Life

2016 Retrospective and 2017: 希望

Well holy shit.  I just read through my 2015 recap and it was all kinds of hopeful.  Needless to say, 2016 was another shit year but in totally different ways.

Before I get started allow me to explain my months of absence: I sold out.  Yes, in what was one of the positive developments this year, I’m currently a Staff Writer for a website called http://www.List25.com.  I’ve been there for about four months now and I meant to let y’all know officially much sooner, but I wanted to get some posts under my belt and then, life got really, really busy, and I haven’t been back.  Obviously I am back at the moment, but I can’t promise much consistency here because, frankly, I have a hard enough time keeping up with my post requirement over there.  However, I’m not quitting here.  I’m just not going to commit to frequent posts for now.  That being the case, you should subscribe, so when I do post, you can come look!  And meantime go visit me on List25.com and check out my ultra-cool bio on the “about” page ( http://list25.com/about/ .)

screenshot-2016-12-31-23-22-58Enough shameless pluggery, let’s talk about sucky years.  2015, as mentioned in last year’s post, was a hard, hard year.  Uber was fun but I barely got by.  By the end I had found my new workplace, and was feeling pretty good.  Well, 2016 continued the workplace success,
and then some.  Not only am I writing part-time, but my full-time job is paying for accounting classes to further expand and refine my skills.  This is a great benefit, and I’m grateful for it.  It’s also probably a good thing my social life is more or less nonexistent.

Yeah, for just under half of the year I was something I really, really shouldn’t be for long periods of time: Alone.  While you all know I’ve been single for literally a decade (as of this last November,)  I have, for most of those years benefitted from either a relatively close-knit friend group, or a somewhat regular “companion”, or both.  But as of around July this last year, both got very quiet, and I honestly grew pretty bitter about it.

I’ll vent, briefly, and then move on because this is not meant to be a rant.  But I feel like some people use words like “friend”, “always”, and especially “love” far too loosely.  I don’t, and I understand that individuals assign different levels of meaning to them.  But when somebody promises they’ll always be there, part of me tried to believe a couple years later they still will be.  And if they tell me they love me… well, if I’ve ever said that to anyone, they could more or less call on me years later and I would do my best to accommodate.   So I guess coming out of 2014-2015, when my life made its first major shift before shifting again in 2106 and finally settling down, I just expected some of those friendships that had been built over years to endure more.  When many didn’t, and I had already grown dark because life had worn me down, it just made me more resentful and bitter towards those that made claims they simply weren’t willing to back up.

I get it.  People grow, and change and move on to new phases, but that doesn’t mean you forget who your friends were.  What they meant to you and what they did for you.  You don’t get to just write off years of experiences without reason.

2016-12-22-23-43-58

Not totally alone. 🙂

That’s not to say there weren’t those who didn’t have their reasons, myself included.  That’s also not to say that some people didn’t step up (or at least try.)  I’ve joked in person that I have like… two friends now.  But when I think about it, that’s not true.  I still have a ton of friends, we’re just distant, and spread out, and belong to different groups.  All of that is okay, and if any of you are reading this, I probably think about you, and I would probably, very easily pick up right where we left off.  I’ve been busy too, so I haven’t been super proactive in social settings.  (Even tonight a friend invited me out to a New Year’s party last minute and I declined.  I’m exhausted.  But it’s nice to know you’ve got somewhere to go.)

Speaking of, I really do appreciate those people who have hung in there through the years, and who came back on radar, whether randomly or because they knew I needed company.  It was because of them, my job going well,  and a few new people that have recently popped up, that I’ve been able to make it through the remaining months of the shit-show that’s been 2016 and not move away to a distant mountain in New Zealand (that was a very serious consideration post-election night…)

Speaking of the election.  Fucking humans.  I KNEW he would be elected.  Hell, I knew it before he even officially announced he was running.  But I prayed, and begged, and pleaded that just this once I could be wrong about something like that.  That people would recognize the absolutely horrible and absurd concepts that are becoming disturbingly normalized and think that no matter HOW much they bought into the carefully-crafted hatred of Hillary, they couldn’t possibly elect an insecure, belligerent, hateful, lying, monster of a man like Trump to lead and represent the United States on the world scene.  YOU HAD ONE JOB.  And now, a very large shadow looms over the incoming year(s).

hollowhalf

He’s had a lot of playtime.

There were, I think, three times this year, when I did my best to stifle the disdain and contempt for humanity that has steadily grown in me.  When things felt like they might be okay, and I could try to discard my emotionless, robotic manner in order to have a better attitude about things and maybe have a little hope.   Election time was one of those times, and obviously it was swiftly and utterly crushed.  There was another time before that, and one since then in which it lasted a day or two at most before I felt it was a lost cause and retreated back to the all too familiar darkness that’s grown comfortable.

But now a new year is upon us and I’m going to try again, and I’m going to try harder.  My foundation finally appears to be set, and those who have stuck by are being joined by a few new faces that will undoubtedly multiply.  The path for this year can initially go one of two different ways, and the first few days of 2017 will decide which of those paths I will start down.  Either is a path of growth and personal development, and more importantly; 希望 cheers(kibō) the Japanese word for hope.  With Carrie Fisher among the last of the many icons 2016 took from us, it seems appropriate that this is my sole, general resolution.  I’m going to try to be, and remain, hopeful in the face of whatever setbacks and obstacles come at me in 2017.

“When you defend your ideas in public, you then have to make an effort to  live accordingly.”  – The Manual of The Warrior of the Light. (Paulo Coelho)

Happy New Year Everyone!

A Story Of Sluts

A friend of mine recently messaged me for my opinion on a subject she’s (ironically) contributing to a blog about.  She asked me for a male’s opinion on “the difference between a woman who is labeled a slut and a woman who’s comfortable with her sexuality.”  She said I she thought I would be a good person to ask, naturally I’m inclined to agree.  However, I would be lying if I said that I believe I represent the general male population’s opinion on this matter… which is most typically unfortunate.

With that said, I really don’t like the word “slut”.  I don’t use it, and it only ranks a bit lower than the “C-word” used toward women, or the “N-word” used toward African Americans… both of which make me extremely uncomfortable.  I have no business using either of those words, and I don’t think males in general have any business calling anyone a “slut” (though, admittedly, I can type that word, whereas the others I really don’t want to.)  Men who label women as such are usually HUGE hypocrites (for example my post back in August back about the “Downtown Alpha Male”) and are using the term to belittle women for the very thing they celebrate for themselves.  It’s ridiculous and just another example of men historically treating women as possessions.  Basically, “Shame on you if you let too many guys get a ‘piece’ of that which is obviously yours.”

maths_1

About that many I think.

When it comes to sexuality, people get all freaked out about numbers.  Specifically: “How many people have you been with?”   I literally scared off a girl I was actually interested in dating once because of my sexual history, and my “number” isn’t nearly as high as my reputation might suggest.  (Truth be told, I did stop paying attention at some point… so I would have to sit and think about where I’m at now… but I digress…) Regardless there are huge flaws in judgement based on said numbers.  First of all, you’re over-generalizing multiple, specific situations with details that are important.  Second, you’re making broad assumptions based on very little evidence/fact (even if you ask questions.)  And Third, you’ve got no pre-established parameters or reasoning by which to quantify measuring the statistics on which you are basing your judgement.

For instance, what if a specific girl decided she didn’t enjoy vaginal sex?  Technically she may have only been with one or two people in the ten or more years she’s been sexually active.  But, maybe she’s one of the few women that really enjoys anal sex.  Does that count?  Depends on who you ask.  Further, what if instead of anal sex she really, really enjoys giving blowjobs?  She’s had intercourse with two guys, but probably given a hundred times that many blowjobs.  Does that count?  What if she didn’t swallow? Then does it count?  If she gave YOU that blow job, should it add to that number?  Or does it not count because you know you’re better/cleaner than anyone else?

What about women?  If a girl’s sexuality includes women, and she has been with over a hundred women in all sorts of awesomely kinky ways, but has only been with one guy, is she a “slut”?  Or are you just envious of her far supirior ability to woo females?  What about group sex?  Does that count as one encounter?  Or should we count each penetration?  If so, which penetrations?  If we count all of them a girl could rack up double digits in just a few experiences compared to another girl who has had sex hundreds of times but with only nine guys since she became sexually active.  The point is, any “criteria” is flawed to say the least, and depends on the individual and their (very often flawed) beliefs.  There is no correct way to quantify who is or isn’t a “slut” because it’s a highly subjective term (which really shouldn’t even exist.)

