Tag Archives: Do or Die

Twenty-Four Hours

It was a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more I listen to (read: dance to) Katy B’s “Louder,” the more it seeps into my day-to-day life.  The more it seeps into life, the more the underlying philosophy guides the days, weeks, and months.  Where I’ve previously described the angst of the ‘quarter-life crisis,’ it’s not the memories of my youth that I mourn, but quite the opposite: that instead it was wasted.

Listen for yourself:

(It doesn’t help that I looked like that at 16.)

It was a handful of weeks ago that I was driving to work, thinking to myself “is this what being grown-up is?”  The constant nagging feeling that I don’t really have any answers to the same questions that plagued me years ago, just a a few glimmers of insight.  I feel exactly as I did at 16, but with a few additional responsibilities and a whole lot more freedom.  I still drown out my thoughts with loud music; I still drive fast; I still escape situations where I’m awkwardly uncomfortable; I still coach (and play) soccer; I still adore the same things I did then (though the list has expanded some over the years).  And while I appreciate the present tense moments, I’ve never given in or been seduced by them, at least long-term (momentary weakness: yes; reckless addictions and compulsions: no.)  Which leads to an quirky question: did I miss out on an undefinable something called youth?  And worse yet: is that why I still feel 16?

I think this is a good thing, albeit odd.  Going through photos of friends, a handful of them have grown up – they’re married, some with kids, they have houses and mortgages, and have piled on the responsibility and sacrificed (some) freedom.  And they’re happy, happier than our parents were.  Yet it’s not about the rite of passage-style events anymore – it’s all about whether they’re still in touch, moving and shaking in some way.  It’s been made much easier to move toward and from the edge, in constant, dynamic flux with the use of social technologies.  ‘The man,’ as previous generations have declared, will get you, bogeyman-style, when you lose your cultural edge. Now, there’s no excuse.

My millennial generation has grown up in a period of unraveling and fragmentation in the cultural sphere, yet we’ve always been cared for and protected through this instability.  It’s said that we were the generation who elected Obama; it’s said that we can’t function alone, but only in teams.  We’re coming of age, not necessarily into adulthood, but into a larger role as we become the dominant power in this sphere. And given our predilection for optimism and energy, we’ll be the generation to redefine, fight, and expand our cultural power.

Certainly I’m part of that.

I’ve been working on a couple proposals for two serious – and high-minded – projects that can and will change the face of education, utilizing technology and the social space.  These projects address the continued fragmentation of education and the crisis of insurmountable debt (and the uneven impact to show for it).  I’ll be the first to say that my undergraduate education gave me the skills and abilities I needed – and the network to back it up.  My graduate education gave me the clout and discipline of responsibility.  I use none of my degrees in their narrow fields; it was never my intention to do so as none of them are vocational-level degrees.  I want to share this freedom with the world; I want the world to have the same opportunities I do and to be able to take these opportunities at any point in life.  Friedman and his disciples call this principle “flattening” – I call this necessity for a world soon (if not already) in the midst of cultural crisis.  Education isn’t a magic bullet, yet it is a stepping stone in the right direction.  The ability to think, to read, to write, to create, to analyze – these skills are priceless as the foundations of any existence.  A government is only as effective as its citizens; a culture only as pervasive as its citizens; an economic system is only as strong as its citizens.

And I have the heroic impulse (and 16 year-old indefatigable, youthful optimism) to take on the challenge.

My voice is getting louder.

Trading in the Suits

Yep – for a pair of jeans, t-shirt, and tennis shoes.  It’s time to get dirty.

Actually, it’s time to get charming – I’m taking my nascent business, Charm School Marketing, into the big leagues, past the word of mouth referrals (which I love) and the one-off freelance and contract jobs (which I tolerate), toward a future of long-term relationships based on smarts & strategy, evaluation & analytics.  And, of course, toward the bigger business goals with the Deep Ellum community revitalization.

I’m thrilled.

So stay tuned for more updates.  Today, I’m in Austin, meeting with strategic partners & clients.  Tomorrow, back to Dallas to smash the champagne against the boat, then put my nose to the grindstone.

Sleeplessness

Sleeplessness due primarily to self-righteous anger.

A smarter friend once said depression is anger turned inward.  Is this state of mind (and full body assault) then depression turned outward?  That final snap triggered to the unreasonable, irrational, illogical catharsis?

