Year New Happy!!

My password worked, can you believe it?? I haven’t blogged since 2013.

I’ve noticed. It’s been pretty quiet here.

My last post was about the meaning of life, and if I say so myself it was a damn good post.

It was alright. So what was so important that you came out of retirement?

Happiness.

Happiness? That’s a myth, right?

No sir, happiness is about balance.

Do tell.

So, back when we last spoke, I was not in a very good place. I felt lost and alone and just plain miserable. Now however, I just feel lost and alone. 😛

I kid. Life is great, even if it is pretty shitty.

You’re not making much sense, buddy.

Exactly. I’ve spent a huge amount of time looking into happiness. I’ve read books on Philosophy, Buddhism, how people define happiness, and how the human mind works. There are so many things I want to discuss, like the Four F’s, but that’s all for another time. Right now I want to talk about scope.

The mouthwash?

No. When I say scope, I’m talking about your view of the world and life in general. You see, one of the reasons I was completely miserable was because I used to look at life from 10,000 feet, if you will. I would zoom out and question human existence at the widest level. Why are we here? What’s the whole point? The Earth will be destroyed. Nothing I do will matter in 100 years, or less.

Kill me now.

Right? I would see people who were happy and I’d notice something about most of them, they were blissfully ignorant about our inevitable demise. They didn’t think about those distant thoughts, they focused on what was directly in front of them. I was looking from 10,000 feet, they were looking mere inches before them. The problem, I find, is that once you know to see from 10,000 feet, it’s not easy to zoom in and ignore the big picture. You cannot go back to ignorance.

I can’t recall who said it (note to self, find source), but a famous philosopher, while in the midst of depression himself, said that there are three types of people, those who are blissfully ignorant; those who see the futility of it all and end themselves, and those who see the futility of it all but remain curious enough to see what happens next. I paraphrase, of course.

I don’t know about most, but I find that the root of my unhappiness is often derived from feeling helpless. I’m a control freak, and things outside of my control just knock my legs out from under me.

It has taken me a long time to finally come to grips with the point behind the Serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

My life has changed so much for the better since I started realizing that worrying about the things you cannot affect is like praying for things you don’t want. When I feel a negative feeling, I have to ask myself if there’s anything I can do to make the issue not be an issue, and if not, then I have to stop letting it get to me.

What’s this got to do with scope?

Well, I’ve had to find a balance in scope. Ignorance is bliss, but that’s not possible for me. I seek knowledge. Life is wonderful the more you know, as long as you don’t get lost in the big picture. Keep the big picture in the back of your mind, learn about everything, but try to stay close to the ground. There’s so much beauty in front of you and you might miss it. A sunrise is an amazing miracle. Every day you are not sick is the result of millions of things going right. Every meal you eat is an opportunity which could have gone wrong.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world.

Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde

The world has had and will have horrible moments for the rest of human existence and beyond, but there is only one you. Your life is unique and you should spend as much of it in wonder as possible. Better yourself, mind and body. Read. Take trips. Affect change where you can, but let go of the rest.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite movies, Alfie.

“When I was a boy at St. Alban’s Secondary School, the school took us on this cultural trip to observe art at one of the… one of those big famous London museums. Anyway, when I was there, I came across this statue of a Greek goddess in marble. Aphrodite, something like that. Beautiful, she was. Perfect female form. Chiseled features. Exquisite. I stood in awe of her. Finally, the teacher calls us all over, and I’m walking past it, and on the way I notice, in the side of this Greek goddess, all these cracks, chips, imperfections. Ruined her for me. Well, that’s Nikki. A beautiful sculpture… damaged… in a way you don’t notice ’til you get too close.” – Alfie

Enjoy the art that is life, but don’t stare too closely.

Really? You’re ending with a quote from Alfie? Ugh.

Fine. How about Epictetus?

“Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them.” – Epictetus

Have Loincloth, Will Travel

With the new year upon us, many of us will make the silent vow to take steps that will hopefully yield us more success, health, or happiness than we’d achieved in the past year. Some will try to give up smoking, or promise to hit the gym more often, or maybe just read more books. I am resolved, perhaps as you should, to strengthening my tribe.
Average
It’s a fairly common thought that we are the average of our 5 closest friends. Some believe that this is true in regards to finances and how much money we make compared to our friends, and others focus on how their happiness or intelligence compares, but is there any truth to this?

The short answer is Yes!, those closest to you can lead to more success, happiness, better health, and even a longer life!

Digging deeper, are your friends keeping you from being healthy? The Framingham Heart Study found a link between friends and obesity. It’s not much of a leap to see that if your friends are all making poor health choices, you’ll automatically be in a more difficult position to do any better.

What about happiness? We all know the saying, “Misery loves company,” and there’s some truth to that. If you surround yourself with generally unhappy people, it will inevitably bring you down. There’s hope, however! A study published in the British Medical Journal found that happiness is contagious as well! Surround yourself with people who know to see life in a positive light, those who believe that failures are lessons and that challenges are opportunities, and you too might find a way to look on the bright side of life.

What about longevity? In the video below, Dan Buettner talks about studies conducted regarding people over 100 years of age, also known as centenarians.

These people, from all over the world, share many things in common. Their tribe, their closest group of friends, are believed to be a huge contributing factor to their longevity.

As you can see, there’s truth in the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” So, if you’re looking for ways to turn things around this year, perhaps you might want to give some consideration to those around you who may be inadvertently holding you back?

Take a minute and seriously contemplate what your tribe looks like, could it use some shuffling?

The Devil We Knew

So, lately this blog has been pretty much everywhere, huh?
I’m sure it’s clear that I’ve been doing a whole lot of soul-searching, trying to find myself. I’ve recently decided to take a step back and try to find myself by figuring out who I was before I got here.

I used to draw a lot when I was younger, but somewhere along the way, I stopped. I mean I still doodle when I’m on the phone, and I’m quick to whip up a logo or something, as needed, but when it comes to really focusing on building my art skills, I just don’t do it. That’s about to change.

I’ve been back at drawing for a few days now [spurred by an old friend asking me to make him a tattoo], and of course I’m frustrated by my lack of skill. While looking up ways to get better, I found this post, which basically shows how your skills degrade unless you’re consistent when it comes to drawing. So, for the near future, I’m going to work to draw something every day. The focus will be on getting better at analog art [pen, pencil, paper], and augmenting my digital skills as well.

I’ve been reading a few books, one is Steal Like An Artist, which isn’t as much about art as it is about creativity and where to find it. I found three quotes in it that got me all riled up..

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” –André Gide

“Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self.” –Yohji Yamamoto

Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use—do the work you want to see done.

That was just the 1-2-knockout I was looking for. Reading that got me fired up to draw again, but I hopped right on the computer to do it. It wasn’t until I started reading the next book, Vector Basic Training, a book on drawing vector drawings on a pc, that I took the author’s advice on putting the focus on being a good analog artist first. It just makes sense, I need to learn how to really draw before I can really draw well.

So that’s it, back to my roots. I’m going to draw more, I’m going to write more, I’m going to do more. It will make me better. If you’re so inclined to monitor my progress, I’ve started up a tumblr page [There’s also a link at the top of this page] to house my drawings until I can find [read “make”] a better home for them.

Wish me luck, y’all!
Good Luck!

The Appreciation of Dots

Hello, blog.
I just had dinner with a good friend, and we were talking about you.
I was telling her how thankful I am for having you. You’re always here. I told her that something is missing in my life, and I don’t know what it is. I told her I’ve tried many things to fill the void, unsuccessfully, but writing helps. I can always turn to you, litter with my words and punctuations, proper or not, and you never complain.