However, for the sake of answering theSlutwalk Aims To Raise Awareness Of Sexual Assaults question, I suppose I’ll come up with the most obvious differentiation I can based not on the general actions of said women, but whether or not they are using their brains.  It’s time for a story of sluts.

Subject A is a junior at the University of Washington.  She did her first two years at community college, and is eager to mingle on the university level, but also focused on her future.  She’s always been intelligent, level-headed, good in her studies, has a great attitude, and is a finance major.  Let’s call her “Monroe” (please note that these examples are based on my personal experiences, but NOT any specific people.  I chose that name because I literally don’t know anyone who has it.)

Subject B is a high-dollar, celebrity level escort of roughly the same age as Monroe.  She’s always been blessed with good looks, and she comes from an (unfortunately) typical broken family.  She did the best she could to get through high school, but was forced to go to work to support herself and her younger siblings whom her parents otherwise neglect.  She went to work at a strip club because it was the best money she could find in a tough job market and with no vocational education or schooling.  Through her looks and street smarts, a chance meeting  introduced and groomed her into high dollar escort work through which she was able to become financially independent while providing for her family.  Let’s call her “Chastity“.  

So, I ask you, which of these ladies is more likely to be called a slut?  Seems obvious that would be Chastity.  But let’s continue with our hypotheticals.

girl-silhouette-vector3Monroe is pretty and has had little trouble making friends in class, but her studies keep her from going out too often.  However, she is being courted by various sororities and and is invited to an event known as a “mixer” with an associated frat house.  Though she was never really the party type, she’s excited to “live her life” and decides to go with her new friends.  At the party, she has a great time, and accepts drinks from a succession of very attractive and charming men in the fraternity.  They don’t seem anything like the obnoxious stereotypes she’s heard; these men are intelligent, charming and very nice to her, all while bringing her drinks so she doesn’t even have to leave the dance floor.  One thing leads to another, and she finds herself alone in the room of one of these charming young men… David.. she thinks..  Though she’s not been drugged, she’s already drank more than she should have and makes the poor decision to go along with this young man’s advances (he’s very pretty.)  But when they finish up (or rather when he does… he put a condom on.. she thinks…right?) he makes a remark about how the night is young, and they should rejoin the party.  Thinking they will follow-up later, Monroe agrees as she is hurried out his door.

Chastity:

Meanwhile Chastity is having a good night, there’s a convention in town with a lot of very rich executives looking for company.  She’s decked out in a Gucchi silk chiffon gown and her power heels – Christian Louboutin.  It’s only midnight and she’s looking for her fourth (and probably final) client of the night.  She prefers her regulars – much more comfortable and fun – but scoring four big pays in a night is well worth any initial awkwardness.  The last guy was aggressive and she liked that until he tried to shove himself inside of her bareback.  Fortunately she knows her business and was able slide out of position while giving a coy purr that said “you’re forgetting something big boy…”  he complained but all she had to do was give the serious look and hold it up for him to get the message: “No condom, no more playtime.”  That’s one of the first things you learn as a sex professional; not matter how clean and intelligent they seem, every guy is one shitty decision away from fucking up your life permanently.  The profession is risky as it is, and Chastity is proud of her many negative testings.  She plans to keep it that way.  Finally she spots her next potential… time for him to buy her a drink.

So at this point Chastity is up on numbers for the night (we can pretty much assume she’s up on numbers forever…)  So that would label her the “slut” of the two, right?  I mean, sure Monroe has made an obviously stupid decision, but Chastity has been with three guys and is not done yet.  Let’s see how the night plays out.

Monroe:WK-0612-teenagers0_3127905b

The world is blurring a bit for Monroe.  Drinks keep happening (though it seems like they are
spaced just enough apart to keep her from being sick…) and she’s feeling good.  She lost track of that first guy.. Daniel.. (he was so nice!) but now Michael has been dancing with her and has the prettiest eyes.  She’s afraid she’s going to hit attention overload… never in her life have this many hot guys been this into her.  Michael says he has to tell her something and leads her back to the rooms.  He tells her that his little brother in the frat, James (oh! he was cute!) has had his eye on her all night, but is not very confident.  He says his plan was to bring her back to the room and introduce them so he would talk to her.  But James isn’t here, and Michael tells Monroe that he feels a connection with her… she thinks she feels it too… but that could be the vodka.  There’s been a lot of vodka…  Now Michael is kissing her.. his hands are warm as they make their way down her back.. they feel good but she’s still blurry… “maybe this isn’t a good idea..” she thinks.. but fuck it, it’s not like this is normal for her, let’s have some fun.  Maybe there’s a connection
there…

Chastity:

This guy was tough.  The prostitute stigma was strong with him and he’d really liked her.  Sorry champ, no freebies for being cute.  He kept her for a while, she accepted more than one drink (one is her typical rule before business), but she knew she was still totally in control.  She started to walk away and he’d stopped her, disgruntled, and asked what her time would cost.  He said he wasn’t concerned about the sex, but that’s only because he didn’t know what he was in for.  He agreed to compensate for time – the same price – and dinner was excellent.  He asked if he could call her another night (sorry champ, I said no freebies) and that maybe he could support her in exchange for her allowing him to court her legitimately.  She told him maybe, but she knew it was a no.  He wasn’t the first rich guy to offer this, they all think they are different… better than the other guys.  The truth was she actually preferred the guys who were straight up for the sex… much neater and less work to get around their emotional hangups.  Her magic charmed them for whatever they were looking for, it was her job to steer them to what she was willing to give.  Nobody was going to own her.  If someday she decided she wanted something more, she would bring it up on her terms. But she doubted it would be a client, most of them already had somebody waiting at home anyway.  Chastity was a fantasy, and she was a damn good one, but when business was done she would ae8e1ff54665d9f8ad11f7e16e17275a1lways say goodbye.  By the end of the night he had champagne delivered to his hotel room.  “Nothing is going to happen” he said.  Bullshit.  She could see he was already trying to hide a raging boner.  She unzipped his pants… it took her fourty-five seconds to finish him the first time.

So now the score is two to four in favor of Chastity.  But who is the slut?  The naive college girl making multiple poor decisions?  Or the call girl who is totally in control?  They are both having sex, so how do we judge them?  Let’s wrap this up.          

Monroe:

Naked.  They are just laying there, but at least he didn’t push her back out to the party again. Granted the party is dying down.  It’s… what?  3 AM now?  Where did her friends go anyway?  It’s okay though, despite a whirlwind of a night, Monroe isn’t upset or afraid.  Nobody has been mean to her and sure, they’ve been forward, but she wasn’t forced at all.  They are really hot guys and she enjoyed herself both times.  Both times.. wow.. that wasn’t something she was expecting.  She turned and felt the wet spot on the bed near her groin.. there’s no way that was all her.  “You used a condom… right?” she asked.  “Yeah.. yeah I did.”  he paused “But you know, sometimes they break or something.. so maybe you should get the morning after pill just in case.”  The first twinge of frustration hit Monroe.  She wasn’t stupid, this dude lied to her.  But before she could say anything, he sat up and let out a deep sigh. “Shit… I’ve been stupid…”  At least he admitted it… but he continued “This wasn’t supposed to happen.  I was going to hook you up with my little bro and I got greedy.”  He seemed genuinely remorseful and for a moment Monroe actually started to feel bad.  “I’ll talk to him.” she said before she realized what she was saying.  “Maybe he and I can hang out, bring him out of his shell a little.”  Sure.  What’s the harm in that?  “We can keep this between you and I.” she assured him.  Thier connection was faded now, and she didn’t think she was going to see Michael like this again.  “Alright cool.  You know, you’re a pretty cool girl.  I mean, you’re hot, but you’re also cool.”  He handed her the drink she’d carried in with her “Finish that up and I’ll go grab us some more.”  It was three-quarters full.  “No no, no more for me.” she said.  It was still hitting her and any more would make the world spin out of control.  “Alright.” he said “Just finish that and I’ll get you some water.”  Well fuck it, it’s the last one anyway.  She emptied the cup and laid back down while Michael life for more drinks.  For a little while the world went black.

