Long time no see

Hey everybody.

I’ve been timid, and for that I apologize. Change is the scariest thing in the world; sometime around the turn of the new year, I felt myself changing, and I got scared. So I stopped writing, talking to new people, and confronting the things which frighten me. I ceased growing.

The process of taking up new hobbies–things which scared me, shook me, and brought me face-to-face with failure–was enough to break the daily melancholy, but only temporarily. Soon enough, everything got stale again. My newfound outdoor hobbies–rock climbing, slacklining, camping–weren’t doing the trick anymore. Due to the simple fact of momentum, I continued to improve in what were now my areas of comfort, but it wasn’t enough. I came to them the same way as I do with computer, with videogames; needily, anxiously, routinely. Compulsively. They took me over, and I subjugated myself to their pursuit.

I was dismayed to find out that I couldn’t land on the right feeling simply by doing a correct set of things. The human being is too complex; we can’t follow a set of other people’s rules and expect satisfaction. There’s no proverb big enough to fit the whole of you. No advice column stands a chance.

During a bout of crippling indifference, I found myself wondering: “What’s left?” What was there to cling on to, what could I do that would make me feel… alive? I knew what had worked in the past, or things I could have started on, yet I kept asking, like a petulant child, “But why?” Would I, in fact, be better off having these things done? If my previous efforts failed, why should anything else work? What’s the point? It wasn’t until I spent a weekend at a smash tournament–a scene which I’ve been following for roughly four years, and which is the absolute epitome of my comfort zone–wandering around dazed, stoned, or tired the whole time, that I realized the worst thing of all would be the dominance of this melancholy for the whole of my life. Where was I, underneath all those appearances? Under all those half-thoughts, “whatever”s, “oh well”s, yawns, and grumbles? In my worst lulls, the spark of my existence goes from dim to sputtering out. The worst fate of all isn’t death, it’s perpetual dormancy.

What’s there to get excited about? Where’s my life force at? What’s worth living for?! I can’t say I know for certain. What gets me going–what turns me on? I know it once I have it, once I’m in it, but there are no commandments. Nothing’s written in stone; it changes too fast. By the very nature of the thing, it’s whatever presently lies right out of grasp–that which is tantalizingly close, but incredibly far away, for its achievement (or even an attempt at it) lies over the hurdle of the hardest thing you’ve ever done before.

I’m chasing myself down. The process of acting out my impulses, and instantiating them in my reality, is terrifying to me, but its necessary. I’m trying to be goofier, more emotional, more aligned–more palpably Joe. Over all these years, I’ve hid myself away for fear of rejection, failure, change, success, or I don’t know what. Maybe it’s just what I’m used to doing. I have to tease me out of myself; I want to feel the risk of failure in my chest and stomach, because that’s the feeling of progress. True motivation lies deep inside, I think, and sometimes you have to jackhammer it out.

If I know anything right now, it’s that doing the right things, repeatedly, will bring the new, the frightening, the glorious, the triumphant into my life. If I target the things that are important to me, and give them my best effort, I have faith that I will become a better person–I will become more “me.”

With the help of a friend, I shaved my head into a mohawk yesterday, which I have never done. It’s pretty uncharacteristic of me, but I wanted to do it, so I did. Sticking to your guns is the hardest thing in the world. The hardest part of writing anything, especially online, is not thinking: “Fuck it, this sucks,” deleting the whole thing, and resigning yourself to the hopeful belief that your half-articulation, half-cowardice, half-effort has somehow made you better. That’s a cop-out, though. You’ve looked failure in the face for a split second and gone running off with your tail between your legs. So, here’s this post–chock full of self-doubt, setting forth a shaky, insecure mission statement, miles from my ideal expectations. It’s progress.

Since I know y’all are curious:

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8 Responses to Long time no see

  1. adamcmadison says:

    I was thinking about the Mohawk thing yesterday. Synchronicity for the win.

  2. Jake W says:

    This entire post is fantastic. Just the fact that you are looking this deeply inward and have this much of a grasp on yourself is astounding. Even if you feel yourself falling into routines just keep having thoughts like this and you wont ever stagnate. Also hi Joe long time no see lol. I have no idea why I was so drawn to your post and compelled to comment but some of the things you said rang true to me I suppose. Keep up the self improvement.

  3. Multilifeual says:

    Great post Joe, I reaaaaally love the how you referenced “half-thoughts” Its so true, those half thought is what most people wrestle with or are entirely controlled by. I am very self conscious my self and I feel like I “need” to accomplish X to do X. I really underestimate peoples ability to look past my appearance or social status. Sometimes I wonder HOW I even have friends. Or rather how its possible to maintain friendships. You also make another great point is that by continuously doing good things/things you want to do it will make you more of yourself in the long run, WHICH is a good thing. Its hard to stratify the feeling of afloat away from my feeling of being happy when in reality I am being lazy, which ultimately is something I don’t want to be in any kind of manifestation. -Bobby

  4. Sheridan says:

    Your question of “why do anything?” has touched upon something I’ve been pondering for a long time. Hopefully this addresses the ideas in your post but forgive me if I go off tangentially, I’m just throwing out everything that comes to mind. I have been thinking for a long time about the paradox of why there is so much depression in the “first world,” when ostensibly people in it have the least reason to be depressed; suicide rates are about the same in the USA as it is in Sudan, despite the crippling poverty, conflict, and seeming hopelessness there.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

    An idea that has been percolating in my mind is that underlying many of the issues of depression is a fundamental need to feel “useful” or “important” that goes unfulfilled. In Sudan, people are relying on one another to fight for their lives, and their goals are clear, immediate, and critical. But in the US, what clear, immediate, and critical goals does the average person have? And who is relying on them to fight for them? The average person, in and of himself, would seem unimportant, and it is the nature of unimportant things to atrophy and disappear.

