Who Needs Pictures of the Alps When You Can See The Real Thing?

The last few weeks have been all about life goals – I need to start up an organization intersecting disability and mental health! I need to create an umbrella with built-in UV lamps! I need to see Alaska in summer to pretend I know how the Alps live when in reality I’m just visiting their glorified vacation home, because winter in northern Alaska is when all da shit gets real… wait, I just called them Alps! I’m sorry for my disgression; and if you’re an Alaska native – Yupik, Inuit, or Alaskan Athabaskan, for instance – and you’re reading this, you have every right to hate me, close out of this page, or… whatever it is you need to do.


Anyway… what was I saying?


Oh, yeah… life goals! At some point in my life (doesn’t matter when), I need to take a vacation to Switzerland. Maybe there, I can breathe European mountain air for the first time in my life. Maybe I can have the opportunity to see a completely different way of life than mine! Or… or… or maybe… I can see what it’s like to live in a land known for its neutrality, despite being in the middle of everything.


I’m in the middle of everything.


Smack dab in the middle of a city I actually don’t care for all that much. Smack dab in the middle of a job search that has taken years and years and years for me to take even the smallest of steps forward. Smack dab in the middle of therapists, job coaches, and organizations that are all trying to help me get better in different ways. Smack dab in the middle of two people I love with all of everything but who can’t love each other. Smack dab in the middle of political views, religious views, and every kind of view that seems to be tearing America apart lately.


Smack. Freaking. Dab.


My therapist once told me that the autism in me makes me feel the need to fix things that appear to be broken. I can see where she’s coming from; if you’re in the middle of something and it goes wrong – be it a project, a friend group, or a damn good song – you want it to be fixed. And since people on the spectrum tend towards obsessing over the little technicalities sometimes without being able to just step back, see the big picture, and logically figure the problem out, I see what she means.


How do I feel about that?


Frantic enough to mumble things that don’t even make sense. Let down enough to shout “Fuck you!” at Jesse Lacey and his stupid Soco Amaretto Lime. Broken enough to sob endlessly to a playlist of inspirational songs for the year on repeat, because hey at least it helps get the feelings out there. Ashamed enough to get exasperated with myself for constantly writing blog posts that make me look like I have no positive outlook on life. Tired enough to crawl into bed, snuggle with a paper plate that held this evening’s leftover pizza dinner and an almost-empty bag of cyinamon toast crunch cereal and sleep until half past one this afternoon.


  1. Feel. Glorious.


“You do?” you ask. “Really? Sounds to me like you’re being sarcastic! Or… maybe just losing it. You know what they do with crazy people, don’t you?”


“Oh, what do you know? Shut up and let me sleep!” I mumble at you, my face firmly planted in my pillow – but wait, it just hit me that nobody has said any of these things to me, and “You” is just a character I’ve made up in my head to complain about me… so, I guess you can say I’m complaining about myself and hiding it behind a veil of imagining it to be your responses to… some may call this writing. Either way, I’m probably overthinking this and should probably get to sleep. I’m also probably hugely ripping off Furiously Happy and should probably apologize for my lack of disgression.


“You’re also saying probably way, way, way too much,” You points out. “And you also just used the wrong verb conjugation, man – seriously, and you call yourself a writer?”


But what You will never know – ha, I used the right conjugation that time – is that feeling glorious isn’t always a Hallmark happy feeling.


Sometimes, “glorious” is the taste of chocolate cake on your fifth birthday, the first warm day of spring, or a mountain view from the window of a landing airplane. “Glorious” could also be the sweat on your face after a long walk in the summer heat. “Glorious” can be the pounding in your head the morning after a long night with friends. “Glorious” is admitting that you make mistakes, and maybe you ain’t really all that perfect… but every imperfect night’s tomorrow might be a best day of your life.


Glorious is imperfection. It’s raw, it’s loose, and it’s so distinctly human—


We are glorious.


You are glorious.


And if it takes losing your mind for the night, falling asleep to the robin outside your window at 4:00 AM, or creating your own metaphorical Switzerland to escape an argument for a while, then… do it!


Be glorious you.

Today, I think I’ll…

After a break-up, it’s hard to except that there could be a life after love. You can’t MoveOn, because you’re so caught up in the maelstrom of guilt, Second guesses, and sometimes third, fourthand fifth guesses. All of a sudden, you begin to see your relationships in Color – your friendships actually matter, you start reaching out to people again after a while, and your broken relationships suddenly seem much more sinister and scary than they were before – but you feel trapped, too powerless to do anything about it.