“Holy shit she’s naked…” a voice whispered.  Shocked to consciousness Monroe scrambled to cover herself.  She looked up to see the shy (but cute!) one… what was his name.. James peering down at her with Michael behind him.  “Wait.. did you?  Did you already fuck her??” James asked.  “No no bro, we were just talking and got into it a little… I just warmed her up man!  Look at her!  She’s in your bed, ready.” Michael said.  His bed.  Shit.  His room?  Thier room.  It was harder to think straight after her nap.  “Look, I’m sorry…” she started to say… she had no intention of hooking up with James tonight, no matter how cute he was.  She started grabbing her clothes and then she heard James say “I can’t do this… she’s not here for me.  She doesn’t even like me!  Why did you bring me up here?  She doesn’t want me, she wants you.  I’ll go find somewhere else to crash.”  Shit.. she’d let herself go with Michael on this poor guy’s bed and now she was going to ruin his confidence.  Michael was looking at her now.  He was pleading with his eyes and motioning at her.  Fuck.  “Hey.. uh.. James!” she said.  She wished she wasn’t so fuzzy… damn you vodka.  She sat up on his bed and motioned next to her.  “Come here, let’s just talk for a little while.”  “Are you going to put your clothes on?” he asked.  What a gentleman! “Do you want me to?” she asked playfully (she was already naked on his bed after all…) “N-No.” he replied. “You look hot like that.”  Well fuck it.  She was already here, might as well be naked.  But she was absolutely not sleeping with James tonight.  No way.  Michael left with a smile on his face and James sat and talked to Monroe for a while.  She got sleepy and they agreed to lay down and “cuddle”.  She was still naked, and before he laid down he was too.  It wasn’t long before she felt him hard behind her.  He started kissing her neck and in her sleepy haze it tingled a bit.  He had been sweet to her and they had talked for nearly half an hour before they laid down… she couldn’t bring herself to reject him now and hurt his feelings.  So when his hand made it’s way between her legs, she allowed it… she was still very wet, though somemaxresdefault of that might not be from her.  Hormones took over and she tried to say something about a condom before he could push his way inside her.  He reached over and grabbed at the nightstand drawer.  Then he was behind her again, and she felt him.  Did he put it on?  It seemed too quick but everything was a blur.  She told him to be gentle, he was and she enjoyed herself despite a bit of soreness.

Morning came with a headache and more soreness.  James was gone.  The room was empty.  Monroe couldn’t believe she’d had such a night.  It was a little exhilarating, but also way out of control.  That wasn’t happening again.  As she made her way down the hallway she passed by some of the brother’s rooms.  She vaguely remembered the faces, but all she got was a few amused smiles.  She looked like hell and had to get back to clean up before class.   After class she went to get the morning after pill.  She felt gross about it, but she knew it was the smart thing to do.  Days passed and nobody called, she didn’t see any of those guys again for a while.  She thought she saw Michael once, but when she went after him he had vanished.  Probably better, what was she going to say?  “So, I fucked one of your frat brothers the other night, then I fucked your little after I fucked you.  Good times right?”  It was tremendously embarrassing and part of her hoped she never saw them again.

Unfortunately, they haunted her anyway.  First in the burning sensation when she peed three days later, and then with discharge and something worse than cramps.  Her doctor told her she a combination of a UTI and Gonorrhea.  She was lucky it wasn’t herpes or HIV.  Those assholes!!  But it didn’t stop there, she finally ran into her new friends from the sorority that had been courting her.  They hadn’t contacted her since, but she approached them and was met with awkward looks.  They knew.  In fact, they told her “everybody” knew.  She was the slut that banged three frat boys in one night.  Those guys were 361298283-sad-alone-crying-girl-on-bedhigh-fiving and telling everyone that came to their house how they passed her from brother to brother.  The girls told her they couldn’t have her in their sorority, it wouldn’t look good to have such an openly slutty girl associated with them.  Monroe was understandably livid at the boys, but she
was more upset with herself.  She was depressed for a while and kept to herself and her studies.  Eventually though, she started to feel normal again.  Fuck what those people thought.  She didn’t want anything to do with greek life anyway.

I would like to say that was the end with a lesson learned, for some people it is… but months later she was invited to another party at a different house.  A friend of hers in statistics that was very smart and very handsome invited her along.  Some more alcohol, and some very pretty boys happened.  They had heard about her from some friends of theirs in another frat house.  But that’s another story.   

Chastity:

He had asked her to stay the night.  She usually didn’t but he offered extra.  Money talks.  He wouldn’t try to fuck her again, she’d worn him out and she knew it.  Sometimes it was nice to not rush off, and the sheets at this hotel were to die for.  She woke up to an empty bed and an elaborate gourmet breakfast.  He’d left his number on a card on the tray.  Very cute.  But she knew the game.  He wanted her because he couldn’t have her.  Prostitutes are looked down at because the perception is that anyone can have them.  But a high-class escort knows how to turn that around.  They got what she was willing to give, on her terms, and nothing more.  No matter how they tried.  She sometimes had referrals or friends of previous clients who would tell her that somebody had fallen in love with her or that they would treat her like a queen forever.  But Chastity was her own queen, and she liked it that way.  She gazed out the marble atrium with it’s floor to ceiling windows on the 72nd floor as she ate breakfast and smiled.  Not a bad life.

When she had more than enough money to do so, Chastity enrolled in college.  She required no loans and saw some of her regulars as time allowed for spending money.  She avoided frat parties and that sort of life because she had zero patience for the ridiculous attempts those young boys made to get in her pants.  She tried it once, and all they did was attempt to feed her alcohol and get her alone.  One guy even tried to guilt-trip her into sleeping with his “little bro” who was shy with women.  Please.  One look at the shy boy and she knew that he knew exactly what he was after.  He was no stranger.  Howsport many stupid girls had fallen for that?  After that she kept to her studies and went downtown when she wanted to have fun.  Her company was classy and on her terms, just as she liked it.  

Chastity graduated with a Masters in Business Management and a minor in Accounting.  She went on to become a highly sought after business consultant and developed a reputation for being a no-nonsense problem solver for many fortune five-hundred companies.  She eventually hired an assistant, a cute college dropout who desperately needed a job and had a background in finance to help her manage her accounts.  She was very bright, and had a pretty good attitude, but you could tell she’d been through some things… she was a little rough around the edges.  Chastity hoped she could help her rise above it as she had not so long ago.  But that’s another story.

So what’s the point of these long, drawn out stories?  Well, for one thing, apparently I like to write semi-fiction.  But  the other thing is that either of these girls fit classic examples of “sluts”.  They are both rather extreme cases, but it brings us back to the question my friend asked me: What is “the difference between a woman who is labeled a slut and a woman who’s comfortable with her sexuality.”  The actual answer is: not a damn thing. (Because it depends on the subjective veiwpoint of the person labeling them.)  But again, since we’re making an attempt to differentiate anyway, the difference is based on the choices that are made, the process, and the results.

A woman like Chastity can sleep with literally hundreds of men, in control and smart about every encounter.  Meanwhile a woman like Monroe can sleep with three in one night, out of control and making bad choices.  If somebody put a gun to my head and said “label one a slut or you die”, I would have to go with Monroe.  She made poor decisions, and allowed people who’s sole purpose was to have their with her do so without asserting herself.   That said I would not fault her, or anyone, personally as I know that some frat houses are a well oiled machines (as I tried to illustrate) designed to take advantage of naive women. But the fact remains that I have personally watched a situation like this happen in a far less understandable way than Monroe’s, with a girl who was not nearly as naive, and that sort of blatant bad decision making and irresponsibility qualifies somebody as “sluttier” in my mind than a woman who has intelligently and cleanly slept with many men.

In closing I want to reiterate what I said in the first place though.  The word “slut” is a ridiculous double-standard. The question put to me was specifically in regards to women, so I focused on that angle, but the majority of the time, that word is simply a tool used by men (like those frat guys) to shame women that they previously had no qualms about trying to get with.  It’s just another representation of the still-present archaic societal misogyny that would be better off killed with fire and forgotten forever.

