Writing as a Reflection

I truly believe that art in its most basic and general form is a window to the soul. The mere act of creating something, even if it is mundane like “creating” a freshly-mowed yard, shows the world something about yourself. This happens outside things that are usually considered the arts; I feel the only requirement for art is some form of creative input. This means creativity is in all walks of life, and you could consider many things art. And these things all say something about the person who created them.

I do think some forms of art are more obvious windows into the artist’s soul while others are more abstract – like a foggy window – that partly reflects upon the one viewing the art. Mowing the yard probably doesn’t reflect too strongly on what sort of person you are even though hints of it are present. Maybe you mow the yard in a messy fashion showing that you’re a messy and scattered person. Maybe you mow in complex geometric patterns? I’d bet your artwork would reflect the same tendencies. The visual arts and music are closer to pure art, and while they do reflect upon the soul, they don’t do it with as much clarity as writing seems to do. Even if they do, they offer much more abstraction that can make the message difficult to see and interpret. Writing seems to get down to the nitty-gritty of the soul, and that is what makes it unique.

Music does say something about the musician, but it has a chance to not be a pure form of expression. A person with only their instrument is likely the most obvious and pure form, and still this has it’s own flaws. Music is universal, but how you put all the elements together can be very subtle, complex, and not immediately obvious to what the musician is thinking or feeling. There is a lot of self-interpretation which by letting the listener’s own soul reflect back through the music can be seen as a strength of the medium. Art can still be good even if it doesn’t directly show anything about the creator of the art and this self-reflection is what makes music great. Music can also suffer from having multiple people making a single piece of artwork be it a song, an album, or whatever. This will naturally dilute the picture of the single musician into a collective, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different.

The visual arts, by having a single artist create a work (usually), is a bit closer to writing. It still has the abstraction that music does, possibly even more. You can look at a painting or drawing and draw some conclusions about the artist or their interests, but you probably can’t get a complete picture about how their brains operate. Color, texture, composition, and subject matter are complex in how they play together (akin to the complexities of music), and it doesn’t allow for an easy reflection on the artist. You can tell Van Gogh was tortured inside, but as to why you can’t really tell by the works of art alone. Maybe you could tell, but it would take a bit more thought and observation. Art’s strength seems to be in having a single artist do the creating and the visual elements that can be inspected.

Writing is a much more direct reflection on the artist than the previous two I’ve mentioned. Since I’ve started writing I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s strange because you’d think that a person should know themselves more than anyone else, but by writing I’ve realized there are things subconsciously that I didn’t know existed. I used to draw and to play music, but I never really discovered anything deep within myself. Or if I did, I already had an idea of what existed although it wasn’t very clear and specific. Writing seems to be a totally different beast allowing for intense introspection.

My writing so far seems to have undercurrents to them that tie all of the stories together. It’s interesting how a person can write 5 or 6 stories and during the writing process think, “Wow, I really write about that topic a lot. That’s strange.” It can only be a reflection of what is on the inside. For example, my last story, “A Comfy Sunday,” was about a fly that pissed off the protagonist and led to him destroying his perfect day. What is the theme there? To me, it is how a single thing can completely change your day and your life. You can call it the fly or the person’s anger which he has no control over. That’s the key point: things can happen that affect your life, and other’s lives, and no one has any control over them. A single fly can ruin your day; it’s a sad fact of daily existence although most cases aren’t that dramatic. Incidents that alter your day, and your life, happen thousands of times a day. What if you left for work a minute late and that led to a car accident that paralyzed you? The world is like a giant, complex machine that seems to be a dice-roll to everyone due to it’s complexity. I love exploring the idea of chance, or fate, and how it plays a part in everyone’s lives. I didn’t really know this until I started to write. I also noticed that all of my stories seem to feature alcohol. If that isn’t a huge red-flag warning sign about alcoholism I don’t know what is. It’s shocking to read what you’ve written and to see what you dwell on. It’s like looking in a mirror that shows what on the inside.

I love writing, and as fun as it is creating things with words it’s strange to see how this reflects on the author. I’ve noticed this in other writers and other artists in general. I don’t see how you can write and not subconsciously reflect what is inside your own mind. And if you do, it seems like it would cheapen the writing to an extent, but I’m no expert on it. Or maybe if you can escape from the prison that is your mind you can really blossom as a writer? This seems to exist in other forms of art, although I think it isn’t quite as noticeable as in writing. There are things about music and the visual arts that reflect on the artist, but they seem to be more abstract reflections that are more open to interpretation to others. These are not flaws in the other mediums, just difference that anyone should appreciate. Think of the artists, musicians, and writers you’re a fan of. Think of the ones you personally know. What do their works say about them?

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Facebook Friends: Everyone Hates You

 A week before posting this I received like five friend requests randomly – totally out of the blue. It was strange because I was writing this post. And if you do know me personally, this isn’t some sham to get friend requests. I posted it on my wall with “friends only” visibility. I’m not that damn shallow! Ya asshole.