But here’s the weird part… I dumped her.


So why am I struggling so much? Why, if I’m the one to make that decision to move on, has a taken me so long to get to a place where I can at least think a little clearly? Why has it taken me over a month to even begin to make sense of this?


The break up itself was maybe one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. Here was somebody I cared deeply about, somebody I wanted to be friends with for a long, long time – and I was getting ready to tell her that this beautiful, romantic relationship we were supposed to have… Well… It just wasn’t. In a few agonizing minutes, I love you became I can’t love, I want to grow old with you became I feel old without you, and something good became something all good and fucked up.


I was a mess. I alternated, sometimes radically, between a blubbering mess and a hopeful but still subdued wreck. I felt I didn’t deserve companionship of any kind, because all I could do was mess it all up. I started looking for psychiatrists, I got in connection with the autism Society of Minnesota, I even broke down and called a crisis connection hotline in the area One hot Friday night….


But it wasn’t enough.


I knew it wasn’t. Even in my desperation, I knew it wasn’t. There was something I could do, something just beyond my comprehension that was just failing to register with me that was probably staring me right in the face this entire time, and I couldn’t figure it out. Even after talking to everyone in my family that I hadn’t really given a second thought in months, I still felt alone. I became, in my own eyes, a waste – not even able to withdraw for 24 hours from my feelings of sorrow, emptiness, and…


Last summer, I had a job. Well, in a manner of speaking, it was a job. Basically, I was enrolled at a work integration program at Goodwill Easter Seals – a program that I thought would be worth my time to try and network with other people – but really, it ended up being me doing a bunch of factory work. I worked there for six weeks before I finally got the hell out. I felt as though I wasn’t being held accountable, and I felt like “that blind guy” on display—“Oh, look at how quickly that guy straightens shoes! I’d never be able to do that! Oh, you’re such an inspiration! You’ll go so far, I know you will! Just believe in yourself, that you can do anything and…”


And actually… that really helped.


It helped me get through two months of living at home once again. It gave me a slightly better self-image. My ex became my best friend, and we remained that way. I moved into a nice little studio apartment and decided I’d use my writing to become a mental health advocate – and a fat lot of good that would do if I couldn’t get rid of my writers’ block. I started volunteering. I was keeping busy with life’s sorted affairs. I built my relationships back up with my good friends.


In a word, I started getting better.


Why was I not writing all this down?


Truth be told, I started writing this particular rant almost a year ago. I’d feel inspired enough to pick it up, not know what to say after five minutes of writing, and put it back down for another six or so weeks – maybe more, if I pretended life was chaotic enough. I’m the kind of guy who writes things down; and sometimes, I have to leave it hanging for a while.


I don’t like it. I don’t want it. I have a voice, so why don’t I use it? I have a way with words, so why don’t I always know it? What use is a half-formed thought to anyone?


Then again, what use is dwelling on a half-formed thought to anyone? What would happen if I let my thoughts run their course and focus on the ones that are in my head?


Maybe something could come of them. Maybe the old thoughts could resurface, and I could finish them at long last. Maybe I’d actually get something written, for a change. Maybe the appropriate evolutions will occur that will give pigs the ability to fly – who knows? Anything goes, and it’s better to believe in myself than to believe myself a fool for not walking a straight line.


So… where does that leave me?


Sitting in a car outside the grocery store one hot July afternoon, the sun beating down through the sunroof on my head of freshly-cut hair, finally able to dictate a few thoughts on the tumult of the summer into my phone—


Sitting in my parents’ basement of an evening in mid-October, half-reclined in a moth-eaten old chair my parents claim to be holding for my sisters’ ex-boyfriend, wondering if I should call someone to drag me out of my thoughts—


Sitting in my apartment, windows and blinds locked against the brutal mid-December cold, sipping half-heartedly from a cup of coffee on the floor at my feet, wishing I had the motivation to write something, get up and put on some music… or at least enough money to buy an endtable—


Sitting in the side yard of my apartment building on a warm and cloudy spring evening, pulling up weeds by the stems and listening to the birds go about their various suppertime rituals, occasionally running thought segments together with short sentences and a few vaguely written words–


Sitting behind the receptionist desk at NAMI one foggy May morning, waiting for the phone to ring, desperately sipping my coffee in a half-asleep attempt to wash away the cobwebs of little-to-no sleep the night before, mulling over every conversation with every friend I’ve had this weekend, looking for something – anything – to break this writers’ block—


I’m going to finish this.


