An Open Letter to the Weary and Burnt-Out

This is the actual transcribing of a letter written to a friend, who may easily represent the majority of those I write to here.

Burnt-out, weary, frustrated, and a bit depressed that the transformation is not as easy as I make it out to be, applying it to one’s own life, the correspondent sent me an email describing friendships and relationships that were not yet….healed.
The writer expressed their frustration for the people who didn’t have the same mindset and thus couldn’t notice they were free-falling without anybody to catch them. The writer felt like a nuisance for asking people for help or advice or simply needing someone to vent to. The writer felt like a burden on society. (oh, I can tell you plenty about that one!)
Unfortunately, free-falling is too apt a metaphor.
That’s what it felt like when I first knew I had to leave Oklahoma. And nobody understood that, much less lent a helping hand to me, grasping the ledge wondering whether to let go.
The author expressed wanting to give up, because maybe “beggars can’t be choosers”.  Now, I’m not sure how you take that line, but this letter is here to clarify my half-wandering, half-seeking attitude which may confuse the average blog reader.
It’s okay to feel lost.
It’s okay to admit you’re lost and need directions.
Take a moment. Give yourself a limit of 60 seconds to feel sorry for yourself, to feel the hugeness of it, to comprehend the “impossible-ness” of the task ahead, then start walking. Even if you don’t know where you’re going quite yet. Better than standing still. And hey, if you do find your way out, to a familiar landmark of some place you once passed, stop and remember–relish– the overwhelming fact that you just proved the “impossible” wrong and somehow found a way.

Repeat daily.
This is my true adventure.

Crossing the bayou with Chaz in a boat we "borrowed". We were headed for the levee, driving, and literally came to a halt. Google maps didn't show anything about a friggin river being there! But--we found a way.

Crossing the bayou with Chaz in a boat we “borrowed”. We were headed for the levee, driving, and literally came to a halt. Google maps didn’t show anything about a friggin river being there! But–we found a way.

The letter is as follows.

Just remember ______, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine for me either.
I’ve gone through some shit that makes me question what the hell I’m doing, which is good to a degree.
Yes, I post some of the highlights of my trip, (Who wouldn’t?) but that’s because it’s not worth framing the bad ones to remember. At least not to dwell on.

I’ve faced extreme difficulty. I just haven’t shared that with people yet.
There will be good days and bad days. Look for the little moments, even if only one, to appreciate the day.
Remember also not to get bummed out because you can’t change people. That’s not your battle to fight entirely. Only in the sense that you can only change yourself and be that illumination, that guiding light to others. The rest is out of your control.

Remit control of others, but take hold of it yourself. A binary philosophy easier quoted than done, I know, but a challenge worth accepting and a lesson worth learning every single day.
I say this from experience, preaching to the choir.

You are not a nuisance. Don’t ever believe that. And don’t surround yourself with people who make you feel that way.

And it’s okay to “leech off others’ passion”. [as quoted in my last blog]
I can only point out in my life and say that I’m glad I turned the page from that chapter at a critical point.
But you WILL have times where it IS indeed necessary to do that. You need people to support you, inspire you, lift you up.
We need those times to be reminded that we CANT do it all ourselves, all the time.

You will go through periods of absorbing and overflowing, neither inferior to the other. Just know the time and place for them, recognize it, and accept it.

Like a sabbath, we need some days off to re-fuel ourselves so we can be of any use to society and others.

Today is my day, all day long, to re-fuel the flame, to fill the cup back up. Some people prefer a do-nothing sabbath. Eh, everybody is different my friend. My sabbaths are always, inevitably, inspiration-seeking days. I need this more than the physical off-day most times, no matter how exhausted I may be from my work week. For example, I look up photographers that are wayyy better than me, authors that write far more eloquently than I feel I ever could, make annotations on movies with life-applying story-lines, jot down funny or poetic or metaphoric news articles, look at art, take a bike ride, find people with amazing non-profits, catch up on chores, write friends letters etc. [Oh, and laugh with friends. Lots. Block off a whole evening.]

No beggars can’t be choosers.
But they can learn how to ride the rails,
thus changing their title to “vagabond,” instead of “bum”. Quite the difference I’ve found, on the road. Entirely different communities, here on the “fringe”. Yes subcultures within (or without) society. The point is, one lets the circumstances weigh him down [literally, to one place], the other uses them for a purpose, even if he knows not what it is half the time.

I’m sorry I can’t change the things which weigh heavy on you right now. I scarcely have the words to write this. But I can say that you are not alone. And it gets better. It does. Just know when to be patient and know when to leave it behind. There is a season for everything. (next blog will elaborate more.)

Until then,
David in the Carolinas.

Categories: Life Writing | Leave a comment

Day 2: How the Theme of My Trip Started

Despite the many stories I could tell you…I sat here in my chair tonight, in Beaufort N.C, not knowing what to say.

So much to say… and here I sit, feigning a really crappy version of writers block. It’s kind of like the feeling I had in college, when I had so incredibly much homework to do that I watched TV. It piled up, so I put it off altogether. You know the feeling.

I have a migraine and a million excuses I’m making to myself – why you won’t want to read my boring, predictable anecdotes. But Patrick, one of those amazing people I’ve met along the way (letting me crash at his place right now) reminded me to press on.

He said, “DAVID! I live with you now and I still want to see a new freakin blog post! Jeez, would you update it already?!!”  Made me laugh a bit. But he’s right. It’s time you knew the good and the bad. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to yet. It hasn’t been logistically possible, like I assumed. And I wouldn’t have had time to anyways. (chuckle) But now I can!

I’m overwhelmed with where to begin. There are so many things I want to share. But I doubt I have time for the majority of what I want to say on this blog. So I’ll pick and choose a few from each state which you may find relevant, without having to know my whole journey’s timeline.

So, for now, I’ll just approach it like I do on the road: One day at a time, one story at a time. Where it ends up, we’ll see.

Beaumont, Tx

Beaumont, Tx

Day 2.

I had coffee and one last good breakfast before leaving the old town, southern bliss- Beaumont. I walked out the door of that beautiful entry-way, with its embodiment of every warm and earthly comfort, and looked at Ben.

 He gave me a look that was full of excitement and slight jealousy, eyes gleaming like quarters, grinned, put his hands on my shoulders and said,
“Well.   This is it.”

I honestly don’t remember what he said after that, because it was so surreal. Just that line stuck with me. He was right. After all the talking and planning and writing and wishing I’d done, none of that could have compared to this sensation.I could hardly believe it was finally here. The rush had snuck up on me somehow, despite the fact I thought I was more than ready.

I had that feeling you get when you arrive at the airport with a tingly lump in your throat, itching to get through security….and the burning, numb feeling like after you take a shot of whiskey.
I knew I had a big adventure ahead. And it wouldn’t end anytime soon. There was no sentiment of, “Ya, but I’ll be back next week.”

The hugeness of it hit me. There was no going back.

I had already said goodbye to all my friends in Durant, Oklahoma and Dallas, Texas in December. Without notice and only one class left to graduate, I packed up my stuff overnight, put it in storage, and left. I said goodbye to the few close friends who knew I was leaving. I left a town and friends and everything I loved….knowing full well it would be a very long time before I ever came back. If I came back.

And now, I had one friend where I moved on the coast of South Texas. I saw him every couple weekends, as I worked a crap job. He lived about 30 minutes away.

He was the last person I dared to let into my life.
All the walls had gone up again, yet he managed to start prying a few bricks away in a few short visits.

31f0e7946d9211e2984e22000a9d0de0_7

So here I was. It had all led up to this moment. And I knew it. I was cutting my very. last. safety-net.

Somehow, I found myself walking down the street, looking back at Ben as he closed the doorway.

I waved goodbye to to the last friend I had yet to leave. I knew it had to be done for me to move forward. You cannot live in two places at once. I knew it was for the best, but that didn’t make it any easier.

That was the only hard part.

I say this to relate to you just how sad I was to leave him standing there. I hadn’t expected to feel sad for someone I’d known for such a short period of time. Yet I was.
He had shown me what friendship and unconditional love really looked like, more than most had ever done in my life. And I had only really gotten to know him in the past 3 months. But for some people, all it takes is 3 hours, and our lives are changed. He doesn’t know this. And, once again, I find myself wishing I’d told the people in my life how much they mattered, when I had the chance. I didn’t realize it at the time, my head a thousand miles away (almost literally) though I was consciously grateful. It’s not an excuse, but it’s true.