To the world, I’m a dick, an asshole, and a pussy. I don’t always choose properly, and the world just doesn’t forget or forgive. It seems like most of them are perfect, and I’m the outcast. They judge me by a higher standard than they themselves live. I guess it’s my own fault, after all; I’m god, right? Perhaps not the god of creation, but I’m the the creator of my life. My words and my actions all mold my daily experiences and reshape my failing memories of failure. I want more for people, I want more for me; I want, often.

Who reads this? Anyone? I can’t remember the moment I stopped caring. I was once obsessed with knowing how many eyeballs read my virtual scribbles on the virtual bathroom stall. It doesn’t matter anymore. The word is out that I am a monster, factual or not. I have no goals, I have no dreams, I have no destination. I just want more.

Nobody feels my pain. I smile, I joke, I help whomever I can; but I am slowly decaying. The demons strum their cords, drowning me in sorrow, and I beg for the release, for the flooding to seep through my eyes. It never happens, I just slink through the days, avoiding humanity for fear of being hated, or worse, showing my sorrows. I’m better than that, right? I have no reason to complain. My life is wonderful. But is it? Why can’t I stop wanting? Why do people pull away when I’m starving for closeness? Why do I push them away?

I expect a world that doesn’t exist. I am obsolete. Out of time. Out of place. These dots, however, are exactly when and where they belong. Thank you for the cadence. Thank you for order. Thank you for sense in a senseless universe.

When I last wrote, I weaved the tale of a man named David and his encounter with, seemingly, the Devil. The words came from me, so I can’t help but search them for deeper meaning. I wondered which of the characters was I? I would have assumed that I was David, but the more I review, the more I relate to the man in the hat.

I’m not the Devil, but I could see how he would be seen as evil. He gives us what we ask for, getting nothing in return but the gift of survival. He’s a brute, however. If you were to tell him that you’d love to fly, he would catapult you through the air, and you’d fall to your death. He gave you what you wanted, he just didn’t consider its consequence as a negative. He sees the past and present, but disregards the future. That’s me. I choose, basing my decisions on the past and the present. I feel that things will work out in the future, but I m1scalculat3 often. My choices make sense while considering the now and the then, but in a second I will feel the waves of pain slamming against my logic. They bend my line of reasoning, waves breaking my peace. I doubt myself so much, how have I fallen so far from my soul?

I am blind to my own faultiness. I still believe I have learned from the past, and I am capable of choosing better. However, each time I choose, I end up feeling devastated by my choice. Every step I take puts me further into the darkness, soon I’ll fail to see the way back. Luckily, now I am aware of this, as I have been every time, so my next choice will be better, as my last one was, and the one before that. Do you see the problem? Every time I think I know better, I do worse. How do I escape this pattern?

Words. They are my tool. They are the only way I can keep track of my errors reliably. I look back at these words, and try to recall the thoughts and feelings I had when I wrote them. It’s an out-of-body experience. I am no longer that guy. I’m not the guy who started this blog, not the guy who loved Wii games, not the guy mesmerized by Colorado, not the guy interested in evaluating dating sites, not the guy who said the things this blog conveys.

I am the evolution of that man, or should I say regression? I learn more and more about myself every time I put these words down, and upon reading them, I realize that I have so much to learn. Unfortunately, every lesson turns me into a worse human being. What is the point?

Ignorance is bliss. I believe that because I have lost my ability to be ignorant, and I’ve coincidentally misplaced my bliss. I keep absorbing more and more every single day that passes, painfully aware of my closeness to terminal velocity, but I continue to fall into this abyss of want. When will the parachute deploy? Is there a failsafe? Can someone help me slow down at least?

Where have I gone? Why do I not recall myself? When does this evolution start to have a purpose?

One day, long ago, I read that the meaning of life is the accumulation of knowledge between birth and death. Is this living? Knowing more and feeling worse for it? Send me back to the beginning so I can stop myself. Give me some guidance, at the very least. What’s the moral of this story? Who’s the hero? When do I get my Aha! moment?

“Hell if I know,” said the Devil. Little did he know the razor-sharp preciseness of those words.