I swear, I’ll finish this.


I must finish this.


I’ll try to finish this.


I think I’ll finish…

I Still Believe

December 25, 1998 dawned as all winter days dawned in Minnesota – cold, snowy, and probably windy; some of us might call it “perfect weather for Santa”.


My three-year-old sister and my six-year-old self felt pleasantly warm and appropriately giddy as we woke up at 5:00 in the morning to sneak out to the living room to see what “Santa” had brought us. I remember being perplexed as to why the stuff in the living room was unwrapped – all the wrapped presents were downstairs – but for some reason, I remember the cautious excitement oozing from my sister as she directed my attention to a child-sized rocking horse in the middle of the room. We each took a turn testing it out while innocently speculating on who the gift was for, only to be caught out by my parents.


When we woke up – that is to say, when our parents finally allowed us to run out into the living room again – we discovered that the milk and cookies we had set out for Santa had gone. Better yet, I found a brailled note from Santa himself thanking us all for the delicious treats. The toy room had somehow, overnight, attained a new toybox, a pop-up tent, and a massive exercise ball that I obsessed over for the next several months. To cap it all, some family friends of ours took time out of their Christmas to dress up as Santa Claus and one of his elves and actually come to see us, jingle bells and all. I mean… there wasn’t a sleigh, nor was there eight tiny reindeer… but it was Santa. And he knew Braille. And he knew what kind of toys I liked.


That. Was. Awesome.


Four years later to the day, I woke up to my mom smoothing my bedcovers and dumping food into my guinea pig’s food bowl. My mind was heavy with sleep, but it didn’t take long for me to wake up enough to ask my mom, in a drowsy voice, if Santa had come yet.


“Yep, he did,” she softly reassured me. My five-year-old brother was starting to wake up, now; of course, the moment he heard that Santa had come, he acted just as excited as I felt. This time, I had slightly more self-control; I waited until my mom had gone to sleep before sneaking out to the present pile. This time, Santa didn’t show up on Christmas Day, nor did our toy room get an awesome makeover like it did four years ago; but I still got cool toys. And Santa still took the time to write me a braille note thanking me for the milk and cookies… so I was happy.


The following Easter, I got some pretty awful news: Santa was a fairy tale, and it was really my father putting on a charade all those Christmas mornings. I was eleven by now, and mature enough to recognize what my dad was trying to do for us. In retrospect, I should have realized that my dad learning Braille as I was going into first grade and receiving that magical note from Santa might not have been a coincidence, or that Santa magically knew my obsession for tape-recorders and talking toys, or that he never actually went down the chimney since we didn’t have a fireplace. The warning signs were pretty obvious, but that didn’t stop me from feeling heartbroken.


And December… would never be the same again.


As a teenager, December meant stress. My parents were stretched to their limits, what with routy children, financial issues, and the anxiety brought by slippery roads and subzero wind chills. It meant hoping against hope that I wouldn’t be confined to cleaning for long stretches at a time with no clue how to manage my younger siblings. It meant high tensions, high anxiety, and endless hours of withdrawing to my room in order to keep myself from adding to my parents’ stress levels. It meant hoping, more than anything, that Christmas would hurry up and get here so things could go back to normal.


In college, December was depressing. It meant unplowed routes to class, subzero mornings, and hours of studying for finals. It meant – though I wasn’t completely aware of it – the onset of seasonal depression. Every sappy, sentimental Christmas song was a reminder of how alone and misunderstood I felt… or maybe that’s precisely what pop culture wants single twenty-somethings to feel during the holidays and I fell right into their web of psychological manipulations – either one is applicable here.


Still, every long December had its Christmas. For every night spent trying to ignore the high level of stress in my parents’ house, a Christmas song would play on the radio and remind me to keep looking forward. For every night spent locked up in a college dorm studying for finals, there would always be a cute holiday story on Facebook to lift my mood. Even as a 20-something adult, I still look forward to seeing extended family for the first time since Christmas the year before; and on the big day itself, I still wake up on time to sneak out to the present pile beneath the tree and to savor the sentimental feeling my parents put into making the magic in every Christmas happen.


And then came December 2016; and suddenly, in true Hallmark movie fashion, everything changed.


