Cool water rippled around my feet, as a brisk autumn wind thrashed my hair about.
The day was September 26th, 2014. I felt right at home here. I wasn’t home, however. I was a thousand miles north, with my legs hanging off a pier into clear water, in Lake George, New York.
Four years had passed since my ominous date with destiny. With everything crumbling around me, I didn’t have time to reflect on how it had changed me. While staring into the beauty of that emerald lake though, I lost myself. I had been through hell and back, and had done my best to try to shove as much of it as far down in the grave as it would possibly go. This day was different, though. Sitting peacefully with the chill of autumn whipping me in the face, it all came flooding back as if it had clawed right up my legs. It was the pain of remembering how much ground I’ve lost; a continuous sting of watching members and loyal bodies walk away without looking back. It was the multiple connections with women in the vain attempt to find love again after burying it myself, years earlier. It was compounded by the deaths of my last two grandparents, whose bodies were slowly taken by the crippling effects of living in a world where the vices and vigor of a person are two paths leading to the same end. It was the lack of vocational purpose, brought on by my own career suicide years earlier. It was the slow desertion of friends who had lost their zeal for the pact of kinship we had all signed in blood, and sweat.
It was my funeral, and every new defeat was another layer of dirt shoveled on top of me.
As my feet swayed back and forth in the water, waves swished in either direction. Flashes from the past year, and the past month still echoed. They were both realizations, and ones that had left me no closer to figuring out who I was, what I wanted or when I wanted it. But here I was, away from home, my family, and even the life I knew. This was the odd direction I had chosen to go.
My computer’s monitor was off, but I could hear the sounds of annoying children bickering at each other through my speakers. They were discussing angrily the aspects of restructuring their gaming community. That’s why I was there. What had initially been an easy task of cleaning up their member inactivity, designing a simple website with forums, and creating a communication server for them had turned into a month-long ordeal where I was made to babysit these kids every time they had a spat. One side of them argued that their glorious leader was being tyrannical, a common complaint among people in a power struggle. The leader was coward though, not an autarch. He hid behind a series of diseases and disorders that were more than likely fiction, and when it came to significant decisions, he deferred to my judgment, regardless of the fact I was an independent party in their silly online passion play. I understood my position, and the people had a respect for me that I neither deserved nor demanded. Their gaming guild was pathetic, and one that, despite my best efforts to clean up, was doomed to fail within six months if they didn’t stop acting like children. I hated them. I hated all of them, and my fake smile was held up only by the sheer miracle that I was being paid for my assistance. I wished a swift death to their community, as it was a toxic environment that bred everything I couldn’t stand for. I longed for the days where my friends were right there with me; our legion’s influence both unpredictable and powerful, forcing people to question the nature of the world around them. It was a better time. I couldn’t stand to listen to the incessant whining anymore. I clicked the sound off, and sat in silence. There wasn’t a point in announcing my departure. They wouldn’t care anyways.
I had left my Jeep parked in the elementary school’s parking lot 500 feet away. Leaving it alone at night wouldn’t harm it, as this was my old school, and I knew the area better than most. I strolled around the side of the building, staring into the large windows as I passed them. They had the intentional design of being able to see from one end of the building to the other, straight through the upper walkway of the cafeteria. The school was showing its age, but it smelled the same; a mess of weathered brick and mortar, an old library full of books in poor condition, and the rusting sheets of aluminum from the portable buildings fifty feet from the side doors. This was definitely the same place I had been less than fifteen years ago. It brought back bitter-sweet memories of self-worth, from reading to kids in higher grade levels, as well as my first kiss. Things were simpler then, and I longed for a person to communicate my frustration to. They never came. I trudged out to the school playground, past the cracked blacktop of the basketball court. It was a larger than average park; one that kids would drool at out their passenger side windows as they drove by it. In the center was a dome-shaped jungle-gym that reached at least eight feet into the air. I scaled up the hexagonal bars on all fours, recreating my childhood internally in that hope that I could escape the life that had somehow strangled me. I laid there and planned at the top of the dome. Staring into the light polluted sky above me, I realized I couldn’t even see the grandeur of the stars if I wanted to. It had all become hopeless, and I came to terms with the idea of ending my life that night. There was nothing left for me, and not a thing that could bring me joy again. In that moment, I hit my lowest point.