6118_10151478600760822_292128659_n

Longboarding with Ben on Day 1

So Ben, if you ever read this, I want you to see that you impacted my journey in a bigger way than you’ll ever know. Thank you. The people’s lives you’ve touched as a result cannot possibly be measured. You helped propel me into the next chapter of my life, with clear eyes and a full heart. It would have happened either way, but not with quite the same attitude. Because of that, people got to see a different David, who wasn’t just limping along, but leaping. I wasn’t leeching off other’s passion, I was overflowing with my own. Every person I’ve met now has been affected by you. Just like that, one person made a difference in so many people’s lives.

To list merely a few,

He made sure, every time we were together to show me a good time. We would just cut loose and de-stress. No worries after all the crap that happened through the week.

Other times, he brainstormed with me when I did need to really think hard.

He reminded me that I’m not alone, and that there is hope yet ahead – that there are great things ahead for me.

He helped me plan my route out of town and the train I would catch, as well as other details. We stayed up late, drinking beer and going over the map.

He gave me advice that sticks with me to this day; he endured listening to my rants when I just needed someone to talk to.

Planning the next day's logistics

Planning the next day’s logistics

He didn’t judge me when I opened up to him about my brutally honest, blasphemous questions concerning community, our “great nation”, society’s expectations, disillusionment with the norm, fears, insecurities, goals, God’s existence, church, women, friendship, money, and mythical love.

He didn’t pressure me into his perspective. He never judged my own. He didn’t lecture me about safety; he instead equipped me as best he could, knowing that I’d leave either way.

He gave me his time, a jacket, a knife, food, and a place to sleep.

He never told me not to go, or that I was crazy for doing it.

He never told me how to go.

He was one of only 2 people who encouraged me to do it, knowing it was something I needed to do.

I honestly don’t know how he did it. Because almost every base reason for doing what I’m doing conflicted with his beliefs and lifestyle.
But he understood one simple thing not many other people did before (not after) I left. He got it:
You don’t have to agree with everything….or anything somebody does, to love them and just be their friend. To give.
I had nothing to give him in return. He expected nothing. He just gave and gave and gave, without even cashing in on the age old “well if you’re my friend, you now have to at least listen to my warnings” etc

Sometimes, it only takes one person. One unique person, bold enough to be different and unashamed of it. It doesn’t take hundreds for our heart to fathom that those kind of people still exist. It just takes one.

And that’s the first story of how one person impacted so many.
It set my journey’s theme for whole rest of the trip.

Unconditional kindness and love, in the midst of hard times, in unexpected places, and they expect nothing in return. I’m sorry I don’t have the words to better explain it. But there it is.

Those people do exist. They’re not the majority; they’re the minority. But hey- don’t play the numbers game. Not everyone can play a main character in your story. Only a few.

I can attest to the fact, it takes a while to find them -the one out of a thousand who will stop by on the road to pick up the hitchhiker. And that’s discouraging, of course.  Some days it outright pisses me off how many people and hours will pass before someone stops. Yes, it’s easy to focus on how shitty the rest are. But I’m not so sure that’s the focus.

Those few who do stop are the only ones who were worth riding with, all along. I know, it’s never ideal timing or the faces you’d expect it to be. It’s hardly ever the rich and famous, but they aren’t the ones who make a cliff note in your adventures and struggles. It’s not those kind of people you would’ve wanted to pick you up anyways.

Don’t take for granted the Ben Carpenters of this world.

You may be afraid to spend less time with the thousands of friends you have on Facebook, possibly offending somebody. But I promise, when you focus on those who actually want to be a helping part of your life and surround yourself with people who constantly love on you, it undoubtedly will inspire you to stop rambling about the rest of the those crazy characters who don’t matter and shouldn’t be taking up page space.

You’ll stop worrying about safety in numbers and start taking risks, maybe even taking risks as your own example to other strangers of unconditional love.

And just maybe, as we learn there are those few, it’ll make the world a hell of a lot less scary place.

 

Wasn’t at all where I planned to go with this post, but once again I have remitted control of the outcome. Perhaps I’m learning.

The end.
(for now)

Me and Ben went exploring at the beach on St. Patty's day, doing our best Boondock Saints impressions.

Me and Ben at the beach. Exploring on St. Patty’s day, doing our best Boondock Saints impressions.

Categories: Life Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Quick snapshot from the Smokie Mountains

Sorry for the lack of updates my friends.

I had hoped to be able to bring you along for my adventure, as I uploaded pictures and stories instantaneously (like I did the first week)

but unfortunately, my phone was stolen. And apparently, it’s harder than I thought to find a computer on the road. (This computer barely sustains the web browser and the   text  drags        behind    3       or 4    seconds.)

Townsend, TN

A quarter mile from where I slept last night at the entrance to the park.

A quarter mile from where I slept last night at the entrance to the park. Taken by “Charlie,” who (I gather) lives out of his truck now because he has lost everything, including his wife and daughter in a car crash by a drunk driver. He picked me up yesterday as the sun set, showed me the countryside, and told me about how he is continually impressed by the beauty of life, despite his rough circumstances.

I’ll be hiking the Appalachian trails for the next couple of days, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear from me (less than you already have this week haha)

I’m alive and well.

Not sure how else to describe it other than that. There are “good days and bad days,” like any struggle worth enduring. I’ve had amazing highs and frustrating lows, but in the end–I keep pressing on. That has made all the difference. Nothing will stop me. There is always a way.

Not everybody could do it, but I enjoy making an adventure out of the challenges every day.  Like a kid at heart, always, I have a blast blazing new trails and having excited, meaningful conversations as I go out of my way to meet new people. I get to share stories, listen to yours, find new reasons to be encouraged and enthusiastic, to love life, regardless of how crappy or exhausting the day may be.

And I guess those little moments make it worth the hard times. I like the look of surprise on your face, when I smile and ask how are you, instead of looking depressed, as is expected with most bums.

I’m truly sorry if you didn’t get to see this side of me, the true David, when we knew each other. It’s been a rough past year. I was hurt, depressed, and burnt out– to mention a few.

So, if you don’t recognize me when this is over, and feel frustrated or cheated, as if I didn’t care–know that’s not true.

If you feel like you don’t know me right now,

I’m not going to apologize.

Because I’m not doing this to make you happy, or appease your feelings. Though I really do love to include you in my adventure and hear your support (now)……

remember:

You can’t live your life around what others want for you. At some point you have to snatch that pen back from all those other voices who insist they know a better ending– one that’s safer, with characters to fit their storyline. If your life doesn’t have struggle or risk, you’re not doing anything worthwhile.

 

 

Be jealous for how beautiful this place is,

David in Tennessee

Categories: Life Writing | 2 Comments

My Eskimo.

 

I feel like my whole life, there’s always been an Eskimo standing in my way.

Thinking about my last blog, We All Have Our Eskimos , and the longer portion of the journey I’m about to take, it’s made me gratefully reflect on how much of the road I’ve already traveled.

When you are discouraged, weary, or looking for the last bit of strength to keep going forward, take a moment to look back at how far you’ve come.

 

Why, David?

Why do I “have” to do this? Am I unstable? Am I “throwing it all away”?

Honestly I try not to laugh out loud when you ask those questions. I can hear the fear in your voice. You have so much, it seeps out and bleeds onto everyone else you “worry for”. In fact, you have so much fear in your life, that you have cast it on to me, expecting “the more the merrier” in your desperate club, seeking to convert more members.

No, this was a very deliberate and necessary decision.

Let me say this instead: it really isn’t anything new for me.  (hence the Boy Meets World article & quote)

I barely made it through high school without getting kicked out on the street, 2 or 3 times.

I decided to stick it out, bite my tongue, and try to stay –because even at 16, I knew there was nothing more to that kind of freedom than a decade of uneducated minimum wage labor, living in a crappy apartment, with no true way out. A high school dropout, fighting to just survive.I’d essentially be stuck there too. And I didn’t want to just survive. I wanted to thrive. I wanted to live. So, I truly do understand how people get to that kind of hopeless place in life, where people look down on them and see them as lazy or not contributing to society. I was almost that story.

I have compassion for those people we think of as the bottom of the drip pan, holding out their tongue for the good graces of “trickle down theory” because of the unique perspective my I’ve been so graciously  “given” through my life’s challenges. I am always reminded of
the introduction of a book I first read around the same time: The Great Gatsby

“In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Now this isn’t a plea for you to pity the downtrodden. I don’t know what your worldview is. And I get that most people don’t agree with me. In America, we believe that most anybody (clear of a life threatening debilitation) should be able to “make it” on their own, without help from anybody. It’s the Rockefeller story that we repeat over and over, saying “anybody could do that!”.