 

Now Begins 2016

As I write this it is only a moment after midnight, bringing the first day of 2016 to a close.  I recognize that I’ve been writing more personal stuff lately and less… “lifestyle” articles but the truth is that I write what I’m feeling or thinking, and I suppose lately (especially around the holidays) it’s been more along the lines of a journal than a blog.  You get to deal with it.

So, with that said, happy new year!  For me 2015 was more of a struggle than I have had in a long time.  Actually, that may not be completely true, but it was a very different kind of struggle, one that (with the exception of a few positive introductions) basically defined the year as shit.  Yes, 2015 was a shit year with shit-filling coated in shit.  It started out with some promise and was garbage within three months.  My stress level went through the roof, my income plummeted, my finances when to hell, and my self-confidence took a major hit (okay, fine.. maybe it’s a good thing to get my ego in check from time to time.)

2016-01-01 18.16.20

See? Relaxed.

Fortunately in the last couple of months of the year, my struggles and efforts bore fruit in the form of new and different opportunities, and by mid-December I was already beginning my recovery to start 2016 strong.

So here I sit on the first day.  My stress level is minimal (in fact, sometimes I feel too relaxed.)  My work situation has me situated in a literal paradise, and my boss might be the only person on earth who has experienced a greater variety of life than I have (relatively speaking and possibly slightly exaggerated in regards to my life experience.)  Perhaps most importantly, he is very patient and laid back… which I’m honestly still getting used to after my previous bosses.  My income is not exceptional, but slightly better than it was at the height of my financial stability around two years ago (I’ve made more since then, but the situation was much more difficult essentially negating the addition income.)  All in all, the foundation is being reset after it was nearly destroyed in 2015.  It’s a mix of the old and the new (and unfortunately, it seems, not without a few social casualties…) but it feels like it’s strong and fully capable of supporting the next chapter the is 2016.

Note: I passed out while writing this, so the following is a continuation authored the next day (told you I was relaxed.)

So what is the next chapter.  Or rather, what is my intention? We all know that we picture one thing, and even if we reach that goal it will look different than we pictured and take us on a path we couldn’t have imagined, so scrutinizing that is useless.  Rather, I guess the questions are; What are your intentions for the year?  What will you focus on?

elephant-balance-chiropractic

    The elephant understands.

First and foremost: Balance.  Always balance.  If there’s anything that has been obvious to me time and time again, it’s that taking anything to an extreme, even if it’s a seemingly good thing, almost always ends badly. Obviously this is a very general philosophy that can be broken down to very specific situations, but in general I believe the more you put effort into keeping yourself and your life balanced, that happier and better adjusted you will be.  I could write and entire post on this alone (and have if you go way back to the “Philosophy of Moderation” posts.)  Short term, or extreme situations with defined deadlines are important and potentially very productive, but as a general life philosophy I suggest you strive for balance.  It’s an easy google search to find many testimonials from people who took things to extremes and regretted it later on some level.

So with that overtone in mind, I want to get back to personal development.  Much of 2015 was dedicated to the trap of “getting by” that I know a lot of people are still in.  But since it appears I’ll have a little breathing room, I want to get back to hobbies that I enjoy and are productive (no, I’m not talking about Final Fantasy XIV… but that will happen too… in moderation.)

First, I want to write more and more consistently.  The surprising number of you that have hung in there when I got down to one post a month on average during parts of the year should find that you see a lot more from me.  Initially my goal is one a week, we’ll see where I go from there.  Along the same lines I’m considering a second blog / website dedicated to fictional writing.  The “Kaska-Ta” entries are a bit of an outlet using a metaphorical world to discuss actual dilemmas and thought processes, but I’ve got a lot of other stuff that is quite a ways farther out there running around in my head.  So I’ll keep you posted on that development.  I most certainly  won’t be starting that until I feel confident I’m giving you enough attention here.

IMG_3931 2

This is a raw shot I took yesterday.  It might end up being my favorite of the set.  Feel special.

Second, I’ve got access to semi-professional camera now (Canon 70D, not the 6D that is my goal, but I like it a lot better than I thought I would.)  As such I will be spending more time on my photography.  This one is a little addictive, so I have to watch my time spent, but it’s something I really enjoy.  I’ll probably have a dedicated site for my “professional” photos (no, I’m not putting them in Instagram.. thats for my iPhone.) and while I don’t have any intention of collecting money for my services anytime soon, I’ll be trying a lot of things creatively, entering photography contests, and seeing what I can do to get my name out a bit as a legit taker of pretty pictures.  Since I showed off the camera in social media, a few people have pinged me about potential projects that I’m already excited about.

Third, and while this is nothing new it remains important: I need to get active again.  The nocturnal, all-encompassing Uber life and the stress that came from the greatly reduced income destroyed my routine and left me with little motivation to try and get it back together.  But if anything is essential to maintaining mental balance, it’s making sure your physical body is on the level with your mind.  The running especially is a sort of meditation for me, and one I will not be neglecting much longer.  As expensive as they are, I will probably try to get back into the Disney races as they are both magical and give me goals to train for.  Hopefully I can swing the Marathon this year… and survive it.  I’m a long way away from where I was when I successfully ran that a couple years ago.

The intentions above come with the obvious condition that I don’t neglect

2015-12-02 17.04.52

Work it.

other aspects of my life to do so.  Socially I’ve been recluse and I intend to improve that now that I have the resources to indeed be social.  And arguably more importantly (since it is a large part of my foundation) I need to be sure my focus on work is proactive and diligent.  As I said my boss is very laid back, but that needs to be an excuse to stay sharp and exceed expectations so that I have to basis to continue to improve said foundation.

There are also more tangible carry-over goals from last year:

1. Japan.  I made the promise last year and while she’s been very gracious about my situation causing that to not happen, I hate not keeping my promises.  Besides, I need to get back over there, it’s been way too long.

2. Canon 6D (or possibly a 1Dx should they come up with the rumored upgrade.)  The camera I have access to now will work great in the meantime, but it’s not full-frame, and it’s not mine.  Two things I need to remedy if I really want to be considered “pro”.

3.  Cruise (this is a strong optional.)  It’s been three years now (I think…) since I was last on a cruise ship.  It’s been too long.  I don’t know what it is about being on these 2015-12-31 17.29.50marvels of engineering out on the open sea, but it’s fantastic and I need to get out there again.

So, obviously, it’s going to be a busy year.  But busy is good when it’s the kinds of things you’re excited to do.  Last year I had a few moments where I lost hope and was very close to rock-bottom again, but thanks to my friends reminding me what was important, a lot of hours spent in my car, and a little bit of help here and there from the universe, this year has a great deal of potential that I’m determined to make sure isn’t wasted.

Happy New Year!

Martial Arts University 2015 – Afterthoughts

First, this post is far longer than average, and I’ve already trimmed a bit, so bear with the novel and I hope the content keeps you entertained.  Second, I’m going to admit right away that I will have trouble writing as candidly here as I have for most entries. This is primarily because I realize that a fair amount of my audience from Facebook is comprised of students (and at least one Master) who are members of Martial Arts World. However, I am nothing if not honest and I do not wish or expect my opinions to be shared by them. In truth, anything that could be perceived as negative at any point in this post is a result of my own issues and not necessarily the fault of MAW or those who operate their schools.

The beginning of a long post, and more than just a hobby.

The beginning of a long post, and more than just a hobby.

With that disclaimer said, this was probably the best Martial Arts University thus far. Generally speaking the attitude and experiences were very positive. Grandmaster has greatly refined his speaking and philosophy to a level that is much easier for his students of all levels to digest. Meanwhile the team of Masters and CEOs that lead the week-long event appeared unified and supportive of one-another (for the most part…) Having been away for a time now, I found myself approaching the same questions with new answers and some level of uncertainty. I think the best approach in attempting to explain this to you is to quote some of said philosophy and comment on it so you have an understanding of the sort of discussions that go on both internally and externally.

“Discover who you really are. What do you do? What do you want to do?”

This is, and always has been difficult for me. At any given point what I want to do changes. I want to write, so right now I am writing. Am I a writer? Sure. But it is certainly not anything close to the majority of what I do.   I am also a Photographer, Graphic Designer, Executive Consultant, Mentor, Uber Driver, Assistant, Teacher and Martial Artist.