My head hanged low. I leaned up, my hands moving to wipe hot tears from my cheeks. I pulled my shirt collar up, drying my face and clearing my blurry vision. As I pulled my shirt back down, my hand brushed against something small and rectangular in my pocket. I struggled with the object momentarily, having to force it from its now lodged position. It sprang from my pocket with a push of my index finger, and though in the dark I could tell instantly that it was my iPod. The earbuds had been wrapped around the case as usual, and had become tangled in the confines of my pocket. I hated knots, and I decided at once that I had to fix this issue. In the process of untangling, I accidentally hit the “play” button, and the screen illuminated with the image of Disturbed’s album cover for Asylum. I had been listening to the album earlier that evening, and had stuffed the device in my pocket on pause as I left the house. Untying the last knot, I clicked the back key six times from “The Animal”, to “Remnants”. I slid the earbuds deep into my ears, and cranked the volume to a degree that would drown out the noise in my head. The guitar solo ended, and the BOOM of the track change signaled that “Asylum” was starting. I banged my head. Hard. It was all I could do to make the pain subside. It was the only reasonable action, and I committed to it like a ritual. When the song finished, I listened to the next track, “The Infection”. Then the next. Another. When the album finished, I threw on “Indestructible”. Three more albums went by, and when I finished, the sun had begun to creep over the Eastern horizon. I climbed down off the jungle-gym, and began a jog to my car. I had to get home. There was no time to waste on any of these thoughts, anymore. I still had one thing to be grateful for. Disturbed as a band had freed me from bullies in the past. Now they had saved my life once more, by reminding me that I still had something to live for. If I left now, I could never listen to Heavy Metal again. I could never go out and find the person I want to be with. I could never reunite my friends under one roof. I could never recover from my economic depression. I could never inspire someone again. My chest pounded with the words that begin Asylum. They’re two powerful words of defiance, proclaiming one’s will to survive. On my birthday of 2014 , I declared my insecurities, my fears, my weaknesses, and my despair to all…
In Asylum (I live a lie)
I let go
Now it’s dragging me into your grave
For Asylum (Relive a lie)
Overcome by the feeling that I won’t get to join you in time
(without you) this world is not fulfilling me.
On August 31st, 2010, the heavy metal band Disturbed launched their fifth studio album, Asylum, and my world fell apart.
For some time already, the world of this gaming clan leader had been a diagram of the disastrous. The months leading up to such a plateau weren’t much kinder. A disloyal partner, brought on by the need to atone for a deed she felt was a sleight against the almighty. The seeds of doubt and mutiny, growing with tempered aggression in a clan that had long since become content with bureaucratic disinterest. The loss of a job necessary to his own existence, yet so emotionally draining that it pushed him to the brink of suicide, and the fateful night that brought about the cataclysmic chain of events…
I hated 2010. It was a horrible fucking year, and nothing of value happened during it. It was one tragedy after another, and regardless of how I try to look back on it with a positive light, I just keep cringing. Seemingly nothing went right, and the more I tried to fix things, the more people I could count turning away from me. My friends no longer looked to my solutions. Not like I blame them; I was a kid then and more often than not I still feel like it. I was growing up in the wrong aspects, and trying desperately to justify every mistake I made as someone else’s. Morality wasn’t a sliding scale back then, and ethics weren’t a code of conduct I stuck to as guidelines to live my life by. Black and white weren’t colors. They existed as polar opposites on a short spectrum of ideas. In retrospect, being less absolutist during this time would’ve saved many of my friendships, while simultaneously damaging any credibility I had as a decent leader. They didn’t want to step up to the plate, but they didn’t want to watch me do things over their heads anymore. My greatest complaints ranged from being a “tyrant”, all the way up to being titled a “two-faced, hypocritical asshole.” Needless to say, the thin red line was a pretty broad brushstroke on the canvas of my deconstruction. Nothing was accomplished inside our ranks, either. Whether we were stuck in a squabbling match, or lost in the irrelevance of a politically correct dystopia of our own design—it was a nightmare. My admins barely respected me. They looked to me for advice that never came without resistance, and I permitted it. I gave in because I was afraid to make anyone angry. I didn’t want to say no to them. They transformed from peers to paper dolls; fragile, finite sources of entertainment and evidence that I had “done” something. I know now that this was a mistake, as it threw perspective out the window, and replaced it with a magnifying glass. It was a vain attempt to see how they functioned without me. They weren’t ants, and the looking glass I trapped them beneath burned them. I regret it.