But, I ‘m not going to argue that point right now. I just want to make the distinction that the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps, boy!” mentality is a larger pill to swallow for some, because other people have it easy and this sounds like a simple solution. They never had to fight for anything. Everything was given to them.

That said, here’s the real simple distinction, a precursor to that statement: It’s just plain harder for some than others. Obviously, I believe in taking control of your life. That’s always been my view, which dictates most of history.

I was talking to my friend DJ the other day, who is trying out for the NFL, and he said, “You know man, it’s like this: most of these kids had it easy. They went to Ivy League or huge state schools with a paid tuition from their daddy or a scholarship. I went to a small town Oklahoma school and paid for it without getting any scholarships. They played on prime-time TV and didn’t have to worry about getting signed after college. I’m 25 and just now gettin my shot. So I feel you. Ya, it’s taken me longer, but you know what, I wouldn’t trade it for anything; it makes me try that much harder. It gives me my edge. It will be my story to tell. It’s made me fight for what I want. Someday, you’ll tell that story too, David. ”

But let me put it this way: How big are the boots? And how heavy are they? Are the straps frayed and prone to breaking, every damn time you think you’ve got a good grip?

 

storyline

My Story

I was told I would never “make it,” living on my own. That I would never amount to anything.

I had worked a formal job since the day I turned 15, paying for my own stuff. So, after high school, with my earnings, I moved to Oklahoma, not knowing a single soul. I started over. I created a whole new life, building from nothing. I faced my fears head on, determined to prove everyone wrong.

I was determined to prove this impossible wrong. Failure was not an option on the table.

Looking back at all the friends and connections I have in that small Okie town, it’s hard to believe I had the stones to suddenly pack up and move there at 18, with no guarantees. But I did. And not only that, I thrived.

People told me I would never go to college or become anything in life. Well, as I prepare to graduate, I can hardly believe it myself.

My dad told me I wasn’t smart enough to go to school. So I tried that much harder. At first, to prove him wrong….but then because I really started to enjoy it. I found out……I wasn’t dumb. I actually loved learning…..and was a really good student. In addition to school work, I took flying classes through the school’s aviation department and soloed, gaining many hours afterwards– a very literal feeling of independence I still do not take for granted, though I haven’t flown a plane in 3 years. It taught me so many things about myself and what I was truly capable of. The sky is the limit.

I taught myself poetry. I taught myself writing. I taught myself photography.

I had to pay my way through college, with no idea how the hell this would happen. Well, I not only held down work and school, but started doing photography, in addition.

I bought my own equipment and my Sophomore year I quit a really good job I had in radio to open up my business, David Reagan Photography, officially. Full time.

Yeah, I was scared to death. Just when I was startin to build up all my “safety nets,” I began to tear them down again. In my head, I thought, “What are you doing??!!” But I knew it had to be done. You have no idea how scary it is to open a business and have only yourself to blame. If you fail and bills don’t get paid. There is no hourly wage guarantee to calculate your budget, whether you’ll make rent. This made me self-reliant and matured me in ways I can’t even tell you. Last year, I photographed Miss Teen Texas, a model, and was hired to go on a photo assignment to South Africa.

I not only overcame my vast distrust of people, but I learned to open up and let people love me– and love them back. I found communities that accepted me and told me I was vital to them. This was huge for me. I came from a place where I didn’t feel wanted, where I closed myself off and looked out for only myself, because I had quickly learned that was the only way to survive in the “real world”.

Facing Fears

Though I still have many fears to conquer (re-conquer).

Okay, honesty time. Here’s a few:

Fear of hardship.  I crave my bed after little sleep, a long, stressful 9 hour day of work and physical exhaustion at the gym. And I absolutely love hot showers. But I’ll have neither of those luxuries on my trip.

Fear of vulnerability.  I have a fear of women, putting myself out there to love and be loved again. (This is one I need to re-learn) But it’s hard to be vulnerable when you’ve been cheated on. I feel as if, in some ways, I’m back where I was graduating high school. BUT this time, I’m facing it with an awareness it’s there.

Fear of logistics.  unknown places if you will. Mostly because I’m horrible at navigation and reading maps. This kind of will have to change. haha

Fear of dying.  My friend asked me this weekend if I was prepared to die . Gotta face that. Damn.

Fear of hunger. I keep having nightmares (thanks to all of you constantly telling me!) I might find myself stranded in between cities without food. (also water)

Fear of nature’s ugly sister. Snakes and all the things that go bump in the night….when you’re camping by yourself!

Fear of public image.  People will think I’m crazy. Like literally insane. I worry about what people think wayy too much, even to this day.

Fear of loneliness. Undoubtedly this one will be faced, with so much time on my hands. It’s unique because most of society keeps themselves so busybusybusy they never have to listen to their own thoughts. Often, we’re scared of that part raw, smothered part of ourselves and attempt to fill all our free time and head space with white noise.

Fear of failure?

 

Why It’s not “easy,” even for me

For clarification,

I’m not writing this from the position of “having nothing to lose” and just want to take a fun little trip. No. That’s all wrong. It scares the hell out of me. I had the most to lose. I still do. I was the least likely person to ever embrace this. I had the ideal set up, with a town, friends, a self-employed job, connections, and money. But giving it all up….is what drove me– facing every fear and “impossibility”.

In fact, just a couple weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about the different “safety nets” we create and tell ourselves we need. I told him about the trip. He responded, “Ya, that’s easy for you, but you have nothing to lose. I could never do that.”

I stopped. “Wait, what do you mean?”

“Well….don’t take this the wrong way David, but I think you’re at a great point in your life where you have no obligations. It’s prime- You’re staying at your grandparent’s, about to graduate, working at a crappy grocery store, and see yourself as having nothing to lose, as you leave for this adventure. Am I right?”

I looked him square in the eye.  “No. Ben, you’ve got it all wrong. You really don’t know why I’m here, do you? Understand, I’m here, talking to you right now…because I’ve already lost everything. Actually, everything is at stake. The journey began months ago when I moved away from everything I’ve ever known. This is simply the first stop. That’s why I’m in South Texas. “

I’m at a crossroads in my life. And standing still, not choosing any path, will get me run over. It’s not the trip I fear, but the idea of never chancing to take it. That’s what kills me.

 

Summary of the past 2 month’s blogs

I relate to you. The aimless, the apathetic, the burnt out, the poor, the smart and the uneducated,  the proud, the distinguished, the lost, the weary-eyed tech gazers, the displaced 21st gen. who do not resemble the hobos after the 20’s depression any longer.

They look more like the post-graduates of the show “workaholics,” toiling under a job they hate, under massive loans, under a boss they hate, doing meaningless entry-level work….because they see no other way out. [This is the aimless generation of America. But in the disguise of prosperous times and modern safety-net systems. No child left behind, right? Eh?]

I see our generation wandering in a different way than the Jack Kerouac’s of the 30’s, who literally struck out on the road, searching for purpose. I see our generation as those who treat career jobs like shitty minimum wage jobs, because we have only been taught to show up and log in the hours. We have been taught that was admirable, expected, and the only choice. We were not told, however, to put forth meaningful work, to chase after our passions and enjoy what we do.

Where do you picture yourself 10 years from now? What do you want to be able to tell your friends (or kids) you’ve done? Yes, these are allowed to be intangible achievements too. All the better. Write a bucket list. I promise you won’t regret it. Hell, there might even be an app for that these days. I don’t know. At your 50th year reunion, what do you want to tell those bald, wrinkly, beer-bellied jocks you did? (Pssst. I’m going to venture out and take a guess that your priorities will be completely different from high school. Just sayin. Make it good, not cop-out stuff like “shag Mary-jo”)

The point is, if you’re putting off your dreams right now, because something is in the way, “for the moment,” you’ll still be waiting when you’re 70. Because something will always be standing in your way. There will always be an Eskimo, resting atop the billboard scrawled with your passions, taunting your dreams which seem oh-so-close, blocking your way. There will always be an excuse. There will always be “something to finish up,” or a job, or a friend, or a critic, or a place….which you can’t seem to leave yet, due to “responsibilities” or what you “should” do.

 

25939_643648345662254_1452630651_n

Categories: Life Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

We All Have Our Eskimos

Ladies, you’re welcome for this picture of Rider Strong, the feature of this post. Eat your hearts out.

“We All Have Our Eskimos”   3-19-13

Interestingly enough, this episode is centers around Shawn. And while that is unusual for this show, I found myself in his story like you wouldn’t believe. When I first watched it, my mouth dropped open–I know there are a couple serious episodes in every season, but I was surprised at how “real” they kept the storyline.