Look at all the people you are friends with on Facebook. How did they become your friend on there? There are only two possibilities: you either requested them yourself or they requested you. Facebook doesn’t just give you a friend like MySpace did with that jackass Tom. Everyone was either you going to them, or them coming to you. What sort of ratio is it? There isn’t a way to know for sure, but are you the requester or the requestee most of the time? You’ll probably have some idea of where you stand. My own ratio (of requesting to accepting) seems to be about 5 to 1 or 10 to 1; I have to request other people. It doesn’t really bother me but it does makes me think about why it is true. I’m a rather quiet and withdrawn person so I don’t expect people would be like, “Wow, he’s such a cool, talkative dude. I want to be his friend!” but I’d still expect some requests.

The pessimistic part of me likes to immediately think that I’m not likable. I must admit I’m rather quiet and reserved (Does this come across as stuck up? I’ve heard that mentioned before about introverts), but with these sort of lopsided stats you’d think I’m a total asshole or something: like I stroll up to complete strangers and insult them. Which I don’t actually do. With me being as objective as possible I really don’t think that I’m simply an unlikable person (at least I hope that isn’t the case). It’s very hard to view yourself from the perspective of others because no two people are exactly the same, so it’s always a flawed technique. Could there be any other reason people don’t want me as their friend?

I think there is another possibility. And it was staring me in the face for about forever. As with most epiphanies, it seems fairly obvious in hindsight and it’s amazing that I didn’t catch on earlier. Let me tell you a little story.

When I run, there are a bunch of people at the bike path (sometimes). Some say “Hi,” some nod, while others do something else that passes as a greeting. Some just ignore me as they pass by me. Bike riders never greet you because they are superior with their wheels being fancier than your primitive legs, or something like that. I would always wonder why some people greeted me and others didn’t say anything. I’d even get slightly pissed as to why no one would say hi to me some days. “Why the fuck were they so rude? What the hell was their problem?” I’d ask myself silently. But then again, what if they had the same thoughts as I did? What if my silence was secretly pissing them off? What if I was the rude person with the problem? What if they were basically thinking the exact same way as me?

This thought slowly and gradually gained momentum the more I thought about it. If we view the other person as us, and see ourselves from their perspective, wouldn’t they quietly be expecting us to say “Hello” first just like we’re expecting? It makes sense. And why is that? Maybe because most of us are hesitant of being judged, or at seeming uncool, or for looking strange at saying hi to a total stranger. While I’m terrified of social interaction and others seem better at it than I am, aren’t we all a little scared of rejection? We expect others to say hi because we’re too scared to do it ourselves. But why wouldn’t they also be scared? Two people are staring at each other waiting for the other to make a move so in the end no one does anything. Modest Mouse said it best with the line “Wore our blank expressions, trying to look interesting.”

The next time I ran after realizing this (and with some runner’s high to help), I started greeting random strangers as I ran. Most people returned the greeting with a “Hello!” or a nod, or whatever people like to do. And if they didn’t? Well fuck them. If you’ve went out of your way to be the good, friendly, neighborly person and they still didn’t say shit then they’re the true asshole. Like I hinted earlier, the bike riders are in a different “class” than us runners and they never say hi. Everyone can be forgiven for not being the first to toss out a greeting, but if you don’t return a greeting you’re the worst sort of human. It’s okay though. By being a good person initially, you accept the fact that they might not return the favor. It doesn’t bother you much, because you were simply being nice. There is no sense of rejection.

I’ve extended this to Facebook and this is why (I think…) I’m usually the person to make the initial friend request. There are many people I see at work or know from a friend of a friend, but who I don’t really know. And they can sit there on my “people you may know” list for forever until one of us mutually timid people decides to actually click the stupid button, which is rarely the other person. You might be cool, and you might be an asshole, but we’ll never know until one us hits the damn button. I’ve tried to take it upon myself to be that person because someone has to do it.

I occasionally question whether people are more alike that they are different. I think it’s the case that we’re more alike and that we want all the same general things. And with me being timid, I understand that others are timid as well. But if everyone has good intentions, and we’re all too scared to act on them, how would this be any different than if everybody were assholes and ignored each other? It’s the same outcome. Someone has to be the one to make the first friendly action, and it isn’t that hard to do. It just takes an iota of courage. Say hi to a total stranger, give a friendly nod to some punk-ass teenager, or comment about the beautiful weather to the old lady you pass at the park: they won’t kill you, shun you, or whatever crazy-ass idea you may think may happen. They will probably smile and return the favor and nothing bad will happen. But some good will come from it even if you don’t know it. Maybe call it karma, or good vibes. And if you have someone who seems cool on Facebook, add them as a friend. Because why not? The worst they can do is deny your request.