It had become evident since the night of the car crash that something wasn’t right. She was incoherent on the way to the hospital, laying on a flimsy gurney, her face drenched in tears. Loose, unending strands of frizzy hair stuck to the sides of her cheeks. The white powder from the airbag had deployed in a distressing manner over her upper chest and neck. Dark bruises from the seat belt began to appear on her collar-bone. It was a miracle that I had not been injured, but a terrifying reality that she had. Riding in the ambulance with the siren on and the light blazing was unsettling enough. Listening to the sobs of my beloved in the back were intolerable though. Still, I was concerned over the snippets of words that were coming through loud and clear. Phrases along the lines of, “I should’ve never left him,” or insulting stabs of “I made a mistake,” all of which being uttered while I was only inches away. I clasped my hand over the center console, biting my tongue to cease my attitude. The driver knew instantly that she wasn’t whimpering about me, but the fuming man she left behind in the apartment mere minutes beforehand. It’s why I chose to drive. She was inconsolable, and feeling like she had betrayed him was now reason enough to cast me aside in her moment of weakness. I blamed her in that moment, and I cursed my own frailty for returning to her open embrace. As we settled into a thin chamber of the emergency room ward, her mother leaned into the hug her daughter. She thanked me casually, and I sat down in a chair in the opposite corner from the bed. Her voice quivering and shaky, she confided in her mother her true feelings.
“Mom, God is punishing me. He’s punishing me for leaving Jay.”
It became abundantly clear that I was not Jay, and that her mother’s gentle head-nods were a way to shut her up so I wouldn’t hear her. It was too late, and the damage had been done. I mourned my loss. Not because I had ended someone’s life; she had long since died inside to become someone else. This was the grief you can only experience at the hands of someone who never truly loved you in the first place. My throat stung with the grip of someone strangling the pathetic nature out of me. No longer did I loathe her for choosing someone else over me. I genuinely hated her for trying to find a place for me in her life, when she knew the only care she had was a pipe-dream. The visions of my happy future with my perfect girl, and my perfect house, and my perfect life all disintegrated in a matter of hours. July fourth was no longer a holiday I could connect to freedom. It was about enslavement. The enslavement of all the time I spent trying to fix things, and sacrifice for a better future. All at once, I knew that for the remainder of our pitiful journey together I would think simply of shackles for her, because she would never see me for anything more than the vessel to ferry her towards household misery.
I wished for a better tomorrow, and my wishes were buried with ashes.
I cried out for self-immolation, and everyone hid the matches.
I called out for the warmth of a friend,
and was warned “it will never end.”
Everything, and everyone you know will ditch, decay, or die.
My crown sat high on the chessboard. I was the king of the black. Around me laid the tools of my success. I played the wrong game.
The first two turns were a merciless assault of one close death after the other. The third and fourth brought to me a mass exodus. The past five turns have been a suffocating, dehumanizing necrosis. Piece by piece I have struggled to maintain some sense of sanity as I slowly descend into this grave. Talent squandered, care devoted to poor choices and poor people, attention constantly diverted toward the stars of systems light-years away. I can’t see around the mirror I’ve put up, and within it lies a hollow boy with little left to grin at, and nothing left to overcome.
Wallowing would be easier to do, if I weren’t too busy withering.
I: I sit a king on the mountain of dirt. My queen watches all and I drive the Lincoln Continental of our victory tour. It’s not to last. The pawns of the board are beginning to flare, and the knights have rallied a mutiny. They take their shot, and I’m left with less than a quarter of my previous squad. Stricken by defeat, the rooks fearfully swarm. They scramble to hide behind the king, forgetting the game and retaining nothing. They have no moves. No rules. No honor. The board turns white, and the last remnants of the black army hold tight to their corner. It’s not a friendly table, anymore.