For years I’ve attempted to chronicle exactly this situation (with fictional twist) and even now I’m thwarted.  I’m living it, I’m experiencing it, I’m watching so closely yet this is the point where writing gets hard.  I don’t know what to say or what to write and as I try typing out these words, the ones you’re reading right here, the anger recedes from the overboil to a bare simmer.

And its in these unobserved moments I find that little bit of hope and optimism amid the swirling ugliness released.  That I can do this.  That I can make this work.  That it will all be okay.  That I will survive and thrive, and that one day I’ll look back on this and think “yep, that was the right move” – or think “yikes, screwed that one up” — but still I fight regardless of the regrets or affirmations.

So while I may have hit extreme burnout, and while this anger causes trouble and underconsidered or ill-advised action, tomorrow will be different.  Starting tomorrow, it’s all mine.

A Funny Thing Happened Today at Cartier

Or at least it will be funny when the new watch I ordered comes in and is fitted to my left wrist and highly satisfying to take a hammer to the one I’m currently wearing because god help me if I’m ever that mortified again.

And in the same vein,

I love that I’m independent.  I love that I have the ability and fortitude to rectify this and any other situation.  That no matter what I can take care of myself – and do so without pretense or fabrication.  I love that I can spend Saturday running errands, then indulging in a little bit of retail therapy without buying things as a salve for a deeper emotional issue.  I love that I can come home late Saturday afternoon, strip to my skin, and throw myself a mini-spa hour (and a half) – and I love that I can then order a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, canadian bacon, meatballs, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, sun dried tomatoes and spinach — with extra garlic.  I love that it’s Saturday and I can stay home, curl up with a book – or I can go out and have a glass of wine alone – or I can wander the aisles at Whole Foods and come home with a odd mish-mash of really good food.  That I live by myself in an apartment I really love (even if I don’t love the management company) and that I can provide fully for myself and my family and those I love unconditionally.

Maybe it’s just been awhile since I’ve been in a good mood.

Maybe it’s just that I’m settling into a good groove and I’m optimistic about what’s coming next.

Maybe I’ve let go of the hidden worry and fear that I won’t be loved again – because I will.

And I’ll even tell you why: because there was a moment yesterday afternoon when I (finally) saw how important it is to love myself, if only because I’ve made others suffer because I haven’t.  I’m not the enemy of myself, though I’ve sure as hell waged a damn good twenty-something year battle of self v. self.

Cliff’s Notes version: I’m the problem.

And because I’m the problem, I’m the only person who can change it or fix it or do something about it, whether it’s straight up abatement or temporary injunction or imperfect compromise.

Which brings me to a related issue:

I’m a creative person who likes – no, needs – to be immersed in collaborative work.  Simply, I need to work with smart, creative people.  Who are not like me — who are more than me.  More visionary.  More creative.  Smarter.  Faster.  More more more to combat the collective weaknesses (my own included) and enhance the collective strengths (my own included) and achieve the common goal.  This isn’t a lofty abstract desire; this is a need.

The problem with collaboration is that it requires true commitment.  Discipline.  Passion.  Attention.  Even habit.  And the emotional, personal connection with collaboration is crucial – you gotta be a believer or it all falls apart.  You take make anyone play on a team, but if a single member’s heart isn’t in it, the whole collaborative process is a sham, a ruse, a shell of false idolatry.  Add in an inability to effectively communicate (ahem, honestly and openly), add in a layer of politics, and add in a disaffected attitude, and welcome to disaster.

Also known as my personal hell.  The wide-eyed promise of collaboration for an amazingly awesome goal torn apart because the discipline, attention, and passion of one single team member rings hollow.  To see the house this team has built is a case study for the gods – yet this house will be bulldozed because we didn’t choose the perfect wallpaper in the living room and there’s a leaky faucet in the bathroom, that…it destroys me.  It disrupts the collaborative process – that discipline, that habit, that passion – and for what?  Something trivial.

Maybe it should be seen from another perspective – that I allow the destruction of this one house to distract me from the neighborhood of houses previously constructed.  That I’m the disruption on the team rather than the guy sitting in the ‘dozer.

Problem is, the guy sitting in the ‘dozer doesn’t know how to operate heavy equipment…and probably doesn’t realize what’s going on or what he’s about to do.  Yet another sign something is in rotten in Denmark, another indication of poor communication and inadequate leadership.

