“Replace the bad with good…”

Part IV: Catharsis and learning to thrive

By Ryan Hussey

Edited by Jenna Rutsky


You are in your early fifties now. Emotional scars don’t fade like physical scars do. You get a new job at a law firm — a fresh start.

The first day, you notice the harsh sound the door makes when it shuts. It jars old memories loose, when your stepfather used to come home and you’d sit in your bed, trembling.

Not too long after, you notice the sound your boss makes when he walks up the stairs. The door slamming, the heavy footsteps of a grown man heading toward you — together, these should be enough to break you down into pieces.

You realize you must face the reality head-on, much like when you were five years old and it confronted you without warning. But one thing has changed since then.

You’re bigger now. Older, wiser. You’re stronger in every sense of the word. You’re prepared.

One weekend, you allow your niece to paint your fingernails. She lets you choose the color.

You recall the way teal blue makes you feel — that awful color. The color that represents your cell, the one that imprisoned you for nearly a decade and that’s held you captive ever since. The color that’s tattooed your memories, making you wish you saw only black and white. That diseased color, that monstrous, oppressive color that never fails to make you sick to your stomach. Teal is ugly.

You insist that your niece paint your nails teal blue.

Teal blue — that beautiful color. The color that matches the new blouse you bought for work. The color that brightens up any outfit or party or painting. That vibrant color — a work of art in itself — that now puts a smile on your face just as fast as it used to wipe one off.

Holding your arms out straight, you finally see what’s in front of you. Your hands, teal blue fingernails, your future.


For the rest of this piece, please head over to the full article in The Bigger Picture on Medium. You will not regret it.

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(Illustration/Kayla Spataro)

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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.

I Wear Tighter Pants Now

“Something’s different about you,” she says, breaking eye contact. She doesn’t think people change. I agree.

“I just got a haircut the other day.” I step up onto a bench we’re passing.

“No, that’s not it.”

I jump down and stick the landing. “I wear tighter pants now.”

“Why do you do that?” Her eyes roll.

“Because they’re comfortable and more stylish.”

“No. You focus on the physical.” We continue to walk, with each other but not together.

I used to wear baggier pants, the kind that would drag behind my sneakers and rip, the kind whose bottom hems would wear away like a memory. Or a scar. I used to wear jeans that would get wet halfway up the leg just from stepping in a tiny rain puddle. My old pants had crotches that hung down much lower than a proper inseam.

I can barely fit both of my balls into some of my new pants. They’re snug. They aren’t too tight, but some pairs toe the line of skinnies. I can’t fit into real skinny jeans because they’re not made for guys with any type of muscle on their calves or thighs. But “slims” I can do. Slims make my butt look good, and I like that.

“Has it ever occurred to you that maybe people don’t care what you’re wearing?”

It’s funny how things like this work. When I was younger, clothes always had to be loose. Tight was bad, tight was uncomfortable, tight was gay. Then suddenly I wanted everything tight. Not too tight, but fitted. I basically woke up one morning and knew that none of my clothes fit me right. I’d like to think it was the morning after I watched Daniel Craig as James Bond for the first time. The man wears his suits better than most people wear their skin.

“You were always obsessed with appearance,” she continues.

I’m not sure if it’s just one of those things that comes with age, like I’ll fall back into the Loose Pants Club again when I reach my forties, or if it’s something more. Or less. They say “beauty is pain” or “pain is beauty” or something like that. Now, I don’t know if I agree with all of it, but I do know that comfort is overrated.

She reasons, “Just because you’ve changed your clothes or because you look different doesn’t mean you’re a different person.”

Pain is temporary. It either goes away or you can deal with it long enough to make it seem like it has. You get used to it — you get accustomed to it — so you stop noticing it’s there. But the same thing happens with beauty.

“You’ve always been concerned with what’s on the surface, and maybe that’s all you are. A surface encounter.”

Depth is definitely an issue. With tighter pants come smaller pockets. Jeez, baggy jeans used to have such deep pockets. Now, I’m lucky if I can slip my wallet into my front pocket. And don’t even get me started on my phone. Phones are strange, too. First, they were huge and inconvenient to carry around. Then the trend was to make them as small as possible, so brands made them smaller. Now, the trend is larger screens and companies are following suit. I imagine my pant preference will follow this type of viciously circular path.