This time, December meant the end of an incredibly trying year full of depression, heartbreak, and writer’s block. It meant reaching a brand new appreciation of myself – coming to terms with my mental health, understanding my slight autism spectrum disorder, and learning that I didn’t have to be so hard on myself. It was the one-year mark since I connected with a long lost friend who came to be one of the most important people in my life. It meant learning that, even when you feel as though things couldn’t possibly get any worse, life can still get better.


In the days leading up to Christmas, my close friend and I watched a couple of Christmas movies related to Santa Claus. At first, I saw only the sentiment of my friend showing me her favorite Christmas movies growing up; but then, I realized that all the movies we managed to watch featured Santa Claus – magical, jolly old Santa Claus – doing something miraculous for the other main characters on Christmas Day.


Then there were the Santa stories… everything from Facebook pictures of old high school acquaintances’ children sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall to a fabricated news story about Santa making a visit to a terminally ill child in the hospital. Hell, I even stumbled on an article discussing the psychology of “lying to your children” about the existence of Santa Claus. Some stories were touching, others downright ridiculous.


Then, of course, there was my 22-month-old niece. This is the first time she has started grasping the concept of Santa Claus… or at least, she can identify him in pictures. Last night, while my father was performing his yearly ritual of reading ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas outloud before we went to bed, she did what was probably the most heart-warming thing I’ve ever seen a toddler her age do – point out every single picture of St. Nicholas and shout, “Papa, look! It’s Santa!”


And to add more realism to the legend, they now have an app that tracks the progress of Santa and his reindeer across the skies (I’m pretty sure it reported him somewhere in Montana when I finally went to bed).


OK, so maybe there isn’t a morbidly obese man with a ridiculously long beard who flies a magic sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Sure, there may be no such thing as a toy factory within a hundred miles of the north pole.


That doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t exist.


He lives in the minds of thousands of small children as they open their bleary eyes on Christmas morning. He worked through the hands of their parents and loved ones as they did everything – anything – they could to make Christmas special for their kids, no matter their monetary circumstance. He speaks through the songs and stories passed on through countless cultures and generations. He cares from the hearts of millions of men in malls who took time out of their day to dress up in a sweltering suit just to be there to listen to every child’s Christmas wishes.


I’m almost 25 years old. I’ve graduated from college. I live on my own.


And I still believe in Santa Claus.

Grasping To Control

Last week, I participated in a motivational call with Anuradha Kamath, an expert on health and wellness from India. She spent a good hour and a half discussing the idea of finding your own happiness, and some of her words of wisdom were easily worthy of becoming a famous quote – if they haven’t already. The one that really stuck with me was: “Don’t let your life events control you; take control of them yourself.”


Uh… how the hell do you do that?


Recently, I’ve been a complete basket case. I felt miserable most of the time. I was jaded, I was lost, and I had no idea what would come next. I’d have massive mood swings – one moment I was happy, the next I was pissed. I was at a constant loss for words, and I didn’t know how to communicate. I’d ask my friend a question and he’d hear something completely different from what I actually said. I’d go through periods of sadness and apathy so intense that they would tire me out, only to follow it up with a couple weeks of half-assed contentment with my one-dimensional life. I’ve had such a severe case of writers’ block that I failed to write anything of value since the middle of March. I can never seem to find the energy to care how I appear in public. I feel dead tired after a decent night of sleep, and nothing can seem to reverse it.


At the end of 2014, I had a similar problem, but under completely different circumstances. I was living and educating in Minneapolis, a nearly alien city to me. I had a roommate that got on my every nerve from nearly the first week on out, and I hung out with all the wrong people. It was the very end of fall, so I interpreted it as a seasonal disorder. After all, I always got a bit depressed near the end of the calendar year when I was growing up, so why should this be any different?


Except this time, it’s springtime. We have had plenty of nice days scattered throughout the past couple of months. I’ve even spent the past several afternoons outside on the half-finished back patio of the house I live in, trying to shove this writers’ block aside.


But I couldn’t do it.


I finally broke down and visited a walk-in counseling center in south Minneapolis. The first time I went was actually quite productive; I was given a couple of pointers on how to tackle the immediate problem that lay ahead of me. I went home that night feeling pretty good about myself.


The second time I went, some old guy listened to my problems. He was a bit slow with words – which was fine – but equally as slow at understanding where I was coming from. Needless to say I left that conversation feeling just as confused and wrong-footed as I did before.


Actually, I felt worse.