And here we come to another rampant weakness of mine: reason and precision.  Always tell me why.  If only because it’s the only thing that will convince me that at minimum you understand what it is you’re doing and see the scope of things as something slightly larger (at minimum) than yourself.  Or you don’t, but are still okay with things not being larger than yourself.

And another weakness: trust.  I’ll trust you until you give me reason not to.  You can earn trust back after that point, but not without a considerable amount of effort and energy, at least to partially compensate for the time, effort, energy I expended in cleaning up the mess I trusted you not to make.  (An honest “I’m sorry” typically does the trick.)

Despite the weaknesses, I don’t know what to do about the breakdown of collaboration.  Smear a layer of frustration and disappointment on as well; it brings out the troubling flavor from the overmasticated texture.  Some say go to the mattresses; others say mercy; still others wonder if there’s a trusted resource able to do anything.  I fear the die has been cast and only now are the implications of betting everything peaking through the veil of a hasty, backed-in-a-corner decision.

The Game

I’ve had my mind on the piano for the last few months, mostly thinking about sitting down and playing again.  I wasn’t ever a virtuoso by any stretch; the recording below has me fat-fingering a Rachmaninoff piece (and enhanced applause at the end – I was in front of maybe 10-15 people at the time it was recorded back around the time electricity was invented) and I never gave it the dedication needed to hit decency.  Though it is evidence that yes, I can play more than Chopsticks or Heart & Soul.

Prelude in G minor

It’s the spectrum of dedication, passion, and obsession that I’ve pondered in the few quiet moments, often when driving or when sitting and waiting for the next thing to happen.  I fully recognize I’m a mediocre fiction writer; I’m not particularly creative or inventive, but have just enough ability and talent to squeeze by.  And (to some extent) I’m okay with this – I recognize I won’t write the ‘great American novel’ or anything of the sort.  I likely won’t ever sign a book deal as forcing myself into a commitment day after day isn’t my idea of security.  It’s my idea of prison.

To some extent I feel fraudulent – as though I’m giving up – when instead it’s that I’m shifting my focus.

[To what, you ask.]

To which I reply “A career.”

My safety net is a small neighborhood cafe and bakery, the type of place I find myself aching over each and everyday.  It’s evolved through the grandiose visions (known then as Cauldron) and the quirky hole-in-the-wall existence (known then as Baked).  Some girls grow up dreaming of their wedding; I’ve seen this dream through twenty-something years.  But similar to fiction writing, I can’t do just that.  Never have I ever just done one thing; I lack the ability to accept only what I have in front of me and not think/dream/work toward something bigger and brighter, a characteristic known simply as ambition.

And what a waste of ambition to throw away on sweet and savory baked goods, day in and day out.  (Never mind the hundred other skills, abilities, and desires I’ve cultivated over the years.  If I never practice law, I’ll be a happy camper.  If I never own my own business, I’ll consider this life a waste.)  Paired with a larger vision and a plethora of things to accomplish – and the right team – I can give all myself to a project.  All the dedication, all the passion, all the obsession simmering below the surface.

Contrast this with my current situation: I’m working for a company who’s singular goal is to bring educational opportunities those those who couldn’t afford it, couldn’t make time for it, couldn’t achieve it, not because they weren’t smart enough or capable enough, but simply because life got in the way.  I’ve never worked for anyone or any type of organization with not only a crystalline goal but a crystalline goal I very strongly (and very deeply) believe in.  I’m thrilled to go to work almost every morning because it’s my job to help convince a person that yes, they can/should/will do this.  I find myself slipping into obsession, not out of dedication, but out of passion for this goal – I am inspired by those I work for.  I find myself uniquely frustrated by those who can’t or don’t hold this goal as close as I do; to many others it’s just a job, the same job that can be accomplished anywhere else.  And I’ve finally dug out of that mindset – after years of careers that dried up passion and dedication, jobs that shattered closely held ideals and left syrupy residues of nasty ethical compromises, I’ve found my swansong.

But am I ready for where it could take me?  Am I ready to put aside the small-town dream of a bakery, the mid-town dream of owning and managing commercial real estate?  The American dream of owning my own business and putting my ideas to work be damned for someone else’s great idea?