 

[Boy Meets World: Season 5 episode 13]

Opening scene: “That’s impossible.”

Mr Feeny, returning graded essays to the class, says, “An interesting thing happened when I was grading this assignment Mr. Hunter. Yours wasn’t there.” {insert Feeny-ish dry sarcasm}

Before Shawn or anyone can even breathe, Cory sticks up for him, “Oh, oh- I can explain that!…” and makes some excuse about how they think so much alike they turned in one paper. Mhmm.

So Mr. Feeny gives them a “B”.

Then divides it by 2. Which is a “D” each for them.

Cory: HEY!

Shawn:  Still fair, still fair.  {laughter}

Cory:  C’mon! It’s senior year! Why are you being so tough with your assignments?

Mr. Feeny, getting frustrated, responds, “Fine! Make it two “F”s!”

Of course you know Topanga has to butt in: “No don’t fail them!….’F’s will haunt you for the rest of your career”

Cory says it doesn’t matter because they’ve all turned in their college applications……right? Wrong. Shawn speaks up. He hasn’t. Cory, quickly whipping around in his chair say, “What?! I filled them out for you!”

Shawn sullenly says, “What’s the point? People like me don’t go to college. Even if I get in, how am I going to afford it? There are so many things standing in the way…. (pause)

……Why are we doing all these assignments anyways? What else is there to learn?”

-SILENCE-

Cory echoes this statement, trying to back him up, but only digging a deeper hole.

-longer awkward silence-

Mr. Feeny, with a grave face, asks the entire class to leave, except them two.

Topanga chimes  in again, begging him not to fail Cory and Shawn. Feeny says, “You better stay too you little control freak.”

Turning to Shawn, Feeny states, “I want this assignment brought to my house by 5 o’clock today.

Shawn, with wide eyes, retorts “5 o’clock? That’s impossible!”

Uh oh. Feeny no likey. Shawn sarcastically blubbers to Cory, “Why doesn’t he just ask me for tickets to the Superbowl?!”

Feeny: New assignment! Come up with Superbowl tickets by the end of the week…..Mrs. Topanga!-I have an assignment for you too! Butt out of other people’s lives for one week. Otherwise, you get an “F”.  (she can’t help them)

Topanga: But I’ve never failed before!

Feeny: There’s a first time for everything. …And as for you Mr. (Cory) Matthews, since you feel so responsible for their fate, I have put their fate in your hands. Their success is your success; but if either of them fails, so do you.

 

Next scene: Silent Topanga

it cuts to the trio sitting around the kitchen table, brainstorming how to do this impossible assignment. The radio is playing in the background as Shawn and Cory come up with ridiculous ideas. The DJ announces a contest: call in for a chance to win tickets to the Superbowl! But only Topanga hears it. She frustratingly blares the radio in their ears, mimes the words, and even jumps on Cory’s back to get them to understand. It goes against everything in her nature not to yell outright it in their stupid, oblivious faces. She wants to help so bad; it’s killing her. She’s not good at suggesting; she’s good at telling people how it is. The boys finally hear it (without listening to Topanga), call in, and find out they’re the lucky caller!

Shawn (on the phone) : “Wait?! I have to do what now?!”

 

Next scene:  “He’s not going anywhere soon.”

Shawn, with a few others sitting on top of a billboard. One man is rolling by on a stretcher, being treated for hypothermia. A radio station is broadcasting live, from the street below the billboard. They’re holding a contest: whoever can stay up there the longest wins.

[By the way, it’s REALLY cold outside, where this takes place in Philadelphia’s winter.]

There are only 3 people left. Cory brings up some hot chocolate to his best friend, which Shawn gleefully taunts the other contestant with. Shawn drinks it in front of him and the man gives up. \

Only 2 left.

This “Eskimo”  isn’t moving anywhere soon.

This is Shawn’s only chance, and it is fading fast. It’s this or nothing, but obviously he can’t outlast the other guy. All options are exhausted. He sighs,

I thought I had a chance…..but

There’s always going to be an Eskimo standing in my way, isn’t there Cory?

As Shawn climbs down from the billboard, he mutters, “This whole thing was impossible.” Cory then says to himself, “Feeny knew that!”….

The trio returns to the classroom, saying they’ve “got it all figured out”.

“It was never about Superbowl tickets.”

Feeny: It wasn’t?

“Even though something is impossible, we still should have tried, because that’s all you ever wanted. You wanted us to try….even though it’s our senior year and there’s nothing left for us to learn.”

They think they’ve learned the “lesson” Feeny was teaching, as we (the viewers) are tricked into believing this is the moral of the story, nicely wrapped up– like every episode.

Wrong.

Feeny: Where are the Superbowl tickets?………

(serious pause)

Get the tickets, OR fail.

 

Next scene: “People like me”

 

In this clip, we find the climax of the story: After some searching, Cory and Topanga find Shawn, sitting alone, on top of the Billboard, thinking.

After they climb up, he blurts out, “Whenever I’ve wanted anything in my life, there’s always been an Eskimo standing in my way.”

He tells them about not being able to go to summer camp, like Cory did, and growing up in a trailer park, instead of a real house. These are basic examples for something that’s obviously a repeated theme in the story of his life.

Shawn suddenly stands up. “Well I’m going to the Superbowl!”  (Meaning, he’s literally going to find a way to San Diego, hitchhiking etc.)

Cory jumps on his feet too now, pleading with him not to go. “How?! You don’t have tickets. You don’t have a way of getting there.”

Shawn, with clear eyes and an unwavering voice declares, “Cory, people like me don’t go anywhere because they don’t believe they can get there. I’m my own worst Eskimo….If I don’t go, I’ll never go anywhere… Now be my best friend and get out of my way.”

 

Next scene: The grade

As Cory walks back into the classroom with Topanga, he says, “Mr. Feeny, I’ve failed you……..He was going to do this one on his own, no matter what.”

Feeny: Oh?…He said that? Those words?

“I guess I failed you on this one, huh?”

Feeny: On the contrary, you passed with flying colors.

…Cory, Shawn isn’t going to college and succeed because you want him to. He has to want to and believe that he can. You need to know that you won’t always be able to [help].

….Life is a lot tougher than school my dears.

‘In the final clip, everybody is watching the Superbowl at a restaurant.  Suddenly, Mr. Matthews jumps up and excitedly points out Shawn on TV, in the crowd. Feeny says to him, “How do you know?”

Because he’s holding up a sign: Hey Feeny, nothing’s impossible.

 

The Breakdown: My Thoughts and Questions about the Episode

Shawn learns the actual lesson, the most important one, though there are many to be gleaned here. He discovers the one we pass up oh-so-often in life, looking for a more neatly wrapped package. We want easy, simple answers, with rules, helpful hints and guidelines, along with a definite grading system.

Well life is a lot more complicated than school my dears.

Too often we stop at the first twist of the story, believing the lie that it’s okay to give up. As long as you “tried”. Whatever the hell that means.

It was mistranslated in our work-driven culture through the past generations, leading up until now. As I so similarly mentioned in my “Motionless Vagabonds” post, there are two ways to fail: from never trying or from succeeding at things which really don’t matter.

Somewhere along the way we started believing in the “As long as I just show up….” mentality

along with the “attempt the impossible” mindset….which doesn’t worry about actually succeeding in the reality of the situation.

It’s hard for us to envision the end goal, if we never believed it was possible anyways. We end up attempting short-sighted quick-fixes and frustratedly dragging our feet without purpose; We give up before we start.

Now, I could be wrong (and we’ll leave room for that), but what I gained from this story is not that some things are impossible….but we should still give it our darndest–oh well if we fail; some things are impossible; A for effort.

I think the question it asks is “What do you call ‘impossible’?

Better yet, is the word “impossible” just an excuse you tell yourself? I’m not saying that “trying” isn’t good enough; don’t misunderstand me. I think it’s the point.

Let me put it this way: nothing can be finalized, written in stone as “impossible” until the point at which we give up. Even if it’s whimsical, it doesn’t matter; it cannot be defined as such while you are still trying to prove it wrong.

Maybe if we completely redefined “possible,” drawing it’s circle much larger (maybe even all-encompassing) it would make us reconsider how far our “effort,” or action should go before giving up

555048_553665321333785_816482642_n

Feeny learns to let go, as they will be graduating soon and he will not be able to teach them any further. This is the last lesson, if you will.

Oh, and by the way, Topanga fails. Yup. Because she must learn that perfection not the point. Topanga, who has never gotten an “F” before, realizes the assignment wasn’t about her speaking up, but her always trying to obsessively control the outcome. As Cory learned the opposite, she found there is a time and place when she indeed should be speaking up, regardless of the looming consequences (the “F”). If you dig deeper there’s a lesson about priorities in here and not letting the goal hypnotize you into trampling all the people along the way, thus defeating the purpose. Never trying may ruin you, but so will comparing yourself to perfection.