These are all things I want to do… sometimes. But some aren’t feasible as a career, some aren’t something I want very often and some, frankly, I’m just not good enough at. So then I’m left with the question of how to define myself. Which leads me to…

“Your habits make up who you are.”

 Well… shit. I don’t have the best habits, but I like them. What are my habits anyway? I try to write here at least once a week on average (months of hiatus notwithstanding… I DID say “try”) I take tons of photos on my iPhone and contrary to popular belief they are not all selfies and food porn… I currently drive much of the night and sleep much of the day (granted Ramadan facilitates that) and when not fasting I make it a point to do something physical (be it Running, Lifting or Martial Arts class) every other day. Meanwhile the search for ideal steady employment continues.

But that in itself is an entirely different question: Is what you do for work who you are? Some people say yes, others absolutely refuse to let their work define them. I’m not sure where I fall on that spectrum, except that I must find my work fulfilling or I will get bored easily. There must also be a good work/life balance. Many at the executive level preach more of a work/life synergy, but most of the people who do so successfully are the founders of the company to whom their work is more or less a part of them, even a hobby, so to them it will never feel the same as it does to any other employee who is there out of some level of necessity.

“Successful people often set their goals by their talents.”

Sometimes

Sometimes “mediocre” looks kinda cool though.

Well then what are my talents? I write this blog, but does that make me a good writer? (If we’re talking about editing, I think not, but perhaps content sometimes…) I’m a mediocre Martial Artist on the physical side. My photography skill is good, but unpracticed and still developing and my photo-manipulation work is meticulous but much slower than some of the pros I’ve seen.

My real talents are a bit more intangible: I’m highly adaptable, versatile and capable of adopting new concepts to a functional degree in a very short time. I have high mechanical reasoning ability that allows me to recognize systems (including people) and figure out how they work and what I need to do in order to alter them (as in repair or modify… or destroy in some cases.) This makes me relatively good at tech work, assistant work or anything involving multiple tasks over multiple disciplines. Basically I’m pretty good at finding the button and pushing it, wherever it may be.

But how does that translate to goal-setting? It means I can pretty much set my goals to do anything and everything and eventually reach them. It also means I will probably take a fair bit longer to do so and never quite to the level of somebody with a natural focused talent in any particular area. But with no clear talents, I suppose it is up to me to decide what to shift my energy towards and what goals to create.

“Positive goals with clear deadlines create purpose.”

Remember this?

Remember this?

Ah, my eternal weakness: “What do you want?” That’s why we set goals right? To achieve what we want?   Well as I said in my “Who Am I Anyway” section; I don’t know, I just want to “make it”. My only dream is that of the iconic “Christian Grey” style setting in which I stand at the top of a tower in a lavish marble-clad setting overlooking the city below me through floor to ceiling windows. There I watch the sun setting and smile because I finally made it.   But I don’t know what “it” is, and I don’t know how to get it, so there’s a small chance that will never happen simply because I can’t even decide what direction I want to go in to get there.

And then there’s the issue of family. Since I was a boy I’ve wanted children. I don’t know if it’s a biological thing or if I just like myself so much I want to make clones, but part of me feels that a happy family/children is one of the greatest legacies we can leave behind when we depart this world. However, trying to balance this dream with the one above will require a delicate balance, as I said, I want my children happy. Of course I have to find the right person to make those children with first, and almost nine years later the search continues.

“Without goals you have no reason to wake up early.”

 These days I don’t really…

“The moment we commit to a huge goal is the moment we invite obstacles into our life.”

This scares me less than anything else that was said, but I found it pretty profound. It’s just a really good way of saying once you’ve chosen your path, it’s going to be blocked in places and we have to work our way around in order to continue. I don’t mind the work as long as I can find the motivation.

“How can you lead others if you can’t lead yourself?”

50 Shades of Green at MAU.

50 Shades of Green at MAU.

About that motivation, the truth is I don’t much care about being the leader. Except that it drives me absolutely bonkers when the person who is supposed to be the leader is completely inept in some form. It usually boils down to either leadership skill or specific skills toward the task at hand, but I expect both from the person I choose to follow. When it’s obvious to me that I can do better, I feel motivated to either remove said leader, enable a replacement to somebody more qualified, or move on to somewhere that I feel is better suited for me.

More and more I’ve felt like perhaps despite my hesitance I am meant to lead in some capacity. I don’t fear it, I’ve been advising people for a long time, I just don’t care about the spotlight. Recognition among my peers is enough for me. But if I am to lead I need to figure out where I’m leading to, where I want to lead to, and to believe it’s best for everyone involved.

 “You cannot live for even four seconds without hope.”

While I understand that this is probably not meant to be literal, I believe I’m the exception. I have very long periods of simply existing. In fact, I find that hope is a dangerous thing because it is when that hope is combined with expectation that breeds disappointment. On the other hand, to walk without hope is to walk in darkness, so it is indeed necessary for happiness. But life doesn’t always have to be happy (certainly ideally so,) sometimes it’s okay for it to be grey for a while.

“If water stays in one place for too long, it becomes stagnant.”

Sometimes the flow is looks very still, but it is still moving.

Sometimes the flow looks very still, but it is still moving.

In context he meant that you must keep growing, learning and innovating to be successful in your life. But part of me also wants to relate this to “You’ve gotta keep moving.” Though I’ve traveled much in my time and lived in many places, where I sit now I the longest I’ve stayed still since I was a boy in the Seattle area. Obviously much has changed while I’ve remained here, but I have to admit a part of me was excited to move on to a new place again.

On the other hand though, remaining in one place, having a “base” is the best way to establish roots and relationships. Granted, as I will comment on later, I may not be great at forming long-lasting relationships on any level regardless of my location.

Closing and my MAU Insanity: Among them but not one of them.

 There’s a lot more than above, but this is enough for one post. The final admittance/revelation is that every year that I go to this thing, about halfway through it drives me a little insane. What I mean is that something in my normally composed self goes off-kilter and it throws me for a very odd, often negative loop. The all too familiar feeling of separation that I struggle with takes hold and despite being surrounded by hundreds of people, I feel alone. These camps almost always take place over the full moon cycle, so that’s one explanation as the full moon has been known to… unbalance me a bit (among other things.)

Another more obvious reason is that until this year I’ve always had the role of Grandmaster’s Assistant, which is much like I wrote above; among the students at camp, but separated because my focus is Grandmaster. There is both security and isolation in this position, and it is possible previous years have simply imprinted this mentality on this particular event. Further, the stress level for anyone who takes serving Grandmaster seriously has been quite high historically. It seems this year we saw a slightly more balanced, kinder grandmaster than in previous years, but this may also be because I was not directly involved with him this round.

Balance Pieces

Balance Pieces

With all that said, there is some evidence to support that this isn’t all in my head. With the exception of the Masters and some of the CEOs who are more familiar with me, the other students, (including those I was close to from my home school) for the most part regard me at a distance. There are exceptions of course, especially from a particularly outgoing school from the west coast, but in general it indeed feels like I am seen as not another student, but something else. Respected for the most part, but separated.

For instance, there was an abundance of photos taken, selfies, group pictures, and celebrations throughout camp and after testing on the final day. But never was I approached to be a part of these groups. I was not excluded purposefully (this is not a rant!) but more it was as if I was invisible. Sometimes I was of course, serving one of the Masters as I did required that I slip away at times, but other times I simply went about my business and was paid no mind. Again, this may simply be a matter of that being how it’s always been. As Grandmaster’s Assistant, even when I received my own Black Belt certificate two years ago, I had perhaps twenty minutes for pictures with a few close friends before I had to vanish.

The offset of this is that I have the honor of spending a great deal of time with Grandmaster and the Masters of my organization to the point I can speak my opinion over meals and discussions and be regarded with consideration and respect (that’s not to say other students wouldn’t, they simply have far less opportunity.) So that is, in effect, my “group of friends” as a substitute for the ones that pay me little attention since I stopped actively working for Martial Arts World.

Stay tuned!

Stay tuned!

Admittedly, my training has been sparse over the last eighteen months or so because I have little reinforcement from anyone other than my master. My peers that I trained with over the years have either left the organization or simply don’t much care when I try to motivate them to take class with me. Though I appreciate the training, a huge draw of martial arts has always been the people, and when you don’t have those people to train beside, or motivate you, motivating yourself becomes more difficult.