A few days ago, I saw my ending with this company.  It’s a political suicide, not shrouded in loyalty or pride, but in self-respect.  The metaphor I’ve used to describe it to others: imagine you’re twenty pages into a book and you already know exactly how it ends.  It doesn’t matter how long the book is, it doesn’t matter how the plot twists or turns – the ultimate destination has already been cast, the pieces are moving, and now I’m playing the game.

The question isn’t why I’m playing – that answer should be pretty obvious.  The question is who am i: the ‘go get shit done’ piece or the pawn who ‘gets capped quick’?  Do I play the game with agility or finesse?  Who is working against me, seeking nothing other than to trap me?  It appears that no matter my passion, my dedication, or my obsession my fate is written.  For some, this bleak post-modern outlook is persuasive.  It justifies the conspicuous spending and paranoid hoarding of resources.  It allows the ego to take on mythical qualities.  It reduces us to a caste despite the ravenous clawing for power in each interaction.

It’s an one-sided outlook of the game.  A philosophy I don’t subscribe to.

But it does give me pause to consider whether what I believe – no matter a fleeting state of passion or perpetual state of dedication – is true.  And whether knowing the ending should influence my decision(s) in the game.

Giving Thanks

This morning I crawled out of bed, my eyes still crusty with sleep but my heart aflame.  Said goodbye and safe travels to a guy whose role in my life is to be determined as you’ll see below.  We’d fallen asleep last night next to one another recognizing our blessings and thanksgivings, a squeamish activity for me primarily in the outward sharing with someone who, yes, I’m thankful for, but who has little context with which to pair my words and sincerity.  Still, we slept soundly.

And yet it was this morning, while making coffee and eating pieces of baguette with creamy cheeses and grapes, while lighting a cozy fire in my living room, while scrolling through an ipod for the music to fit my time, place, and manner, while sitting on my couch with a fantastic book that this particular realization sprouted: this is exactly what I’ve always dreamed of, wanted, desired, and worked for.  Today, this morning.  Cozy solitude, the perfect morning for me to glide through the rest of the day.  The ideal morning to open up my mind and body and spirit.  What I want every morning to be.  What I’ve wanted every morning to be since I was six years old: warm, halfway between absorbed and reflective, quiet but for the sounds of typing, a melancholy saxophone, hissing fire, and the slight puff of a chilling draft from the windows. Dressed in an oversized gingham pearl snap shirt.  Comfortable in my otherwise bare skin.  Wrapped together in nothing less than appreciation and true gratitude for the path I’ve taken to get here and for the moment of stark, blossoming epiphany.

Come what may for the rest of the day – I am content this morning.

And thankful for it as this peace has been too long in coming.

I didn’t think it possible.  My eye steals away to the other end of the couch where I keep expecting to see him with each stolen glance, worn flannel pajama pants, a navy Smith College t-shirt, absorbed into the Times or a book of similar weight and magnitude, enjoying the quiet solitude with me.  This is what he always wanted from me: quiet, steady comfort, yet always found a reason to disrupt it for the thrill of spontaneity.  Until today, this morning, I thought it was my fault; believed I’d never achieve this.

Yet here it is, and I have the recipe now.  I can create it whenever I want it, I know how.  And I can’t express that particular relief.

Which brings me back to my current situation, complete with a man thankful for his freedom and who has unilaterally opened my eyes to see again: with the recipe for quiet, steady comfort emblazoned to knowledge and memory, it’s time to break out again, seek fertile experiences, a fresh (and refreshing) view of life at its molten core.  I can always come back to this (says the optimistic and entitled American); it’s time to let all this go, every last drop, and start fresh elsewhere.  I’ve previously promised myself Columbia as the next destination.  Instead it may be Russia or Panama or Venezuela or Brazil – or a meandering wander through these countries and more.  The dream of embracing that adventurous, Gypsy-minded streak running through my spirit has caught me as a red-handed romantic.    I’ve been placid in my existence far too long, frustrated by an nameless yearning for something greater, a grain of redemption for my past misgivings and deeds.  Where before I’ve turned a blind eye only to have the malfeasance and their wretched consequences seep and ooze through my dreamy subconscious as a monster we all know as guilt and contempt, today I am content, not only thankful for my past struggles to get where I am presently, not only for the blessing of all the skills, abilities, and experiences I present, but for the recognition that I have the freedom to choose my adventure, my freedom, my content and displeasure – and the single-handed aptitude not to passively be – but to actively do.