And speaking of a “time and place for everything,” some of us fall into each of these roles at some point in our life. Or maybe we just “put on different hats” at certain times, with certain friends.

Sometimes, we’re Feeny, the “jerk” or “teacher,” yelling hard truths and teaching the tough lessons when it isn’t popular. They may not see  how it’s out of love yet, but it’s best way to motivate or help that “Shawn” succeed.

Whereas sometimes we need to just shut our mouth, like Cory. Even if they’re you’re very best friend, ultimately you can’t want it so bad for them that it magically happens. Cory won’t always be around to bail him out. Shawn has to take control of his life. Point blank.

Other times, like Topanga we should stop fearing the consequences for ourselves, if we volunteer to fight alongside them, and just speak up already.

But if your story is more like Shawn‘s….my hope for you is that you raise your banner high and show everyone watching, “Nothing is impossible.”

 

Here’s the episode, in its entirety. Enjoy!

Categories: Life Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The (almost) Vagabonds of a Generation. [Part 3]

555048_553665321333785_816482642_n

It’s the “rock bottom” attitude that I want to challenge today.

Rock bottom is just an invented place where the weary travelers rest.

 

There is always further distance to fall. And to definitely greater heights to climb.

As I’ve been talking about in Parts 1 and Parts 2, I believe

in our generation……we err not in our extremes, but in our stunning display of mediocrity. Taking a picnic between solid ground and summit. 

Also, consider there actually are two ways to fail:

-From never trying

– From succeeding at things which really don’t matter

Both stem from the “No way! I’m leaving my circle. This-is-all-I’ve-ever-known”  excuse.

 

It’s the comfort seeker inside of you.

Yes, you know the one. He’s small and green and hungry, like the creature from the Mucinex commercial, but instead lives in the deep in your belly and refuses to eat anything other than sweets.

And because, in America, sugar-infused products are never in short supply, you and he are good friends.

In fact, you have never had a single argument.

But one day……..the minute he grows parched, the minute he doesn’t get what he wants,

all hell will break loose.

Tantrums will ensue the painful aftershocks.

You will be at war with yourself. This thing inside of you. It affects everything. Like a how a toothpick under the fingernail racks the whole body with electric shocks.

And you’ll wonder,

How could something so insignificant take over my life?  When did I lose control and start letting circumstances dictate my happiness?

Why did I tell myself, I need ______ to achieve my full potential?

602975_535383593148054_779075214_n

We live in, not only a nation, but within an era, where possessions are the highest form of aspiration–the greatest measure of “success”.

I’m not even going to waste my time making an argument about this.

It’s apparent. It’s accepted. It’s aspired to.

If I could go even 1 day without seeing a car, which cost more than a house anywhere else in the world, I might take give a double take. For a brief second.

So, moving on with my point,

Even if you want to, it’s extremely difficult to get rid of this perspective.  We were born into it.

[The best in the west! ‘Merica!]

 

Sorry. Had to get that one in.

I like that word because “millennial” subculture has re-manned it for comedic use. When some yells, “Murica!” after someone’s statement, we take a second look. We laugh. It has helped us see the extremes of our nation and poke a little bit of fun at some things which needed poking. (Or a straight slap in the face by a bald eagle). And as it’s done with humor, we’re starting to be able to laugh at ourselves, which is awesome.

And here’s why I like that interjection:

I think it’s really hard to be aware of why we do the things we do, on a daily basis. Half the time we fall into error due to good, ol’ fashioned ignorance. On auto-pilot. It’s not purposeful. But that doesn’t really help the outcome. Also, it never hurts to have a sense of humor. When you begin to take yourself too seriously, people become objects and opposition, instead of the main focus.

 

So what is the “main focus”?

God, how do I say this to you without sounding…trite?

If you were broke – and I mean dead broke, on the street- could you still be happy?

That’s what I aim to find out.

The reality of the answer for most of us is screaming “no!”. Already. And we haven’t even left out chair! C’mon, be honest with yourself.

But……what if it was embraced…willingly?

That’s what I started asking myself. (among other things) What is the struggle of modern American youth? As I mentioned in Part 2 last week, it’s certainly not physical or material. No, it is “spiritual”. Perhaps not in the sense of religion, but that we are apathetic about creating meaning in our lives. We have given up on searching for our passion. We have given into the norms of society.

Giving up is always easier than embracing the struggle.

So, ask yourself: If you stripped away ev-er-y-thing, all the things you consider “necessities,” could you still find meaning in your life? Would you have the courage to chase after those deeper passions?

me

I mentioned I was going on a road trip across America. But I didn’t tell you how.

 I wasn’t sure you were ready for it.

Most people aren’t when I tell them.

They look at me like I’m crazy.

Well, here it is: I’m going on foot. I’m hitchhiking and riding on trains. With only a backpack, a small camera, and notebook.

No safety net. Nothing for someone to be able to argue, “well David you weren’t really homeless.” Or “Well, you didn’t really have it that bad, because you had______” (insert whatever here, like blow up mattress, The Hilton, a car, gas money, 3 square meals, etc).

Nothing.

No promises. No expectations. No guarantees. Strip away all of my comfort zones.

Some people told me, “Yes, but I’d feel more comfortable if you did it with ______ (items)”  ……….If I could eliminate all the risk from the start, what would the point be?!

The point of life is not to successfully wall off any possible room which leads to “risk” or “danger”.

THE POINT IS– WE ARE ALREADY TOO COMFORTABLE. We are entertaining ourselves to death.  Who decided comfort was the point, or single hallmark, of a “successful” life anyways?

 

All this to say: I want you to know, at the lowest of your lows, there is always an option. Believe that.

Sometimes, we just don’t like it. Mostly because it’s never an easy one. You always have an option. We just convince ourselves we can’t afford take it.

But you can’t afford not to. A heart is a precious thing to waste.

Find it and don’t let go; don’t let anything stand in your way. That’s it. Don’t over-complicate it.

Oh come on now. Please don’t make that face at the computer that says “You’re crazy anyways. No way in hell I’d do that!” I’m not saying your journey will look anything like mine. That’s your story to write and everybody’s conflict will be different. I just want to show you that it’s possible.

 

……Maybe somewhere along these roads we’ll both find hope and reason to believe in the “pursuit of happiness” again.

Categories: Life Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The (almost) Vagabonds of a Generation [PART 2]

“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”

This movie was made in 1999. Long before this “YOLO” phrase was invented.  Yet, the crie still echoes in 2013, amongst our generation: What is our identity? Is it something worth living for? How will we be remembered? What will we be remembered for doing? How will we make a difference? Will we remember to live carpe diem?

 Or will we continue to drift aimlessness, with no name and no purpose, like vagabonds who wear purposefully distressed clothing instead of tattered hobo-rags?

These are some of the questions which this movie “Fight Club” addresses.

Edward Norton in Fight Club (1999) (actor)

 

At first glance, you might think it just another R-rated, Brad Pitt-starring thriller, buzzing with scenes full of sex, bare-knuckled fighting, raging testosterone, and explosions. But, after RE-watching this film for the first time in several years, with my own story playing oh-so-similarly in my head, I saw something different. Believe it or not, I found more redeeming qualities, than not, in this film. I know, it sounds crazy with this movie’s plot being so extreme; we categorize it as unrealistic tales, entertainment, at best. But I think there are some very real things we can absorb and apply here.

I began to see myself, wholly, in this pitiful character (Edward Norton), who must choose to either take control of his future, or fall further into helplessness. He faced a turning point in his life.  It was all or nothing. There was no more fooling himself, pretending he could live happily in the world of apathy. He was at the end of his rope. It was time for either change or acceptance.

He begins to build an alternate lifestyle, a whole other world for himself. In this underground boxing world, he takes control of things; he is the man. He wants so badly to be like Tyler Durden because Tyler is everything he is not. [Really, this goes for every other character in the show who eventually follows eagerly in his footsteps. ] Watch closely the duality, if you end up renting the movie.

Tyler was an intense character in the movie because he, among many other things, confronted his problems. He confronted them head on, with very “in-your-face,” there’s-no-avoiding-this-now, way. Despite what you might initially think after watching it the first time, Tyler is actually the protagonist here (the guy fight for “good”) in this story. His character is inspirational because, though he is “reckless,” he does all those things we only wished we had the courage to.