II: The queen no longer values her kingdom. She removes her crown, and exits the game. The king desperately clings to the last of the pieces. The white army is no longer playing. The board has consumed them, and is now slowly sinking. The king sends pawns to return as queens, knowing it for the suicide mission it is. They return with the power, and none of the will. Their resentment of the king drives them away from his corner. The king attempts to alter the game; a last ditch effort to save what was left of the kingdom. The board just changes direction. The table stays the same.
III: You can change the game, and you can stop being black and white. You can’t remove the red you’ve earned, though. It’s permanently stuck to you, and will eventually be the last trace of you. Unlike black or white, you have to take red. It’s a color of passion, and worse. Red is proof you’ve made victims, and those who smell red come running. Red attracts hyenas, and those same hyenas who were once part of your pack eventually will devour you. I inform them all that I can lead us again. I tell them that I have the ability. I give them assurance, and feed their needs. I don’t supply their food, though. My fatal mistake came too late. When living amongst hyenas, only females can be their leader.
IV: This game is not chess. It’s a grapple with the others for carrion, and the king is now fighting to get across the board for scraps. We no longer see the board. We just see orders, demands, and requests. The game has long since become a bloodsport, and the last animals standing are wandering in circles. The king trips, and falls off the table. On his way down, he is met with visions of other games; these realms are filled with other pieces, cards, and boards that he had never imagined. He just wants to find a game where he fits; one that allows him to take off his crown, and find somewhere that his decisions, and the decisions of others can no longer harm him. He hits the floor.
V: As I regain my footing, I look back up at the table. Suspended miles above the ground, is the island of chaos. Black and white clash as the remaining bishops, pawns, and queens struggle for my crown. I pity them, and I begin the long walk away from the feet of the table. The towering appearance casts a long shadow, and the weight of the world above me begins to lift. It doesn’t lift far, though. The pieces peer over the side of the table, calling my name and urging me to return. Behind them stands a fiery glow. The table is burning, and the ashes are a snowfall on my head. I can’t save them. I can barely recognize them. My words fall on dying ears. The table splinters, and collapses on itself. I approach slowly, and as the dust settles I catch a glimpse of a shattered bottle, and the crushed contents of a cake. The labels hit me in the chest. Scrawled on the two notes are either instructions, or pleas of suicide I had dreamed of for years. They say:
Eat me, Drink me.
I was invited to
A beheading today.
I thought I was a butterfly
Next to your flame.
A rush of panic and
The lock has been raped.
This is only a game,
This is only a game…
Dusk came, and the night brought the appealing prospect of a new beginning.
My hand gripped the wheel tight, becoming an anchor to the shaking sensation that was trying to control my every action. Trembling was not a sign of confidence, and if there was anything I desired at that moment, it was the facade of unfazed arrogance. I played an inspiring song in my head, turning the truck around to face the screen. It was another mistake in a night where oversight was determined to stomp all over my dreams.
I forced my foot to stop tapping; I knew this was a blatant retaliation of my body against my mind. The movie had already started, but it was irrelevant. It wasn’t my focus, nor did it hold the answers I sought. My eyes crept slowly to the right, more than likely in a manner less subtle than I believed it to be. Her top, a cream or pearl shade (I’m terrible with colors), held a mesh screen at its heart; the revealing neckline simultaneously alluring, and provoking to my more carnal desires. The top ended with a thick black belt, giving way to dark azure flairs of smooth cloth. Her legs, both strong and commanding, flowed down into a pair of shoes that tip-toed across my line. These devil-may-care heels were as heavy metal as you could get without stepping into evil territory. Black and studded with the softest of pseudo-spikes; it was her way of showing me she meant business. Very seldom does clothing choice inspire a sense of intrigue, but this ensemble was just good enough to fuck with me in all the wrong ways.