“You’ve always refused to acknowledge your true feelings and communicate with people. That’s how you alienate yourself.”

I look her in the eyes and say, “Funny how things like this work, huh?”

She shakes her head. “Nice pants,” she says, turning away.

“Do you think people choose not to change, or that they’re just not capable of it altogether?” I don’t say this out loud, of course. But I think it.


Originally published in The Bigger Picture on Medium.

 

The Meaning of Art, The Art of Meaning

art

noun \ˈärt\
something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings

Source: Merriam-Webster

Everybody is an artist. According to the word’s most basic definition, an artist is simply a person who creates art. Art is subjective — e.g. “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” — and therefore, cannot be measured by its significance or the level of skill with which it is created. Its subjective nature makes art’s only measurable quality the fact of whether or not it exists.

So how can we judge art, really? Save for a piece’s existence, there is almost nothing definitive about it. To me, good art is transcendent — of both time and absolute meaning. It is inherently controversial. Good art can mean something different to everyone, eliciting a Debate to the Death or merely an Agreement to Disagree. I not only believe good art can cause problems; I believe it can solve them.

Good art has the ability to inspire and provoke. Good art is contagious. It also has the ability to distract and envelop. Whether we are creating it or appreciatively immersed in it, good art is there for whatever reason we need it to be.

Now, since I’ve outlined my beliefs about good art, one might expect that I also believe in bad art. But that is not the case. Like I said before, art’s innate subjectivity doesn’t allow us to declare whether it is “good” or “bad.” However, I do believe — and I think many would agree — that there’s just a certain feeling we experience when we experience good art, when we know it’s good.

I’m talking about that feeling you get when you watch a movie, hear a song, read a book, see a painting, smell a perfume, taste a dish, touch a sculpture, or even witness a moment. That feeling that everything in your world is sinking, and while your normal reaction should be to try to swim up, your instinct is telling you to drown in whatever it is. That feeling when you know your whole life just changed, even if it’s a minor change, even if nobody else will ever know about it, even if it’s just for a second.

That’s good art.

Not only do I believe we are all capable of creating art — I believe we are all capable of creating good art. And that’s the beauty of art. Art can be anything. As lame as it sounds, beauty is everywhere; and although everybody bears a unique perspective, this is exactly what makes art so bountiful.

But art’s abundance may sometimes act as a road block. While it does inspire and provoke thought, there exists an extraordinary challenge to be original. Because of this, art and the pressure to create good art can overwhelm and distract.

Recently, I’ve adopted the motto:

If you can’t think of something new to say, then at least find a new way to say it.

Many people I’ve met in my adult life seem to have an irrational fear of creating something new and truly being original. I believe this is a result of that pressure, that overwhelming challenge of digging deep and producing something nobody’s ever seen, heard, smelled, touched, or tasted before. Because what if it sucks?

photo-18

The EMP Museum in Seattle features a “tree” of instruments, including guitars and keyboards previously used by famous musicians.

When I experience art I appreciate, I wonder what it is that makes it valuable. Where does that value originate from? What makes this specific article or song or film resonate with me or any other person for that matter?

I ponder these same questions when I create art, but with a little more inward focus (because everything’s about me and you should know that much by reading this far). What makes something I create valuable to me? — and — Does that value increase if my art affects other people in the same way? Or is my lone appreciation enough to make it significant?

I wonder this because, while there is plenty of art around us, there is a lot of art that remains private — or in this social and digital age, unshared.

I like to “judge” my own creations based on two criteria: a.) How does this help me? and b.) How does this help others?

Art is often an outward expression of our emotions, but it’s not limited to that. Creating art allows us to express our thoughts, fears, and desires — to almost literally throw our personalities onto a canvas or into a guitar riff. So, in the most basic sense of my first criterion, that is how it helps me (or whoever is the creator). Art provides us an outlet for our inflated sadness, our temporary anger, our wishful thinking, our newfound happiness.