A couple nights earlier, while my girlfriend and I were talking about this, I recalled a few instances from my younger days that, until then, seemed like no big deal. In elementary school, I would get so sad on Sunday nights knowing that the weekend was over that I’d nearly be driven to tears. In my early days of adolescence, I had complex nightmares – sometimes every few nights – that seemed to last for hours. In high school, I would alternate between brooding for hours on my lack of a social life to not giving a damn about it.


I never knew how to talk about my emotions, even in writing; all I knew was that they either felt good or bad, and talking about them was revealing too much information that I didn’t want known. Hell, even writing is hard sometimes, because I’m so scared of sounding unlike myself.


That Friday night, after an hour of unloading my problems on deaf ears, and learning (through my girlfriend, thanks to a seminar she was attending) that autistic kids tend to have trouble expressing their emotions, I started to realize—


I’m not in control.


I suck at confronting people when it matters most. I let my problems build from hurdles into unclimbable walls. I catastrophize everything – everything – in my life until it makes me so, unbearably depressed. I obey my demons like a docile, submissive puppy.


I can’t go on like this.


I just… can’t.


So you can imagine my excitement when the walk-in center called me this afternoon to tell me that they found someone to work with. At the risk of sounding overly cheesy… my day brightened in a heartbeat. I felt like my problems weren’t so insurmountable anymore – like I could rearrange the bricks of that massive retaining wall into a staircase and climb up to the sculpted landscape at the top, watching as the bricks on either side fall past my shoulders. For a moment, the impossible became possible.


And if only for a moment, I can believe the song that my girlfriend and I listened to in the first moments of our relationship.


We can get better.


Because we’re not. Dead. Yet.

I’ve Decided Not to Diet

Yesterday, I finally got bored of the monotonous sameness of my daily routine at home and went to a Starbucks about a mile or so away. Somehow, the coffee shop crowds – not to mention the coffee itself – is enough to motivate me to write, work, and get things done that I can’t seem to do at home.


When I got there, I took my typical Starbucks order (a moca frapuccino and a double bacon sandwich) to the nearest table and connected my laptop to the wifi. Up popped the Starbucks homepage with the following poll:


“Dieting: A. is a dirty word, or B. leads to better health.”


To explain where I’m coming from, let me tell you a bit about my encounters with the word ‘diet’.


It was a dreary January evening in 2003. Despite having just gotten off of holiday break, I already had three textbooks spread out in front of me as I struggled through a mountain of homework. Suddenly, I heard my mom – or was it my dad – make a declaration from the kitchen.


“Starting on Monday, we’re going on a diet!”


Later that night, I found out what a diet was – or at least, what it meant for me. It meant no cookies or candy. It meant smaller portions, less pasta and more vegetables. It meant my parents having to buy these weird meals for themselves that cost a boatload of money that, in my high-and-childish opinion, could have been better spent on McDonald’s happy meals, a Dairy Queen dilly bar, or at least a box of chocolate chip cookies. But my parents said they had to lose weight, so I guess I have to do it too.


Six months later, that January evening discussion had faded into obscurity, my parents gave up on their diet, and my childish need for big Macs and sugary snacks continued to be a reality.


Three New Year’s days later, I heard the exact same conversation from my parents’ kitchen; and six months on from that, their next dieting regime was replaced by chocolate cakes and ice cream.


And so it went, year after year – right down to the second half of 2015, when we actually wrote up a weight-loss chart and attempted to make a contest that, in all honesty, was just a spin-off of “The Biggest Loser”. By October, the healthy meal plans and self-depricating Facebook statuses were a thing of the past.


As I got older, I heard my friends and peers toss the forbidden word back and forth, often times concealed in a promise to work out more at a gym whose rates they could barely afford.


Then came social media… and with that, wave after wave of bold, italicized, uppercased, facebook-status declarations of… well, the exact same things.


Hell, I’ve even done the same thing from time to time – expensive gym membership and all! Sure, that two-month long workout regime with my roommates was all fine and good while it lasted; and yeah, I did lose a little weight… but in the end, it just wasn’t working.


In short: Same story, different day.


For those who have successfully ‘dieted’ their way to a healthier lifestyle… cudos to you for staying strong and following through.


But for me, the latest diet fad isn’t the key to happiness. A healthy, successful life is defined by your choices, not your half-hearted promises. The best success stories I’ve heard were the ones who forged their own path to a better place.


In other words: For me, ‘diet’ is nothing but a dirty word.


And to the 34% of Starbucks-goers represented in that poll who think the same… let’s clink our virtual coffee mugs together and drink to a healthy, diet-free life.


