Write What You Know

For a long time—a decade or so—I refused to write non-fiction. I never liked it. I didn’t read it, I didn’t write it. The only exception was for school assignments, which I thoroughly hacked together for the best non-failing grade available.

What did I have against writing non-fiction? A simple phrase told to writers the world over: “Write what you know.” And, unfortunately, I’ve never known much.

This is why for many years, from childhood to adulthood, I stuck with fiction. With fiction, even the parts that have to seem true don’t have to be true. Everything can be made up, twisted, bastardized. And what do you have to know to make things up? Nothing. Just a basic understanding of how the world works—or how it should work, even.

I have droves of short stories, flash fiction, novellas, novels, scripts, poems, and comics sitting in my closets and on my computer. For all those years I made things up, wrote fiction piece after fiction piece. I defined myself on these fake stories; built worlds, destroyed lives. For decades I’ve played god in the form of written word. All because I didn’t know enough about anything to write non-fiction.

In the gaps of those stacks of fiction writings are several notebooks with ten, twenty, thirty pages of attempted journals. I’ve always loved the idea of writing a journal, but could never quite get the hang of it. There are some dark secrets in those journals—some so dark that they would cause me to stop writing in them all together.

This led me to realize something a few years ago: I do know something. I know all about one thing—and possibly only one thing in this entire world. I know me. I know who I am and what I am. I know how I do things and, usually, why. But I still could not bring myself to maintain a journal. It was too much work knowing something so singularly and yet so personal.

That was all before I gave into myself, though. You see, at some point in the past year I decided to simply be myself, even when around other people. For so many years I tried to be who I thought I should be, or who I thought people wouldn’t judge. But that’s just an excuse to hide behind the curtains. When I pushed them aside and stepped out into the crowded room, however, I found the lighting much more flattering*.

Thus, when I learned to be me, I learned to write about myself. You’ll notice that this blog was started less than a year ago, and how it’s progressively become entries about me rather than the mix of essays-and-memoirs it started out as. Sometimes I’m wary about this, but in general I feel good about it. It means I’m more comfortable with who I am. It means I feel like I can allow others to see me for who I am. But most of all, it frees me up to write about the only thing I’m the sole expert on: Me.

I’ve since found that I like to read non-fiction items. And while I can read most anything that’s well-written, I tend to prefer memoirs and autobiographies. Part of that is because I find people fascinating, but another big reason is because memoirs and autobiographies are people talking about the one thing that they’re the sole experts on.

While I still can’t bring myself to write a daily journal, I find that I can type out one entry about myself once a week. Even in these tidbits I can find truth about—and therefore know better—myself.

So even if existence as a whole is just one man’s dream, at least I’ll always know one thing: Who I am.

 

 

Footnotes:
*That metaphor went on too long. I’m sorry.
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New Holiday Proposal: International New Hate Day

We hate each other. This is no big revelation. Hate is everywhere—especially if you watch cable news. You can see hate every time you open a newspaper, step outside your door, or (foolishly) read the comments on any website ever.

We hate each other.

This is a fascinating thing, however, because we seem to be the only species on this planet that truly hates our own kind. Cats might show disdain for other cats, but they seem to get over it pretty quickly. And two dogs might growl at each other, but they’ll still sniff each others’ butts given the chance. So why is it that we hate one another?

Frankly, I don’t know. But I think I might have a solution: International New Hate Day.

You see, I’m proposing a new international holiday in which the world is given a single group of people to hate for one day. It could go horribly wrong, but perhaps—just perhaps—it’ll go horribly right.

Every year a new group of people will become the most hated type of person for one twenty-four hour period, starting at midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, obviously. While no physical violence should be held against these people, you are encouraged to call them the worst names you can think of, deny them service when they come into your store, and lock your car doors when they pass by.

If you think this is cruel, just remember that after that day, we all go back to our normal hatred of whoever it is that we usually hate. And one year later, there will be a whole new group to hate! Everyone takes their turn, everyone gets their turn.

Now, just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about strict race and/or nationality hatred, but hatred of everyone and everything. You might get stuck being hated on International New Hate Day several years in a row, or not getting hated for a decade because the list will be so wide and vast and hold so many different kinds of people.

Some examples are: The elderly; suburbanites; politicians; people who play more than thirty minutes of video games a day; hipsters; anti-hipsters; men; alternative rock musicians; lawyers; people from Latvia; anyone owning more than one cat; people who start riots over sports events; politicians again; camera men; iPod owners; Zune owners; auto-biographical cartoonists; white people; men with long hair; men with no hair; anyone who has ever beaten a Sonic the Hedgehog game; clock makers; and, of course, politicians again.

The list can go on forever, but hopefully there won’t be any need for that. The true goal of International New Hate Day is to show everyone what it’s like to be hated for something that’s not their fault (even in the case of politicians, whose mothers probably just didn’t love them enough).