The Branding of Fools

What’s up, party people?
As we all know, the iPhone 5 was released just a few weeks ago. Since then, as usual, the social media outlets have been lit up with those saying it’s the worst phone ever, those saying it’s the best phone ever, and those somewhere in-between. That’s the beauty and magic and horror and OMG FML of social media, people are free to blurt out whatever is on their mind, regardless of how [insert adjective here] it is.

All this reminds me of when I was a kid. Back then, before cellphones and the internet, the fight of my day was Nintendo versus Sega. My family didn’t have much money, but my drug-dealing godfather was loaded and nice enough to buy me a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. My life was forever changed. The NES was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen; It gave me something fun to do other than watching my hamster in a ball getting batted around by stray dogs in the parking lot [he eventually escaped his cage and mated with the local rat population; I saw him again months later, wearing a little leather jacket and an earring].

The neighborhood kids all got Sega Master Systems for the holidays, so I made it my mission in life to show them the way. I would take my NES from house to house and for each Sega game they showed me, I’d top it with an even better NES game. They hated me, but it was hard to argue that the NES didn’t have a much better selection of games [Alex Kidd had nothing on Super Mario Brothers, although Sega did manage to release some classics like Shinobi].

That’s the first memory I can think of where I had brand loyalty. I’d be ready to take someone down if they badmouthed my beloved Nintendo. Soon enough I learned that the games were more important than the console. Sure, Nintendo had some exclusive hits, like Zelda, but most of the games I loved [Contra, Castlevania, MegaMan, Bionic Commando, etc] came from third-party developers who weren’t quite as loyal to the consoles as I was. I started focusing on the games, not the systems. It got expensive; but like another Nintendo franchise, I had to catch them all. I ended up buying consoles from Nintendo, Sega, NEC, and even SNK.

Since then, I try to base my allegiances on something other than brand. You might be thinking, “Isn’t this the guy that’s always wearing Marc Ecko shirts?” Absolutely. I love my Marc Ecko shirts, but I’m just as quick to wear a Sean John, Rocawear, or even Woot.com shirts; I just have to like the look and feel, I couldn’t care less who makes it. It’s no lie that I’ll recommend an Intel CPU over an AMD one, but that’s only because I feel Intel makes a better product today; I’m not mindlessly dismissing any other products simply because I have a coffee mug with the Intel logo on it [I don’t, I swear].

Sometimes people try to goad me into brand wars, but usually when that happens, I remember a scene from one of my favorite movies, A Bronx Tale. There’s a scene where the mobster, Sonny, first chats with 8-year-old “C”, who’s upset because the press was beating up on his favorite baseball star, Mickey Mantle. The über-wise Sonny says,

Mickey Mantle, is that what you’re upset about? Mickey Mantle makes $100,000 a year, How much does your father make? …If your father can’t pay the rent, go ask Mickey Mantle, see what he tells you. Mickey Mantle don’t care about you, so why should you care about him?

That helps remind me.. I’m the one spending money, they’re not paying me to advertise for them. You love your iPhone? That’s great, I own stock in Apple. I own lots of Apple products, I’m using one right now, but I also use the heck out my Nexus tablet [but yea, I own Google stock too]. I don’t care who made what as long as “what” is [insert positive adjective here]. Do I think Apple products are better than Google’s? A year ago, yes. Today, they’re pretty much the same. A year from now, who the hell knows. But I’ll tell you this, if I spend my hard-earned cash on a product, and it doesn’t meet my expectations, you’re gonna hear about it. On the plus side, if it exceeds my expectations you’ll hear about it too [the nest is awesome!]! That’s what’s so great about social media, we keep companies in check. They can’t get away with sloppiness because the negativity won’t be confined to some snooty reviewer or maybe a nasty letter in the mail, it’s going to be everyone telling everyone. The end result is better products for everybody, and that’s a good thing.