For instance:

  • No Fear: He holds down Norton’s hand and gives him a chemical burn. Seriously. All to teach him that death and pain are inevitable; embrace it instead of running from it and fearing it. His lesson rings true in the sentiment: “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything“. Painful lesson. Literally. Listen to the monologue here. (Warning: strong language)
  • Let Go: What do you wish you would’ve done, if you died right now? You’ve heard of the game “chicken,” right? First one to flinch loses. Well, Tyler plays this game with cars, in oncoming traffic. Answer the question quickly. What are your dreams? See video here. (warning: extremely strong language)
  • Hit me: Pretty self-explanatory, if you watched the trailer. This is the premise for the whole movie. “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”

 

It almost scared me how much I saw myself in him (Norton, not Brad Pitt’s character). I think there is a very valuable connection here, if we look close. For ALL of us are at risk of falling for the same pitch he did –like “what kind of furniture defines you as a person.”

“You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You are not the contents of your wallet.”

Words that still hold true today. For our generation, more than any other’s in history.

We are a culture obsessed with superficial ideals. Our lack of drive spawns from the unattainable carrots dangled before us. We give up. Or, at best, chase after the wrong things. Meaningless things. At any rate, it all ends up back where we started: nowhere. As I said in my last post, we feel “stuck”. We are the motionless vagabonds. Hell, we don’t even live up to the definition of vagabonds. We’ve surrendered to the couch and gave up on finding a better ourselves.

Tyler predicted this kind of corporate burnout, calling it  “slaves with white collars”

At best, we might be someday defined by our tech. Our cool gadgets. I used the example of our smartphones and how everything has been given to us, literally and metaphorically. Everything is in the palm of our hand, more than ever. Though it is easy to look at this, and proudly proclaim, “see, look at all that we have accomplished in the past 20 years!”–I say “not so fast.”

Indeed we have come far, by way of tools. But, almost to prove my point, our technology is not what we’ve done,  but what we have. While impressive, they only amount to things, not accomplishments. A painter’s greatest dream isn’t a really nice brush set. It’s the image the brushes (his tools) will be used to reveal. Tyler would undoubtedly have something to say about this, if he could see us now.  In the end, these are only products, nothing more.

“advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate, so we can buy shit we don’t need”

I almost gasped out loud at this scene. I realized he had prophesied the inevitable, verbatim as we see it now: “We’re the middle children of history, man.”

“We have no great war, no great depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives.”

 

Man, I can relate to that.  Working a job you hate. . But you keep doing it because you tell yourself you “have to”. Feeling “stuck”.

I’ve been working at a grocery store, toiling away 10 hour days, making less than I can live on, daydreaming about getting out soon. Ya, it’s probably one of the most demeaning things I’ve ever done. Hell, I had a more cush job in high school.

The point is, ever since I’ve started on this journey, I’ve had countless others reveal to me in frustrated whispers the same exact feeling. I’ve been amazed by how many of you have told me your similar stories of feeling boxed in, hopeless, full of impossible dreams. There are so many of you with important and unique struggles, but you have given up fighting and feel an inevitable, dull ending to your once exciting story. There is no story because there is no conflict.

Every fiber of my being twitches, my blood pumps faster, my fists become clenched, and I’m almost angry for you, at that point. I’m not sure at who. But it makes me so mad, I want to scream out loud, “HIT ME! Dammit! When are you going to get up and do something?!”

I want to be able to save you from that feeling. That horrible feeling of bitter resignation.

But I can’t.

The reality is the majority of Americans live closely quartered, quite literally boxed in, breathing fresh air only in small quantities between the walk from cubicle to taxi to apartment. Among our generation, there are so many of you who feel stuck. The number is intangible. But whatever the case, I couldn’t fix your situation anyway, if I had the wisdom. In the end only one thing matters:

You have to want it for yourself.

You have to be willing to fight for it yourself.

Nobody can for you.

So I’ll won’t waste paper on a thousand encouraging letters. Instead, I’ll just show you it’s possible.

 

……….but more on that in Part 3……

 

-Dave (still) in South Texas (but not for long) –

Categories: Life Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Motionless Wanderlust: The (almost) Vagabonds of a Generation [Part 1]

image courtesy of mugenmugayofficial.blogspot.com

 

We are the aimless generation.

This should not be news to you.

But it is.

And it will be, even after you read this post. You’ll forget about it, likely, and be reminded of it months or years later.

A “generation” is hardly ever recognized during its life cycle.

Not during. Only after.

So don’t feel bad.

Very few have words for it, until it has passed.

For to try to put words to it, usually results in heated criticism anyways. Give it some time and distance– the heat always dies down. Then we talk freely.

Yet, only a select handful are brave hell-raisers who can “give voice” to a generation, helping define it.

Yeah, they give voice to it. Almost as if the notes already existed on page; they were simply the person who sang them. It is the music that resonates with everybody. It’s a universal understanding.

But,

we are afraid. We are afraid to be wrong. We are afraid we might just be right. We are afraid to go against the grain. We are afraid people won’t agree with our view.  We are afraid it will be labeled “blasphemy” and our word will be rendered “untruthful” and our character deemed “insane”.

But that’s if you are even aware of said issue. And I’m not sure we are.

In reality, maybe time is the best teacher. Mostly only in retrospect, looking at our past, do we recognize its significance.

This is “life,” I suppose.

We are blind to it, most days.

Until something stops us in our paths, like a car ablaze in the middle of the freeway, crumpled and causing traffic. Police lights are flashing.

But hardly -ever- do we seek out these things: That which confronts us, blocks our view, slows us down, and challenges every urge we have to rush on without noticing…life. It challenges your current view of the world.

 

J.D. Salinger comes to mind. The rebellion of the 50’s. His book “Catcher in The Rye.” (Along with that era, why do you think James Dean is still a poster on every girl’s bedroom wall?)

Click for more info.

It’s not like people didn’t know kids smoked, cussed, and drank before that. Salinger simply was the first person to point it out, when everybody was all “hush hush. We don’t talk about that. It’s not appropriate.”

 In fact the book was banned in high schools across America; not because it wasn’t representative of the generation…but because it was.

I know, it sounds silly now. Like, how could they be so blind and stubborn to the facts? But that’s the truth. And it’s true for every generation. Every decade.

We are afraid of change.

and we are afraid of anybody who stands for that.

Let me give you some base examples you probably take for granted today, which were not that long ago:

Remember, most of the people who were raised to a level of heroic fame were those who spoke out at a time when it was unpopular, but later caught on. They were not famous at the time. They were prophets of sorts. People were amazed by them. They were lifted up as a spokesperson for the generation. Like Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg was to the “Beat Generation” or Steve Jobs was to the Computer Information age. Like Martin Luther King Jr. was to the civil rights movement. Like Nelson Mandela was the incarcerated antagonist to South Africa. Like Magic Johnson was a catalyst to ending the HIV stigma. Like Kurt Cobain or Bob Dylan were to Rock.  etc.

Those (now) household names have one thing in common. People didn’t want that change at the time.

Who will be the voice of ours? All seems silent so far.

 

We are the aimless generation.

And we don’t even realize it.

We are disenchanted with the idea being either politically riotous or corporately pledged.

That would require effort. Or moving from the couch, which has two thousand channels, Netflix, and video games all in one place.

Apparently, we’re rubbing off on the British now too. Copy cats. (click for link)

You may hear this term in “the slackers,” referring to us “millennials”.  Accurate or not, it’s because people just don’t know what to call us.

And they’d be right to feel that way.

At first, I took offense to it. But is it true? Even I have to try and take another unbiased look at it.

I realized our dilemma is slightly different, creating a unique definition, albeit symptomatic: We aren’t doing it intentionally.

Not that it helps, in the eyes of the older folks. But we’re not going out of our way to cheat the system, like that stigma of kid in class who cheats off everyone and only bathes weekly if he can get away with it….

It’s not that’w we’re out to cheat the system. It’s just all we’ve ever known. We’ve grown up in the system.

We grew up with everything. Lets be honest. We have smartphones. We can Google the answer to anything IN THE FREAKIN PALM -OF- OUR- HAND, in the middle of the woods, or in a car. We don’t need directories or boomboxes or long phone conversations or calculators or board games or email or land lines or fancy cameras or dictionaries or encyclopedias or radios or the weather report. It’s all right there.

Literally and metaphorically speaking, it’s all been given to us.

We don’t have to get up from the couch to find the answer. It’s right there.

 

We haven’t really been defined by anything. Whereas the past generations have been defined by the in-your-face things they did, we are left with a blank label. Ours is an empty name tag. It’s about what we didn’t do.