Not only that, but imagine the entire world coming together for that single day in order to hate someone: Terrorists and Westerners laughing together as they make fun of meth addicts; the English and Germans muttering to each other about the dirty Maltese dog breeder that just walked in the room; Trekkies and Star Wars fans getting together to spit on Game of Thrones nerds.

People will think that my proposed holiday is one that will only exist to rip the world apart but, truly, it may be the only thing that will bring us all together.

Except for Westboro Baptist Church, of course, who will always be hated by everyone. No matter what the holiday is.

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The Unlasting Year

I’ve always been interested in getting a tattoo but could never think of something I was loyal enough to that I’d be willing to put it permanently on my body. That is, until I read a single sentence from a great writer:

“I may never be happy, but tonight I am content.”

This is the very first line of the diaries of Sylvia Plath. I liked it, at first, because it had a nice ring to it. It’s rhythmic and bouncing and poetic. Broken into two segments by a comma, both ends of the lever are equal in syllables. Even just looking at it, it seems level and balanced.

Then I started to think about the meaning of the words. Some people see them as being sad, but I thought they were wonderful. Especially in regards to Plath’s life. She was manic depressive with a tendency to fly off the handle. Many thought she was mean, yet people always wanted to be around her. She frequently wrote about sad or angry things, but has a huge fan base.

Sylvia Plath was unhappy in life—the greatest evidence of this being how it ended. But she knew she was unhappy. What’s more, she knew that she might always be unhappy. She expected it, which is what made that moment in her life—that moment of an empty house in the dying day accompanied by only a glass of milk and cream-soaking blueberries—a good one. She may not have been happy at that moment, but at least she wasn’t unhappy.

That’s when I started to realize that I am similar to Plath in some ways. I’ve spent most of my life being unhappy. Even the so-called happy moments in my life were spent grumpily complaining about how things could have been. Every once in awhile, however, I’ll find myself contented. And it’s wonderful. I can sit back and not worry, not complain, not feel like a life wasted. It can even bring a smile to my face.

A week ago I was called out as being depressed. It came from someone I respect and who I always felt could see right through me, so this declaration (even hidden in an unsure statement) struck me hard. The retort I gave at the time was, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to seem depressed,” which she took as me apologizing for being depressed and was quick to reassure me.

But that’s not what I meant. What I meant to say was more along the lines of, “I don’t think I’m depressed.” Perhaps it was caught in my throat after a couple of words and I changed the sentence without thought. Her emotional-x-ray abilities caught me off guard because, in truth, I had been feeling a bit depressed for the past couple of weeks.

The thing is, I’ve spent the past year being happy. For the first time, possibly ever, I’d felt happy—not just content. And when I wasn’t necessarily happy, I was contented. Then, about a year after the first moment of this happiness, it was gone completely. It had been fading away a little at a time since that initial moment and with a year gone, so was my happiness.

So when I was told this—that I seemed depressed—it brought out in me this idea that even when I’m happy, I’m sad. Of course, I understand that happiness is all relative and can’t truly be put on a universal scale of one-to-ten, but still I couldn’t help but feel that my ebbing happiness was visible through my plain-faced expressions.

Along with this ebbing comes the thought again of the possibility of never being happy again. I’m not where I ever wanted to be at in life—something most of us can say. My inspiration is constantly being trumped by my lack of ambition. I second-guess myself at everything I do. My anxiety prevents me from doing new things. I thirst for adventure and travel, but then turn out my pockets to lint.

However, even in moments of unhappiness I can look at my life and find the things that make me content. I don’t drink milk and I’ve never been fond of blueberries, but there are other things—little things like that. Enjoyable weather—be it cold or warm; listening to nostalgic music at top volume; stepping back from a project to see it completed as a whole. These things don’t always bring me happiness, but they always content my restless soul.

I don’t know if Sylvia Plath ever had a solid year of being happy—maybe she did, or perhaps she didn’t—but I do know that I’m grateful that I at least got one. And I’ll remember those words from her diary always, even if I never get them inked onto my skin.

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Spoiler Alerts (You Already Know)

I hate them. Can’t stand them. If I even think someone’s about to drop a spoiler alert, I’m sure cover my ears and scream, “LALALA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” because spoilers are the truest dark side of society.

I can hardly blame anyone for wanting to discuss the surprising outcome of their favorite TV show or the hottest movies-in-a-theater-near-you, but I still find it unbearably rude for anyone to lay it out there like that. Do a quick scan of the room! Make sure everyone within earshot has also seen the thing you’re discussing.

Just recently I had a friend on Facebook post a status about how he hated that people would talk about spoilers of a show—The Walking Dead in this case—only minutes after the episode aired. He pointed out that not all of us get a chance to watch the episode as it plays out on TV and it’s simply unfair for anyone to do that.