Crossing The Unfinished Line

We like to think we know ourselves better than anyone else in this world. We’re intimately familiar with our lives, our quirks and our imperfections. We’re our own best friend. We’re our own worst critic. We love ourselves and hate ourselves so much that we can never face the truth. Not even when the unwelcome truth is presented to you by someone you admire – a mentor, a friend, a superior figure you look up to and aspire to be like, if even just the slightest bit.


Somewhere in storage sits an old compact flash card full of stories I started writing in my first couple years of high school. My writing styles are a mirror reflection of my life as I slowly left the innocence of my childhood and entered the lonely awkwardness of adolescence.


In my senior year of college, I started teaching myself a technique called flash sonar. My best friend had worked with a mentor that taught him a few tricks, and I was inspired by the experiences he relayed to me the next week. After nearly a year of learning it my own way and actually making some sort of tangible progress, I was told that my technique was horrible and that I really should stop.


Throughout my college career, I started reading some highly recommended fantasy book series – Game of Thrones, Sword of Truth and The Wheel of Time. With each of these individual series, I got through the first book or two, got sidetracked with something else, and never opened them again.


Yesterday, I had a chat with the director of the small nonprofit organization I’ve been involved with since February about a writers guild I helped create last fall.  By Thanksgiving, things really started to pick up. We got members, we got support, we even sent out a few flyers… and most importantly, we started working as a team. We had plans to build a virtually-based team of talented writers with the ability to proofread, edit, and write professional content, thus reducing the need for outsourcing and lowering costs. Good idea in theory, right? Right.


A month later, it was almost completely inactive. Another month after that, it was dead.


This morning, I went to make a cup of coffee, and found the pot still half full from a couple weeks ago. I know—disgusting, right?


The common denominator: They were all left unfinished.


And therein lies the problem.


If that thought ever crossed my mind, I’d always chalk it up to a lack of interest or a stupid idea rather than a problem that needed to be addressed. I’d attribute it to personal or mental growth rather than stagnation. Each time I dusted it off and made another attempt, I’d get bored and move onto the next thing. I told myself that was OK, because hey, at least I tried.


But I’m in my twenties. I’m learning how to live my life as an independent member of society rather than a spoiled college student – or, as a good friend once put it, “I’m learning how to adult.” I think on a larger scale. I have bigger goals and crazier ideas that I really want to accomplish – which I’ll never do if I keep putting my projects aside.


I can’t afford to do this.


I need focus. I need self-discipline. I need the motivation to put those things into practice. I need the resourcefulness to answer my own questions.


During the conversation I had with my mentor yesterday, he told me that one commonality amongst unemployed blind people is that they lose hope. They allow themselves to stagnate in their own self-deprecatory thoughts until they actually believe they can’t progress – and guess what? They don’t. I’ll be damned if I let my life slip through the cracks like that.


For me, 2016 is not a year of making impossible, cheesy resolutions.


This year, I will learn how to finish what I’ve started.


Talk Is Cheap. Decisions Are Not.

I just spent $170 that I barely have.


Lately, my roommates and I have gotten into a habbit of going to the gym – if not every day, then at least several times a week. I was able to use my roommate’s guest pass through the end of last week. It got me started. It got me used to the idea of having a reason to wake up early every morning. I would come home feeling empowered, motivated, and ready to face the next storm.


This morning, I got a text from one of the roommates (in this case, the guy living in the basement with me) asking if I wanted to go to the gym. My first thought: Eh, maybe tomorrow. I got 6 hours of sleep, and I’m still tired.


But then I came fully awake. I remembered my commitment to adapting a healthier lifestyle. I realized that basement buddy had given me the perfect opportunity – literally spelled it out for me on my phone.


If I hadn’t gone, what would I have done? To be honest… probably sleep until noon, lye in bed for another 45 minutes, and then contemplate the idea of maybe walking to the store to get a few things. I might have had the motivation to write about nothing at all for a few minutes before losing interest. I would have come up with more reasons never to go to the gym, because I’m so poor, and I didn’t want to be with my roommates anyway. I definitely would have spent the entire day being lazy and disgusted with myself.


Basically, I’d have fallen into my old pattern once again. I didn’t want that, and I had the chance to prevent it.


I responded to basement buddy’s text: Fuck it. When are you leaving?


Half an hour and a cup of coffee later, I got into the car with three of my roommates – Basement Buddy, Biker Bill and Gamer George. Half an hour, a cup of coffee and $170 after that, I was lifting weights at L.A. Fitness as a brand new member.


