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.

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“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.

Rape4

(Illustration/Kayla Spataro)

My Personal Guide to Tinder, Part 1

Obligatory introduction and customary rhetorical questioning

I recently re-downloaded the Tinder app after meeting my friend’s new girlfriend. He met her through Tinder — an app I deleted about a year ago after assuming it was just for random local hookups — and she happens to be a very nice girl. This threw me for a loop and forced me to reconsider this form of online dating as a potential solution to my perpetual loneliness.

Could Tinder really be a way of finding love? How could I be so wrong about something I refused to take seriously following my initial experimentation?

Tinder

Maybe it’s time for me to swipe right on the concept of online dating. (Photo/gotinder.com)

 

For those who aren’t familiar with the app, Tinder is a mobile application that allows users to see profiles of fellow nearby users, and then either swipe left (to pass) or swipe right (to “like”). This first step of the Tinder process is essentially the Hot or Not concept, a binary system of judgment — we either like a person or we don’t.

Profiles consist of several items, including photos, age, distance from the user, and an About Me section with a 500-character limit. Tinder also allows users to see what common interests they have, as well as mutual friends (since the info is pulled from Facebook).

Here's a quick look at the matchmaking app's user interface. (Photo/gotinder.com)

Here’s a quick look at the matchmaking app’s user interface. (Photo/gotinder.com)

There was another major reason I originally deleted the Tinder app. Simply put, I didn’t feel comfortable judging people solely based on looks. I mean, I do it in real life — we all do — but it’s different when I’m actively judging someone aesthetically. At a bar (or wherever everybody meets people), I’m swiping left or right in my head. It’s more of a passive behavior. On Tinder, I’m outwardly expressing my distaste of someone’s appearance, and for some reason the rejection feels more personal. And frankly, that makes me feel bad about myself.

I don’t like feeling bad about myself, so I deleted the app. Perhaps this is why I’m single.

My personal Tinder guidelines

As I’ve started using the app again, I’ve established certain rules to ensure that I take it more seriously this time around. While some of these habits I’ve developed are designed to broaden my Tinder horizons, others are without a doubt designed to weed out specific types of girls. (I know: “Beggars can’t be choosers,” but I’m not taking what I can get if all I get is a night I won’t remember and a rash that won’t go away.)

Remember: Swipe left for NOPE, swipe right for LIKE.

  1. Swipe right for anybody named Chelsea.
  2. If it takes me more than two photos to figure out which girl she is, swipe left.
  3. If she has no photos of just her, swipe left.
  4. If there is any mention of EDM, Chipotle, or “friends with 420” in her About Me section, swipe left.
  5. If she quotes Marilyn Monroe in her About Me section, swipe left.
  6. If she likes Weezer, investigate further.
  7. If she looks younger than 18 years old but claims to be 22, think about it really hard before swiping left. (Read: swipe right.)
  8. Swipe right for attractive non-Caucasian girls because I am an equal opportunity Tinderer, eradicating racism one swipe at a time.
  9. If she isn’t the most attractive girl in the photo, swipe left. I don’t want any problems.
  10. If she’s throwing up the middle finger in a photo, swipe left.
  11. If she’s throwing up in a photo, period, swipe left.
  12. If she’s taking a bottle of alcohol to the face in a photo, swipe left.
  13. If all of the girl’s photos feature said girl in her underwear or swimwear, admire for a few moments and then swipe left. She’s clearly too advanced for me sexually. I can only assume that she’d be looking to get right down to business while I’d be asking her if she’s seen Gone Girl yet.
  14. If she includes her Instagram account information in her profile, assume nothing is off-limits. Swipe accordingly.
  15. If she looks like Taylor Swift, swipe right.
  16. If she’s 5’10 like T-Swift, swipe left. I’m not the type of guy to shy away from a girl who’s taller than me, but most tall girls don’t want to date shorter guys. I understand that, so I’m not going to waste anybody’s time — including mine.
  17. If all of her photos feature the same pose, swipe left because she’s probably a statue or mannequin and there is literally no evidence to refute that.

Suggestions for Tinder users

As a general rule, you should try to have a clear photo of your face in your first photo, then a full body shot somewhere, then any other cool photos that make you look good. This way, other people will get a good idea of what they’re dealing with. A lot of Tinder users — both girls and guys (I’ve been told) — have a deceptively attractive photo as their first picture. Then the rest of the photos make you wonder where the person in the first one went. Lighting and angles can be misleading. Don’t be one of the people who abuse this fact.