Social media is the worst culprit when it comes to spoilers. I can understand hanging out with coworkers around the water cooler to talk about last night’s episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” I do—I understand that! I’ve accidentally walked into a group of people talking about the twists of a movie, only to blame myself for not being more careful. But sites like Twitter and Facebook have made it a new ballgame. Not only do we now have to watch out for spoilers only moments after an episode, but now we have to be careful about live-tweeting*!

With all that said, I can now go onto a more serious note: Spoiling the big surprise to something that everyone should already know. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the movies and shows that are so ingrained into our pop culture that everyone gets the reference, even if they’ve never seen the thing being referenced.

I’ve dropped one of these commonly known “spoiler alerts” before only to have someone gasp and berate me for breaking that code of silence regarding spoilers. The thing is, if you don’t know these spoilers already, you’ve probably been living in a cave for the past twenty-to-thirty years—or possibly you were just thawed out after having been frozen in a glacier for several millions of years.

So here for you now are the spoiler references you should already know. And if you don’t, well, you’ve had your chance to find all of them out:

1) Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father. One of the most parodied movie sagas of all time, no line is quoted more than, “No, I am your father.” Except, possibly, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” The big surprise twist in Episode V? The main antagonist (Darth Vader) is the main protagonist’s (Luke Skywalker’s) father.

2) Bruce Willis is dead. Okay, not Bruce Willis, but his character in “The Sixth Sense”. This was M. Night Shyamalan’s greatest twist of his entire career. It was unpredictable upon first viewing, and utterly foreshadowed upon second (and third, and forth). The famous line spoken by Haley Joel Osment’s character, “I see dead people,” is another one of those that you always hear in satirical form; yet it’s never quite linked in casual mention to the fact that Bruce Willis’ character is dead by that point. However, everyone knows this. The movie is fifteen years old and the spoiler is widely known by now.

3) Tyler Durden is the Narrator. Whether you’ve read the book, seen the movie, both, or neither, you probably already know that the first person narrator has multiple personality disorder and that the second main character—the badass, violent-loving Tyler Durden—is his other personality.

4) The island is purgatory. Fans speculated on this idea from early seasons of the show Lost. Which is what made it a somewhat disappointing ending to the massive TV show.  Though it’s only been four years since its end, the mockingly comic phrase, “The island was purgatory!” still lives on.

Those are the top four spoiler alerts you already know, so you can’t blame me for mentioning them at all. However, if I read one word on the outcome of the new “Avengers” movie, or one disgruntled fan of Game of Thrones mention an inaccuracy in the show, I will unsheathe my metaphorical sword of angry-white-nerd and slay them down!

Or, more accurately, I’ll piss and moan for awhile and block you from my Facebook feed.

 

Footnotes:
*If you don’t know what live-tweeting is, it’s basically where someone floods your Twitter feed with comments about something that is happening RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT. It’s a good way to communicate with other people who are watching the same thing, and also for losing followers.
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On Caffeine

I have an additive personality. Fortunately for me, I’m too cheap to get addicted to drugs or alcohol. Instead I have often found myself getting hooked on the drug that most of the civilized world is on: Caffeine.

              Caffeine is great! Besides coming in delicious-tasting beverages, it temporarily sharpens your mind. It’s much easier to concentrate on a single task when your veins are coursing with the junk. I can hardly write without it anymore. And although it can make my hands a bit shaky, I can work easier on drawings or paintings after a smooth cup of coffee.

              On several different occasions I’ve tried to either cut back on caffeine or stop all together. In either situation the results are varying—except that I always go back to that seductive mistress. By this point in my life I just figure why bother? Then pour myself a second cup.

              For a time in high school (and just after) I quit drinking caffeine all together. I’m talking years without the stuff. I don’t have many memories of early mornings in that time—at least, not ones that aren’t a bit blurry. Regardless of sleepiness, I stayed away from the stuff for whatever dumb reason.

              One day I was up late playing games on my computer and going through a gallon of pre-bottled green tea. What I didn’t realize was that the green tea had caffeine in it. I don’t remember much from that night, but I do remember getting caught by my mom as I stared blankly at the computer screen, watching the ball bounce from one side to the other while playing some 3-D remake of Pong—but never moving my paddle.

              I was stone drunk. I would laugh at nothing and my mind was blown away by this Pong game. I promptly figured out the problem the next day (through a hangover headache) and noted to myself to never drink that particular brand of green tea again.

              More recently I’ve gone back to the sauce, but with results not so humorous. I would have a cup here or there of coffee or Mountain Dew. Then came the uncontrollable panic attacks*. Sharp pains would pull up into my chest, sometimes for hours without going away. After some research I figured out how to deal with it—and the top way was to cut back on sodium and caffeine.