Fortunately this camp has renewed my resolve a bit, and renewed my selfishness. I have never needed people before and I don’t need them now. My plan is to train, refresh and test for the rank of instructor next year. When I do, I want to be qualified to do so in my own mind, meaning that even if my technique is not perfect, I know my philosophy, physical curriculum and the physics behind it well enough to pass it along. I will do it, and not for anyone but my master(s) and for myself. Hopefully along the way, new connections might form and I may not feel so isolated among my peers. If not, I’m pretty used to being different, and I’ll just have to take pride in that as well.  I can, and I will.

Freedom and the In-Between

“How did you expect it to feel?  You are free, and that can be lonely, and empty, and frightening… but it is also powerful.”

It’s been a while.

I did say I would return, but I’m betting some of you might’ve given up on me.  Regardless, as you can imagine, much has happened over the last nine weeks or so, and much will likely happen over the following weeks.  It is all too much to write here, in a single post, but I will attempt to recap a bit.

“Freelance”

The biggest change, and what has kept me from this and my beloved FFXIV ARR (Which I’ve been able to get back to some as well…) is that I left my position as a full time Executive Assistant.  I left on good terms and am technically still a freelance member of the team, but after the most recent show in early May, any requests for my assistance have been quiet.  This suited me fine as I had been feeling trapped and was longing for a level of freedom that I truthfully hadn’t had in some six years.

Pretty and crazy... Miami reminds me of some people I know.

Pretty and crazy… Miami reminds me of some people I know.

For a few days I allowed myself to simply stop and work on things around the house.  My stress level dropped to near nothing, I did chores, clean-up and sleeping whatever hours I wanted to.  However, I had ground rules for myself that included a legitimate job search via Indeed and LinkedIn, reaching out to whatever contacts I had and keeping my eyes open for whatever opportunities I could.  Though it has only been about a year since my last job search, as the days passed it sunk in that finding a new, promising position is not easy.  My freedom would cost me.  I was fortunate in that I had been saving for some time in order to make the trip to Japan this year, but even as I found ways to stay afloat while I sought my next opportunity, it became increasingly apparent that my trip would be delayed.

Only recently, some 8-9 weeks and many, many resumes and cover letters later did I have two promising initial interviews.  The catch is that both of them required that I relocate: one to Naples, FL and the other to Miami.  Though still in Florida, they were far enough away (in different places) to be a complete change of situation, lifestyle and routine.  Each also had their own unique benefits and potential, but even after making the trip to Miami and meeting with a two-hour gauntlet of executives, they didn’t pan out.  And so the search continues…

Uber

What has kept me afloat during this not-so-free time (along with my quickly dwindling Japan savings) is a “rideshare” aka personal taxi service called Uber.  I won’t go into heavy details about how it works because you can easily google that.  Essentially Uber makes your own personal vehicle into something similar (but better) than a taxi.  You pass a pretty thorough background/driver/VIN number check, fill out some forms and in just over a week or so you are ready to take riders.  I’ve been doing this relatively full-time and though the money is decent, it’s not something I would make a career of (watching my car mileage climb this quickly is a bit bothersome.)  That said, ninety percent of the people who get in my car are pretty great people.  I’ve got some great stories (some of which I will recount in future posts) and I’ve met one or two exceptional people that may or may not permeate outside the realm of the Uber tales.  My friends often tell me I’ve done everything, well this is another thing I’ve done to add to this list.  If I feel so inclined I might share the stories of the recent semi-orgy a group of six (not counting me… I only got to drive and witness) had in my car, or the adorable nurse that continuously apologized for her hiccups, or maybe the fifty-something drunk man that was petting me and calling me his best friend…  Or maybe I’ll tell you something newer.

Other than mine being silver, that is my car.

Other than mine being silver, that is my car.

In the meantime, shameless plug:  If you’ve never used Uber before and want to give it a shot, download the app and in the promo code enter: P9W5KUE.  It will give you your first ride (up to $20 – only if you’ve never used Uber before) free, but the driver still gets paid.  Likewise if you’re considering driving for Uber use that as a referral code and you get a bonus after so many trips (as do I!)

Regardless, stay tuned, I have lots of material.

Ramadan

As of this writing, I am two days away from the halfway mark of this year’s Ramadan.  To answer your immediate questions: No, I’m not Muslim. -and- Yes, it means that from first light to sundown every day I do not eat anything, drink anything or partake in any.. debaucherous activity.  Thoughts are supposed to remain clean and peaceful too.. (fortunately that’s more of a guideline or I’ve failed consistently every year.)  For more back story as to why I participate in Ramadan, I invite you to visit the blog a few of us used to contribute to during this time: https://alegriabalancocascata.wordpress.com/

I haven’t written there this year, but if you start from the beginning (The most recent post shows in the front page, I suggest you navigate to the first post in the archives) you’ll get a good indication of the “why”.  Naturally you’re welcome to ask me questions here as well.  Rather than post to that site, I will likely write about notable aspects here and either reblog or re-post them there if I feel the need.

This looks good anyway... imagine it after sixteen hours!

This looks good anyway… imagine it after sixteen hours!

This year is interesting as I’m primarily nocturnal while driving for Uber.  At first thought one would think that Ramadan fasting would be easy because of this.  However, while I do believe I am having an easier time than my good friend Leslie (in Japan) as a result of my schedule, the very short hours of night time compared to the very long days of Summer mean that at least 50% of my awake time is during the fast if not more.  Comparatively speaking though, she has a tough teaching schedule all day that requires a great deal of focus and awareness, two things that are easily compromised by prolonged fasting.  I can’t complain in comparison to that!

But with that said, for me, a major realization this year is that sleeping the second half of your fast makes waking up, and getting out of bed much more difficult.  Keep in mind the fasting hours now are between fifteen and sixteen hours (literally the longest days of the year,) so though people normally fast for (hopefully) eight hours or so by sleeping,  I’m waking after roughly double that having had nothing.  Think extreme lethargy and zero motivation.  Then remember that as time goes on, the effect amplifies through the wear on your body.  Suffice to say much coffee was had after breaking the fast at sundown.  The other aspect I didn’t think about is when I stay up all night for work, start my fast, and continue to operate into the day as I am today.  The effects of fasting + all-nighter hours are a bit rough to say the least.  But then a large part of this is the learning experience, and I am learning a lot.  More on this and the second half of Ramadan later.

What’s Next

Like clockwork, Martial Arts University is right in the middle of Ramadan this year (aka Tomorrow.)  For those of you that don’t know, I have been involved in Martial Arts for nearly a decade now (with some breaks here and there.)  MAU (for short) is a five day long testing / seminar series that takes place at a camp in Greensboro, NC.  I spent many years serving as the assistant to the Grandmaster who presides of this event, and I’ve been asked to attend by a specific master that I look up to and owe on some levels.  Since I will be traveling, I will break my fast while I am gone and make up the days at a later date by feeding the less fortunate of fasting extra days after the Eid holiday that ends Ramadan.

Like a bos... err.. black belt.

Like a bos… err.. black belt.

When I return from MAU it will be back to Uber and back to finding the next step.  So the interviews didn’t work out, that just means I keep looking for the next ones.  I am fortunate enough to have had savings and a support structure that allows me to supplement with something like Uber and not be forced to sacrifice the quality of life that I’m used to. I have also been getting better and better at managing my time with a very irregular schedule.  That means it’s not going to be several months before the next post.  So in order to keep this at a readable length I’ll draw the line here.  There are many more adventures and “wisdom” to come.

PS:  I took a look at my readership and was pleasantly surprised to see it’s not only been consistent, but has even spiked more than a few times in my absence.  Good to know my writing has some staying power! THANK YOU to all my readers… I don’t know what you’re getting from my rants, but I appreciate the time you spend here regardless!

I’m not even close to done…

Just a quick not to my readers who like what I write enough to check back and follow me: I’ll be back.  Life has been very busy and though I sometimes have time to write, I must spend that time on another investment for now, one that I will reveal at a later date with another story to tell.

