Friday, January 12, 2018

We Are All What Everyone Has Ever Done To Us

(Content Warning: Before you read any further, I just want to say that what follows is a non-fiction retelling of various life experiences that both myself and those I know went through. Because of that, there is, and I don't say this lightly or jokingly, a lot of objectionable material. I have kept things honest and truthful in how they happened in real life, so please bear in mind that over the course of these posts, there will be accurate re-tellings of substantial instances of; racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, other forms of bigotry, sexual assault, rape, bullying, violent assault, self-harm, depression, suicide, drug use and abuse, alcohol abuse, hospitalization, and various examples of trauma. Language is rarely censored. Please keep that in mind if you choose to continue. The last thing I want to do is cause any additional pain or discomfort. Starting from the words "Part 1" a few paragraphs down, you are reading what can and does involve all of these warnings. Thank you.)

This is a lengthy blog post, although not anything close to a novel, involving a bit of exercising of demons, of coming to peace with certain things I did, I saw, and I saw others have happen. As all things, you're choosing to read this through the author's lense and then whatever you bring to it, and I've chosen things that I feel contribute to the overall narrative (if one exists). You're left to decide on your own if my selection of experiences and people and moments I choose to share is fair or not. Maybe that's not the point. Maybe there never was.

What follows is mostly a series of anecdotes starting when I was in elementary school and running up until present day. There is no overarching plot, not a lot of recurring characters (other than myself and a few friends), and no narrative framing or devices other than me just confessing. Maybe I missed the heyday of confessional blog posts when they seemed to be all the rage about 10 years ago. But then again, all writing is confessional. Even if you write about elves and orcs and wizards, you are imbuing what you create with your values and interests and desires and then asking the world to pay money to embark on reading it. Maybe we're all egoists. Maybe none of us are. Maybe that's not the point (again).

No matter how much or how little you read of this, whether you love or hate or feel indifferent, I'd like to thank anyone and everyone who has ever come to this very, very tiny corner of the internet. All I can promise about what follows is that it is honest. Names have been changed, and locations are unspecific, and I bumped a grade around a bit here and there for anonymity (a 5th grade story might have really been 4th, etc.), but about 95% of this is portrayed as happened. Whether or not that means anything is up to you.

Monday, January 8, 2018

If Only We Could Exchange Our Parking Validation for Something More Personal

The ticket gets spit out of a machine and then you take into a nearby business and ask them to validate it and it's so simple, they stamp it and its existence has been justified and now you park for free.

After work the couple complains about their job and they're all trying to get each anecdote in and after 15 years of marriage neither one really listens to the other but they're just looking to get validated, to have someone hear their story and maybe, just maybe, they can park for free.

Someone on Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook writes a 5,000 word post about something bad that happened to them and it gets 2 likes and a sad face emote, 1 retweet, and 3 reblogs. You could try to print this off as a receipt and say it grants you authoritative status, or at the very least free parking, but the person in the ticket booth just stares at you and asks for your actual ticket.

If you're quiet and never spill secrets you can collect the complaints all of your friends have for one another and then try to validate them all while not talking bad about anyone. It doesn't matter. The complaints plow onward.

At some point almost everyone in life tries to write something and then get it out there and let an immoral, money-obsessed free market driven entirely by advertising culture's pernicious effect on our brain and corporate preference choose which one amidst the millions is lucky enough to get a glossy cover and a spot at the local bookstore that is going out of business. Every year, 1000s of amazing things are written. Nobody ever reads them, and the authors go back to their day job where they validate parking tickets.

The old cards and photos and the like sit on your nightstand and you can validate a memory by replaying it and just like that it's over. Between drinks you might share it with someone who remembers it differently. Then you might start forgetting it. The ink has worn off the ticket. Your first few cars have already broken down.

On your death bed you might say you wished you worked less. The paycheck you received was what you had been told was the ultimate validation. It got you the camera, the car to park, the dinner at the business where they stamped your ticket. You could have not worked so much but that time would have just been filled by duplicitous attempts to put yourself out there and be validated.

The family nods as you tell them this, realizing that the wisdom you have bestowed upon them is true. Your eyes close for the last time.

