit holocaust.
  9. been paid to write about costumes and cupcakes.
  10. had poison ivy.
  11. watched an entire season of a television show in one day.
  12. attended an amateur wrestling event.
  13. been part of a chicken beheading.
  14. single-handedly tried to take down the terrorist group known as “BuzzFeed.”
  15. JUMPED OUT OF A FUCKING PLANE.
  16. rocked out with Rob Thomas.
  17. been paid to write literally anything.
  18. feared that I was a sellout.
  19. witnessed a caterpillar climb up a wall and get eaten by a spider.
  20. seen Dave Chappelle live.
  21. looked for a midget to love me via online dating.
  22. obtained a “big boy” job.
  23. gotten paid to tweet.
  24. been to Minnesota.
  25. stepped foot inside the single most incredible establishment in the United States (the Mall of America).
  26. eaten a “Juicy Lucy.”
  27. actually thought about being a parent.
  28. had this written about me: “Even at 23 he gets women better than most.”
  29. tried to learn how to play the piano.
  30. been brought to tears by a five-year-old kid dressed as Batman.
  31. hand-written a letter to a friend who wasn’t a “pen pal.”
  32. hated lists but just said “fuck it” and wrote them anyway (for free).
  33. modeled scarves.
  34. gotten herpes.
  35. physically wanted to harm an animal.
  36. owned socks with capes on them (trust me; they’re cool).
  37. truly enjoyed my job.

*As always, I am open to any/all questions regarding every aspect of this list.