I sat back in my seat, attempting to lean the chair back in the vain hope that I would stop being awkward, and start being both sweet and charismatic. She grinned, the outline of her face glowing brilliantly in the reflective light of the projected screen. Whether it was a cinematic joke or an inner acknowledgement, this jovial moment struck a spark within me, setting ablaze the pyre on which I left my doubts to die.
The center console suddenly became a nucleus; a conduit that juxtaposed the chaos of my sound to the calm of hers. Fingers danced against each other in a ballet of intertwined affection. Eyes locked through lenses of plastic and acid. Her past was a cloudy mystery that gave me hope and hunger; mine, a decade of aggression that was shoved forward by haste and hatred. None of it mattered at that moment. I was lost, clawing softly for just a few more seconds of her warm fingers and delicate tendrils. The movies passed without a hitch. Stimulated by a few shared hours of epic battles and ultra-violence, I turned my eyes to the journey home, angry at nightfall for its brevity, and dawn for its swift approach.
The highway’s blur of grey flew under our feet as the soft blues rhythm of the guitar played over the speakers. Swaying melodies and soft cymbal splashes set the tone and the speed of our comfortably quiet ride. I turned my head slowly, almost trepidantly, towards her. Relaxation encompassed her in both mind and body, as she leaned her head to the side, dozing in peaceful respite. Her chest rose and sank with each breath, as an undeniable spring of relief washed over me. We had a good time, and her moment of security was the only assurance I needed.
As we pulled up to the front drive, her eyes gazed over at me. Beneath her comedic remarks about “being happy she could go to bed”, she grappled with an exhaustive look of gloom on her face. She had a good time, and I knew what she felt. I didn’t want it to pause, and it felt like an act of cruelty to do so. I just wanted her to be close. We walked slowly to her car. Inconsiderately slow. As we reached the driver’s side door, she quickly opened the door and threw her purse like a brick in a riot. Now facing each other at the end of the day’s fun, she turned her gaze up towards me. Lust met a momentary lapse of true happiness, and I graciously accepted this outcome with suppressed elation.
“Lay it on me,” she exclaimed with arms outstretched. Her scent was poison, and in that moment we locked lips for a split second. Mutually surprised by its initial display, we retracted.
“Again?” I asked with a smirk, already instigating a second encounter. She nodded, and we returned to our lock. Tongues met teeth and each other as they moved in playful repetition. When we released, all I was left with was a fading taste of her presence.
As her car slid effortlessly down the street, away from me and my newly found chasm of loss, I walked into the house, and trudged back to my room. As I collapsed on the bed, I stared up at the ceiling, clinging desperately to every single image, sound, scent, and touch of warmth I could recall. I held my phone tight. I couldn’t sleep. I knew I’d miss her if I closed my eyes.
My pain is not ashamed to repeat itself
My pain is not ashamed to repeat itself
My pain is not ashamed to repeat itself
My pain is not ashamed to repeat itself
I can’t sleep until I devour you
I can’t sleep until I devour you
I can’t sleep until I devour you
I can’t sleep until I devour you
and I’ll love you,
if you let me
and I’ll love you,
if you wont make me stop…
As I finished my shift at Cinemark, I quickly grabbed my spare work shirt from my locker and, at the speed of a hushed sprint, bolted for the computer to clock out. It was Friday, and the sooner I could get out the door, the less chance there would be I’d hear the voice of my manager conveniently waiting to catch me leaving so he could guilt-trip me into taking the night-shift as well.
I hit the furthest exit doors I could find, closest to the trash compactor and quite the opposite direction my fearless leader would be. A rush of frigid air hit me in the face, causing a moment of surprise and delight.
I love the cold. It excites every fiber of my being, and pushes me to do new things. As I strode quickly off the sidewalk and onto the pavement, I spotted my Mustang in the distance. The car was a cherry red color, so it wasn’t difficult to spot through a sea of vehicles. I began an awkward dance of weaving through the grid of cars. As I approached the driver’s side door, a glimmer caught the corner of my eye. I turned my head, expecting to see a ridiculously chrome-peppered vehicle, or a reflection off a nearby pedestrian’s attire. What I was met with, was the brightly-lit form of a man, illuminated by a street-light at the edge of the parking lot. His head was bowed, staring at the shiny object in his hand. The tiny spark that averted my eyes was no more than a ring, but to him it was worse than a wound. I clicked the button on the Mustang’s door handle, using an unreasonable sense of caution to avoid catching his eye. Quietly, I took a seat in the driver’s chair and instantly adjusted the outside mirror for a better view.