Black Haired Guy’s Universal Guide to Moving on After a Relationship n-step Program: A Definitive Guide: Edition One

I wrote this a few years ago and it started out as sort of a joke: it’s a guide to getting over a failed relationship. But as I wrote it I realized that the general steps I offered might actually be good ideas, all joking aside. I remembered it a week or so ago, and seeing the opportunity for a “lazy” blog post (because I already written the damn thing), I decided to resurrect it, clean it up, and post it. Maybe someone will actually find the advice helpful? And at the very least, hopefully people can get a slight giggle out of it. At the very most, maybe I’ll publish it as an eBook for $29.95 and become rich.

This guide is written for those who recently had a relationship end on them, and more so, the guide assumes the reader is the good guy. By good guy (or gal), I mean the other person is who directly caused the relationship to end. They cheated on you or abused you or just didn’t give two shits about your well being. If this applies, Congratulations! You are innocent and this guide is for you! If you are the guilty person who caused all of this drama to play out, please consult Black Haired Guy’s Guide to Moving on After a Relationship: Guilty Party Edition. It will be written in seventeen years so hang in there until then! There’s no rush because your a guilty ass and are probably already dating some loser and no one feels bad or good for you.

Step One: Realize It’s Over

This step is pretty straight forward. Step one requires you to want to actually get over this person. Congratulations! This is the beginning of a new and improved phase of your life so you better get a move on! The future is in front of you so why wait? You may be tempted to well on the past and how “happy” you were in your relationship, but look at where you’re at now? Did this relationship make you happy? No, probably not. You are reading this guide moron. It is titled Black Haired Guy’s Universal Guide to Moving on After a Relationship n-step Program: A Definitive Guide: Edition One which sort of implies that your relationship is over. You can’t take them back anyways without undermining any of your dignity. You need to be happy, not attempt to remove your backbone and be totally owned by the other person. This guide is about progress. This guide is about honesty. You are in a bad place and we are embarking on a journey to a better place, like going from a cold, dreary, Midwestern winter to Hawaii. What are you waiting for?! Endless coconuts are waiting for you on sandy beaches! 🙂

Step Two: Purge Them From Your Life

We all know our minds have the uncanny ability to dwell on things that frustrate us, and this needs to stop. So the next step is to not give your brain any help turning to negative and unhelpful thoughts. You may have many items your ex gave you, such as photos and all sorts of other junk. Or stupid little trinkets from wherever. You naw’mean, all the shit you’ve acquired that reminds you of them. Every little thing that reminds you of them will act as a stake in your heart and just make you feel like shit at random times when you least expect it. You need to get rid of it!

By “get rid of it” I do not mean break/sell/burn everything you have that remotely reminds you of them (“They took a shit in my bathroom I need to replace my toilet!”), just hide it or something. (Don’t hide your toilet, just quit being OCD and dramatic about shit. A toilet is a toilet.) You can still burn your possessions though, pyromancy is always a good hobby to partake in and will give you a few hours of feeling like a badass. You can even post pictures on Facebook to show the world how “over them” you really are! Take that ex! Anyways, out of sight – out of mind, and yes your brain is that easily tricked. This is why food get burned in ovens if you don’t set a timer and your freezer has shit you’ve purchased 7 years ago. Seriously, go look in your freezer right now and throw all the food out that isn’t good anymore.

Step Three: Actively Purge Them From Your Life

Where step two is passive, step three is active. It is not just your dumb-ass subconscious that thinks about your ex, but also your conscious thoughts. You want to think about them even though it makes you sad. This step can be the hardest of the n-steps, but hang in there pal! You’re doing great!! XD XD 🙂 !

You prolly wanna talk to them, maybe “see how their doing.” This is just a cheap excuse to want to nose into their life and see if their dating anyone yet so you can feel bad. Cut that shit out, your time is too important for that with Black Haired Guy’s Universal Guide to Moving on After a Relationship n-step Program: A Definitive Guide: Edition One© to get you along. This step could also be called “Don’t talk to or contact them in any way.” You want to know nothing, or not be tempted to know anything about their life. Delete them on Facebook, delete their number, email, and anything else that will tempt you to contact them. If you have mutual friends, well that’s okay, but don’t ask them about your ex at all. Not even if you’re just “being nice” or “having a conversation.” You don’t need to talk to them right? Of course not!

“B…but Black Haired Guy ©, when can I talk to them?” Well…never. You can eventually but think of it as never. You are looking behind and you need to look ahead. Maybe someday you can be best buddies, but that day isn’t today or the near future so just don’t even think about it. When you can be pals with them again, you won’t really want to be, because by this time they are so emotionally detached from you that you don’t care about it anyways. You’ll shrug and say “meh” and that’s great!