I Wish I Were a Punk Rocker

I’m gonna keep this short and simple: my level of trust has disintegrated amidst exponential frustration.  I’m stuck in a world that doesn’t care, promised a future with no unified vision or strategy, and am expected to fulfill my obligations.

This is madness.

One bright spot: an extended hand politely asking for companionship well across the pond.  Even if unfathomable, the validation is extraordinary and deeply appreciated.  That said, in the mere hours we’ve known one another, the intensity of our interactions shakes the bedrock of placid existence.  Simply: life changed on Tuesday and it won’t ever be the same, thankfully.

In Praise of Quitting Your Job

This is my constant struggle, but said much much more eloquently.  Original by Ben Pieratt, available here; shamelessly reposted by me; comments in blue are mine.

Update: just as a little bit of background, I’m back in the interview process for a few different positions, one of which I’d kill (or seriously maim) to have.  To be perfectly frank, I believe it would be perfect for me, especially considering this post below.  Too often I’ve worked with those who weren’t inspired nor inspiring.  This position, company, and people I’d work closely with would radically change that experience – already I’m inspired and thinking and the job isn’t mine (yet).  Regardless of what happens concerning the job, it’s affirming to know that I can still be inspired by those I work with AND that I’m appreciated for my skills, talents, and abilities, and especially for my creative, problem-solving mind.

Now back to your regular programming:

In Praise of Quitting Your Job

(Alternate title: The New Work Ethic)

I wrote this email to a friend a few weeks ago, and then the topic came up again last night with an old buddy who was frustrated with his work. He seemed to appreciate what I had to say, so I figured it might be worth sharing:

– – –

Thinking about your comment at the end our call. Thought I’d put some words down. Apologies in advance for the presumption.

The reason I’m so supportive of you quitting your job is that I’m intensely empathetic to your situation and I believe that you’re doing everyone a disservice by sticking around.

I’ve worked for a handful of companies over the course of the last 6 years. I started all of them with a fair amount of enthusiasm, but within 5 months of each I dipped into a depression. By 7 months the work was having a tangible effect on my mood and outlook, and by nine months, I’ve quit almost every job I’ve held. The longest was 12 months at [Redacted], and that was only because I wanted my options to vest. I handed them my resignation on my 366th day.

I always feel like a waste of space in these situations. Part of the depression stems from being so useless. Why do I hate this job so much? What is wrong with me that I’m so entitled? People the world over have jobs they don’t like, why am I unable to stick this out?

I could wax on this for a while (and I did, but then deleted all the paragraphs), but I think it comes down to the fact that, for some people, work is personal. Personal in the same way that singing or playing the piano or painting is personal.

Totally agreed on this point, and I beat myself up about this (and how I shouldn’t take it personally) each and every day. Every. single. day.

As a creative person, you’ve been given the ability to build things from nothing by way of hard work over long periods of time. Creation is a deeply personal and rewarding activity, which means that your Work should also be deeply personal and rewarding. If it’s not, then something is amiss.

Okay, small point of disagreement: things are not built from nothing.  It comes from something existing (usually many things), but re-ordered or re-expressed or re-done or re-concepted in a new, inventive, innovative, creative way.  Usually these “things” are solutions to problems; the more complex the problem, the more nuanced the solution(s).  Creative folks relish the fact that there isn’t just one way to do something – there are millions.  Don’t believe me?  How many poems, songs, paintings, books, expressions are out there with the singular goal of telling someone that you love them?  I rest my case.

Creation is entirely dependent on ownership.

Ownership not as a percentage of equity, but as a measure of your ability to change things for the better. To build and grow and fail and learn. This is no small thing. Creativity is the manifestation of lateral thinking, and without tangible results, it becomes stunted. We have to see the fruits of our labors, good or bad, or there’s no motivation to proceed, nothing to learn from to inform the next decision. States of approval and decisions-by-committee and constant compromises are third-party interruptions of an internal dialog that needs to come to its own conclusions.

I’d like to state for the record that I’m not anti-committee and approval.  In fact, I need others’ feedback regularly in order to keep the process going.  It’s a struggle to balance out the need for stimulation (creative partners and decision-makers) versus the need for isolation (to actually get something done) however, and I do agree that interruptions in the process are creativity killers, especially when surrounded by morons who either can’t wait for an idea to develop and see a drafted product OR who can’t make a decision or provide feedback.