Whether I was swift, or he was lost in the catacombs of recollection, he remained in place. I sat mystified, attempting to understand the thought pattern of the man. He was clearly at the edge of this parking lot for a reason, and whatever it was, a movie was not on the agenda. He relaxed for a moment, his hand closing around the trinket. As he leaned back against his truck, he turned his head upwards. He withdrew once again to his mind, an apparent frustration now rising with each heave of his chest. He turned around to the door, opened it quickly, climbed in, and sat down.
Lost for a moment in the shadow of the cabin, I resigned myself to the idea that the scene was over. I was soon proven incorrect, as the outline of his face appeared in the illumination of his phone’s screen. He was unmistakably chatting on his speaker phone, and from the exaggerated movements observed, it was clear that he was distraught. His hands turned to talons; he flailed wildly in multiple directions, all while his head shook and jerked back in disgust. He put his head in his palms, rocking back and forth in furious exasperation. His hands moved to the screen, jabbing the smartphone’s face in frantic desperation. A careless toss of the device told me that his patience was gone, along with the caller, and whatever he was doing there in the first place was about to become evident.
I recognized instantly his expression upon exiting the truck. It was the mask of lovelorn rage; the composite mix of betrayal and defeat, coupled with the sting of loss. I had experienced such an event before, and it had left me in the same agonizing state. The feeling of content belonging had been stripped, and replaced with a miasma of confusion and despair which now clawed at him like a rabid animal. His future was suddenly capsized, and in its place was the absence of trust. Never again would this moment come to pass. From this point on, planning would be the only love he embraced.
Safety. Certainty. Probability.
This would be his anchor, and assurance. He would never let such a crippling story come to fruition again, and for the rest of his days, a wall would begin building in place of the faith he once willingly granted. Too much had been lost; the time for wasting had been spent, and his next encounter would be a hunt, not a collision. Within that one moment, many absolutes had been determined, and all of them pointed to a single exit: the driver’s side door.
He leapt from the vehicle, fists balled. Now was not the time for words. No poetry could undo the damage. No melody of love lost could repair the rift. This time was meant for action, and the action was severance. Emotionally drained, his hate took hold. He dared not chance a second look at his oppressor, his clenched fist was the only shield he had from his mistakes. With a sigh of grim apprehension, he turned to the black. Bitterness drew back his arm. Resentment cradled him in its numbing embrace, adding power and reason to his actions. Grief steadied his hand; this was not a task for the weak. Shame enveloped him, and all at once the small, circular shackle was cast out, vanishing immediately into the night.
And here I sit, hand on the telephone
Hearing the voice I’d known
A couple of light years ago
Headed straight for a fall
At some point, you’re going to sink.
It’s inevitable, and you shouldn’t attempt to save yourself from that moment. Why not avoid devastation? Because you need this sobering moment to face a mirror and view yourself the way you would’ve five, ten, even twenty years ago. There will come a time when you will become unrecognizable to your former self, and it’s at this moment that a change occurs. Whether it’s innocence lost or morality reclaimed, a chapter closes when you glimpse what the past has wrought. I recently gained a sense of clarity thought dead for ten years.
There was a journal. In my sophomore year of high school, I entered the “Introduction to Psychology” course. My teacher, who was quite the insightful metal-head, held in high regard the personal records of all his students. At the end of every day of class we would be instructed to chronicle our emotions, fears, and beliefs in this notebook that was meant to be a haven of privacy, and a bubble of inner dialogue. It was a success, as my classmates and I spent our time furiously scribbling away in it. My section for morals and ethics though, looks surprisingly unlike a column I would write today.