    Compounding this is the second-order effect that because we in the US have so many options in life, we suffer from “analysis paralysis.” Because we aren’t as likely to get that affirmation of importance, we constantly second-guess our decisions, and sometimes we stand and stare so long at all the possibilities that we do nothing at all.

    I think my idea is also evidenced by the near ubiquitous desire of people to be “famous,” which even drives some people to be infamous instead of unimportant. Everyone wants to matter to other people – though some people’s sense of humanity (or lack thereof) guides them in the wrong direction. Another experience that I (and I think many other people) have that seems to validate this idea is that often, it’s easier to convince yourself to do something when you need to do it for someone else instead of for yourself. Often these are simple things like cleaning a room or running errands, but they can also be things like standing up for friends and family when they might shy away.

    But while I do think these are near-universal aspects of humans, like anything else, they affect different people to different extents. In reality, people exist on a spectrum, but for simplicity I’ll describe them in terms of two archetypes, the emergentile, and the rewardian. For the rewardian, simply living without someone trying to fuck with them is all they need to be happy; this is the sort of person that says things like “money pussy weed is all I need,” and this whole problem I’ve been discussing does not really bother them. The emergentile on the other hand needs to feel a sense of accomplishment, of mattering, to feel true satisfaction in life. They need to solve problems to live, and if they can’t find any they’ll make them up. Both of these are perfectly valid ways of living, and society composed entirely of one can’t function without the other.

    So if you buy all that, the conclusion is that most of the depression in our society is due to the lost emergentile in all of us – we seek accomplishment but do not know how to get it, because we do not have obvious goals set in front of us to pursue; we are faced with the seemingly intractable problem of finding the “right” goal; and with so many people in the world, we’re more likely to feel “useless” towards that goal. The best piece of advice, then, is: find something, or someone, to be important to. Find a puzzle or problem that you find interesting, and share your attempts at solving it with like-minded people. Or find something in the world that you wish were otherwise, and strive to make a difference. Trying does not guarantee success, but not trying guarantees failure. Many people are so afraid of trying and failing that the fear of that makes not trying and failing preferable to the risk that they might try and fail – but, while it’s cliche, I do think failure isn’t falling down, but not getting up after the fall.

    • jejunejesuit says:

      Loving all the replies, thanks Sheridan!

      “money pussy weed is all I need”: words to live by. I cracked up when I read this, out of nowhere man!

      A few things from your post struck me, mainly paralysis by analysis. Once my mom took me to the gigantic Target store on the edge of town to buy me some things for Christmas; an electric razor, a toothbrush, and some other necessities. I walked into the toothbrush aisle and stood agape at the vast array of oral hygiene products. They had every type of mouthwash you can imagine, arranged by brand and color-coded. Scope, Listerine, Oral B, Biotene–orange, blue, green, light green, light blue, and clear mouthwashes stood in front of me like a minty oral rainbow. There were about thirty-five thousand different kind of toothbrushes (by my scientific calculations). Electric or non-electric, tongue-scraper or no tongue-scraper, Colgate 360 clean or deep-throat reach designs.

      I told my mom, “Look at all these toothbrushes. What the hell.”
      I don’t care about the nuances of optimal ergonomic toothbrush design. I’m not that worried about finding the exact handle style and bristle placement to fit my mouth–I just want something to clean my fucking teeth.

      It’s a symptom of our culture (my culture, at least). The abundance we have is overwhelming. There’s a multiplicity of career paths, friends, potential goals, and life designs in front of us. Sometimes it’s so much we just stare at it and think, “What the fuck.”

      When there’s nothing pressing down on you from the outside–like a war, or a famine, or an angry parent breathing down your neck to get a job (surely that can wait til after graduation, right?!)–we have a tendency to do nothing. We defer the act of choice because it’s easier to not take EVERYTHING into consideration. Imagine the mental power of imagining every single bristle configuration of every toothbrush in the civilized world running over your tongue. Would the powerful, minty clean of green Listerine be superior to the icy blue, mountain-lake-clean feeling of blue Scope? Why? Can you do this thought experiment a thousand times to arrive at a qualitatively “correct” decision of what mouthwash to buy? Oh my god, who wants to think about that!! If you did that with every single item you owned, and every action you took, imagine how neurotic you’d be. You wouldn’t be able to enjoy anything, constantly worrying about a marginally superior alternative course of action.

      Things don’t need to be that complicated, though. We have this great shortcut called “feelings” 😉

  5. Moose says:

    Write again! =] Please?

  6. jejunejesuit says:

    i’ve been thinkin about it 😛

    if i get back into writing though it’s gonna be for me, not other people

    also i feel like if i come to this blog with the same emotions every time (aka “wow, i have not written in a while. wah wah wah trying to do better”) then it will start to suck

    gotta think through some things before i come back. it might happen soon though!

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