If they contact you…well, ignore them. Or if you’re a real sissy, tell them politely you do not want to talk to them, that you are on Black Haired Guy’s Universal Guide to Moving on After a Relationship n-step Program: A Definitive Guide: Edition One© (In stores now, $29.95US, $35.98CAN, tell your friends! An eBook is coming soon too!) and you need to concentrate on yourself and moving forward. Maybe even suggest they purchase this guide for themselves! Their friends will love it too! It makes a great Valentine’s Day gift! They’ll understand your reasoning. If they don’t, why the fuck did you 1. date them and 2. are heartbroken they aren’t in your life? They sound like an asshole. That’s right. This is my guide not yours. Quit assuming what I’m going to say. Now onto the step that follows three: step four! 🐱

Step Four: Get a Damn Hobby

Over the past few (months, years, decades?) you probably been so in “relationship-mode” that you do not remember what you enjoying doing or how to be your own unique person anymore. This step serves two purposes: rediscovering yourself and keeping busy so you do not think too much and fuck up step three.

A wise friend of mine who will remain anonymous (she did not write an n-step guide, I did – it’s my spotlight. Plus she deleted me without reason or cause on Facebook 3 years ago.) said that relationships cannot make you happy; you have to make yourself happy. Why didn’t I realize that before? Oh wait, I did, this is my guide. Anyway, it seems true, and for the sake of this spectacular guide, assume it is true. Therefore we gotta make you happy with yourself! YAY!

So get a hobby. Find what you enjoy doing, even if it’s watching the television. You have to be happy and comfortable just being you. You have to find yourself. Just remember step three and don’t watch shit that will remind you of them and make you sad 😥 This will take your mind off them and let you enjoy just being you!! Wow!!

Step Five: Don’t Look For a Relationship

Everyone knows that a rebound relationship is a terrible idea. You are obviously trying to replace them by running out and finding someone which is an insult to everyone involved. Do not be a jackass like your ex certainly is (without a doubt). Some wise ass will say, “my hobby is finding a girl at a bar and having fun.” OK I GUESS, just don’t fool anyone that you’re not just wallowing in self pity from your traumatic breakup and trying to find a quick fix to make yourself better. Or to show the world how over them you really are (are not). At least admit that quietly to yourself and become an alcoholic like everyone else. Great Job!

Anyways, you gotta go with the flow; like a leaf on the river – a dandelion dancing on the wind – you must go where the Tao takes you. Action with inaction. Forcing an action is not a true action according to The Way. Eastern wisdom up in this bitch! Step five means do not fucking force a relationship. If you do, you might be reading this n-step guide again a lot sooner than you hope, although that might not be such a bad thing. It’s such a good guide! Plus, be honest with yourself. If you fail step five, you are also screwing up step four’s mantra of “be happy with yourself.” Quit messing with my guide; this shit is numbered for a reason. If you really are happy with yourself you would not be hunting for a replacement so early.

Good Job you are doing great! Onto Step six!

Step Six: Wait

Getting over heartbreak ultimately takes time. So…you gotta wait. Yep. Just keep doing your hobbies and having fun just being you and enjoying life to the fullest. That’s seriously all this step entails. Good Job waiting! You sure are great at this! Don’t question your existence or purpose one bit! You may risk an existential crisis! Great Job!

Step Seven: Write a Seventh Step

There isn’t a step seven…yet. Apparently getting over someone is a pain in the ass, but it isn’t that difficult because it only requires six steps! You simply have to have faith in yourself and be brutally honest with what you need as a person. You don’t need an asshole that treats you like shit. You don’t need to settle for someone because you feel lonely. And if you do feel the need, you need to figure out why you feel that way first because doing so is just settling. You can do better and you deserve to do better! The next step is to distance yourself from them so you can heal and find yourself. And that’s it! I didn’t say it’s an easy guide, but it is straight forward and just takes some time and effort. Recommend my guide to your friends! Bless them with the good news that their lives aren’t over because this n-step guide can help them! If I publish it, give me a six-star rating even if five is the maximum value! Gee thanks guys, I really appreciate it!

Habits Suck

I’ve been telling myself for the past few years that I’m a writer. I might not be a very good writer (yet) but I’m well aware of the importance of practicing to get good at an art, or anything for that matter (I elaborated on it here). I don’t remember where, but I vaguely remember hearing that practice is really what separates the professionals from the amateurs; they toil away in constant failure until they eventually, as Dark Souls people would tell you, GIT GUT. There isn’t really this thing called talent. If anything, it’s the talent that makes you dedicate so much time and effort to a pursuit. To become a good writer, I need to, ya know, actually write. And I’m a terrible person at actually sitting down and writing.

Why? Because of this thing called habit.

I’m now 30 years old. And I don’t write as much as I would like because the person I was 25 years ago didn’t write much. Neither did the person from 15 years ago. Sure, he wrote a bunch of school papers, but this was spurred on because he had to do it. I haven’t been a writer until two years ago. This is the power of habit. I’ve been doing the exact same thing I’ve been doing all my life. Instead of writing, I usually plop down on the couch and play some video games. Why? Because it’s easy, I feel like I’m making “progress,” and that’s simply what I’ve done for the majority of my life. And it is difficult to change. I think it gets worse as you get older too. I feel like it’s a race against time to establish new and productive habits into my life before I become so old and stubborn that I’m unable to change my routine at all.