In my mid-teens, I was significantly more of an optimist than in current days. Throughout my four years of losing the mass of innocence I started with, I held it self-evident that all people should be respected for who they are and what they believe in. There was no doubt in my mind that good and bad are absolutes, that are completely dependent on each person’s nature and nurture. I never questioned that “in the real world”, every person who was on your team was working their hardest to accomplish a common objective, or believed in the greater good of a project or task. I believed that if you were the best at something, then you were the prime candidate.
These tenets all have one trait in common:
Not all people should be respected. You could hold that up as a grand standard to dealing with anyone, but you would be lying to yourself and anyone you preach it to. We’re all human, and despite how much you might self-righteously claim to respect all people for who they are, some people have codes of conduct and honor that have deteriorated so much that they’re more comparable to animals, begging to only sustain the most fundamental empty desires of blood and flesh. It’s okay to not respect everyone. Some people just don’t deserve it. They think so lowly of everyone around them, that you would still be thinking higher of them than they of you. Just remember there are lines that separate them from you, and those lines must be upheld. Respect is earned, not given.
Regardless of what you believe, a person’s morality can be shifted slightly north or south of the status quo. Powerful feelings get in the way. Feelings that complicate the process and can cause people to commit terrible acts on their behalf. Feelings that can bring out bravery in one who never thought it possible. Great notions can lead to heroic deeds, but can alternatively lead to disaster. Passion, greed, animosity, selflessness, and pride; all accidents in the grand schism of good and bad, and claiming absence to their existence in the formation of a person is a simple and efficient way to make the world appear to be less than it is.
Not everyone is climbing the ladder at the same pace you are. Some people are sitting on the ladder, waiting for something magical to happen. Others are climbing back down, too afraid of how much further they have to climb, or what they found when they got there. Some are breaking out the rungs as they climb, trying viciously to prevent their peers from ever getting a foot-up in their lives. Finally, there are a select few sitting at the bottom of the ladder with a set of matches, ready to burn the whole thing down when they feel everyone else has gone too far.
If you have done your job right, you may not be enough. If you have filled out every checklist to the best of your abilities, you might only be good. Even if you surpass all your rivals, triumph over every challenge, and leap over every hurdle, you might only be satisfactory. “Best” and “favorite” are strange terms to throw around, and they are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes, you need something a little extra to push past people’s expectations. Tragically enough, sometimes different beats strong. Whether or not you can accept that will undoubtedly change you. I will tell you that success is not measured by numbers though. How victorious you feel can only be measured by how much punishment you’re willing to take, and if you’re able to endure.
Do yourself a favor. When you finally get a look at yourself, stare hard. You’ll realize I’m not lying, and everything you thought you knew about yourself snuck out the back door with your original ambitions. Once you’ve had enough, smash your fucking internal mirror. It is possible to forgive yourself and like who you are, even if you don’t like everything about what you’ve transformed into. In fact, you might think it an odd transition and joke about how you would’ve looked down upon yourself years ago.
I believe I would look strange to my former self.
I’ve become a fairly cynical, remotely unsuccessful, passive-aggressive, callous, selfish, vulgar, vengeful, ethically-challenged smart-ass with a talent for everything in the field of nothing. I’m an acute observer of the irreducibly obtuse, and a realist cursed with idealism. I’m stricken by hope in an age where I’ve already taught myself to abandon it all. I scorn the hero with bad intentions, and revere the villain with a conscience. I think peace is a bitter mask for belligerence, while war is an ideal ending for antagonists. I think the pen is mightier than the sword, unless you HAVE a sword, in which case use that. I’m intimidating to others; tragically, it’s my kindness that makes people uncomfortable. I’m Frankenstein’s monster without the facade, I’m a religious metal-head with no god, and I can’t get behind what I do when I’m always in my own way. I’ve led my herd to a slaughterhouse, and I beat a dead horse until blood paints the walls, all while having a field day in a desert.
I’m going to break my mirror now. I guess I was just tired of wallowing comfortably in a jacuzzi of my own-self loathing.
So crucify the ego, before it’s far too late
And leave behind this place so negative and blind and cynical
And you will come to find that we are all one mind
Capable of all that’s imagined and all conceivable
Happy 2014, children.