In closing [for the TL;DR crowd], don’t be a fangirl. Like a product because it’s good and fills an actual need in your world, not just because you were dumb enough to get a logo tattooed on your forehead and feel obligated to like everything they make. Let people brag/complain when they get something they do/don’t like; it’s their money, not yours.

Oh, and watch A Bronx Tale because it’s better than any movie you like. [I rewatched it while writing this post; I’ve never realized how much that movie has influenced me]
Peace out.

The Blurry Author

Every time I meet someone new, they inevitably toss up a question that’s the Swiss Army knife of conversation starters, “What do you do?” It’s a great question because some people have trouble finding things to talk about with strangers, but what we do is a topic that’s loaded with feeling. We either hate our job or we love our job, regardless we do indeed have something to say; unless of course you’re an introvert lucky enough to also suffer from social anxiety.

Often times I’ve been asked that question and responded with the über-awkward, “nothing, absolutely nothing.” Talk about bringing the conversation to a halt! It’s not that I’m out to make things even more weird for the poor sap that’s taken it upon themselves to try to strike up a conversation with me, it’s quite simply fear. The instant that question is asked, my brain incorrectly deduces that if I do nothing, then there’s no reason for this person to be all up in my face. The alternative, is that I let them know I’m I.T., or a Web Developer, or even that I started up a coworking space, and then I’ll have to elaborate and possibly disclose how little I really know about any of those positions, regardless of how long I’ve been at them. It’s most likely based on my subconscious mind’s affinity for the famous quote,

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

Now the outside me, the one standing in front of a complete stranger, he knows damn well that failing to answer that question honestly affects that relationship forever and ever. Right from the start, I’ve told this person that either I can’t be trusted, or that he/she is not good enough to get to know me. I don’t want that to happen, I actually want more friends, so lately I’ve been trying to train my mind to find a better response.

In order for that to happen, every part of my mind; The Lizard, The Mammal, and Neo; have to agree on what it is exactly that I do do. This requires a few minutes of introspection and mental time-travel as I try to find a way to define myself.

Merriam-Webster defines Author as “one that originates or creates”. Looking back on my life, I can see the pattern of creation.. I remember being a kid, watching Bob Ross on PBS, and grabbing a pen and paper so I could try to mimic his art. I remember playing Capcom’s Legendary Wings on my friend Ed’s NES as a teen, then rushing to call Nintendo Customer Service to ask them how I could make video games. It wasn’t long before Ed and I were trying out every gamedev tool, drawing sprites, blobs, and blits to try and make a game on his Amiga 500. Then puberty hit and music was what I wanted to create. Ed and I pumped out tons of MIDI tracks, sure as heck that we’d one day be making lots of money cranking out tunes [he’s still making music]. My adult life started kicking in, which meant I had to pay the bills. I joined the Air Force and was yanked out of my comfort zone, tossed in a world where the rules were not familiar, and I became depressed. I started writing bad poetry, like this gem from 1995:

Darkness in the Knight

I open my eyes, still, I see no light.
I feel a cold breeze lightly blowing.
Voices are heard,whispers heard,or felt within?
The stars fade in,my eyes are closed,
the voices in my mind aren’t clear,
the stars fade out and darkness once again sets in.
If not for the breeze felt,it would be death,
but still I live…in the dark.

The voices,unsettled,they
seem to argue, they contradict each other,
one speaks of peace,the other of war,
one of love,the other of hate.
The voices are low,they stop,
it’s still cold…and dark.

I’m tired,tired of the darkness,
the voices,the damned cold!

I move,or try to, I can’t feel myself, just the cold.
Have to do something,must fight this, must regain control.
I am not strong enough, and it’s really not that cold…just dark.

It’s a good Knight to die…

Thank goodness I met a gal and fell in love. Soon after, I realized there was a software need where I worked, so I started programming again. I created a few apps while in the Air Force to make our lives easier. Then the Internet arrived, I was up and running creating websites to showcase my other creative habit, my drawings [the site’s still up, kinda]. Now, being a Web Developer has been my livelihood for almost eight years. I have this blog which I write to pretty often, my public diary. My latest dive into creating is the desire to write a book, fiction even.