But good art eclipses whatever it means to the artist. Good art does a service for others, and while it may not mean the same thing or carry the same value for everyone, it not only serves as an outlet for the creator’s expression but for the audience’s as well. Good art provides us an outlet for our feelings and our genius. Good art resonates.

So, when an artist creates something important to him/herself and keeps it private, does it devalue that piece of art? I’ve created a lot of things over the years that are valuable to me, but I’ve hesitated to share some of them for whatever reason. Maybe it’s time I reconsider.


Originally published on Medium, in a collection called The Bigger Picture.

Costumes, Candy & Another Existential Crisis

I keep an old picture of myself behind my bed. It’s there partially because I’m more vain than anyone who’s ever thought a subtweet was about them, and partially because I needed a photo to fill an empty frame. But mostly, it’s there because I need to remind myself who I am every so often.

The plain black frame came with a photograph in it, part of an eighteenth birthday gift from my then-girlfriend. The photograph featured the two of us in our Halloween costumes, as well as a handwritten note — only after removing it from its frame, I discovered — on the back. But that’s an entirely different story.

dinosaur2

Halloween 1992

I used to keep my ex-girlfriend’s photograph in the frame for similar reasons to why I chose its successor. However, I realized that instead of reminding me who I am, her photo was making me fixate on who I was. I couldn’t be that person anymore; I couldn’t afford to be. That version of me was, uh… extinct, so to speak.

Sometimes it’s not the picture itself, it’s what the image means to us that makes it meaningful. Or painful. Or counterproductive. Or inspirational. (Or downright adorable.)

I understand that it’s lame to call a picture of myself inspirational, but the photo means several different things to me. Sure, it’s humbling to look behind my bed before I go to sleep and see myself in a stupid little costume holding a lollipop. It’s things like this very photograph — along with plenty of other factors, like my upbringing and stuff — that keep me modest. Seeing the photo after a good day or even a really good day brings me back down to Earth.

But it also reminds me I can be anything I want in this world, whether it be a writer, a teacher, an astronaut, or a green fucking dinosaur. It reminds me that no matter how ugly and guilty I feel after a bad day, I was once cute and innocent. And I believe that same person still exists.

Regardless of how cool I think I am or how cool people tell me I’m not, regardless of how much pain I feel or how much pain I cause others, regardless of how great I become or how miserably I fail…

I’m still that green fucking dinosaur. But now, instead of grabbing for candy, I’m reaching for-

Actually, still probably candy.

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).

When People Surprise Me

I always love a good story. I enjoy hearing anecdotes from friends, elders, and even strangers. I frequently watch movies and television shows, and I’ll occasionally read a book if its plot and characters sound promising. One aspect of a narrative that never fails to captivate me is an unexpected twist — a point in the story when I believe I have everything figured out, and the storyteller goes ahead and completely flips the script on me.

I live for these moments. The sudden rush and excitement I feel while attempting to grasp what’s just happened is something I can only explain as GAHGUHBOOEY. As I try to understand why a specific character would take a specific action and do my best to make sense of it all, I often find myself questioning: “Would that person actually do that?”

In real life, it’s a bit different. When I think I have somebody pinned as predictable and that person flips the script on everything I thought I knew, I can’t question it. I can’t ask, “Would s/he actually do that?” That person did do that, and I’ll admit — sometimes, being proven wrong is just as good of a feeling as knowing I’m right. Even for those of us who cower at the thought of the unknown, this unpredictability breathes life into the most (seemingly) boring of people, characters, stories. Similarly, while a narrative may not need a twist to intrigue, entertain, or provoke thought, this element of unpredictability can bring a story to life.

Unpredictability fascinates me. Not being able to forecast the way situations will pan out is the reason I get myself into said situations in the first place. Sure, I can try to plan out my course of action in certain circumstances, but the script almost always gets rewritten mid-scene. And since life is so unforeseeable, we must be able to improvise and adapt to whatever it throws at us.