While I constantly receive the urge to write, I admit that over the past year I have grown so critical of my own work that I refuse to hit “publish” until I am absolutely sure it’s perfect. Then, once I am satisfied and have pressed the button I enter a panicked frenzy where I’m caught second-guessing every other line, and quotation as sounding too cliché or simply idiotic. It’s a new year though, so I should probably resolve to stop doing that.
…Or are resolutions too cliché?
The good news is that I haven’t run short on things to observe in my mundane existence, and I still feel obligated to throw war-paint all over them in order to get my point across. I should hit pretty close to home for some of you today, and I’d like to think there are many people who are not only familiar with this epidemic, but loathe it to the extent that I do.
Life as we know it is a never-ending grind through monotonous tasks, plastered smiles, and fleeting climaxes all gift-wrapped as the “experience of a lifetime“. We’re all stuck together in a system that dances circles like the hands on a clock, and much like the clock you can go insane from taking too hard of a look at it. That moment turns into an excruciatingly cruel reminder of why it is that people take vacations, and why therapists exist. However, for that unlucky crowd of isolated units who don’t have their own handful of happiness, or a vice to drown out that emptiness- life is just their own personal tale as Sisyphus.
It’s one thing to be able to look at the world around you from an emotional gutter. The world seems like a utopia that you’re barred from, where you’re forced to face a sea of pairs, being carried effortlessly upwards towards some golden skyline. It’s an entirely different issue altogether to turn towards your small corner of the world, and view one of your own throwing happiness at you like a trophy.
The first world we inhabit is not a cooperative community, where we strive to flourish as a whole and better ourselves. It’s not even a large raft where we’re all fighting for survival in a chaotic sea while trying to keep each other afloat. Our world has become a vast ocean where millions of tiny islands dot the surface mere inches from one another. It’s a lonely grid where everyone is close enough to reach out and touch each other, but tragically lack the companionship and altruism required to bring others closer to them.
As an adult, you’re forced to confront the fact no one is there to help you. You’re on your own, and people feel the need to consistently remind you of this. Upon leaving high-school, an image is drilled into your head of what you have to earn. It’s a terrible, uninspiring image that few should ever consider. The “American Dream“, a picture so grim that Philip K. Dick made it a tragedy in all of its banal glory in A Scanner Darkly. In retrospect, my entire childhood was based around a loosely translated panorama of the 1950’s where the perfect family unit sits together watching their first color TV and dreaming of a world where technology makes all their fantasies come to life.
The reality could be no further from the truth. My ever-shrinking list of family and friends have turned into a social-media propaganda squad, whose only apparent mission is to rise higher than the rest of their peers. This sad portrait is repeated daily like a chore, where they exchange hollow pleasantries momentarily before unfurling a new list of pseudo-achievements to gloat over. When they exhaust their reserve of words for their success, they quickly switch to a bulky slideshow of recently recorded personal victories, as they cluster together with acquaintances and strangers to paste a smile on and show off the exotic places and strange attractions they’ve visited. It’s a cruel injustice to this amazing planet that we live on, that we’ve become so obsessed with capturing the perfect moments on camera that we’ve completely neglected to take part in, or savior them.
I no longer crave the loud, and crowded parties where seemingly popular people gather to have the time of their lives. I care not for the three-piece suit and the slick appearance of being a hotshot in a trade with no character and no mind of my own. I can’t picture the group of friends locked shoulder-to-shoulder in brotherly and sisterly affection. I don’t buy the millions of photos depicting happy couples locked in a tender kiss. I don’t believe that anyone who engages in this ritualistic, digital sadomasochism ever receives the pleasure they seek from it.
Our world will share a common regret when everyone stops competing for who can look the prettiest for the longest amount of time. I sincerely hope that someday soon people begin trying to write their story in ink, and stop standing still in the hopes that someone will paint it for the ages to gawk at and admire. You should not be impressed by those around you who actively seek to set a “life-example” for you to follow. As young as I am, I’ve come to realize that life is much less of a hassle when you don’t take it too seriously.
It’s also a lot less cruel when you stop wishing to appear happy, and actually start being happy.
Because it’s a great big white world
And we are drained of our colors
We used to love ourselves,
We used to love one another