A Short Story About Misplaced Nostalgia

Sometimes, because the human brain is imperfect and possibly glitchy due to some kinks in the simulation, we get songs stuck in our heads. And some of those sometimes, we get not a whole song, but a snippet of a song stuck on repeat indeed like a broken record. And even fewer times than all that, the snippet is unidentifiable. At least that’s my experience which I assume is shared by every other human because uniqueness is theoretical only. Usually this passes, the song is identified or forgotten, but if I had a story about one of those times, I wouldn’t write about it.

This is about the unidentifiable snipped I’ve had stuck in my head FOR LITERAL YEARS.

I have been singing the following to myself for at least a decade anytime 1) someone says I can’t do something, or 2) I get excited about taking on something new:

I can do that
how hard can that be
I can be
anything I wanna be
wanna sail the seas
just like a sailor

I knew the melody to this, and I knew that the voice behind it was male and poppy, but for the life of me I could not remember from where I’d heard the song.

But the theme of the song and the admitted silliness of the lyrics lead me to believe (correctly) that I’d first heard it when I was much younger and that it was possibly on a children’s show only, here’s the thing: I didn’t watch a lot of kids’ TV. I legit watched Friends and Seinfeld and Xena when I was a kid. And while, yes, I know all the little songs to Blue’s Clues and Eureka’s Castle, the problem there is I know those songs. And I know none of them had the melody or the lyrics that plagued my mind.

I consider myself pretty good at The Internet, and also pretty good at remembering specific things. Husband can feed me a line or two where every word is wrong and the melody is nonexistent, and I can get the song correct 90% of the time, but this case was just mind boggling.

I have tried on many occasions to find this stupid fucking song, Dear Reader. Believe you me, I’ve googled that stupid line a hundred times. You know what comes up? NOT THE SONG.

So in the last few years I became kind of content in my lack of knowledge. Ignorance is bliss, they say, and while “they” are usually very wrong, I forced myself to accept this. I even got a little delusional for a while and thought I may have made the song and melody up myself, but that seemed pretty crazy since I have attached a very specific memory of listening to this song, instruments, and a different voice to it.

Well, Dear Reader, I am happy to report that this day, September 13, 2018, I FOUND THE SONG.

I was peeing as I am wont to do quite frequently resulting in lots of good ideas, and the song popped into my head because, I guess, water, and I got the sudden very strong feeling that Len was the musician. Detour: Len is that band known for the incomprehensible “Steal My Sunshine,” the anthem of every late 90s, early 00s summer. If you do not click that link, I’d really like to tell you that you are missing out on an incredibly awkward music video where you see the camera reflected in every fucking pair of sunglasses and they do that thing where they filmed with the song at double speed then slowed the video down to sync it up (but only for the first half) to get a “cool slow mo” feel which is completely out of place, and also if you look closely at 1:28 you will see the girl screw up and VERY CLEARLY say “fuck” and that gives me life. (I wonder what that baby the tat’d preggo woman was carrying is doing now.) Anyway, all that’s to say, I thought Len probably had a second song, and it was that sailor song, but it didn’t get very popular.

Dear Reader, it wasn’t Len. I didn’t even bother to google it because I knew in my soul it wasn’t them. But it did make me think: I had this song on CD, but I didn’t own the band’s actual CD because if I did I would have for sure known them, so that left only one option: it was on a soundtrack.

THE POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE SOUNDTRACK.

That absolutely had to be it. Now, you have to understand, the Pokemon: The First Movie soundtrack is…a whole thing. To be clear: I didn’t buy it as a kid because I liked Pokemon, I bought it because I liked the musicians. That’s the kinda fan I was. I needed everything Britney had her name on even though “Soda Pop” was exactly the same on Baby…One More Time. It’s kinda the perfect snapshot of where pop music was at the cusp of the millennium: a handful of really big names that pumped out a lot of soulless shit (no shade, I LOVE soulless shit) for years, a larger handful of one-hit-wonder types, and a couple pseudo alternative but not really edgy enough acts that actually played their own instruments. It’s amazing. I’m fairly certain the songs have almost nothing to do with the movie, and the soundtrack was just a marketing tool for Sony to test out new artists, but I think most of the 90s/00s was just a marketing tool for Sony, so that’s fine.