I used to be a really good teeth-brusher too. I didn’t have a single cavity until well past my 18th birthday. I doubt most people can say that. I wish they gave out prizes for such an accomplishment but they don’t. But I suck at it now. Somehow, habit changed in my 20s and I just quit being a reliable tooth-brusher. I had cavities. I started to brush again regularly , but only after the dentist yelled at me, fixed my teeth, and took a decent amount of my money. It still isn’t an established habit like it used to be though. It’s pretty gross, but I think I haven’t brushed in like three days. Fuck. I’ll go brush them now. Habits are really hard to start. If I can’t even brush my teeth reliably, how the hell can I become a proper writer? A decent and successful writer? 

The most frustrating part about habits is how damn difficult they are to change. There seems to be life-hacks for damn near everything, and a lot of them make such perfect sense that they border on genius. Like who would’ve known that we were all opening bananas at the wrong end? I haven’t done much research on it, and maybe I will soon, but it seems there is no easy, clear-cut, 100% way to establish a habit. A habit is a habit because of how it is defined: Dictionary.com states that a habit is “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” It is literally your brain on autopilot. It’s no surprise why making new habits is hard; you actually have to do something consistently for a long time for it to become habit. It’s so frustrating. The only way to establish a habit is through sheer willpower. There is no quick-fix way to do it. If I want to brush my teeth like I used to I need to do it, everyday. If I want to write, I need to write everyday. There isn’t any way around this.

From that definition it is heavily implied that good habits are a nice thing to have. If you do something without thinking and it helps you, you don’t have to worry about this other thing that sucks called motivation. I suppose my frustration is that I don’t know how to properly channel a productive action into a habit. Or that I can’t do it very efficiently. That’s my point: it’s hard work to make a habit. But habits, if you can force yourself into good, helpful, and productive ones, are a powerful tool that can utilized. It almost takes habit to make a habit. I shouldn’t hate so much on myself; I did write this blog post and it only took about two weeks to actually post it! My progress is slow, but steady (I guess…).

Talent or Determination: Morrowind Style

Some people are good at certain things while others suck. To the frustration of the talented person, they usually are told something along the lines of, “Wow, you’re so talented! I wish I could (insert whatever skill) as good as you!”

practice-vs-talent
Poached with love from Facebook

This usually angers the artist because they believe they’re only as good as they are because of the hard work they’ve put into learning their craft. In their minds they can see how shitty they were initially and how slightly-not-as-shitty they are currently. It wasn’t talent, they think, it was hard work. These are the two major schools of thought on the topic of getting better at things: talent vs determination. I’m in the latter group, as I vaguely remember reading some scientific-esque studies on talent and whatever. But I don’t have any proper citations so it doesn’t really count. I need to practice my citation skills because I don’t have talent for it.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was a game released by Bethesda Softworks in 2002. You might not be familiar with it, but it is one of my all-time favorite games. Bethesda is also to thank for Fallout 3 and 4, TES IV: Oblivion, and the wildly popular TES V: Skyrim. The latter two games, which you’ve certainly heard of, are about 50-75% as good as Morrowind; although they are similar, you have been missing out on a good thing. I can’t even quite explain why it’s amazing. Well, I could but it would take a few blog posts and I’m not ready for that yet. I might be looking through my nostalgia goggles, but it was the first game I’ve played that was open. It blew my mind that I could just wander around and how the game didn’t give you a clear cut goal. They sort of did, but not like most games do. The game also allowed you to ruin your play-through in the first few minutes by stealing shit in plain sight of the guards. There was no hand-holding whatsoever.

The skill system applied in the game isn’t really notable in any way. It is pretty typical of most RPG games, and this commonality applies in Oblivion and in Skyrim (if you played those, or any other, you’ll understand what I’m talking about). They have skills, and by using the skills you get better at them. There are a handful of skills (heavy armor, short blade, archery, lockpicking, etc) given by a number from 0-100. You never really start with anything at 0 (the default was 5?), but you get the idea. 0 meant you were terrible and a 100 meant you were amazing at the skill. The intermediate values were also what you’d expect them to be.

I’d like to imagine people have their own set of numbered skills. You can use your imagination and give yourself a skill level in various things. As for myself, I have like a 75 in Math, a 25 in Public Speaking, and a 10 in Gambling, or whatever. My Running skill is around 60 or 70. Who knows exactly. I know there are an infinite amount of skills, but it does help you realize how good (or bad) you are at some of the things you do. Putting a number onto something as complex as a skill helps you pinpoint and be honest with how proficient you are at something.