Your 16 year old granddaughter goes back to her first job. While not in school, she sits in a small, under heated booth, perched under the roof of a 5 story parking ramp, validating the tickets of the people who come in and hope to have a good time, and leave wondering if, in the end, it was all worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Number Shift

Someone will tell you the new year is arbitrary. Someone will tell you it's not. Someone will ask if you have goals. Someone will tell you over 60% of them fail (some report even higher failure rates). Maybe you'll have spent the last two weeks with family, or friends, or office parties, or even media, bombarded with takes and suggested virtue and opinions and help that you might just hope isn't too demeaning, too presumptive, too cold, too distant. Maybe it's fitting then that it all comes in winter, when all things are too cold and distant. Maybe you'll drink and maybe you won't, maybe you'll pray and maybe you won't, maybe you'll eat luxurious food and maybe you won't, maybe you'll download an astrology app, or a dating app (New Years brings a massive spike in traffic for all of them from every demographic and culture), maybe you'll think about it all too much or not enough. Some will treat it like a birthday - another sign of passing time - others as rebirth, not an extension thereof. Through all these experiences, people will look for a cohesive answer, a reassuring sign, analysis, framework, catchphrase, a simple source of comfort that can be banked and relied on when most of us are just running around and trying to make the most of systems far too complex to understand. But there is no answer, no elegant solution to existence, no one-size-fits-all new years solution, referendum, annotation, no way to frame the upcoming year in a way that makes things work out, cohesively, every time. The ball drops in 10 seconds, the TV announcer is half a second ahead on the countdown, and then we're all left with "what now." The same as any other year. Coffee will be on the stove tomorrow at 7.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

I Don't Ask For Much

"I don't ask for much." She says that while her and another close family member argue over a photo, over misrepresentation, over identity, over values. The latter will win and the former will fight back tears and everything for the rest of the day will be awkward so hiding away becomes the best option. And nobody wants to litigate or re-litigate old wounds but so many things have been internalized and nobody knows how to say no to a child or a parent or a friend or a boss and in this case we're all just searching for an identity, for 20 something years I was a ghost who rolled over and did whatever anyone ever told me, I had no sense of self. It is a small thing, this photo, but it speaks to something more; giving support doesn't give you rights over someone but the family member who protested the photo receives financial support from the other and struggles with saying 'no' as if it does mean she owes her, as if everything has a transactional basis, relationships are a ledger, if a friend or lover or family member does something nice you have to repay. That is not how things work and quickly becomes a cynical, amoral competition but it's still hard because one person is almost crying now, and I don't know anything, because for 18+ years I was led to water by family, choosing my classes, my clothes, my friends, my food, my values, protest falling on deaf ears, and nobody wants to step on anyone's toes or hurt feelings or drag anyone, surely I have failed and criticism from family members could be pasted on my forehead until it grew out like a horn, but at the same time at some point we have to be ourselves and represent our selves how we wish to be seen. And maybe it's just a photo but it's also a statement and we're all struggling on when to suck it up or when not to, when to say no or not to, when to criticize or not to, life is full of doing things we don't like, but then whose 'don't like' reigns supreme, when is a value worth compromising or not? And it all comes to a screeching and painful, awkward silence when the situation is punctuated by "I don't ask for much." Maybe that's our problem. None of us ever do.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Small Things at Year End

It's 6:17 AM and your alarm goes off in 43 minutes so you check it every 5 minutes or so and pretend to assume that it's much closer to 7 than it is to try to reward your brain with more time before you get up.

You try to hold your steering wheel with your wrists so that you can place your hands close to the heat vents in order to thaw the numbing effect of stepping into a 15 degree car.

You put a jacket on when you go to the basement to do laundry because the basement is perpetually cold in winter and this early in the morning your body is still adjusting to coming out of 4 layers in bed.

You practice a million speeches in your head you're going to give to your family when the holiday gatherings come along and something happens you don't like but in the end you'll be too timid and will simply ask someone to pass the ham.

You convince yourself multiple days that it's either earlier than you think or later than you think because of how dark it is but it really is truly 8am or 5pm.

You'll try to use New Years as a chance to look forward but instead you'll use it as a chance to look back and instead of on small victories it'll be on defeats and regrets.

You'll fear some arbitrary decennial cutoff getting closer whether it's 20 or 30 or 40 or or or...

You'll go to bed after all of this and wake up the next morning and do the same things.