That said, I may actually write a bit before that as I have more travel in the near future.  But regardless the days look to be busy both at work and at home, so stay tuned… I’ll be back with more in no time.

Thank You!

I'll Be Back.

I’ll Be Back.

Immortals

**Note: I wrote this almost exactly one year ago before I had this blog.  When I came across it again I wanted to share because it still rings true.**

Regardless of your spiritual or scientific belief, the truth of this world is that nothing ever actually ends. It is fact that nothing ever simply ceases to be, but instead changes. Your mentality, state, form, mind or even spirit can all change to the point that you may not even be recognizable, but you did not end; you changed.

Further, if you trace back through the line of your past, before you were even conceived, you existed (through your parents and their ancestors) as some form of matter and/or energy that has taken a journey since the beginning of time to become you. Your current form is the culmination of that journey, and when you pass on the journey continues. It does not end, it *never* ends. It just changes.

So when you take a look at your world, try to make the scope as big as you can. Literal and nearly impossible miracles have occurred for you to be the unique entity that you are, made (quite literally) out of celestial star matter and energy that has specifically changed form to become the person you are, reading this now.

It’s easy to let that make you feel small, but that’s a mistake. You owe it to the process that started when time began to make the most of every moment of this chapter, to make the most progress that you can so the future forms of your matter can be that much more developed or enlightened. Those are your children. That is your energy and your infinity.

Make the most of it.

I don’t really know what this post is about (but it’s not sex.)

aka: Random semi-coherent abstract loosely connected somewhat-logical philosophical un-sexy musings and ramblings about living. 

There’s usually three different arguments in regards to the happenings in life.  The first goes something like “Heathen! Everything happens for a reason because it’s (**insert your god/gods/entity/demon/timelord here**) plan!” (Though if you chose timelord I can’t argue with you… because you’re awesome.)  Also in this category is “IT IS YOUR DESTINY!” type thinking.  Second is the opposite idea like “Idiots.  Nothing happens for any reason.  Our existence and everything that happens is just a random coincidence fueled by variables and probability.”  So then naturally the third possibility is the moderate approach of “Some things are meant to happen, but we have free will and can go in the direction we please.  We can make things happen, our future is yet unwritten.”  Simplified, it boils down to fate, coincidence, or a bit of a sandbox.

124_timelords

Some Time Lords are better than others…

Based on what I’ve written before, you can assume I’m either the first type (cycles?) or the third.  Acknowledging any real system at all basically kills option two because it disagrees with anything that indicates an organized (by what?) system. Without ranting too much about religion (because I’m just not a fan of organized religion…) I’ll go ahead and say that I don’t want to believe in option one because, frankly, it’s a terrifying prospect to simply exist with no purpose other than going through predestined motions.  Fortunately it doesn’t make a lot of sense either though.  Why would god (Timelords don’t do that anyway…) bother giving the ability to reason and be creative to drones that are simply going to run their course anyway?  For an omniscient being that’s pretty wasteful, and quite honestly a shitty system design.

So let’s go with option 3: the “sandbox”.  This essentially says we belong to a system, probably one architected by something, somewhere that we don’t and possibly can’t understand.  This is a more comforting idea for a number of reasons.  It leaves room for a naked, white-beareded, benevolent man chilling up on a cloud surrounded by little winged babies with instruments.  It also leaves room for a lizard master race that wants to use us as slaves (fortunately the time lord will probably save us from that.)  But deities aside, what makes this ideal is the fact that it leaves room for both purpose, and reason.

“Why are we here?” is one of the oldest questions out there, and lots of people (including me) think they have the reasons figured out.  But let’s try to avoid the overly-spiritual side for now and stick with the logical.  “Sandbox” logic says we exist in a self-sustaining system.  Which means, in fact, that we are a component of that system.  Could it go on without us?  Yep, it might even be better off, but it would be very very different.  A key component of a self-sustaining system is the ability to adapt.  We actually mirror that trait as self-sustaining, adapting systems ourselves.  So the basic answer is, we are here because we’re a part of an ever-adapting system, and we would continue to be, except that we have this silly free will that causes us to continuously add and change a great number of variables in this system.  The truth is that humans are really fucking things up. It should be utter chaos, and some people think it is, but it’s not really.  Instead, despite the massive disruptions we’ve caused, the system continues to adapt.  Maybe it won’t indefinitely, but for now it’s hanging in there.

Oops.

Oops.

But why would it?  Think about it: nature is beautiful, but it’s also harsh and unforgiving towards it’s predators.  If it were up to a mindless, instinctive system, I don’t believe humans would exist.  The only explanation is that the system was designed to allow for the bullshit humans pull.  So it becomes a matter of intelligent design (That said.. allowing humans to exist doesn’t seem that intelligent on the surface… but faith, ya know?)  But rather than shooting back to option A and saying everything is scripted (that would be really un-intelligent design…) this supports the idea that the system is set up for us, and parameters are set, but we get to navigate it the way we choose.  Some things are meant to happen on our individual paths, but if we really choose to, we can fight that… and usually face the consequences.   Consequences aren’t a punishment, it’s just what happens when you think you know what’s better for you than the supposed relatively omniscient mind that laid out your path.  The system is set up knowing that some people will always want to “fight the power”, even if it’s actually good for them.

Now (I know.. by now you’re like “Jesus.. get back to the sex posts…!”) let’s be optimistic and assume whatever charted your path did so with the idea you will experience what you need to.  The sad truth is, what people need to experience isn’t always happy.  In some cases it’s really, really fucked up.  The reasons for this on a spiritual and philosophical level could fill up a whole series of posts, but the reason for this on a logical level is pretty simple:  The system can’t support that sort of imbalance.  If nobody died, the system as it is now would crash catastrophically in a very short time.  The key element to any self-sustaining system (including ourselves) is balance.  When thrown out of balance, the system will do whatever it needs to (indifferently) to right itself.  That’s why bad things happen to good people, people die for no reason and sometimes people who really don’t deserve to get ahead do anyway.  In some way the system has to rebalance itself, and it quite frankly doesn’t care if you like how it does it or not.

But since you’re reading this, you’re one of the many who fall on the fortunate side of this system.  Thus far you might’ve had a hard path, but comparatively you are able to sit and spend time reading a blog rambling on about some obscure philosophy, so you’re not doing half bad.  Well, think of all the shit you got through to get here.  I’m willing to bet if you go only a couple years back, things have happened you never would’ve planned for.  Now if you think about all the steps that led you here, some of them made no sense at the time, and even seemed detrimental, and yet everything fell into place to get you here.  

I didn't say it would always be easy regardless...

I didn’t say it would always be easy regardless…

Perhaps where you are right now isn’t where you want to be.  Well, you do have the power to change it, and you have choices as to how.  You can try to abruptly change your direction and charge another way in blind defiance, but that very rarely helps anyone.  You can swim against a river for a while if you are strong enough, but you will go farther, faster, with less effort if you go with the current.  So another option is to charge forward with the current; head down and paddling with all your strength.  This will get you the farthest, fastest.  The problem with this is that you will eventually burn yourself out, and either sink or be at the mercy of the current.  So the obvious choice to me, is to flow with the river, using your energy to keep your head up, avoid dangers and grab what you can find to help you.  The other advantage to this is that it’s the easiest way to link up with others traveling the river in the same way.

All river metaphors aside, if you choose to believe you have paths laid out for you, driven by your choices, then you will also begin to see signs that give you some hint as to which path will go where.  All those seemingly random events and choices throughout your life have magically chained together to bring you to who and where you are now.  If you’re reading this, you’re not done.  The good news is, beyond all the endless complication and self-importance humans bring to their lives, there is only one thing any of the three options I mentioned earlier expect of you.  Choose, and act.

Cycles: The circles within the circles within a circle of life…

They say that history repeats.  Well, it does.  In fact life repeats.  Over and over again.  In the creative industry there’s a joke (it’s not really a joke) that a good design is something you saw somewhere and changed just enough (I think the agree percentage is approximately 20% but don’t quote me on that) to call it your original work.  It’s fitting though because your life is currently doing the exact same thing.

