Of the many men who I am, who we are,
I can’t find a single one;
they disappear among my clothes,
they’ve left for another city.
When everything seems to be set
to show me off as intelligent,
the fool I always keep hidden
takes over all that I say.
At other times, I’m asleep
among distinguished people,
and when I look for my brave self,
a coward unknown to me
rushes to cover my skeleton
with a thousand fine excuses.
When a decent house catches fire,
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and that’s me. What can I do?
What can I do to distinguish myself?
How can I pull myself together?
All the books I read
are full of dazzling heroes,
always sure of themselves.
I die with envy of them;
and in films full of wind and bullets,
I goggle at the cowboys,
I even admire the horses.
But when I call for a hero,
out comes my lazy old self;
so I never know who I am,
nor how many I am or will be.
I’d love to be able to touch a bell
and summon the real me,
because if I really need myself,
I mustn’t disappear.
While I’m writing, I’m far away;
and when I come back, I’ve gone.
I would like to know if others
go through the same things that I do,
have as many selves as I have,
and see themselves similarly;
and when I’ve exhausted this problem,
I’m going to study so hard
that when I explain myself,
I’ll be talking geography.
Just about EVERYfriggingbody (and yes, so am I, right now, I know) posts New Year’s related articles, listicles, memes, and status updates about being a better version of themselves for the coming year. New Year’s Day and birthdays are always a natural time to take stock of oneself and life and even plot a new course or two to keep moving down that path toward whatever it is you prefer to think of as your personal destination. Money, sex, love of another, self-love, wisdom, kittens… people offer and seek out spiritual guidance continually over the week or so surrounding the calendar change. The market is saturated.
And that’s the rub. Anytime a market is saturated, that means it’s probably flooded with shitty product. Clickbaiters and mememongers come out in droves to entice you into clicking and liking their brand of resolution porn, and ultimately you’re just being used to drive traffic to their site – REAL TALK – Elephant Journal doesn’t give a FUCK about YOU.
So what’s the point? Here. Have a shitty list:
1.) You’re awesome. You’re doing just fine. If you’re still alive and breathing and surrounded by people that love you, then YOU ARE GOLD. If you don’t feel like you are, then talk to somebody. If you don’t feel like you have anybody, you actually do, look harder, you’ll find them. They’re probably seeing you hurting and hoping you’ll reach out.
2.)You’re beautiful the way you are. I’m 37. I don’t work out. I don’t eat as well as I could. Etc. I have a little spare tire around my waist and it gives me nearly daily anxiety because of some stupid self conscious body issues I developed at some point in my life. When I actually stop my evil brain for a second and listen to the people around me, though, I hear that I’m good enough, and the outside stuff doesn’t matter. At all. Don’t resolve to change yourself because the little hater in your brain tells you you’re fat or ugly. Fuck the little hater.
3.) People don’t change. I’m serious. I think it’s a disrespectful self-loathing thing that we do to convince ourselves we need to change, because it’s impossible. We are who we are. We LEARN more, and GROW as people. But we are who we were when we were shitty to that person we love. We are who we were when we were abused. We are each a beautiful compendium of love and life and don’t turn your back on your gorgeous self.
My resolution-that-just-so-happens-to-come-at new-year’s is to turn off all the noise and listen to ME and people who love me.
I was sipping my coffee and fumbling through the amorphous pile of New York Times on the counter at the coffeeshop and an article about graffiti caught my eye in the travel section. In the article, focused on Bristol, England being the “street art capital of Europe”, the author said this in her second paragraph:
I was astonished. This was graffiti? It turned out the answer was no. According to Mr. Dean, break-dancing Jesus is considered “street art,” a term used to distinguish imaginative urban art from gang-related vandalism. The term “graffiti” refers to the bubble-style borders that surround a “tag,” or the skeleton of words or letters inside.
This is Rob Dean in a video promoting tourism in Bristol:
You can see from the photo above that Rob Dean is NOT at all reticent to appropriate hip hop – even for tourism promotion. In fact, anybody who loves hip hop should be a bit offended by this b-boy caricature he puts on. He looks like hipster spaghetti. The entitlement, privilege, and racist attitude on display is pretty blatant here. If black kids or poor kids do it, it’s graffiti – not done by artists, but by gang involved thugs. Only when your self-expression has the blessing of the establishment is it ART.
Graffiti is NOT “street art” – graffiti is a culture. Graffiti is one of the four foundational elements of hip hop, along with breakdancing, MCing, and DJing. For decades now, kids have been throwing up pieces that would blow your mind with their intricacy and detail – they’ve been chased, threatened, beaten, and arrested for it also. These artists have put in thousands of hours perfecting their craft, knowing that their work would be painted over and their only lasting legacy would be their reputation. Then people like Rob Dean came in and started putting it on t-shirts, and in galleries, they created a caste-system whereby they could anoint the “true artists” – officially endorsed by the establishment – whoever that is.
So, my point here is: Fuck you, Rob Dean.
It’s been a massive flood of emotions, really like nothing I’ve experienced before.
He was my step-dad, though I hate saying “step-dad” because I feel like it kind of devalues our relationship.
A more accurate way to put it: I lost the only man who ever treated me like a son.
He showed me a lot of tough love when I was screwing up a lot in my early 20s. I’d wreck my car, or run afoul of the law, and he’d always be straight up with me. But he never belittled me. I think back and run through all the moments that I can remember, sitting there at his kitchen table while he talked to me about my life.