Your muse can only be treated as the secretary of a subcommittee for so long before she decides to pack up and look for employment elsewhere. If you aren’t able to own the product and be creative, then you aren’t able to do your work, and if you’re not doing your work then you’re negating a very real part of your personality, which is no good for anyone. No good for you and certainly no good for your employer.

I’ve come to terms with my own inherent work issues simply by recognizing that my weaknesses in one context are strengths in another. When I am able to own a project or product, I work hard and I work well, and I like to believe it shows in the results. Not everyone can do this. Not everyone is willing to spend stupid amounts of hours on a project simply because they believe in it. This is worth recognizing.

My strengths: problem-solving.  Give me a challenge, something complex, and let me run with a white board and several marker colors.  Once we’ve got it figured out and approved by necessary parties, I’ll oversee the implementation, but if you don’t give me another problem to solve, I’m gonna get bored.

My weakness: when I believe in something, I pour myself fully and entirely into it.  I’m not a typical 9-to-5 employee; I don’t leave my brain in my desk at work, and when I’m faced with something where the solution we need isn’t clear, I’m probably not gonna be at my desk.  I’ll likely be outside, or running at the gym, or drinking coffee and watching people, or listening to music or driving or drawing – something that requires just enough attention to let my brain focus on what I’m doing physically and not  overanalyze a problem or possible solutions.  Amazingly, my ideas percolate best that way.  And if I have no ideas initially, research research research in the veins of good art is copied, great art is stolen.

My point is simply this. From what little I understand of you and your situation, I feel like I can empathize. I would guess that you’re juggling a handful of self-loathing with a justified sense of entitlement. This is something that I came to peace with after I left my last job, and I get the sense that you’re still struggling with it.

Bingo.

I suspect that eventually our culture will catch up with our evolving understanding of work ethic and the personal nature of work in creative fields. In the meantime there’s going to be a lot of wasted talent pushing too much effort in the wrong directions. It is clear to me and anyone who interacts with you that a misplacement of your energies is at everyone’s loss. I hope that you’re able to recognize this fact and move forward accordingly.

It’s encouraging that not only am I not alone in these feelings, but that this other blogger gets it, publishes it, and makes it less my fault.

~ HUGE thank you to Ben Pierrat!

So You Say You Want a Manifesto…

Fine then.

In the midst (and dark depths) of a plethora of projects, I’ve come to a belated and overdue realization: I’ve got it all wrong.

True story.

Unfortunately, I’m not alone.  You’ve got it all wrong also.  But at least we’re companions.  Comrades, if you will.

Since day one, we’ve been told that if we work hard, we will be successful.  Frankly, that’s not true – we’ve known that long enough now, but continue to go along with it, much like we appease our elders while quietly rolling our eyes, wondering whether the sedating medications are potent enough for such rambling.  Hate to break it to those who have sucked away their livelihoods simply working hard, hoping your children will have the knowledge to get out of your ruts and achieve the American dream of success.  Your children aren’t motivated.  Your children have unprecedented knowledge at their fingertips and have no idea what to do with it or how to use it.  Your children make contests out of ruining their brains and physiology through their college years, hoping to catch up on missed skills and abilities in the farce of professional graduate degrees.  Then your children are surprised to find themselves struggling, just like you did, but with the stain and stench of  professional pride rendering them incapable of anything less than a fantasized job, position, and requisite salary – despite a complete lack of experience.  We were told we could do anything if we worked hard – but we got the letters on the wall by just skating through.

Consider this my eyeroll if not a ruder gesture toward an entire generation who have made all the wrong choices under the pandering guise of right ones.  If X, then Y.  If Y, do Z.  Simplified flow charts to devise an entire existence marked by little else but blinded optimism in the hopes of avoiding rejection and failure.  Scared of not finding a job after college?  Follow the Walrus and Carpenter, little oyster, to graduate school.  Scared you’ll be rejected from graduate school?  They’re accepting people – and their eternal wallets – in record numbers.  It’s easier to go to school than to push paper around, right?  It’s easier to put your head in the inconsequential desert surrounding the ivory tower, than to take a chance or risk, easier to write one decent essay and prove you can pay (with assistance) than deviate from the lifelong plan set out for you.  It’s okay, we know, you always wanted to be a doctor/lawyer/business professional.  Really though, we nod and accept without question that you’d really rather be God/a nerdy bully/insulated by your buddies for the rest of your life – or not hear it from your parents and instead keep some outward peace in return for inner turmoil.