Anyway I perused these songs for a good while on Wikipedia, but I knew from the titles alone (because I could recall how almost every song went just from the title *sigh*) that none of them were it! How? Did I own some Japanese bonus tracks not listed? Did I accidentally see the movie and remember the one song that didn’t make it on the soundtrack? Did I actually just make the damn thing up?

No, Dear Reader, the song exists. And I knew that in my heart of hearts. The song exists on a CD I owned and on a soundtrack. And that soundtrack could only be to the absolute pinnacle of 90s teen high school movie: Drive Me Crazy. (I was 12 in 1999, by the way, so not in high school. I don’t know what was wrong with me.)

Bonus: The webpage made for this movie still exists thanks to the Wayback Machine and holy fucking shit. I’d show you the boyfriend I made on the Interactive page, but sadly that bit of code fails now. Alas and alack, I suppose Husband will have to do.

So I perused those songs and had so many punches right in the nostalgia feels. But sadly, none of them stuck out to me as the song, and, Dear Reader, I am ashamed to say that I almost gave up. I would never know, it would forever be a mystery, but then I saw a song listed that I just didn’t really remember, and thought I needed to hear it because why not? And, well, I’ll let it speak for itself:

None of the rest of this song would come into my head when those lines I wrote out above would, but as soon as I heard this thing I instantly knew all the words. I also instantly knew I’d HAD THE FUCKING WORDS WRONG ALL ALONG.

Wish I could be
Anything I wanna be
Wanna be a fireman
Wanna be an astronaut
Wanna sail the sea
Just like a sailor
But it’s not the end of the world
So baby don’t get upset
It’s just a little regret

And that’s a fuckload more depressing than my version.

So, Dear Reader, you’re probably wondering why I’ve committed to writing this blog especially after such a long silence, but that’s precisely it. I wanted to let you know what I’ve been up to for the past two months. Research. Now that we have this all clear, we can return to regularly scheduled programming.

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Where Have I Been?

I’m not even sure myself, so I can’t answer that, but I’m having trouble getting back to wherever I used to be. I feel guilty leaving this space empty, and I miss it. I’m sure my need to produce will ultimately win over, it’s just how long will the struggle last, ya know?

Thoughts On Turning 31

Somehow it’s theoretically worse in my head than turning 30. That “1” is solid.

All I want for my birthday now is to eat.

Did you know up until recently becoming pregnant at or after 35 was called “geriatric pregnancy?” They now use the term “advanced maternal age” which is…better?

Adult birthdays are horseshit not because they’re not fun anymore–you can make any day fun–but because the government makes too much shit expire on your birthday. I do not enjoy walking to the post office to mail off a third request for something from the state of Florida on any day, least of all my birthday.

People my age are grandmothers in some parts of the world (and the US). That’s a lot.

My mom always calls me at the time that I was born every year, and I always say “thanks for pushing me out of you.” That’s just a fact you should know.

If I were born today I would be a Cancer which I’m on the cusp of anyway, though I do identify more with Leo because cats, obviously.

I heard Tom Petty on the radio at lunch, and I really had to hold back the tears. What the frickle frack, man?

My cats don’t know what day it is. To them I am eternally their caretaker/slave. I have always existed and always will, my sole purpose to bring them food, scoop their poop, and give them scritchy scratches when and only when they are feeling it. My birth, age, and death are barely concepts that register with them: all that matters is this moment, providing a leg to lean up against or an ice cube to chase across the floor. We should all be more like cats.

ruth

Defining Albums

I’ve got this top five albums that I carry around in my heart. They aren’t necessarily my top five desert island albums or the top five albums I think are the pinnacle of what music should be. These are if, say, I needed to explain to someone how the fuck I got this way without my own words, I would just hand them these CDs. That’s a situation I’ll never be in, but guess what, Dear Reader? You’re on my blog, so technically you’re in that situation right now.