“You’ve got so much potential.”
“You’re a great guy.”
“You’ve got to be proactive, not reactive.”
Nobody, except my mom, had ever told me I was worth a damn. A lot of people told me the opposite in fact. You start to believe it after awhile. Tom never talked down to me. He was always direct, and supportive.
Over the years, I grew to appreciate him more and more. Part of my grief has been the fear that he didn’t know I loved him and appreciated him. He was a gentle and sensitive man, yet masculine and confidant. He didn’t suffer fools, and didn’t have time for a lot of BS. If you were his friend, you were his family. He lived by a code of ethics that focused on kindness, honesty, and doing the right thing.
I say all of this also knowing that I didn’t know him as well as I could have. I spent the first half of my time knowing him pushing him away and the second half too worried about myself to take the time out. I wasted a lot of time that could have been spent learning more from him. Luckily the last couple of years brought us much closer.
So what do I take away?
- Don’t take things for granted.
- Treat people fairly.
- Give people as many chances as they need, but always hold them accountable.
- Speak the truth, the hard truth, even if it’s uncomfortable.
- Love your friends.
I know that his death is the only reason that I’m realizing the impact he had on me – and maybe that’s just how it goes, but I regret never really telling him what he meant. I hope that I conveyed it well enough in those few, private, man-to-man moments where he told me he was proud of me and patted me on the back.
Hopefully the eye contact said it when I didn’t have the guts to.
Goodbye, Tom. I love you.
“How’s the job search going?”
I get asked this everyday. And every time someone asks, I struggle with the answer.
(Note: there are people this doesn’t pertain to – you probably know who you are.)
First of all, 90% of the time it’s impersonal, and I KNOW the person could care less. It’s like asking “How ya doin’?” to somebody that you pass on the sidewalk. You have no intention of actually stopping to listen to the answer, it’s just a polite formality by which we judge whether somebody is an asshole or not.
“She just WALKED RIGHT BY and didn’t even bother to ask how I’m doing! What an asshole!”
“I thought you didn’t really like her anyway…”
“I don’t! I hate her and everything she stands for! I hope she dies slowly! But she could at least show a little common decency!”
All most people are doing when they ask how your job search is going is using any little piece of personal information about you to make it SEEM like they give a shit.
“Hello, I know a thing about you. How is that thing? Ok, bye now.”
When I used to cashier at “NW Local Warehouse Grocery Store Chain” that shall remain nameless, I used to take a minute before my shift to think of three four conversations to have with customers while ringing them up – then I could alternate conversations as customers came through providing them the illusion that I was amazing and REALLY cared about each of them as individuals. Topics were usually focused on fairly innocuous things like: sportsball achievement, weather thing, and news topic du jour. Then, I could get through my day without really having to engage with anybody, and everybody felt like a special little snowflake. We all get to win that way.
This is what people are actually doing when they ask how your job search is going.
And by the way, if a job search is still GOING, then by definition, it’s not going well, and asking just brings up failure. If you’re still LOOKING for a job then you obviously haven’t achieved the ONLY objective of a job search. Just imagine if we talked like that about searching for missing kids.
“How is the search for little Billy going, Chief?”
“It’s going fan-TASTIC! No sign of him yet whatsoever…not sure we’ll ever find him… but we’re REALLY searching.”
A job search can only go well in the past tense.
Here is a job search in a nutshell: Look for openings, apply, wait, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. All of that in a soup of rejection, doubt, fear, and financial insecurity – which, I might add, is also basically the working class Catholic experience in America, so my childhood tempered me well for this.
“How’s the job search going?” is a question nobody looking for work wants to hear, because it always floods you with all of that stuff, but usually the person asking isn’t actually asking for the real answer, so you have to swallow all of that, conjure a smile, and just say…“Hey, it’s going great! Thank you for asking.” There’s no real transaction here, just molecules bumping against one another for a blink and then going their separate ways again.
So here’s my advice: If you really care, ask people about their dreams, and what they want out of their next job, or if they’ve applied for any jobs that they’re really excited about. And especially ask them about things in their life NOT related to unemployment. For me, I’ve used this time to realize that life is too long to spend it overworking myself and stressing out about every little thing, and that taking time to appreciate life and the people around me is REALLY worth it.
If you don’t actually care, then just ask, “How ya doin’?” so I can say, “Fine.” and be on my way.
I hate the phrase, “Life’s too short…”
Mainly because it’s wholly inaccurate. Life will take longer for us to complete than anything else we will ever attempt to do. Everything else exists within the confines of life. Life is the curio cabinet in which we place our bric-a-brac. Sometimes, when we’re feeling all introspective and thinky, or when we’re being all nosy and judgy, we’ll tell ourselves or other people things like, “Hey, life’s too short to have that negative attitude…” or, “Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff…”
But life is long, too long to worry about how long it is – and because it’s so long, the “small stuff” is actually infinitesimally insignificant compared to the totality of our existence on the ol’ mortal coil. A period of negativity, in the long run, is a blip on the radar, and will never define you after you’re gone. Can you really imagine your friends and family gathered around your coffin, or ash can, or frozen cryogenic head, and saying, “they were soooo great… really loved cats… always made time for you… but there was that one time they really had a bad attitude…”
You shouldn’t worry about the small stuff because the small stuff doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you keep trying, keep doing stuff and falling on your face, or doing stuff and having people love it. But just keep at it, try to be happy, if you’re not then fix it, and do things that are “good” – whatever that means to you.