There are two aspects to this basic skill system: your starting level and the fact that practicing the skills makes you better. I equate the first aspect, the starting value, with how talented a person is at something. Obviously, if you’re one of those people that are just good at drawing without practicing, you’ve started life with a higher Art skill, perhaps a 35 or 45. You’re sort of good just because you’re naturally good. Notice though that you probably aren’t the best at it, you just have a higher baseline. This is how Morrowind worked as the highest skill you could start with was around 45; you couldn’t just be a 95 in Destruction magic and smash your way through the game Voldemort style. You had to work at it.

The second aspect is key in the talent vs practice debate. You level up your skills by practicing and becoming better at them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve started at level 5 or 55 because hard work will get you a higher value. If the person with an Art skill of 5 works really hard despite initially sucking, they could eventually pass the 55 Art person in skill. This can really happen if the 55 person is lazy and doesn’t put effort into getting better. They cruise along through life on fairly good skill level, but do nothing to enhance it. They squander their gift. I bet we all know someone like this. Obviously with this view, hard work and determination is the most important aspect of gaining skill levels, although having a higher initial level (talent) helps you start off good and may give you an edge among others.

The real world analogies don’t seem to stop there. Some people are fairly good at a bunch of things but don’t really specialize in anything. I believe I’m one of those people. I’m decent at a bunch of things, but I don’t excel in any single thing, which is rather sad. This is because I can’t focus on a single skill long enough to notably level it up. I used to have like a 5 in Homebrewing, but through curiosity and hard work, I think I’m around a 35 now. I can’t become a brewmaster or start my own winery, but I can make a liquid that makes you become drunk. My Math skill is 75, but this isn’t really notable in the world. Most of my skills are this way as I stay interested long enough to get fairly good, but never really good. You have to pick a few skills and stay with them to make meaningful progress.

Some people aren’t good at anything. They just exist and suck at everything they do. These people start off with low initial values, and don’t do anything to get better. Maybe they lack motivation or willpower? Maybe they think the game (life) is just too hard and complain rather than get better at hardship? Others are shitty at everything, except the one skill that they are fantastic in. I’m sure Olympic athletes have other talents and interests, but these pale in comparison to their 99 or 100s in Freestyle Swimming, Gymnastics, Diving, or Curling. They are the best of the best, and they’ve done it by focusing on a single skill and working at it nonstop. This is how you Git Gud at things: you bust your ass at it.

git-gud

In the game, and with a very good real world analogy, there is also this idea of diminishing returns. It is easy to go from a 5 to a 10, but increasingly difficult to go from an 85 to a 90 even though they are the same “amount” of growth. You could suck at something, let’s say Gardening, and have a 5 in it. You could easily go buy a few gardening books from Amazon, spend a week or so reading them, and improve your skill to a 25 or a 35 with light to moderate effort. The basics of a skill seem to be easy to learn and easily picked up and early on you improve quickly. But once you’re the master gardener at level 90, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to get better.

The analogy isn’t perfect between the Morrowind skill system and real life. There are real limitations. An important one that comes to mind, especially in the case of physical skills, is that there are limitations that can hamper your ability. I’ll never be able to be an Olympic runner because I don’t have good genetics. It’s also harder to be a marine biologist if you live in the center of a desert. You can, but it’s harder. You could chalk it up to a certain “luck” factor if you’d like. The rate of which you learn a skill is also variable as some people pick things up quicker than others. Maybe you could call that talent or aptitude or something like that. I think talent naturally and in popular usage refers to someone being inherently decent at something and not that they learn the skill quickly.

People like to think skills and being good at something are nebulous things that are just dropped from the heavens in a form called talent and bestowed upon those lucky enough to receive them. They aren’t. Being good simply takes hard work. You might suck ass at something initially, and you might learn the skill slowly, but you’ll become better with practice. All it takes is practice, dedication, and hard work. Thanks to some random (and wonderful) video game called Morrowind, I finally learned it myself, although I’m not too good at following my own advice. Adopting an RPG-based idea of skills is an interesting, fun, and enlightening thought experiment which might lead to some motivation for some.

Why Life Sucks (At Various Ages)

My wife and I were sitting at the local high school waiting to pick up one of the kids. Of course, she was late at coming out of the school, and we had about ten minutes to just watch high school kids wander out to the parking lot. It was pretty interesting: you have the cool looking kids, the hip kids, the seniors walking around like hot-shit to their junky-ass cars because they can drive, and the awkward kids looking, well, awkward. I thought back to my own high school times and thought, “High school sucked. I’m glad I’m past that stage of life.”

Remember that question that get’s thrown around sometimes, “What age would you like to be if you could be any age?” Whenever I think of that question I always assume I’d say my current age. I don’t think this because of any real reason, it is just that thinking back to me at a past age or me at a future age sounds shitty. Being a kid was shitty, being a teen was shitty, being an adult is shitty, and while I’m not a senior citizen yet, I’m going to assume that it will be–you guessed it–fairly shitty. So with seeing the high school kids and thinking that was a shitty time, and thinking that all other ages was a shitty time, I came to the generalization that life is just shitty. The point here is that life sucks for differing reasons at each age category. There are pros to being certain ages, but there are also some major cons that take all the fun out of any benefit the age itself provides. Let’s journey through life and go over why it all sucks.