And here’s a Tinder anecdote for you…

I came across a girl on Tinder whose first photo contained two females. I found only one of the girls attractive, so I clicked her profile to see exactly whose profile it was. The second photo confirmed that it was, indeed, the “hot” one — a picture of her holding a baby. Immediately, I wondered: Is that baby hers?

So, I scrolled down to read her About Me section. Lo and behold:

Yes, the baby is mine. Single mama 💪

My first thought was, Well, I’m good with kids. Swipe right.

To be continued…?

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.

Why I Don’t Keep My Promises

Promises are interesting phenomena. We all make promises — to our children, to our parents, to our significant others, to our friends, even to ourselves — and sometimes (maybe more often for some of us), we break them. We can’t, realistically speaking, keep every single promise we make. The only surefire way to avoid breaking promises is to refrain from making them altogether.

So, why do so many of the promises make end up broken?

In her Huffington Post article mentions that some people continue to break their promises because “saying you are going to do something feels just as good as actually doing it.”

I consider myself a man of my word. I’d like to think most people know that when I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. This is probably because of the conviction with which I assert things. If I declare with confidence that I’m going to do something and it sounds legitimate, why not believe it’s going to get done?

That being said, I can’t count how many times I’ve told myself I’m going to go for a run today and simply haven’t done it. A lot of times, I even mention to coworkers how I’m going to run later to try to solidify my plans, but I always end up looking like a lazy, Oreo-guzzling piece of shit when they ask me about my “run” the next day.

Now, going for a run is a small-scale example; it doesn’t affect anyone but me if I do or don’t exercise, and it really doesn’t even affect me that much. Come to think of it, most of the promises I break only affect me, small and large-scale.

This is why I want to focus on the promises I make to myself. These are the ones that affect only me by design — the ones that, if broken, disappoint me and only me because others hardly ever know I make them. These are the promises made on a bigger scale, or at least they seem that way. Perhaps I put more weight into them because they are that much more important to me than going for a run.

I’m talking about the promises I make to myself that truly challenge me as a person. I’m talking about the ones that are hard to keep not because they’re impossible but because I know myself too well.


 

Awhile back, I promised myself I would write more frequently. But, because I’m lazy, uninspired, and afraid of publishing anything less than “perfect” (in my eyes), I have been writing sporadically at best. To shed some light on this point, I started this post about promises over two months ago.

According to Robert Wicklund and Peter Gollwitzer’s Self-Completion Theory (1982), we engage in behaviors that reinforce specific identity goals to which we are committed. So, I want to write more frequently because I consider myself a “writer” and the only way to prove to myself and others that I am a writer is to write.

A few months ago, I made a “25 Before 25” list with some coworkers, detailing twenty-five goals I want to accomplish before I reach the quarter-century mark. I may have completed several of the things on that list already, but I don’t expect to accomplish much more. The worst part is that I knew I wouldn’t do some of these things when I made the list. In fact, I only added certain items to the list to pad my stats, so to speak. I essentially filled a bucket list with things I had already done to make it look like I’d accomplished something in my life. After all, I can’t break a promise I’ve already followed through with.

My best and most recent example of a broken promise is my vow to stay positive. Unlike my “25 Before 25” list, which I only shared with my coworkers, and my personal pledge to write more, I publicized this commitment to positivity to any close friends and family members willing to listen. (So, like three people total.)

It took me a lot longer to break this promise than I thought it would. I’m not sure if it had to do with the scope of the pledge, but for a few good weeks, I was committed to being positive. Or at least I thought I was.

See, what I mistook for positivity turned out to be a neutrality that was uncharacteristic in and of itself, but — when compared to my usual pessimism — seemed groundbreaking. So, rather than displaying true positivity for this span, I was fooling myself with my lack of negativity.

While vowing to stay positive sounds beneficial on the surface, I made the biggest mistake any of us can make when I made that promise. I did it for the wrong reasons.

I can try to explain why I break promises I make to myself and others through psychological terms and thirty-year-old theories, but the real reason is plain and simple. When I make a promise for the wrong reasons, I am extremely unlikely to keep it. And this is probably true for all of us.

I compiled that “25 Before 25” list to give myself something to reach for, and I self-sabotaged my chance for growth. I tried to write more often because I believed it was something I needed to do to maintain my identity, and I found myself with nothing to write about. And I decided to try on my positivity hat for a few weeks because I thought I could trick myself into being happy. Perhaps that was my worst mistake.

I viewed happiness as a goal rather than a state of being. This is dangerous because: 1. I classified my well-being as a temporary goal and 2. How can we measure the success of an objective that is completely intangible? What is the metric for happiness?