We aren’t really passionate about….anything. Despite the short-lived fads like Invisible Children and countless others. The disappear as soon as the come.

The biggest thing to happen to us was awareness of Global Warming. And I think Al Gore is taking credit for that, I hear, anyways. Not that we’ve actually done anything about it. Unless it has a bumper sticker or a cool “share”-able video, we’re not interested in actually making a difference. (Should I make a quip about Toms Shoes here? Nah. Not worth my time.)

To find a “label” for what best expresses our generation, I had to dig deep. I had to go all the way back to the Beat Generation of the late 1940’s/early 50’s, the post-Depression Era of the 20’s/30’s, and even the 1890’s.

Jack Kerouac wrote his manifesto of sorts, which was chock full of obscene, nearly libelous juicy bits exposing the underbelly of his generation’s unrest. In 1947, he hitchhiked across America and lived wildly in different cities with his friends, abandoning the conventional culture of uprising commercialism. This would  give voice to the 50’s. He would later become one of the most highly acclaimed American authors, ironically.

Jack London wrote about his time as intentionally drifting as a bum along with hundreds of thousands, on the railways of America in the 1890’s. He challenged the capitalistic ventures  and values of our system to the very core. He was a bum, feeding off the teat of democracy, without paying tribute. He was a freeloader. It was blasphemy…… but he would later become one of the most highly acclaimed American authors, ironically.

But our plight is not that which spawns a literal wanderlust, like the previously mentioned examples. So, no I am definitely not saying these decades are the same, or even close– only how this is not a new dilemma of American restlessness.

I think ours is more of a symbolic aimlessness, dissatisfied with our options, but not seeing any new ones. We are “slackers” not because we have eagerly chosen this path, but because we do not see any other available ones.

 

Again, my mind takes a humorous route to the example of “Workaholics” to show our generations ambitions and lack of optimism for the future.

No, we are not literal vagabonds. Far from it. In fact, there are hardly a couple thousand vagabonds in America today. Ours is more of a mental rejection of society’s norms, without the actual follow-through.

We don’t want to grow up. We have not be able to find our identity, so we have rejected it altogether. We threw the baby out with the bathwater (who ever did that, incidentally? Stupid phrase.)

Instead, everything becomes ironic and symbolic of past norms. (click link for fantastic article by the NYT on hipsters and irony)

We are so scared of our future, we have resigned ourselves to living in the past. (Read my previous blog posts)

We like “vintage” things, and spend much of our time dwelling on the past, yet have not learned from it. The actual hipsters were the generation which preceded hippies.  Before it became all about ingesting or inhaling large quantities of mind-numbing drugs, laying on the floor and listening to rock…..it was a social movement. Real hipsters were the ones who spoke out for change (See Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”), but unfortunately their image is usually lumped in with the latter hippies.

Perhaps, we need to rethink our definition of “vagabond” as well. Aimless wanderlust.

We need to take an  honest look at how we might be similar, or entirely different.

Perhaps we need to rethink this absurd cartoonish image we have in our head of the hobo with the little bandanna pouch wrapped around the end of a stick. Ya, know what I’m talking about.

Of course, this visual depiction in our brains is because we have nothing else to substitute it with.  (submit a comment on here with yours!)

Maybe it’s going to start looking more like a kid in his late 20’s, with a bachelors degree, working at SuperMax Supplies, living at his parents still, playing video games.

Or maybe even more subtle than that.

 

 

 

………..To Be Continued in Part 2……….

 

 

‘Merica ya’ll.

-Dave in South  Texas-

Categories: Life Writing | 5 Comments

High School Killed My Dreams.

Hallowed Ground

 

… High school is fascinating to me. Not the actual place. God knows, its not the classrooms we loved.

I mean the idea of high school.

And judging from the countless American TV shows, profiting from its setting, I’d say most of you are too.

We have this weird obsession with it in America.

[see Friday Night Lights, Saved by the Bell, Glee, Beverly Hills 90210, Gossip Girl, Dawson’s Creek, Smallville, Degrassi, One Tree Hill, The O.C., Boy Meets World, Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, Veronica Mars, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, That 70’s Show, Zoey 101]

I mean, it has its high points — don’t get me wrong. But I think high school is more overrated than Jeopardy reruns and slightly less educational. I think of it like one giant time warp. You look forward to it as a kid, itching for status and social catapult. But when it finally arrives (at a droolingly slow pace), you’re mostly bored by it or rebelling against it. It’s always one or the other, I’ve found.

Of course, graduation is the golden goal on the horizon, promising freedom and fewer “fake” people.

One second you’re wishing this exact thought from the confines of an uncomfortable wooden desk, the next…

…in a swirling flash, time speeds up exponentially. And its gone. A thousand cameras are strobing across the crowd, causing epilepsy, annoying foghorns and “atts ma baby!” eminate from over-eager, balding parents in a baking hot stadium, as you’re counting down the minutes, sweating under clothing , a cap, AND a silk prairie-length dress, while the distinguished speaker is mumbling do-nothings you won’t remember and don’t even hear right now, as you whisper jokes with your friends, excitedly making plans to expand your gut with inhuman amounts of booze later that night.

And every moment of your life after this is spent squinting, reminiscing, searching, trying to squeeze out and soak up the last droplets of life onto a passionless tongue.

And this is the story of how every one of us lifted high school on a pedestal– not just the football jocks and cheerleaders. This is the towering soapbox we climbed on top of, only to find we couldn’t get down.

 

The “best years of your life”

I HATE the phrase old(er) people use– “The best days of your life,” when referring to school. God I hope not. That’s incredibly sad, pessimistic, hopeless…and downright depressing. You’re telling me, that everything after mandated education was downhill? This time of preparation was meant help you achieve your dreams, not give up on them. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE WHERE IT STARTS, NOT ENDS! We’ve set ourselves up for a letdown!

Sorry, didn’t mean to yell. Honest. But you have so much more left to do.

I don’t buy into the phony-ass story that the “golden days” are high school and college–that it doesn’t get better than that folks. No. If you’re 20 or 60, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. Unless that’s your choice. Unless you have that outlook… you’re right—you probably won’t seek anything more exciting than a teacher prodding you in the ass with a ruler, after you paid them to do just that. (with tax money you pervs)

Personally, from my experience of the past four years, I can validate the notion America packages and markets the “college experience.” We’ve capitalized on the industry to sell the fun side to kids.  Awesome. Because just what our Workaholics generation need is more false , shallow motivation for progress in life.

Jesus Christ, its no wonder we live in this high school fantasy! We have told ourselves there’s nothing worth living for, nothing worth doing afterwards.

We’ve created an almost mythical culture around these pubescent, moody little bastards who spend more time searching for a way to delude homework assignments, covering up zits with modern medicine, adjusting their bra padding for uneven breasts, crafting flirty-ambiguous text messages to the opposite sex, or watching after-school TV specials of high-schoolers (also learning how to coolly mask the awkwardness).

Friday Night Lights

Take a second look at those glossy warm memories. You might actually remember they weren’t as sexy-cool as the culture showed us on television.

21st century guide to decrypting the high school equation:  Gossip Girl -90% of the sex + Zach Galafankis awkwardness= Reality

The majority of  kids walking those halls don’t feel like gods.

That is, unless Aphrodite secretly used Proactive.

But I know, at least in the south, where I grew up, people treat them otherwise…… [Man I’m going to get crap for this one]

 

Your God Banks Wherever You Deposit Your Hope

People attend high school football more religiously than church. Go watch the movie, Friday Night Lights. It’s a great example of how seriously we take this “sport” in Texas. For most towns, big or small, Friday is the highlight of the week. Why? Simply because some of us have never left. Now, don’t laugh. I know it sounds generic and trite, but it’s true on a deeper level.

Stick with me here. Some of us never left, at least in our heads we didn’t.

I learned this lesson the hard way when I was 10 and my father had his “mid-life crisis,” as we’ll politely put it. (or more affectionately, his “asshole re-dedication decade.” We all have our hobbies.)