Those who elected George W. Bush and his lackadaisical ways for eight years of blatant mismanagement are precisely those who have created this generation governed by fear.  Those who elected Barack Obama and his hopeful, changing ways are precisely those who reject this fear of failure.

So now I have to ask: what the fuck have we done?  Suddenly this great experience is no longer a experiment as our false expertise drowns in existentialism.

It’s time for things to be different.

It’s time for things to change.

It’s time for the next generation to step to the helm, to take the reins, to get into the batter’s box to take a few pitches from history.  As the early Gen Y’ers turn 30, it’s time to quit bitching about our differences and embrace them, harnessing the strengths of each person or experience into something larger, a woven fabric to smother the fire raging out of control through our land and through our hearts.  No longer is it about “I” – but about “you and I.”

It’s time.

Scratching a Spine

I’ve got an idea coming together at warp speed and I’m electrified by it.

Though I’m not sure I can fully explain.  I’ve been reading (sneaking, much like candy) Twyla Tharp’s treatise on creativity and suddenly I’m exploding with new thought patterns, processes and more.  In the book, Tharp speaks passionately on the need for scratching together a whole and the need for spine in an idea.  I’ve got the itch and the spine and the boxes of notes and information and reminders and lightening impulses – now I just need time.

Ignore the man behind the curtain for a moment – the story I’m writing is a cross between the myth of Narcissus, the Wizard of Oz, and the death of David Foster Wallace.  Throw in a little bit of ‘you only see what you want to see – and little more’ and a dash of exploding obsession and a hint of revolution along with a few spoonfuls of generational angst dedicated to Carl Solomon – and we have a book.  A book built on the construction, destruction, and renovation of a dream in the present grasp of the fetishized generation.  Falling in love with a vision of yourself can only lead to an obsessively brilliant death.  Simply, from Dostoevsky:

“She looks at herself instead of looking at you, and so doesn’t know you. During the two or three little outbursts of passion she has allowed herself in your favor, she has, by a great effort of imagination, seen in you the hero of her dreams, and not yourself as you really are.”

It’s time to write.

Zola the Chopper

For the first time ever, I was on a motorcycle this past week. Allow me to introduce Zola, a beautiful fiery red chopper, and her owner, Stephen:

The experience was incredible.

And that’s all I’ve got for you at the moment – it was incredible.  We traveled through Grapevine, opening it up out on the access roads paralleling the highway, crossed Grapevine dam, wound our way through downtown.  I got into my car the next morning and something was off; the car wouldn’t respond or go like Zola (nor its driver) did.  I found myself speeding excessively, windows down, in a subconscious attempt to feel as open and free, thrilled and submissively trusting – as I had the night before.

It’s still riding on my mind, the wind through my hair, forcibly filling my lungs and etching my face.  And that type of submissiveness – to the driver, to the bike, to the elements – yet still maintaining a dominant presence.  Hmmmmmm….

It’s a perfect experience for a shift in a person’s outlook, if not being.

Hmmmmm…

The Echo Chamber

DoOneThingTodayThe other night I couldn’t sleep.  While this isn’t an uncommon occurrence, it was bothersome: something big was on my mind, something amorphous and seductive.  Call it meta-curiosity, but I got out of bed, threw on some clothes, unpacked my laptop, and sat waiting.

I’d read Seth Godin‘s compilation of What Matters Now (if you haven’t downloaded this free inspirational ebook, go and do so, then come back) earlier in the afternoon, picking it out of the mess of my Twitter feed.  I went through at a high-level, looking through the eighty-something pages of ideas for 2010.  And on first read, I thought to myself “Self, why aren’t you putting something like this together?  This is what you do best – what’s different about you?  Why haven’t you done this?  Why haven’t you written your manifesto?  GET TO IT!”

I put it aside for a few hours, roiling with discontent – and unfortunately taking it out on the sweet boyfriend.  He went to sleep and I laid there, listening to him breathe, asking myself what I needed.  What did I need to make it all happen, to calm that ambitious voice in my head?  Am I screwing around, or is what I’m doing the right path toward what I want to do?  What do I want?  How do I get that?  I know I’m not happy right now, but is it a necessary unhappiness to realize something later?  Why put off this happiness any longer?