Earlier in this article, I mention that the only way not to break a promise is not to make it in the first place. But after analyzing all of the recent broken promises I’ve made to myself, I’ve realized that the best way to avoid breaking promises — and maybe the only way — is to make them for the right reasons.

Letter to a Five-Year-Old

Dear Haley,

You must have a lot of questions about Grandma, and I promise I’ll do my best to answer them. Just know that she loved you very much, and although you may not understand now, someday you’ll know that this was her time to go.

Where did she go exactly? I don’t know. I’m not going to tell you that Grandma went to a better place because I don’t know what happens after we die. Nobody does. All I can tell you is that you won’t be seeing her anymore. And as sad as that is, we just have to accept it.

It’s okay to feel sadness. It’s okay to cry. Just know that there was nothing you could have done to prevent this from happening. I would love to tell you that Grandma died because you didn’t clean up your toys or because you didn’t listen to your mom or because you refused to eat your vegetables, but the truth is: you did nothing wrong.

It’s also okay to laugh. This is how I deal with situations most people find upsetting. Maybe it’s how I was raised, or maybe I just see it as the logical thing to do. Instead of dwelling on the fact that you won’t be spending time with Grandma anymore, spend time remembering the moments you shared with her — the good, the bad, and the hysterical.

What did Grandma do that made you happy? What did she say that made you sad? What did Grandma say or do that almost made juice come out of your nose?

Some people will try to tell you that Grandma went up to heaven to be an angel and watch over you. I’m not going to say whether that’s true or false, but I believe the deceased live on in a different way.

When somebody you love dies, that person lives on through your memories. Through all of the stories you have to tell about him or her. Through every sight you see, through every sound you hear, through every scent you smell, through every flavor you taste. Through every little thing that reminds you of your loved one, that person becomes immortal.

And while these memories might not make Grandma the angel some believe her to be, they make her all the more intangible — her life just as permanent as her death may seem.

Basically, wait a few years and watch the movie Big Fish when you get the chance. Then you’ll understand.

 

Love,

Your (in all likelihood, second) favorite cousin

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.

In Experience

[Courtesy: movieclips.com]

I’ve been reading articles and stories and books by comedians and writers — ordinary people who use their own past experiences to convey a message or express an idea to readers. Every time I close up a book for the night, I think to myself: I can do this. I then go to bed confident in myself and hopeful for my future, knowing that I can make my living writing someday.

I wake up the next morning asking myself why I haven’t written that book yet, why I haven’t gathered a bunch of my articles into a memoir of some sort. I wonder why people aren’t holding a book with my name on the cover, reading my stories, and learning from my experiences.

I know I can help people. I’m pretty sure I have in the past, and I’m certain I have even helped myself through my writing. There’s always a lesson to learn, so why not use my experiences to communicate that message/those messages to the masses?

Simply put, I’ve been putting the cart before the horse. I cannot expect to just write these stories and impart all of this great wisdom onto people without first experiencing the events during which I learn the lessons. Basically, I don’t have enough wisdom to do any of it yet. And that has been my biggest issue lately.

I find myself itching to write something meaningful, but I can never find the inspiration. Perhaps this is because I’m spending my time waiting for something meaningful to happen, when in reality, lessons are learned on the fly. The most meaningful experiences aren’t ones we sit around waiting for… Drama — now that’s the stuff that changes our lives.

Falling in love, falling out of love, ending relationships, embarking on new ones. Regret, apologies. Death. Adversity. True happiness. We cannot learn from living in a stagnant environment because then we’re not really living, are we? We’re pretty much just waiting to die.

Despite the dreary perspective of the previous sentence, this post’s purpose is to encourage everyone to maintain a positive outlook on life — myself included (especially myself).

We cannot learn from writing about an experience immediately after experiencing it. That is when life lessons are forced and it becomes obvious that we are waiting around more so than living. We need to give the experience time to sink in, time to show us what the lesson is, and we must give ourselves time to actually learn that lesson.

I’m not sure if this is true for everybody, but I find that the stories I tell best are ones that happened years ago. Stories I’ve had time to think about and let fester in my mind, stories whose details I’ve mulled over and decided which were vital to the progressions and outcomes. At the time of some of these experiences, I had no idea they’d be this important to me. But sure enough, after awhile, these experiences all prove to be essential pieces to my puzzle. And while I may never be able to see the finished product, I might as well enjoy the process of putting it together.

So, I will leave everybody with my newly-adopted life motto:

This Is My Girlfriend. His Name Is Greg.