And therein lies the problem.


I just spent a hundred and seventy dollars to go to the gym with my roommates. I could have used that money to buy a month’s worth of groceries, a coffee from Starbucks and an order of Dominos wings. I could have used some of that money to buy a Christmas present for my mother, father, siblings, and nine-month-old niece. Instead, I spent it on the first two months of a gym membership.


Needless to say that weight machines weren’t the only thing I was grappling with. I was still indecisive. I couldn’t honestly say that I’ve made the right decision. All I could do to keep myself calm was tell myself, over and over again, that this was a healthy decision.


And that’s what I need to believe – that that gigantic wad of money wasn’t spent on nothing. If it results in a stronger and more confident me down the road, then who am I to complain? If it gives me a motivation to improve my life, why should I continue doubting myself?


Once again, I left the gym with a plan – write in my blog, work on my resume and maybe work on some personal writing projects. As I write this, I’m sitting outside on my front porch, brilliant November sun beating down on my sweaty face and soar arms; and at this very moment, I feel… content. Despite all of life’s problems, I feel content.


I’ve made a healthy decision.

I have an abnormality complex, and it’s fully justified.

Today, I watched a video of Nancy Grace and the rapper that goes by the title of Two Chains – two figureheads               of two completely, polar opposite societies – debating over the legalization of marijuana. Both of them made themselves sound like preteens fighting over an action figure. Both of them sounded illiterate and uneducated. Both of them had a strong argument, and both of them didn’t have a fucking clue how in God’s name to present it. The only difference was that one of them supported the legalization of marijuana, and the other kept jawing about why marijuana is the root of all evil, because God forbid that your children will do it too. Because how dare your children be different, or weird, or crazy – I mean, that’d be, like… a tragedy!

I wasn’t normal growing up. I was blind and pissed off; I was sheltered and introverted. I was socially inept, and did not know the meaning of condescention – something I lived with every day – because I wasn’t aware. I spent my days in school, my evenings doing homework, and my nights playing nerdy video games because I didn’t know of anything better to do. I laughed at people who sat around and collected government tips, then turned around and did the same thing.

I had no fashion sense whatsoever. My parents bought me sweatshirts, and I wore them like a banner, because they all supported the army. I took pride in everybody asking if I was in the army, because I got that jacket five years ago and still wore it, because it was adequate. I was always behind in the conversation, and understood nothing – nothing – of pop culture. I knew what I was told, and I was told who I was. In short, I was timid, weak, and at a constant loss for words. Maybe it had something to do with my diagnosis of Aspergers. Maybe people were seeing my blindness as an ineptitude… and the truth is, they were right.

Just over a year ago, I left my parents’ house and went into this thing the professionals called “adjustment to blindness training” (more appropriately known as blind camp). It was the most convoluted hell of self-discovery I’ve ever been through, and I came out of it a slightly different and more determined person than I was before. I figured out how to use other methods of preparing meals rather than constantly resorting to microwavable dinners; I figured out how to walk down the street without looking like I just drank half a bottle of booze; and most importantly, I went through some of the shittiest social situations imaginable before finally realizing that I needed to be assertive.

During my months in training, I was made to believe that never would I ever talk about that part of my life in a job interview, because nobody wants to hear about your blindisms… nobody wants to hear about that year you weren’t in a cubical… nobody wants you to be anything other than a corporate assistant executive secretarial management operator at a wealthy high-end fortune-500 company, and in order to do that, you had to spend the past five years of your life juggling school, a job, and fifteen extracurricular activities that left you an empty shell by the summer solstice. Or if not an empty shell, then unable to move for the next 72 hours because the caffeine buz wore off.

Two months after I left blind camp, I went to someone from my state agency to discuss job seeking tactics. I brought up my time in training during the conversation, because after all, the state agency was the one to fund it, and I thought it was a common ground off of which the both of us could base our understanding. But Mr. Bob Smith, Executive Assistant CEO of Learning Aditional Methods of Executing Normality, Inc., told me to stop talking about it. “Nobody wants to hear about that,” he said. “They’d rather hear about your twenty years of relevant experience – oh, you don’t have that? You’re kinda screwed. What was that – you’re only 23? Haha, sucks to suck. But the fact that you’re scared to actually talk about yourself as a consequence of all this – that’s cool, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter that your path isn’t the same as everyone else’s so long as I don’t know that, right? Aw, shucks… I just googled your name and saw a few childish posts you made to an email list six years ago! Better not associate myself or my company with you, because you don’t grow up, you’re still the same person, and nothing… ever… Changes!”