Being a Newborn/Toddler Sucks

I don’t think anyone wants to be a newborn or a toddler. I know I wouldn’t even think of returning to that age of my life. I’m considering this age to be from birth until four or five, maybe right before you head off to school. The coolest thing about being this age is that life is totally epic. You’re learning stuff at a crazy pace and everything you do is the first time you’ve done it! Just think how a newborn or toddler feels to see snow for the first time, feel rain, or even get their hand burned by a hot stove; everything is a completely new thing and there is so much to see and learn and the world is one big adventure. Sure you can’t really do a whole lot, but you don’t know or care because spinning in circles is still the coolest thing ever, even if you bang your head into the coffee table afterwards.

This stage of life has a major downside: you don’t actually remember any of it. There is some theory in philosophy (although I forget the proper title) that states that as long as your memories are continuous that you are the same person. Or something like that. It’s all about answering the question of, “What makes you you?” Anyways, memory is a big aspect of who you are, and outside of this theory you know it plays an important part of your view of your self. If you don’t remember something it’s almost as like it’s never happened. There may be consequences and everyone else remembers what you’ve done, but to you it’s like you didn’t even exist if you don’t remember it. Just think of a time where you became so drunk you blacked out. You can hear about things you’ve done, but you don’t remember any of it so it seems like it’s all from a story where the main character was you. Either way, you still seem pretty divorced from what happened because you simply don’t remember it. It’s like the movie The Hangover. All of these dudes did some crazy shit but since they don’t remember anything, it doesn’t even exist to them anymore. This is how being a toddler is. The world is a big, cool, amazing, and wonderful place but it doesn’t matter because most of us don’t remember shit from that time. Looking back from my perspective, it’s like toddler me didn’t even exist.

Childhood Sucks

Being a kid is an amazing thing from an adult’s perspective. When a kid bitches, adults occasionally say something like, “Why are you complaining? You’re life is simple! You don’t have bills, a job, etc.” This all boils down to one key difference between being a kid and being an adult: responsibilities. Kids don’t have shit to worry about. Their parents (or any other authority) take care of everything for them. Food, shelter, transportation, bills, and clothes are all provided by the adults. Kids don’t have to worry about anything. The worst thing a kid has to worry about is farting in class and getting laughed at. Their lives should be a huge pile of fun and games and should be a magical time and for the most part it is. So why do I think being a kid is shitty?

Kids don’t know what responsibilities feel like. They can’t appreciate their responsibility-free life because they don’t know how shitty responsibilities actually are. For this I’ll bust out some Taoist wisdom. They believe in “the way” and how shit just sort of “flows” for lack of a better word. A key idea is that things exist in pairs with their opposites; each is dependent upon the other to exist. You can’t have happiness without having some sadness to compare it to. If everyone was happy, no one would know it and it would be the new normal. There can’t be rich people without poor people, and there can’t be daylight without a night. This is how it is with responsibilities; kids haven’t had to live with any so have no idea how easy their lives actually are. It’s pretty sad really, and it’s why I never try to use this logic on kids if they complain. They don’t give a shit how many bills you pay or how much gas you spend driving them around because they don’t know how shitty it is doing those things day after day. That pretty much negates childhood being a great time. It was a meh time, because you didn’t know it was a really easy time until it was over.

Being a Teen Sucks

Being a teenager is probably the best actually. It isn’t the most amazing time period but it doesn’t suck too much. I guess it isn’t the holy grail of joy that everyone seems to think it is. I’d say the best part of being a teenager is you get the best of both worlds of being an adult and a kid; you sort of have some freedom but it isn’t hampered by the blatant amount of responsibilities you have as an adult. You’re free to do as you want, but not too free to actually be expected to care for yourself completely. It’s pretty nice.

The worst part about being a teen is the hormones. Everything is drama. Everything has an inflated about of importance. It’s nuts. Your crush in high school talks to you about something mundane and you flip the fuck out about it. “Holy shit, maybe they like me!” Or if you talk to them and they’re busy and have to leave, “OMG, why did they do that? Do they hate me?” It’s a rough time with that aspect. It’s like your emotions are ultra sensitive. With that, and looking forward to adulthood is very scary. If you flip out over some stupid shit at school how are you going to deal with adulthood? That shit is scary. What you don’t know is that when you are an adult you start to not give too much of a shit as you used to in high school. If your crush talks to you in adulthood you get slightly happy, but you don’t get your hopes up. You learn to shrug things off. This is missing when you’re a teenager, and that is why I’d never want to return to that stage of life. I like not feeling that everything is the end of the world.