He was the epitome, the raging stereotype of a father reliving his glory days through his kids. I wasn’t dumb to that. I hated it. Long story short, I ended up quitting all my high school sports to “stick it to him,”and  although it wasn’t the most emphatic method, it solved the problem.  Well, let me summarize my childhood:

 

I was the most timid, unathletic, big-footed “All-American” there was. I played triple-threat sports, of some sort, all my childhood. Sometimes four. Not because I was a “jock.” Most days, I had absolutely no idea why I was enrolled in them. It was just always….there, growing up. I was the kid that goofily tripped over his shoes and sprained ankles in basketball, because I wore a size 13 shoe at the age of 15. I was the skinny 17 year-old kid who learned to box by getting wailed on and knocked out enough times when the instructor wasn’t around. I was the sentimental boy old who quit baseball –’cause I sucked so bad- my coach cussed me out, after catching a  pop-up to left-center field… with my face. (dear Coach Jackass, I just want you to know that I wasn’t crying because it hit me and I was 12. The sun was in my eyes…..!) I was the “that guy” who was far too uncoordinated and didn’t grasp the embarrassingly simple concept of soccer, so I was stuck in as goalie– for the whole season. Every year. I was the kid who lied to my parents and told them I liked volleyball, just so I could talk to the girls on the co-ed team and look cool. I was the kid in the gym who benched the bar, pretending I wasn’t struggling; I was just sweating rivers because I was “warming up”.

 

(It’s okay to laugh at this, my friends, if you know me. You know I’m half-chuckling as I write this. Puberty was not kind to me. In fact, if puberty is a high school student, it’s the huge douchey football player who gives you swirlies while you gargle murky water and beg him, “Please sir, may I have anotha’?”)

I think this plan of my father’s to “make a man out of me” or….something or another…..may have backfired. Hahaha If he was searching for a son to live vicariously through, I may have killed that dream. You might as well have given him a gay son, who enjoyed collecting butterflies and naming each one after characters in Glee.”

I feel like these are the confessions of blasphemy, as I write them. I know they will undoubtedly piss some people off.

But I digress, this is not about the culture of America’s sports fanatics. Athletics can be good or bad, constructive or demeaning, according to the setting and purpose. I only want to point out that some of us never left high school. We relive it and relive it and relive it and relive it and relive it, and when that gets old, we relive it through our kids

And while some of did leave….. technically… I still question whether it was with anything useful. We didn’t have any actual skills. We didn’t go backwards, but we didn’t go forwards. After cheating on all those tests, the real world and freedom wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In our generation, commonplace is graduation from high school, and even college is the norm. To get a good job, they now say you need a Master’s. You can see this shift between my grandma’s generation and mine own.

What happened to the age when people couldn’t wait to get out of high school, to finally get on with the rest of their lives?

Don’t buy into “the best years” line.

That’s a lie made up by bitter people, full of regrets for not chasing after their own dreams, who want you to share in their misery.

 

As I transition into the weird phase of post-college-grad with nothing to my name, to “the real world” and prepare for my cross-country trip, I’ve been thinking about this.

It will change your whole outlook and attitude. It’s really that simple. 

You have so many more pages left to write. Really. Believe that.

I know I do. Heck, I’m just getting started. If you don’t believe just yet, I’ll show you.

Don’t let where you grew up define whether you continue to grow up.

Believe me, I’m not unaware that some of us feel “stuck” at this place in life. That feeling we have nothing to hope in or look forward to. So we end up looking back….

But please, don’t let high school kill your dreams.

Categories: Life Writing | 7 Comments

10 Years From Now…[Part 3]

 

So, to recap Part I and Part II of this series,

I basically equated one of my teachers with a well-intended, roid-raging version of Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society.

Ya, that’s a pretty rough metaphor. So, “Dr. Reality Check,” if these posts somehow make their way back to you…….(as they inevitably do in small towns)…ummmm….you can tell it however you want, when you make your own blog. I’m just doing what you taught me. Sorry, but you knew this day was coming when you enticed me into taking an extra course, “for fun”. Yes, I’m grinning as I write this.

But in all fairness, I’ll admit, it was one of the most important classes I took in college.  And inspired a blog post a year later. I’d call that a compliment. (I see the meaning of it all now. Hey, better late than never)

 

As I was saying,

It turns out, this class had a lot more to do with life than I thought. [See part 2 for backstory]

We only hated him because it resembled life all too well.

 

Life is a lot like Dr. Reality Check’s second question

#1: What do you want to be in life? What are your highest aspirations, if nothing stood in the way?

[Give essay answer]

 

#2:Now list 10 specific steps you will take to get from here to there.

 

We face these impasses, after a ridiculous amounts of training and motivational speeches, without a plan, and go……

“Ohhhh. Shit.     I got nothin.”

Not because you don’t sincerely want a real solution, but because you have always relied on the “right answer.”

Generic quick-fixes have a funny way of never being directly applicable to our life. In the real world, you have to think for yourself and want things for yourself. Nobody else can administer the motivation. There are no presets. There are no fill-in-the-bubble quizzes. And, sadly, the majority of us don’t realize this until its too late.

Way too late.

It sounds simple…because well, it is. The first part always is, remember? You read this and probably mutter, “Yayayah. I know. This is nothing new.” But this isn’t about reading something on a computer screen and changing your life. I’m not that conceited. Hell, I won’t even pretend to give you advice like that. Its near impossible. But mostly, I just won’t. It’s not up to me. You have to want it for yourself.

I will just settle to be your inspiration. That’s it. That’s all I can do for you. I just want to show you through actions and not just words— the important part. The second part. Your goals, dreams, aspirations. And the stuff down deep you haven’t even uttered out loud, much less to someone else. The stuff you think is impossible, so you try not to dwell on it more than a few meager, depressing seconds.

Like the screaming teacha’ suggested,

Write it.

Write all those things down. Even if you don’t show anybody at first.

But most importantly do it. Until you get it onto paper, it’s just theoretical, swirling around with your daydreams of a mid-afternoon nap and Reese’s cups, with hardly a speck of chance to be realized.

 

 

You can’t step forward on stones that haven’t even been laid out!

 

#1 Reason: It stops feeling imaginary. It becomes a possibility.

#2. It reminds you of your goals, everyday. Which you’ll find is really helpful for the times of hopelessness. (Post it on the bathroom mirror?)

#3. It makes it easier to verbalize, to construct, to explain, to share with a trusted and close friend.

Confiding in that someone, sharing your vision is a double-whammy, a 1-2 punch to the gut/ego. They will hold you accountable, but will also encourage you or offer helpful suggestions (unless you have that sarcastic best friend who likes to motivate you by insulting you, calling you sissy and whatnot). It’s a balance. So pick someone who knows you. They’ll be like a doubt-fighting sidekick. But without the tights. (unless you want, ladies)

 

So, this part isn’t even about the faith of “stepping stones”. You aren’t there yet. This is (figuratively speaking) about mapping your route on paper, road by road, instead of just pointing to a state, mouth dumbly gaping, shouting “I want to be there….”.

You’ll be surprised by how it makes those far-away dreams seem a little more real, and just a tad bit closer. And this doesn’t even have to do with your school or job, necessarily. I’m talking about bigger things. What is it you want to do, to make a difference? outside the 9-5 everybody works. [If your biggest aspiration is a job, you need bigger goals. If you don’t believe me, see Kid President.]

What impact do you want to have, beyond just showing up and punching in the right answer, to get you by?

I don’t want to just “get by.” I want to live a radical, interesting story– one you can’t even attempt to nod off to. I don’t want the usual “solution” for my problems, or to embrace the status quo, just because that’s what we were taught. 

 

Following my own advice

Big announcement for my friends (and acquaintances/followers): In the upcoming months, I will be preparing to chase after my dreams, instead of just talking about them. Real preparations for a NON-hypothetical adventure. Rather than just whining about unpleasant circumstances and what I wish I could do, I’m going to make radical changes. I’m just going to do it.

Whether or not I succeed, is not the point. Whether I leave this chair, instead only writing about them, IS.

south Texas.
January 2013

This spring, I’m going to be embarking on an epic, solo road-trip across America. On foot. For a couple months. This is something I’ve been planning for a while now.  

At the lowest point in my life…..l want to show you this leap of faith IS possible.

And I will- show you- not with words, but with actions. I will follow through on my own advice, which as we know is the hardest thing to do. I will abandon all my fears, knowing it “only goes up from here”. I will continue with my project of complete honesty and traversing the unknown, no matter where it leads.

You can keep me accountable and encourage me.

I reached a point where I want to stop talking about my desires in life, and start chasing them.
Funny how, all of a sudden, when you have to flesh out that second question Mr. Reality Check asks, the realization hits:

We’re scared to actually go after some lofty goal. It’s easier to shoot the shit. Trying means failing is an option.

But I’d rather have 1 small dream I’m actually living out, no matter how insignificant, than die having 100 unfulfilled, lofty dreams.

It’s the illusion of actually living that kills us. Sometimes, it’s the talking about dreams that kills us. Because that’s all it ever ends up being. Talk. And more self-doubt. And excuses.

 

But, 10 years from now, do you still want to be making excuses?

 

Categories: Life Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment