Be Brave

A lot of really bad shit happened the past few days.

I don’t need to list it all off, because you already know what happened. Everyone has already voiced their opinions and hashtags and shared information. Generally, from my perspective, it’s been very constructive, healthy and understanding. Lots of good dialogue, some understandable frustrations and tears, but most of it good.

But first, let’s jump back a few days to Friday.

After a mentally taxing week, I was excited for the weekend. I treated myself to visiting some old family: my long-lost brothers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were performing on the big screen, so I went and had dinner with them; a strange cheese-ish-filled pretzel, my silver-level upgraded popcorn, and a rootbeer.

The movie was unfortunately disappointing. In short, I am bummed that the franchise has to remain ‘for kids’ and got a kids treatment, yet the Marvel franchise gets to be amazing, and for everyone. Either way, it was nice to see them on screen after all these years, and kicking harder ass then they were, previously.

I had a really productive Saturday. I got a lot of backlogged chores done. Like a LOT. I treated myself to a fun night out, watching a friend perform in his awesome band, and some other friends get tied up and… stuff, and ended up successfully borrowing a significant amount of happiness from the following day.

I then then spent the following Sunday in a fuzz, sweating in my disco ball pants and eating delicious food with really cool people at a space party at a bar inside a refrigerator.

When I got home afterwards, I had planned on putting together a spreadsheet showing off the different access requirements that mobile apps need. In the past week or so, there were some links going around describing the the new Facebook Messenger as “insidious” and “potentially malicious.” In enduring the fuzz from the previous and current day, however, I realized that, at that point, there’s already enough static about that mess, and I frankly and honestly don’t care enough. There’s already a load of articles for and against this ‘new’ (one year old?) messenger program, and also, that’s really not why I’m doing this. I am not ‘creating content to be shared on social media networks.’ I want to write, not report.

So knowing I didn’t ‘have’ to make that spreadsheet anymore, I was excited to turn my attention on to the backlog of other writing projects I had been wanting to work on but had to tuck away until I was done with the higher priority stuff. Which lead me to another realization: I was being dragged down by the psychic weight of all of those other projects. Example: I have been doing some cool things over the past few weekends, and have been wanting to share the adventures with everyone, but I found my list of things to write about slowly getting longer and longer, but I was making no progress on actually writing anything. Too many events and places and experiences, too little time. I questioned myself again: Why do I feel bad about this? It’s not homework. It’s not a requirement, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. I just want to write, not feel bad about not writing. So I didn’t.

Monday, I found myself spending the day performing my civic duty of Sitting In A Room Waiting To Be Called By Name To Sit In Another Room and Be Asked Questions And Then Maybe Get Selected To Sit In A Room And Have To Figure Out If Someone Did Something Wrong Or Not, or more commonly known as Jury Duty. The day was generally uneventful. I’d done this twice before, one time actually sitting a trial, another time going to a panel but not actually getting picked.

Orientation was methodical and meant to be brainless, to the point that, after the orientation, a roomful of two hundred or so people ended up having zero questions when asked. We got a break, and we got a lunch break. I walked through the hot day to Little Tokyo, which was surprisingly close by, and treated myself to a pile of lunch box and sushi. The rest of the time was equally uneventful and I headed home promptly at 4pm.

As I headed home, I got Terrible Insidious Malicious Facebook Messenger messages, which manifested in the form of the faces of friends popping onto the corners of my screen as I’m driving home. I swept them off my screen, because I don’t text while driving, and made my way home. I looked forward to getting home and eating and relaxing and being not sweaty hot or not freezing in the AC of a huge room or listening to people snoring.

I unloaded my stuff, and sat down, and finally poked at the messages my friends sent me.

I was promptly devastated by the news that an amazing person took his life.

Needless to say, at that point, any chance at having the ‘rest of the day’ I had originally hoped for was then completely gone.

My sentiment was shared by many people, and as time passed, those many people managed to articulate that sentiment better than I wished I could. Many people opened up and shared stories and feelings and dialogue. I’m thankful, as I said earlier, that, at least from my perspective, it was all entirely constructive and healthy. My internet, at least the one that was shown to me by all the Lists Of Text And Images I Have Accounts With, was generally constructive and peaceful, albeit sad.

I found myself stuck. My feelings were strong, including but not limited to tears, and I had a few private, but short, conversations with a few close friends and acquaintances, some of which who reached out to me when they saw what I was sharing with the world. Even though I managed to share some impulsive feelings, I felt like I still had more ‘left inside’ that I wanted to get out.

So I wrote, but the words did not come as easily as they did just minutes before when I was upset and just couldn’t contain the feelings. I found myself constricting the aperture I was letting the feelings flow through. It was filtered, edited, restricted, restrained. Whatever I wrote felt dishonest, gross, synthetic. I kept starting over, stopping, giving up, trying again. I realized that, because I knew I was going to be writing something meant to be shared with the world, the ‘voice’ I was writing with was different.

Finally, I gave up. I couldn’t bring myself to put any semblance of thoughts together in any meaningful way. But I had seen it, I had felt it, I recognized what was happening – I was constraining myself. I put aside my desire to write for a while, and took on a new mission: to figure out what all this constraint was about.

Despite telling you I ‘gave up,’ I did not, in fact, actually stop writing. I just stopped trying to write something that I was going to share. After a few moments of ceiling-staring, I switched to modes; writing for myself. I set up the situation that was going on and started to pick at it.

I consider myself a fairly prolific writer; I write a lot. Pencil, pen and paper, or typed, or poked at on my phone, I write almost every day. Usually before bed, but not always. Lots on the weekend, first thing in the morning. Sometimes on breaks at work. I really do write a lot.

Most of it can be considered either ‘journaling’ or ‘brainstorming’ – I will either be recounting events, processing and ‘thinking about’ things, or workshopping and developing creative ideas. My definition of writing may be considered flexible in these circumstances, but at the very least, I can confidently make the statement that I write a lot of words a lot.

This feeling I just caught myself going through, however, made me realize the different voices I use: when writing things meant to be shared with the world, vs. the voice I use when I am writing things that are either ‘private’ or when I am using writing as a way to work through problems or develop ideas. So the writing verb wasn’t the problem.

I read a lot of articles on a lot of websites: editorials, opinion pieces, even very well-put sagas written by friends of mine, that make me mentally applaud. Things I can hear them recite in their voices, clearly their words, people expressing themselves well. I get envious. I have my ranty passions and outspoken opinions, but why are they trapped inside of me? I think we, as consumers of media, create a wall between the media and ourselves; the creators and the consumers. I often forget that even as a consumer, I can be a creator.

So, do I even care about stuff? Having had a few crazy weekends recently, I recalled myself ranting recently about a few things I found myself surprisingly passionate about, like waiting in long lines at big conventions, or the successes of Ninja Turtles vs. Guardians of the Galaxy. I have a tendency to get fairly animated and opinionated and ranty when I am tipsy.

Thinking of these things in sequence makes me realize that I do have ‘passionate thoughts’ in my mind that are similar to the ones I enjoy other people’s words about, but I came to the following realization:

While I’m not afraid of writing, and not afraid of being passionate, I am afraid to be a passionate writer.

Being tipsy or in a situation that I am comfortable in helps the words come out, but when I put myself in a structured situation, knowing I am going to write something for people to read, I hit a wall. I stewed on these thoughts.

Over the course of the next day, Tuesday, more bad stuff happens to myself and other people, but that helps me take a look inward, and I tried then to figure out what the hell I am afraid of, and found some surprisingly simple answers: I don’t want people to think I’m stupid. I don’t want people to mock, pity, look down on or judge what I write. I don’t want to get into arguments about my opinions because I am bad at defending them in a meaningful way. I don’t want the negative aspects of the spotlight that appears when you put your work, and subsequently, yourself, on display for the world.

I smile and realize the irony I have gently created for myself: The very reason why I’m doing this is to create a venue to put my creative works up to share with the world, to leave my mark, to do my thing, to carve out my place. I take the time to set things up, and slowly take some steps out into the world, but find myself editing, censoring, and withholding real, meaningful expression because I’m too scared of the potential, invisible, maybe-not-actually-going-to-happen-and-even-if-it-does-who-cares negativity. I have big and wonderful and exciting ideas I want to share, but when it comes down to the act of actually sharing it, I choke and can’t bring myself to click the submit button, because I am afraid. I seek attention for my writing, but I only want the positive attention.

Well, no more. I need to give less fucks. Maybe even no fucks. I need to share more, censor less, and be more of my actual, real self.

If I can scuba dive and ride roller coasters and talk to pretty girls and snowboard and get tattooed and fly and get needles stuck in me and can finally discover Good Enough, I can write a lot of words a lot and put them on the internet.

I need to be brave.

One thought on “Be Brave

  1. Pingback: Agile and Focus | TomMannino.com

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