I’ve mentioned before that my best moments are when I act completely “out of character.” Unpredictability is an attractive quality to me. For the most part, I surround myself with people who can surprise me — people of whose tendencies I am well aware yet from whom I never quite know what to expect. Of course, everybody has their Classic [Your Name Here] moments. For example:

Oh, here he goes, writing on his “blog” again. Classic Ryan.

But, whether we choose to believe it or not, people have a knack for surprising us. And when we experience these instances of unpredictability, when we are caught in the riptide of life — an ocean of obscurity with everything we anticipate crashing with each wave — we must take a second to appreciate the unexpected, the abrupt calm of the water around us.

I live for these moments.

Hope, Miles Away

I was wrong. I’ll say that again to let it sink in for people who know me. I was wrong. In a post I wrote awhile back, I stated that superheroes aren’t real. Well, they are. There may not be web-slingers swinging around New York City arresting burglars, and there may not be superhuman gods from other planets saving the world on a daily basis, but I assure you we are in good hands.

Yesterday, a five-year-old boy dressed as Batman “saved” San Francisco as part of an elaborate Make-A-Wish spectacle. I began following this event early in the day when I saw the hashtag “#SFBatkid” on Twitter. I quickly researched what it was all about, and I learned that the Greater Bay Area chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation had organized a day-long adventure for a five-year old boy named Miles, who had finished a round of treatment for his leukemia in June and is now in remission.

The boy’s wish was simple, albeit allegorical in its nature. He wished to be Batman, or “Batkid” in this case. The people at Make-A-Wish deserve all of the credit in the world for turning a child’s wish into a reality, especially considering the scale at which it was organized and promoted. Reports stated that over 11,000 people volunteered to turn San Francisco into Gotham City for the day, providing Miles with an opportunity to rescue a damsel in distress, stop a bank robbery, and save the San Francisco Giants’ mascot from the Penguin’s captivity.

Thousands of people gathered on the streets to witness this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to support this brave little boy. Some people were there to take photographs; others were there to be a part of something extraordinary. Regardless of why people showed up or why people volunteered to help, the truth is that a five-year-old kid dressed as a superhero provided us with more hope than any comic book, movie, or actor could possibly provide.

And what happened next was amazing. The boy took off his mask and we realized that he doesn’t need a costume to be a superhero. Superheroes are often viewed as being more than human — possessing superpowers or abilities that the average person could only dream of. But maybe Miles is a superhero because he’s human, because he dreams. If anything, it takes more courage to fight crime, adversity, and cancer without superpowers and high tech gadgets.

Most superheroes aren’t considered “super” because they keep cities safe and rescue women from dark alleys. What makes them “super” is the hope they instill in everyone. The hope that somebody has our backs. The hope that good will overpower evil. The hope that drives us to fight through whatever may be holding us back and become super ourselves. We could use some more heroes like that.

Yesterday proved that the imaginative people at Make-A-Wish, the thousands of dedicated volunteers, and courageous children like Miles are the heroes we deserve — and certainly the ones we need right now.

I probably would've wished for something lame like that Lambo or a private Weezer jam session.

I probably would’ve wished for something lame like that Lambo or a private Weezer jam session.

via AP

The Greatest Thing Ever to Happen in the History of Everything Ever

Okay, maybe not. But you clicked on the link, and that’s all that matters.

This is the mindset of a heavy majority of bloggers and writers. As long as they can get us to click on the link, everything else is inconsequential. Sites such as BuzzFeed, Flavorwire, and Cracked have mastered this manipulative art, coaxing millions of people to click on their usually worthless posts.

Most of these authors don’t care if we actually read their posts, as long as their number of clicks goes up. Now, this is not to generalize all bloggers; some truly care about their readers, and many prefer high quality readers to a high quantity. I would consider myself one of these writers (mostly because nobody reads my blog).

I would also like to explore how some bloggers and sites have the nerve to declare an article “the greatest thing ever.” I mean, that’s one hell of a proclamation. It is to assume that nothing in history has been better and nothing in the presumably infinite future will be better than this one thing right now. We can die happy after we’ve read whatever nonsense BuzzFeed has thrown together for us, whether it be a list of The 24 Greatest Things That Could Ever Possibly Happen To You* or The Most Epic _________ Ever.