              Thus, I had to pull myself away from it again. Rules were drawn up: No drinking any after noon; only one cup per day; expend energy physically on days consumed. Those sorts of things. This was a lot of trial and error stuff, too. Going into work with a panic attack that had been going on for the past two hours was not fun.

              Then I learned something new and much more useful: “Oh well.” To be more exact, I learned to relax a bit. I’m still a nervous wreck, caffeine or no, but now I’ve learned to take certain control over myself. When I feel a panic attack coming on I know how to calm my mind in order to push the pain away. It’s almost a sort of meditation.

              I learned to meditate in order to be able to have a second cup of coffee.

              I close my eyes and imagine I’m on a beach with the tide ebbing. When it comes up, it covers my entire body; when it recedes, it washes away all the anxiety. I come away much calmer and—most importantly—I can go in for that second cup with a manic smile, wide eyes, and shaking hands.

 

Footnotes:
*I know that being uncontrollable is one of the things that make it a panic attack, but you understand.
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GFW

At the height of the last elections, I was told by a friend that I’d make an excellent president. When I asked her to clarify why she thought so, she merely told me that my initials sounded very presidential. And while it takes more than a good set of initials to be president, I like to think that I’d do okay.

              Thus, if you would go ahead and write-in my name on your ballot come 2016*, here are some things I’d change for the people:

              More Federal holidays! I’m a metro government employee and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day there isn’t another holiday for months. Around the last two months of the year we get off work all the time, then suddenly nothing! So, as my first act as President, I will add twenty-four new Federal holidays (to per month) to the calendar. Holidays such as National Too Cold to Go Outside Day; Forgot About Daylight Saving Day; National Ice Cream for Every Meal Day; and It’s Too Nice Out Not to Go Climb a Tree Day. Okay, I’m not very good at coming up with names, but you get the general idea. Maybe I can hire someone to do the names for me…

              As my second act, I will create a new cabinet position: Secretary of Names. This will be the person who comes up with names for all the new holidays. The Secretary of Names (or SoN, as the media will call them) will also be in charge of approving all names of new babies in the United States. This is really just to keep him or her busy when there aren’t new holidays to name.

              Legalize weed. I don’t even smoke. But it’ll be a boost to the economy. Oh, sure, there’ll be the money from taxation—but who cares? I’m talking about all the restaurants that will pop up right after this happens. Restaurants with specials of the day like “Chocolate Cheetos Cherry Truffle Cake” or “Breakfast Taco.” I live in a city whose economy is doing pretty well. Our secret? Lots of restaurants and a good number of high people. This is one hundred percent true.

              Next on my presidential docket is to get rid of this god-awful language. English is terrible, people! What a shitty language! Why do people complain so much about foreigners “not speakin’ ‘ur lang’ge”? Shouldn’t we be learning one that doesn’t make up rules and then immediately negate those rules? One with a decent alphabet, in which one letter doesn’t have a possibility of twenty different fucking sounds? We currently have no official language in America. That’s right, English isn’t even our official language! Well, when I’m president, you can sure as hell bet that we’ll get one—and we’ll upgrade to Spanish or French too. Or Latin—now that’d be badass.

              Obesity tax. Unless you can get a note from your doctor saying that you have a condition—which, if you do, that’s totally cool. But, let’s be honest, most of America is just lazy. Which is also cool; however, now if you want to be fat, you have to pay higher taxes. This might seem mean, but really it’s out of love. I promise.

              We’ve got a national bird, song, flower, motto, colors—but we don’t have a national film? That’s whack and I’ll fix it when you vote me president. Don’t worry, though; I’m not just going to pick my favorite movie and that be that. I’ll let the people vote on it—American Idol style. And the turn-out rate for this vote will trump every presidential election’s in our nation’s history. I am going to pick out the three movies you can vote for, though: Citizen Kane (booooring); The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (eh? Eh?); and The Matrix (for obvious reasons). We all know which will win, but we’ve still got to put it to a vote.

              Taxation on “reality” shows. It’s going to be awful hard for the Real Housewives or wherever-the-fuck to stay on the air when I tax the hell out of their show. People will bitch and complain, but I’ll use that money to help feed orphans and kids in the foster care system, so those complainers will look like complete dicks.

              I’d work tirelessly on more executive orders like these, of course—too many to name here now. But I will note one last, very important order I’d implement: I’d make have sex “doggie-style” illegal for straight couples. Because the Bible says that “if a man should lie with another man as he does with a woman, it is an abomination;” and the gays should be able to have at least one sexual position without fear of going to hell.

 

Footnotes:
*Don’t worry, your vote doesn’t mean anything anyway.
†Apparently this actually about to be a thing that high people will eat in the morning after a so-called “wake and bake.”
‡Probably.
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Mediocre

Mediocre

Sometimes I have a great idea and I try to follow through, only to have it be nowhere near as awesome as I had in mind. That’s when I think about this quote.

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