Don’t get me wrong, obviously on the surface things change.  I’m not saying that whatever god you do or do not believe in is a lazy artist.  We grow, places change, faces change, everything changes.  It’s a depressing constant knowing that basically anything you love or grow attached to will inevitably end.  However, while that’s true on the surface, the truth is you’ve been doing a large number of the same things over and over again throughout these changes.  Thus is your cycles and you will repeat these cycles over and over again until you stop doing the same things, until you learn from that cycle and then break it using your newfound knowledge.  Then a new cycle with a new lesson begins and so on and so on.

Nothing circular here... carry on...

Nothing circular here… carry on…

Cycles are not just personal though, they come in all shapes in sizes.  The state of our planet, even our universe and those beyond are in the mists of cycles that most people can’t even begin to wrap their head around.  The evidence is everywhere, nearly every major function of a system from life itself to the state of energy is in essence circular (if you were to chart it.)  So from massive cosmic cycles that take thousands or millions of years to complete all the way down to your own daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or decades long cycles, the world is repeating and everything you do feeds into it on some level.

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to bring about real change in the world?  Well, think about how hard it is to change one little habit about yourself, and then multiply that by over seven billion, and then factor in that you’d have to get a pretty large percentage of those seven billion on board with said change at the same time.  It’s starting to sound like rocket science, but it’s not.  But it is hard (I mean look at congress for god’s sake… and that’s only 535 people!!)  I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but I honestly can’t fathom anything short of global catastrophe (or enlightenment?) affecting a change that large.  And so many of the world’s woes that might easily be solved with our abundance of resources and technology… are not.

What I decided in my infinite selfishness is that the best thing I can do is try not to be part of the problem.  That means being actively self-aware, and trying to manage and break my own cycles in order to keep growing.  I’ve failed miserably at romance for nearly a decade, so obviously I haven’t figured that one out yet (despite having a much more solid sex life than many…) but I’ve made good progress in other areas like career development and not being an ignorant drone (always a plus.)  So in order to break your cycles and learn your lessons (hopefully gracefully) the first step is figuring out how to recognize them.

A bit like this.

A bit like this.

In every cycle you will find key similarities.  The trick is to ignore the surface and look for the situational similarities.  For instance, for each round of a specific cycle of my life, there is always one girl that we’ve all but agreed to hook up at some point, but due to circumstances, it never actually happens.  It’s not casual, it’s blatant, like “Well that should’ve happened right then but didn’t because… random occurrence.”   There is always that specific role that is played.  So as soon as I recognize that person, I can try to figure out what that’s trying to teach me, and carry on differently than I did before (or, if I don’t care to break that aspect of the cycle, not.)  Also, there’s always a “Jessica”, and they always play a key non-primary role in my major cycle.  This is complicated because obviously there’s all kinds of Jessicas running around in the world, but once they find their way into my world I can usually tell who it is specifically that will play that role.  Then based on that I can figure out where I am in that cycle by looking at previous events and comparing them to how things are shaping up now.

I realize that all of this sounds obscure, and a little silly, but I invite you to take a look around and recognize the similarities between what you have done and what you are doing.  Humans are creatures of habit, and it’s not simply a matter of small things like biting your nails or showering at night. When the world throws the same situations at you over and over again, and they don’t really end great, it’s really powerful to be able to realize it and choose to make a change.  That sort of awareness is what allows you to break the cycle and grow.  When you get good at recognizing them, you can choose to keep some intact and break others.  Every time you break a cycle, you create a new one and you can evaluate whether it’s good for you or not and what to do about it.

I believe this is the actual secret to success in this world.  The law of attraction feeds into this as well, since your thoughts (positive and negative) are what affect these cycles.  Those who have an abundance of money, love, power or what have you, have developed the cycles that keep bringing these things to them.  Whether they are aware of it or not, they are maintaining certain cycles while disciplining themselves to break those that go agains them.  However, sometimes not recognizing their cycles has cause these people to lose things as quickly as they gained them.  A bad decision can just as easily break a good cycle as the right one can break a bad cycle.  So think about your life, recognize your cycles and go to work figuring out what you need to do to keep the good ones and break the bad ones.  Temporarily, change can be uncomfortable and even painful, but if you understand why it’s necessary, and the good things to come, it’s a lot easier to accept.

About Change and Where We Belong

It has been a busy holiday season and new year, but finally a chance to get back into routine, and that includes my blog!

One of my best friends was visiting from her new home in Japan this last week.  She’s  stayed with me a couple nights while also visiting her other friends and we’ve been catching up on the changes in the sixteen months or so since she left.  I was a little concerned, because sometimes when people travel abroad and start a new life in a difficult, unfamiliar place, it’s easy to come back and latch on to what’s familiar.  So we were on our way to a friend’s house and I asked her if she was feeling at home again (more or less baiting her for my underlying question: “are you not going to want to go back?”  Her immediate answer was: “No.  I don’t belong here.”  Wow.  In that moment I realized how much she’s grown even since she left.

She looks Japanese.. right?

She looks Japanese.. right?

I should clarify that she’s one of my best friends because she’s always been wickedly intelligent, friendly and otherwise awesome as a person.  She took the time to get to know me better than anyone had in a very long time, and to this day reminds me when I’m repeating my cycles.  When she was accepted to the prestigious JET program, she had been scared and excited to leave everything she’d know.  But it was her dream to live in Japan someday and it won out over any fear she had.   When she arrived, the first few months were tough, and on and off she struggled with homesickness and bouts of depression. But now, that moment in the car she spoke with such resolution that I knew she’d gotten past it all.  She made her home in Japan, and she knows, she feels that where she is now is where she belongs.

So the new year is upon us, and though the dates and turning of the year are very often in the minds of those who recognize it, there’s something to be said about powerful tradition and the influence of so many minds on the same wavelength.  Our cycles are reflections of our minds, so it’s silly to think we have no influence over them.  We break and remake them as we learn and grow.  The predominant theme of a new year is (of course) new things, new lives, even a new you.  But while everyone wishes for “new”, many are hesitant to wish for the same thing: “change”.  New does not happen without change.  Even if you’re only adding to your existing life, it will inevitably change it.  People fear the idea of “change” because they are afraid to lose what they have and what they are comfortable with, but it’s all about your attitude.  Embrace change and the excitement and experience that come with it are your rewards.  What you should retain will stay with you in some form anyway, the only things you will truly lose are the things that are probably holding you back now anyway.

In a sense, my friend gave up her whole life here to travel to a new place and begin again.  But now she visited over a year later, and she has actually lost nothing.  She came back to friends, family and even pets and could easily have stepped back into her old life as if she’d never left.  However, many people (including myself) noticed she was different.  She has evolved, and further,  instead of sinking into routine, she felt far away from home among us.  It sounds bad, but in essence it means she has embraced her new self and her new life.  It means she has grown.  Some people embark on journeys or make resolutions to change, but many (probably the majority) end up sinking back to what is comfortable.  This involves locations, relationships and professions.  Comfort is easy, and that’s not always a bad thing, but if we rely on comfort too long and do not push our boundaries, we become stagnant and that gives rise to many major issues from boredom to depression.  In order to be fulfilled, we have to feel as if we are growing and/or working toward something.

It's hard not to feel like you belong in moments like these.

It’s hard not to feel like you belong in moments like these.

That’s why finding where you belong can be so difficult; often it’s not a specific place, it’s a situation… it’s a state of mind.  You belong where you can learn, and grow and be made to feel valued for your contributions.  In a comfortable situation, you are taken for granted as much as you take things for granted, but continuing to develop yourself and your situations prevents this on both sides.  That’s not to say that everyone has to uproot and move thousands of miles to find where they belong, sometimes it’s simply a new living or work situation.  But the point is, as hard as it is to to tell when you are there, If you’re honest with yourself, it’s easy to tell when you’re not there.  You feel it when you don’t belong in a situation.  Listen to that, and have the courage to make the change.  I’ve been guilty of clinging to things I was afraid to lose and delaying change in the past, but it turns out that when you embrace change and grow with it, you don’t lose nearly as much as you think.  Especially those who you are important to will make the effort to follow you on some level and reunite with you when possible.  If others fall to the wayside, they have other priorities and probably would have eventually anyway.

That’s the thing about change, be it a new year, a new place, a new relationship or a new profession:  It’s going to happen whether you like it or not.  So, embrace it, direct it and make the most of it with a great attitude. Grow, Change, Love and find where you belong.