I'm usually happy to save money, but September 14 was a bit of a sad day for me, as it signified the end of my subscription to The Economist. A few months ago, I'd decided I needed to keep up with what's going on in the world. I'd already taken a chance on The Washington Post during a particular promotion, but the publication has always felt biased on one end of the political spectrum. And the same felt true of The New York Times, so I wasn't sure of where else to go.
I'm not foolish enough to believe that I don't have my own biases, but I do try to challenge my biases once I am aware of them. Doing so seems to me to be the best strategy for finding objective truth or something like it. After a bit of research, I settled on The Economist because, with its concise yet informative articles, the publication seemed to be the most nearly center source of news. I hoped that a smaller word count would mean fewer opportunities for fluff and ideological fodder. And I can't say that my expectations weren't met. That's not why I cancelled. I started considering it because I simply did not have time to read one edition before next week's edition came in.
A couple months ago, I made the decision to consciously unplug. I started by deleting my mainstream social media accounts—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—and disabled most notifications on my phone. I worked on clearing a path to reading and writing on a regular basis. I eventually got into bullet journaling. These small changes gradually helped me to reach my goal. And so here I am now, enlightened and wiser and better than everyone else. Err, I mean, better than I was before.
When we sit around and think about our own versions of lives well-lived, we most likely envision ourselves elderly and passing away peacefully in our sleep. There's something about leaving this world as an octogenerian that adds a layer of accomplishment to our struggle. I'm guilty of this romanticization on a couple fronts. When I hear that someone over the age of 80 has taken his last breath, I usually respond with something along the lines of That's a good run. Also, when I think of my own end, I hope I will have made the eight-decade club, though the odds may not be ever in my favor based on my family history.
Though I'm too lazy to look up the data to support my claim, I'd wager that it's natural for people to desire to be seen as the Good Guy rather than the Bad Guy. Sure, maybe we enjoyed playing the Bad Guy role at the playground as we forcechoked our friends in our best Darth Vader impressions. Or maybe we watched the world burn as we played our own version of The Joker. But when it comes to real life, most of us want to be the Good Guy. The Hero. We want to be Luke Skywalker or Batman, at least until we get older and wiser and realize that the Caped Crusader might not be completely good himself.
I'm a bit of a recovered nice guy. At first glance, nice guy doesn't sound so bad. What can be wrong about being nice, right? But it helps if you say nice guy the way you'd say it if you used air quotations when saying it to your friend.
Over the last few months, I've been trying to get back in touch with my creative side, which has proven to be more difficult to navigate than one might expect. For instance, I'm not sure what I should reasonably expect from myself. These days I'm closer to 40 than 14. I don't have the free time I once had, and now I have far more responsibility (career, family, self care and maintenance) than I could ever have imagined as a kid.
I haven't truly exercised my creativity muscle in years, so I can't hope to suddenly be flooded with fresh ideas and obsessive passions. With time and practice, I know I can build that muscle to something much stronger than it is now.
However, there is work to be done in order to allow for creativity.
It was lunchtime on November 28 before I realized the significance of the date. The revelation was discovered due to an innocent conversation with a co-worker. Details about certain family history were questioned. I considered my answer, did some quick math, and then realized what would have been obvious and dreaded by most in my situation: It was the seventh anniversary of my mother's death.
Anniversaries of deaths are a strange thing for me. I often forget about them until some well-meaning individual reaches out to me to say that she's thinking about me. I'll ask myself why this person's so concerned before realizing it's the anniversary of someone's last day on this earth. And then I feel bad for not recognizing the date earlier. It's not as if I don't remember because I don't care. In some way, it's quite the opposite. I tend not to dwell on such anniversaries because I miss my deceased loved ones every day. In that sense, the anniversary truly is just another day.
I'm not really sure how I developed perfectionist tendencies. I don't recall anyone other than myself putting such unfair expectations on me. Perhaps it was all simply a product of being the only child of a single mother before my stepfather came along. Somehow I understood at an early age that my mother had a lot on her plate and that she didn't need any extra worries. And on top of that, I convinced myself that the responsibility of making her proud fell exclusively on me.
Over many moons now I've asked myself that existential question that every writer asks him or herself: “Why do I write?” Or maybe even more specifically, “Why am I writing about this?” And I've definitely been asking myself that question in regard to this blog and how it's evolved into something deeply personal, something which may turn some people off. Something which at times may concern me. Maybe even scare me a bit. Though hardly anyone reads this blog, it's out there to be found if anyone seeks it. These posts are now public record for anyone to see. This site makes me vulnerable in a way to which I am still adjusting.
After asking these questions about my motivations again and again, I think I've finally come up with an answer that works. After much soul searching, I've concluded that I'm writing to fight loneliness.
originally posted on my original host on April 18, 2019
I'm not a fan of platitudes. They always feel so shallow, and they're often shared without any questioning of their wisdom or effectiveness. They sound good, so they must be appropriate, right?
But mantras are another matter. I am a fan of mantras. A big fan, in fact.
When used properly, mantras reinforce your vision and your goals. They keep you on the right path without requiring you to re-examine every nuance behind your ambition. In short, mantras are a great way to brainwash you into facilitating the change you want or need in your life while platitudes keep you wallowing in the same old unproductive loops of clichés and unmet expectations.
Though I am a bit creeped out by data collection, I do look forward to Spotify's end-of-year summary email. The summary always gives an interesting snapshot of the listener's year in music. How much time did you spend listening to music throughout the year? What songs did you listen to most? These questions and more will be answered.
I guess I'm not so bothered by the practice of data collection as long as I get something cool or interesting out of it. Let's face it, everyone's a hypocrite at times.
This year, the summary revealed that my favorite artist of 2018 was none other than Jason Isbell. If you know me, then this isn't a shock. Isbell instantly became one of my favorite artists when I discovered his album Southeastern a few years ago. I've since had the pleasure of seeing him live in concert on three separate occasions, each time being special in its own right.