“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)

“Most people get money. I got sexual abuse.”

Part II: Acceptance and understanding

By Ryan Hussey

Edited by Jenna Rutsky

His transition from inappropriate to illegal is gradual. It starts with him in the bathtub, asking for you to fetch him a towel. It develops into something that will define you, if you let it.

Your stepfather is handsome — maybe not traditionally, but what do you know? You’re not even six years old yet. He is kind and financially stable enough for your mom — and you — to have fallen in love with him, and that’s what matters.

They are married, so you call him “dad” now. You and your mom have even taken his surname, which is something you will wear as a badge, then as a label, then as a cape.

When mom goes out, you get nervous. You hear dad’s voice in your head, remembering all of the things he’ll nitpick about — Have you done your chores? Your homework? Are you wearing your slippers? Slippers? — then you hear his voice for real.

Trembling, you make your way to the bathroom, or to the living room, or to wherever daddy needs you this time. He’s in his bedroom, with those four teal walls that drown you in feelings that make you want to vomit.

Teal is green and blue. Teal is the monster under your bed. Teal is even darker once the lights go off. Teal is a decade of sexual abuse. If nightmares had a color, they’d be teal blue. It’s everything you hate in this world.

You wonder, Do all of my friends’ daddies treat their daughters like this?

You know they don’t, but you also know it’s because you’re special. He tells you how special you are. Special is a status until it resembles something more of a prison sentence. You no longer want to be special.

You know nothing is wrong with your friends, and you’d never accuse your dad of anything because all he did was notice how special you are. If there is a problem, you think it must be with you.

By the time you’re a teenager, you wonder if you’re some kind of magnet for sexual abuse. Years later, you’ll find out every woman in your family — your great aunt, your aunt, even your mother, and now you — had been a victim of rape or sexual abuse, almost as if you’d inherited it like an eye color or a sum of money.


For the rest of this article, head over to my publication 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.

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.

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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).

The Lies — WHEN WILL THEY STOP???

A few of my coworkers laughed at me when I told them I’ve never cheated on a girl and have never been cheated on before. They thought I was joking. It came as a shock to them that in a world inundated with infidelity and disloyalty, I’ve managed to avoid the drama that seems to plague a majority of my generation. In a time period when “hookup” culture appears to have completely replaced the classic idea of romance, I’ve realized that my inexperience with unfaithfulness might actually put me in the minority.

That’s a good thing, I guess… For me, at least.

But why does cheating seem so much more common today than it was back when my parents were growing up? The most obvious place to look is all of the technology we now enjoy that seemed like merely a pipe dream several decades ago. While all of these technological advancements help us stay in touch with one another, they can also be detrimental to the idea of romantic relationships all together. Modern technology makes it much easier to maintain a long-distance relationship, but it also makes it a hell of a lot easier to find that horny, newly-single chick within a five-mile radius who’s “down for anything.”

Like all things in life, technology has both its pros and cons. One of the major negatives just happens to be the temptation and ease it provides for people looking to make like a tree and branch out from their relationships. However, while technology makes it very easy to meet someone new or find someone else and sneak around, it also makes it extremely easy to get caught/catch our cheating partners in the act. Now, a lot of people are — for lack of a better term — pretty dumb. So, combine this general incompetence with a relentless sex drive and a smartphone, and we’ve got ourselves a cheater asking to be caught red-handed. This idea holds true for emotional cheating as well (especially if partners know each other’s cellphone and email passwords).

I’m not sure if this only became commonplace in the last decade or so, but I know that some individuals even use cheating to as a way out of their relationships. In other words, a person may physically cheat on his/her significant other to catalyze the end of their relationship — consciously or unconsciously causing the partner to break up with said individual, or at least leading to a talk resulting in a “mutual” breakup. I’m sure not everybody who cheats does it for this specific reason, but I have no respect for individuals who use infidelity to avoid having legitimate, honest conversations with people who care about them. (I have very little respect for people who cheat to begin with.)

But maybe I’m asking the wrong question here. Is cheating actually more common today? Perhaps cheating was just as common when my parents were growing up, and nowadays people just get caught more often.

This, again, can be attributed to the vast discrepancy in available technology between the two generations. Assuming people still found ways to cheat on their significant others back in the 70s and 80s, the absence of cellphones and social media made it a little more difficult to discover their unfaithfulness. And maybe a lot of these significant others didn’t even want to know about their partners’ misdeeds. After all, victims of infidelity in 2014 don’t always have the option of looking the other way — it’s sort of difficult not to catch a significant other who is cheating when people post everything they do onto Facebook and Twitter. So, maybe (and hopefully) my generation doesn’t lack the morals of my parents’ generation; maybe my parents’ generation simply lacked the technology we have today.

The aspect of this entire problem that worries me most is a matter of discretion. Does my generation care? Is the higher prominence of infidelity simply because of the technological revolution we’re living in, or is it a direct result of our lack of commitment to anything?

According to Forbes, sixty-percent of millennials change jobs every three years, and many Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers consider this statistic a major red flag when hiring. Similarly, if somebody has cheated on a significant other in the past, how can we be sure this person won’t do the same to us? (“Once a cheater, always a cheater.”) This is why I am so confused when Guy 1 cheats on Girl 1 for months with Girl 2 and then leaves Girl 1 for Girl 2, and Girl 2 is dumbfounded when it happens all over again and she catches him with Girl 3.

Though I don’t have any firsthand experience with any of this and consequently may not understand the concept of cheating all together, I can say with conviction that I care.

And when I say “I’ve never cheated on a girl and have never been cheated on,” I mean I’ve never cheated on a girl and have never been cheated on to my knowledge. As far as I know — again, all we “know” is what we think we know — every girl I’ve dated has remained faithful. And as much as I’d love to contact each girl and confirm this presumption, I’d rather keep in tact this illusion that I’m immune to the same disease that’s been the ruination of so many of my peers’ relationships. I guess the fact that I’d rather not know with 100% certainty helps demonstrate the notion that cheating can be prevalent without being conspicuous, and therefore we can’t necessarily assume it is more common today than it was several decades ago.

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.

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.