As a teenager you also have the pending nightmare of adulthood coming up. You have to decide where to go to college, what career to have, among countless other things. I know I didn’t know anything at 17, so asking me to plan the next 40 years of my life was terrifying.

Adulthood Sucks

Adulthood is long enough that I split it into two parts: early and regular adulthood. Early adulthood is right after high school, or during or after college. It’s when you’re just figuring shit out. This part is nice because you’re an adult, you can do whatever the fuck you want! If you want to move to Canada and live in the woods, you can. Seriously, anything you want to do, you can do. It’s a freedom that you have never experienced before in life. The world is out there, and it’s full of opportunities, so what do you do?

No one actually told you how to properly be an adult. Suddenly you have bills, and insurance, and taxes, and…what the fuck is all of this shit? All your life you’ve been growing up to be an adult, a full grown human being, and suddenly you don’t know how the hell you’re supposed to do anything because no one taught you a damn thing. I used to think that we need a class in high school, called like “Life Basics” or something, where you learn how to open a bank account, shop for car insurance, do taxes, manage money, and how to tip properly. It would cover all of the awkward shit about adulthood that no one ever teaches you how to accomplish. It’d be a fun class. Anyways, that’s what killed early adulthood for me; I had no idea what I was doing. There was a ton of freedom to do nearly whatever I wanted, but I didn’t do shit because I was scared and had no clue how adulthood worked.

Normal adulthood is when you finally figure out how to make shit work. You’re now a professional adult: you’re a pro at time management, you don’t get too hungover anymore, and you’re a master at budgeting and paying bills. Maybe around this time you’ll also have kids and you’re a master of parenting. Whenever life shows you something new that you don’t know how to handle it, you deal with it anyways, because you’re a fucking pro at adulthood. You don’t whine to your parents to fix your problems because you have life on lockdown. You’re a master. During this time you theoretically also have all of the freedom that adulthood gives you. You can still do whatever you want. It should be a great time!

Remember those things called responsibilities that made childhood so amazing because there were none? Well, there are tons of them in this phase of life. You have freedom, and by this time you might even have some money to play around with, but you can’t actually act like you’re free because you have to work early in the morning. Any spontaneous trips to Disney World or the Bahamas are out of the question because you don’t have off work for the next week. And the kids don’t have off school either. Can you get shit-faced drunk and ride your bike around the city? Nope, unless you plan ahead and have a baby sitter ready for your kids. You have all the freedom in the world, but not really, because you have responsibilities now.

All of that is also considering that you have a decent paying job, and have saved money. Many adults have it a lot worse and don’t even have the remote possibility for a spontaneous vacation. Some people are living day-to-day and week-to-week with no way out. These people really have responsibilities and their lives as well as a handful of others depend on them for survival. That’s a ton of weight to have to carry, and that sort of stuff isn’t exactly fun. Adulthood is fun because you have freedom, but you have some serious responsibilities to worry about.

Being a Senior: Can I Die Yet?

Next up is retirement and being a senior. This stage has all of the perks of adulthood without all of the day to day responsibilities. The kids might be moved out, and you might have a cushy retirement fun, and everything could be peachy for you. It should be a fantastic time to be alive…

…Except for the whole “getting old” thing happening. I’m currently 30 years old and have already noticed my body isn’t as durable as it was earlier in my life. 30 is fairly young too. I dread to know what 60 or 70 will feel like. And the people in that age group I know seem to agree that it is hell. It doesn’t sound like a fun time to live through. Like, sure, you’re alive, but if you ache all the time and can barely walk up some stairs I doubt life will be as enjoyable as when you were younger. You really wont want to do a spontaneous trip to the Bahamas or go on a drunken bike ride. Once again, this is a best case scenario. You might still be supporting your kids, or grand-kids, or trying to fund their college. Or you could be dead by this time. Doesn’t that sound fun? So, as an older person, you have your adult freedom back but by this time you deteriorating body and health probably won’t feel like using that freedom you have. You’d much rather sit in your comfy chair, watch TV and be scammed by people.

So, yeah, life sort of sucks. Not really: life is wonderful and besides life there isn’t really much else to enjoy. Life is all we really have to work with when we’re alive. I guess it’s really the micro, day-to-day worldview of life that makes it shitty. Or maybe it takes a more positive outlook on life that I (obviously) haven’t developed yet. Whatever is the case, I don’t like to think other age groups hold more promise than my current adult age does. Has anyone ever heard of the “grass is greener” saying before? Life is life, some parts are good, but they also suck. I’m perfectly happy being an adult even though I can’t find time to really do a damn thing I’d like to do. I’m not an ignorant kid, or a moody-ass teenager, and I know how to adult pretty well compared to many others I know. I haven’t paid a bill late in three years! And my health hasn’t went to shit quite yet. So that’s good. Eh. Life doesn’t suck too bad.