So now that I’ve thought it, written it, and read it; perhaps my brain will be polite enough to answer that very simple, friendly question, “What do you do?”

I am an author.

The Tabled Scraps

I’m hungry. Always. I’m insatiable.

The oldest feeling I have is the same as the freshest in my soul. There has to be more. I was raised by two unemployed parents, they’ve never worked a day in my life. The youngest of four boys, raised on food stamps and soup-kitchen leftovers. Wearing the hand-me-downs that would finally make their way over to me. Keeping roaches as pets. There had to be more.

Learning came easy to me. Like osmosis, the words that poured out of my teacher’s mouth would seep into my subconscious while I sat around doodling in my notebook. Angry teacher after angry teacher would be baffled by my ability to ace the tests when I seemed not to care at all. I’m thankful for those angry teachers, who at times resorted to physical violence, for trying to get through to the class clown who actually had potential. They worked hard to encourage me. Unfortunately, my parents saw no value in intelligence. “A true man earns his livelihood by sweating,” my mother would say. I was actively encouraged to drop out of school and get a job, but I wanted more.

I moved away and started another life. Alone. Since then I’ve met many people and I’ve tried to find a place to lay my head. A place to feel at home. The adjustment to this new life has not been easy. I’m often misunderstood, understandably so. I don’t act like the others. I’m not close to my family; though I love them dearly, I’ve not seen them for fifteen years. I challenge authority. I have trouble trusting people. I basically just don’t play well with others. It’s a learned condition, regrettably.

It’s not often I meet someone who captures my mind. Someone who appears as enigmatic as myself, while not outwardly showing any signs of insanity. It happens even less that I find someone like that who feels the same towards me. When it happens though, I start the clock. I know it’s only a matter of time before one of us digs too deep and finds something we don’t like, or something that scares us. Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes it takes years, but it’s inevitable. The trick is to absorb as much of this other person as possible until that horrid moment arrives, giving as much of myself as possible in return. To satisfy this other being whom I’ve been fortunate enough to meet. This fountain of experiences. To appreciate every second that I’m able to feel the current flowing through my fingertips, because when it’s over the absence will seem unbearable. I’ll want more.

The good news, perhaps, is that I’m painfully aware of the scarcity of these kindred souls. This knowledge is why I focus on being a source of deep joy when we’re reunited. I appreciate the union. I cherish the moments. I give as much of myself as I can. This tethering of souls exponentially increases the capacity to give; we overflow with love, compassion, generosity, and greatness. It’s a beautiful thing; this saturation of feelings, this tidal wave of hope.

When it does happen, that’s when I finally get to know more.

The one about thinging the wrong say

I need to apologize. A few days ago I posted the one about playing with fire, and while I was writing that, I started to get agitated. I’m not sure if it was the topic, or the absurd heat we’ve been having, or maybe something I read on my twitter feed; I don’t know. I know that by the time I had popped in the final period, my blood pressure was probably pretty high. I recall clicking that Post button as if I were launching a thousand nukes, as if a break occurred as demons threw their weight upon the door to my soul.

As I go back and reread it, I can clearly see the emotional shift in the text. Regardless, I don’t regret the bulk of it. I do however regret one tiny word.

abusive

I mentioned that I had left an abusive relationship and that I knew doing so was going to put me on the least-favorable side of a he-said/she-said war. I’ve since gone back and redacted that word, replacing it with a more appropriate adjective, unhealthy.

I’m near-certain that the person involved will never see these words, but I am deeply sorry for improperly identifying that relationship. I was never abused.

I believe abuse is something intentional. Abuse is a man that can’t control his fist, or a woman who says things intentionally aimed at bringing down a man. This relationship contained no abuse, from either side, neither physical nor mental. What it contained, for all interested, was two amazingly strong people who shared more in common than they could imagine. It was those very similarities; decisiveness, fortitude, determination, curiosity, hunger, and drive; that led to the constant yelling and attempts to sway the other’s opinion. Reflections in the mirror, trying to right the left and left the right. It was futile, but not malicious.