As bitter and resentful as I came across, I’m still quite optimistic. I’m still a very young professional with nearly two years of unpaid, unappreciated work under my belt. I’m on the hunt for a job, and it’s only a matter of time until I find a match. I’m expanding my horizons as a writer. I’ve attended several local writing meet-ups. I’m involved in the building of a writer’s guild with a small international business platform called Project Starfish Global. Hell, I’m even getting into a workout regime with my house mates. Things are happening, and things will continue to happen.

Personally, I think there’s worth in every moment of experience you have. It makes you the person you are, and someone out there – some employer, some company, some job – could use you. It’s up to you to believe in yourself, to believe that you can find that person and prove you are worth your salt. Besides, If we based everyone’s worth In this world on their income and their bank account, most of us would be worthless.

Sometimes the road less traveled is the journey more exciting. There’s no shame in setting yourself apart from the masses. You have a story, and your story defines you.

There’s nothing wrong with being different.

Operation Motivation

October was a lousy month. Sure, we spent most of it in a perpetual Indian summer, and it was great weather to be outside… but somewhere during the first half of the month – or it might have been the end of September – I was struck with a crippling bout of depression.


I had (and am still having) trouble adjusting to a life of total self-empowerment. To cap it all, every other living situation was made possible courtesy of the institution. Now, for the first time, I’m out on my own terms, on my own time. Yes, it’s freeing… but it’s also quite lonely.


There has also been something to look forward to in the past – school, college, homework and other means of education. Unfortunately, those days are over. The sooner I realize it, the quicker I get out of this rut.


Just yesterday, I had a stroke of inspiration. What if I created a daily agenda, so I have some sort of order to my day? It might be a good way to schedule my time a little better, so I have a clear-cut agenda to undertake each day.


I’ve tried setting alarms and creating reminders on my phone to notify me of certain things I’ve needed to get done in a day. The last time that happened, I ended up hitting snooze for the next six hours – not exactly productive. Maybe if I just make a vague list of things to do, I can brainstorm specifics when the time comes.


So I suppose my schedule would look something like:


07:30 – 10:00: Morning preparations and leisure time

10:00 – 12:30: Job seeking and readiness

12:30 – 13:30: Afternoon break

13:30 – 15:00: Personal wellness – healthcare, bills, errands, shopping etc.

15:00 – 18:00: Personal projects. This includes writing, blog posts, group projects etc

18:00 – 22:30: W/e floats my boat.


The two things that came to mind as I wrote that were ‘HOLY SHIT I SOUND WAYYY TOO PROFESSIONAL AND UNAPPROACHABLE…’ and ‘Has life really, seriously come to this?’


If this works, though… it’ll be more than worth a little embarrassment. Obviously there’ll be days where I deviate – it’s only natural, after all – but it’s something I might, hopefully, be able to work with.


October is over, mofos.

The Do It Tomorrow Mentality

“I got no motivation. Where is my motivation?” – Billie Joe Armstrong

Some days, I wake up with a smile, a coffee and a plan. I throw together a list of things I need to get done and do just that. I feel productive – like I can take on the world for a little while and be happy about my achievements at the end of the day.

Often times, those days are triggered by a successful meeting with the international business platform with which I’m involved. Other days start with a refreshing cup of coffee. Sometimes it’s all about the small things – the sun pouring through the kitchen window, a good song I heard that morning, or the way breakfast tasted.

But this isn’t most days; in fact, this isn’t always half of my days. I know this can be a handicap, especially when looking for employment. The ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ attitude was more acceptable in college, but now it’s more of a drawback than anything else. Does the fact that it took me four days to put this post together count for anything?

I find myself practically searching for distractions to fall back upon in an attempt to delay the inevitable – a story, fanfiction, a casual writing I’m working on. Sometimes I start reading a book and can’t put it down for hours. Sometimes I’ll stumble across something in the midst of whatever it is I’m doing that completely throws me off the scent of the trail.

The solution all comes down to finding creative ways to remind myself – no, force myself – to get things done. I could always set an alarm on Outlook or a reminder on my phone, but reminders – much like alarms at unwelcome hours in the morning – can be ignored.

I have, however, come up with a couple of miscellaneous experiments in the course of writing this post out, and I intend on writing them down and testing them out until I find a few consistent winners. . This is life; it’s not worth leaving to chance.