Not everything that happens can be “the greatest thing ever.” Unless we live in a world in which everything is constantly improving, which we obviously don’t — journalism being the primary evidence for my argument, BuzzFeed being Exhibit A.

We don’t live in a world in which something that happens today is “the greatest thing ever” and then it is only surpassed tomorrow by something even better: a new “greatest thing ever.” Instead, we live in a world in which people fear uncertainty and want to be able to make affirmations based on what little proof they have.

As many know, I sort of specialize in making connections between concepts that are not usually related. While thinking about this topic, I ended up drawing an interesting parallel to the idea of marriage.

I am not for or against marriage, nor can I say with confidence that I will/won’t get married someday. I do plan on getting married and knocking up my wife and having a few kids and being a dope-ass dad. But I’ve always considered the concept of marriage a bit silly.

Or maybe “weird” is a better word to describe it.

Think about it. When we get married, we are proving our love and dedication to one another. We are showing our loyalty, and we are displaying our belief that we will be together until one of us dies. At the same time, we are committing to each other without knowing that we won’t find somebody later in life who is a more suitable match. We can’t know for sure who we are going to meet in the future and whether or not a stranger could be the love of our life.

So, does this devotion make marriage a beautiful thing? Does this dedication make it admirable? Or does the lack of understanding of why we believe in things like this make all who partake in it naive?

I’ve said before that love is “knowing that even though you haven’t experienced everything that’s out there, what you have (or had) still trumps anything life could throw at you.” But how could we know something like this? Perhaps this was me being naive.

I guess when it comes to marriage (and love, for that matter), it can either be a train wreck or it could actually be the greatest thing ever to happen in the history of everything ever. All that matters is that we click on the link.

*This is an actual BuzzFeed article, but I did not include a link because people might click on it and that would be counterproductive.

Apophenia

Life is a process. Change takes time. Achieving goals takes work. Happiness takes patience. Human connection eclipses all. Learning to understand things like this is the ultimate form of progress.

And maybe that’s the purpose of life. We spend so much time searching for something that, in all likelihood, will never be found. Perhaps its elusiveness is trying to teach us something – teach us that we will be lost if we actually find whatever it is we are looking for, like a dog chasing cars. If we have it, then what will drive us forward? What will motivate progress? Maybe it’s the quest for this ambiguous treasure that keeps us moving.

Without this light at the end of the tunnel, we wouldn’t know where we were going. We wouldn’t know forward from backward, and we’d stumble from wall to wall. But since we have this light to guide us in the right direction, we can set our sights on whatever it is we want, and push onward.

Sometimes, the tunnel seems endless, and maybe it is. Maybe the light at the end is like a star, and there is a chance it’s already burnt out by the time we see it. But life is not about the end result; it’s about the way we get there. The way we progress.

For so long, I’ve been waiting for something – anything – to happen. Some type of epiphany. Some light bulb to switch on in my head, providing me with all of the information I need to be happy. To tell me what I’m going to do to change the world, how I’m going to make money, meet a girl, and provide a satisfying life for my family.

Every time I experience something out of the ordinary, I immediately misinterpret it as a sign. This is called “pareidolia.” I think that somehow the experience is important, and it must mean something in the grand scheme of things.

But life is a process. Events don’t transpire like in the movies. One fortunate or unfortunate experience doesn’t always lead to a sudden realization of what our purpose is in life. There are no “signs” that steer us any which way. There will be no inspirational background music when I am sitting under a tree and an apple falls on my head. There is no “eureka” moment when it comes to finding purpose.

Instead, I believe life is a series of events and experiences that lead us to different paths – ever-changing paths that causality can only begin to explain. I believe that life is a multitude of random, meaningless experiences that only together add up to something valuable. Life is almost like a puzzle, except we don’t even get the picture on the box to work off of. We never get to see the finished product because there is no finished product. Every singular experience is a piece that carries no significance alone; but together with other experiences, forms a masterpiece that is always growing, always progressing. A masterpiece that appears more complete yet more incomplete every time we place a piece.

Life is a process. Our purpose is to make this world a better place than it was when we got here. Progress.