They were merely two people in a constant struggle to better themselves and provide a positive contribution to the world, attempting to do it together while turning a blind eye to the insurmountable obstacles they knew existed. It was love.

Love is that stupid thing that makes us cling to hope when we know there is none. It makes us chase the sun, although we’ll never catch it. It makes us believe in things we know cannot possibly be true, and fills us with a feeling we dare not cut loose.

Unfortunately, love does not conquer all. Sometimes you need to sit and try to make sense of it all, and accept that the world will still keep spinning if you let go of that which you hold most dear. The hurt will come, and it will be as intense as a thousand fires, and all will feel hopeless. It is then, when you most want to give up, that you’ll have to be just that one bit stronger. You’ll need to remember that there are people around you who love you regardless of your sins. People who will always answer your cries. Remember that you are never alone as long as you’re in someone’s heart and that this, if nothing else, is reason enough to smile.

Thank you.

The one about playing with fire.

What’s up, party people? In today’s installment of “Look At This Motherfucker, Thinking He’s All Wise And Shit”, I’d like to talk about fear.

Now before you get your knickers in a twist, I’m very much aware of my stance on fear. I’m self-admittedly the biggest chicken-shit scaredy-cat I know. If you look back on this very blog I’m sure you’ll find a good half-dozen posts about my fears. Given that, you might be inclined to think that I have no place discussing the topic. However, It’s been said that in order to be an expert at something you should have done it for over 10,000 hours. I can guarantee you that I’ve been a-scared for far much more than that; so as you can see, I’m an expert in fear. So, shut up and listen.

When we were young, I’m sure each and every one of us was told not to touch something because it was hot and would burn us. I’m also sure that each and every one of us has been burned despite that warning. Being young is about being curious. We don’t just let the grown-ups define the world for us, we ask for their input, but we are almost dedicated to exploring it for ourselves. We played in the street, we jumped from heights that we probably shouldn’t have, we yanked on the dog’s tail. Fear was incentive, because back then it wasn’t known as fear.

Somewhere along the way, we grow up. The moments in our life where fear led to something unpleasant, although almost surely outnumbered by just the opposite, have made it so that we actively avoid feeling fear and uncertainty. It works for us as long as we’re just trying to blend in, and most of us are.

Here’s the thing though. Sometimes we get so determined to avoid the fear, that we blindly accept warnings without any proof of anything to fear. “Don’t use your cellphone on a plane, we’ll all die.” Really? Says who? Have you ever seen a news headline, “Fiery blaze kills hundreds in plane downed by cellphone use!” No. It’s just a warning someone made up, just in case.

So now, this new guy moves into town and starts popping up more and more. You ask a buddy, “hey, what’s his deal?” and they don’t know. They’ve heard this, that, or the other.. “Word is he’s a douchebag and eats puppies,” so now you put this guy, whom you really know nothing about, in the blacklist. Empty Fear.

My name is Rich, but I don’t like that name. I’ve been Skid Vis since way before I came to Nebraska. I’m Skid Vis, my brother’s name is Gizmo, although it’s really Gabriel. My best friends were Xen (Edgardo), Vexx (Danny), Pete (Miguel), and BB (Juan). That’s just how it worked. You, or your friends, decided what you should be called. It’s not some ploy, some act, or some secret I’m trying to preserve. I cringe when I hear my real name, it’s just not me.

As for my anti-social behavior? I’m an introvert. Surprise! I was physically abused by my dad, mentally abused by my mother, sexually abused by trusted family members, and then thrown into the streets where I had to cross chalk-marks to get to school. I’ve been bred to not trust people. Leaving the comfort of my home to hang out with people I don’t know, people who I have no reason to expect will have my back in a dangerous situation, that’s not my definition of fun. It scares the living shit out of me. But I’m doing it.