I am a twenty-three year old male from New Jersey, and although I may not be gay, I am damn proud to say I live in a state with marriage equality. What do I mean “may not be gay”? Well, I mean I’m not gay, and I’m actually not quite sure why I phrased it like that. Perhaps I live to confuse people. Maybe I enjoy making my readers wonder what the hell I’m talking about sometimes.

Or maybe it doesn’t matter. What difference would it make if I were gay? Bisexual? Asexual? Chinese? None of these would change who I am as a person, so why do we put so much weight on sexual orientation and sexual preference? (I realize “Chinese” isn’t either of those. It was a joke. Chill.)

Awhile back, I had a girl over and she had a gender-neutral name. When my father heard the name, he worried that it was a male with whom I was spending my time. Since it wasn’t, my entire family shared a laugh regarding the situation, but I still didn’t like the fact that my father was worried. My friends always joke with me about liking dudes (because I’m so comfortable with my sexuality and they know I don’t, obviously… *laughs nervously*), and my dad frequently pokes fun at my pants because they’re not baggy like Ryan Sheckler’s. I feel like everybody is waiting for me to bring somebody home one day and say: “This is my girlfriend. His name is Greg.” And that’s exactly how I’d go about it, by the way.

But I can’t wrap my head around the way we claim to have come so far as a nation and as people when so many of us still operate according to antiquated ideologies.

This past December (on my birthday, might I add), New Mexico became the seventeenth state to legalize same-sex marriage. (Utah legalized it the next day, but that’s like a whole thing now.) How is it that only seventeen states in this great country have signed this into law and stuck with it? We live in a nation built on the principle of freedom. “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” There is nothing “brave” about some of the reasons that members of marriage equality’s opposition use to justify their stance.

Well if two men can marry, then what’s stopping people from marrying their dogs?

For starters, pet owners probably love their dogs, but that doesn’t mean they are in love with them. It’s sort of like how a guy breaks up with a girl he doesn’t want to murder him immediately afterward. (“I love you, but I’m not in love with you. Ya know?”) I realize that some people are actually in love with their dogs, but I’d like to make the case that these people shouldn’t be getting married anyway.

An organization called TFP Student Action, which is a project of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, has an article entitled 10 Reasons Why Homosexual “Marriage” is Harmful and Must be Opposed on its site. In the article, one of the reasons is:

6. It Does Not Create a Family but a Naturally Sterile Union”

If anything, this should be considered a positive. So what if homosexuals can’t reproduce? Many choose to adopt, which is wonderful because somebody needs to raise all of the unwanted children born as a result of the “moral opposition” to abortion and contraception.

Let’s consider this hypothetical situation:

An extremely conservative couple falls in love and gets married. (Like “real” married, not gay married.) They have a healthy baby boy and love him very much. At some point in the boy’s twenties, he comes out of the closet to his parents and admits he is homosexual. The conservative couple cannot stand the thought of their only child being gay and disown him. He finds his way, falling in love with a fantastic guy and settling down. When the homosexual couple is ready, they adopt a child from a young woman whose parents raised her not to believe in contraception nor abortion. (They also raised her not to believe in premarital sex, but that’s a different story.)

In this situation, the gay son in the beginning goes from being wanted to unwanted by his parents. The child he adopts with his partner goes from being unwanted by his/her biological parents to wanted by the gay couple.

What was the point of that particular hypothetical? To prove that whatever point I’m trying to make here is right. And now we’re back to nobody knowing what I’m talking about…

It’s a vicious circle, really, and lately I find that it is all too common. I often embark on a journey with my words, ignorant of where they will take me. While many of these journeys are well-intentioned (usually consisting of me just trying to be funny and/or incite a conversation), I dig myself into pretty deep holes sometimes.

I have yet to figure out the reason for this — whether it’s because people don’t get me or because I’m just a babbling buffoon who will sell his soul for a laugh because it makes him burn in a good type of hell on the inside. Perhaps I’ve lost you again. I may have lost myself this time.

So, what does all of this have to do with sexual preference? Nothing. But everything, really.

If I were in the closet, me not making sense would make perfect sense. However, that is not the case. Unfortunately (or fortunately? (depending on which twisted way you look at it)), I am merely a person who purposely and accidentally — but always purposefully — puts himself into situations that will test and reveal his character. I’m a tortured soul who gets off on the existential anxiety he causes himself on a daily basis.

Digging holes probably isn’t the best idea, but it’s always a rush climbing out of them. How have you challenged yourself today?

I rest my extremely heterosexual case.

I rest my extremely heterosexual case.