Then I realized I’m in the echo chamber, caught in a crowd of voices parroting the same thing over and over, louder and louder, bouncing against nonporous walls.  And oh to countervail the crowd, even if faceless, nameless, and comprised of an unknown number.  I slipped out of bed, tiptoed into my office, and sat at my desk with my head in my hands.  What to do now.  What to do now.  What to do now to stop the voices all around me crowing of instant success while I languish in apathy.

Weeks passed before I found a true answer.

Simply to take it a day at a time and make one small step forward each day toward the motley grouping of goals.

I’ll keep you posted on progress.

Kitchen of Mine

Wanna know what things are like right now?

I'm in the weeds.
I’m in the weeds.

If there’s one thing I like – no, I love – about restaurants, it’s watching the line work.  Each person with their own station, intently focused, to create the best the team can do.  I’ve likened the kitchen (and restaurants as a whole) to pirate ships, among other metaphors and analogies, where all share in the glories, losses, and otherwise scalawag-esque doings, comings, and goings involved in the food service industry.

But right now, I’m in the weeds, a familiar term to those behind in their work.  There comes a surreal moment in the realization of work, both the moment you’re deep in the weeds and in the moment you’re in the clear.  What happens between?  Dali must have worked at the line of a restaurant as the clocks melt in the desert heat and all thought evaporates, other than getting through the faraway tasks in front of you.

And such is life right now: selling and marketing myself, my experiences, my thoughts and visions and inclinations. I can’t see the forest for the weeds.

And what it comes down to: I need a team in this little kitchen of mine.

Do or Die.

“Now you’ll never see what you’ve done to me
You can take back your memories – they’re no good to me
And here’s all your lies,
You can look me in the eyes
With that sad sad look you wear so well”

And I hope it gives you hell.

It’s said the pen is mightier than the sword. Physicality may have intimidated me over the past couple weeks, if not several months, but no longer. The spell is broken, the magic gone, and the trust no longer there. When it came to blows, it confused me – how could there exist such hatred for me, for my work.

Turns out the nighthawks fear the sunshine, the best disinfectant.

And so I sit here on this conference call, listening to options, interjecting an opinion every now and again. I’ve held off on signing all the contracts, unsure if it was really what I wanted to do. I’ve had the luxury of time, and last night I laid down and read it through word by word, page by page. Made a few changes to characters, mostly to accentuate particular personality traits. Changed the ending yet again. Added an eviscerating afterword. Where I had feared digging too deep, now I cut straight to the bone without a second thought.

And the best change: it’s now mine, not theirs.

Now to decide if sharp-edged exposure or languished obscurity is a better choice.

I just told them I’d know by Monday. Monday, Monday, Monday.

Daybreak

This little heart of mine – I’m gonna let it shine.

Last night was a fascinating display of courage and cowardice. I don’t intend to be scientific about it, nor dramatic, nor anything more than a simple statement: it’s surprising who ended up where.

I woke up this morning on my balcony, wine glass empty, and a brief moment of sunshine and a humid dew on my face. I’d seen daybreak, writing furiously following an evening of forced conviviality. It was cowardly of me not to stand up, tell him off – cowardly of me to instead shrink away, display a muted fear, and quite literally hold my breath in my passive monitoring of the situation.

Where my courage shined through was with strangers in a local breakfast shop, all of us brought together for so many different reasons. I love the coffee, was in need of a waffle, and most importantly, to talk with people so different from myself. It rights me, puts it all back into perspective. I’d missed my opportunities for participation all evening long if only because I didn’t want him part of it.

Except that I did. A little, but not in front of the circus. Just an opportunity to talk like we used to, alone in the night, just until daybreak when we part ways.

I don’t know what I expected, but I’m let down for the last time. There is no apology; I won’t put myself through the fear, the hurt, the betrayal – not again. And in a stunning display of callousness, I told him so with a harsh tone deserved only from a father. Then poured myself a glass of wine, turned my headphones to Mahler, and sat outside on my balcony to watch the world awake to Saturday morning, furiously frustrated.

I’m looking over everything now, and it’s all stained with mascara, blurred with salty tears, and somehow it’s the best capture of a moment I’ve ever done.

I don’t know what to do with it. Except chalk it up to daybreak.