I go whitewater kayaking even though I can’t swim. I’ve piloted a plane, and I’ve jumped out of one all by my lonesome. I ride a motorcycle, even after wrecking on the highway and almost becoming roadkill. I went to BigOmaha, even though I felt as if absolutely everyone there was staring at me the whole time. I ended an abusive unhealthy relationship knowing full well I’d be branded the villain and lied about. I started CoVis CoWorking even though I’d have to be insane to start a business reliant on being a part of a social community and exposing myself and all my flaws to strangers.

I face my fears. One at a time, and step by step. I’m no better than you, I hate myself most days and dislike myself the others. I’m opinionated, blatantly honest, egotistical, and determined to get my way. But I’m also considerate, kind, and compassionate. I try to make people happy and I care too much about the well-being and opinions of others.

I’ve been labeled a “40 year-old child with a violent streak.” That’s not far from the truth. Like a child, I don’t take life too serious. I still explore. I still challenge myself regardless of the high potential for failure. As for my violent streak? I challenge anyone to prove I’ve laid a hand on them. I talk tough, but my strongest belief is that no living creature should ever suffer. That includes dickheads, assholes, and anyone who stands in my way. I talk tough, it’s how I vent, and I’m not afraid to stand up for myself, but I won’t hurt a soul unless I absolutely have to.

What about you? Are you a grown-up? A child? Perhaps you’re still a teenager, caught in the middle and living like you’re still in high school. Are you scared for no reason? Do you believe there’s a monster in your closet?

Boo.

The one about standing out.

A long time ago, right here on this very planet, I was a soldier.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have a fondness for tradition. Once I find something I like, I tend to like finding it over and over. My Sunday breakfasts, my Ecko shirts, this janky haircut I’ve had since the mid-1800’s, redheads; you get the point.

When I lived in the barracks, I had my traditions there too. One of them, was lunch. Every single damn day, I would head to the “chow hall” and order the very same damn meal, two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Every day, I’d walk up to the very damn same chef, who would ask me what I’d want, and I’d tell her the very damn same thing I said the very damn day before.

I started to get peeved at the fact that she could not tell me apart from any of the other bajillion soldiers she had to cook for. One day, I walked up to her and as she stared blankly in my direction and asked what I wanted, I lost it. I just stared back at her for a second, until it became awkward and she had no choice but to actually focus on me, then I yelled. “AAAAAAH!” She took a step back, with eyes wide open. I then calmed myself, smiled, and calmly asked for two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.

That was the very last time I ever had to ask for them. No, I wasn’t carried away and locked in a padded room. Every time since then, I’d walk up to her, she’d smile and ask, “two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches?”, I’d smile back, “You know it!”

I had stood out.

There are a whole lot of people on this fine planet of ours, and it’s easy to fall into the cracks. Everyone is consumed with their very own soap opera, and sometimes they can’t help but be oblivious to the world around them. I learned a lesson about differentiation that day. If you want to be noticed, you have to stand out.

A shrink once asked me, “If you could have any super-power, what would it be?” I couldn’t pick one, so I told him my top two: The ability to become invisible, and the ability to light myself on fire. He was amused because they are the powers of two completely opposite personality-types. The introvert in me wants to remain invisible, he hates dealing with people; but the superstar in me wants to shine, he wants everyone to take notice, he wants to stand out. He knows that the human connection is extremely powerful. That not only do people need other people, but even more important, people need to matter to other people. It’s when we matter that we go above and beyond, when we lay it all on the line to achieve something greater than ourselves, something epic.

Albert Einstein, The Wright brothers, Abe Lincoln; each of them stood out, they defied convention. They weren’t trying to stand out, but they were doing their damnedest to not blend in. They, and others like them, have paved the world you live in. They refined humanity.

How do you stand out? How will you leave your mark on the world? When will you stop asking for grilled ham and cheese?

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.” — Abraham Lincoln