These are meaningful to me because of the times in my life when I fell in love with them, and the fact that they can so easily transport me back to how I exactly felt during a listening session. To be fair, Mandy Moore’s “Candy” can do that too, but I’m pretty sure that’s universal.

wallflowersbringingdownthehorseThe Wallflowers, Bringing Down The Horse, 1996

If there’s a theme going forward, it might be “depression.” I don’t know that I was ever clinically depressed, but sadness plays a big role in these picks, and pretty much every song on Bringing Down The Horse is, in a word, bleak. I was eight when it came out, and I think I got the CD when I was nine or ten. That may sound weird, but I grew up watching adult sitcoms and listening to both alternative/pop radio and classic 70s/80s rock, so The Wallflowers, The Verve Pipe, Matchbox Twenty, these were all sort of the backdrop to my childhood alongside Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, and Queen. I used to make up supernatural stories to the songs on Bringing Down The Horse, pretty easy when Jakob Dylan’s lyrics are already so prose-y and fantastical, and it sort of paved the way for me to really get into writing more dark and somber stuff. I mean, a pre-teen is probably already on the verge of that anyway, and the images of a boy living in a tower, a girl dying of a broken heart, and a man who can survive disconnecting the wires in his own heart just push you over the edge. Every song is magic, and if you didn’t before, you will absolutely appreciate the existence of the slide guitar after one listen, but of the non-singles, I’d suggest “Josephine” to get a feel for the album as a whole. (Please keep in mind that to a nine year old, the schoolgirl imagery was not weird. As an adult, I find this song…odd, but I don’t think that escaped the band.)

 

green_day_-_american_idiot_coverGreen Day, American Idiot, 2004

The first time I was old enough to cast a ballot for the President of the United States, I had the privilege and the honor to vote for Barack Obama. Everything I felt about this country could be summed up with the title track on this album when I was a teenager, and consequently, it’s probably more accurate now than it was 14 years ago. Beyond a punky middle finger to George W (remember the good ole days when Bush was the bad guy? Now the dude who infamously said well, I can’t pick just one, is the voice of reason!), there’s this sad, angry, trippy story about finding yourself and your place in a fucked up world on this album, and that’s what a lot of teenagers deal with. Sadly, the story itself ends with the protagonist giving up, so I was never keen on the last couple parts, but I like to think that just because he gives up on Whatshername doesn’t mean that Whatshername ever gave up fighting the good fight. The album is also incredibly theatrical (they did adapt it for the stage, after all) and loud and in your face. Basically a lot of things I wasn’t but desperately wanted to be. “St Jimmy” is one of the most fun, scream at the top of your lungs with your tongue sticking out songs:

 

the_killers_-_sam27s_townThe Killers, Sam’s Town, 2006

I used to say The Killers was my favorite band, but I realized that it’s actually just that they made one of my favorite records because they change pretty drastically from album to album. There are a lot of songs on their B-sides release, Sawdust, that I really like, but you can tell those songs were the ones that didn’t make it onto Hot Fuss because they belonged on Sam’s Town but ended up on Sam’s Town‘s cutting room floor. (A little detour here, but “All These Things That I’ve Done” is probably The Killers’ best song, but it’s weirdly on Hot Fuss despite the very clear Sam’s Town vibes it gives off, though it might be too hopeful and cymbal-crash-y for the latter. Okay, I’m done!) Again, there are a lot of story-telling songs, but the focus here is faith and in the mid 2000s that’s what I was struggling with too. Who am I, what’s my role in the world, what does God (yeah, big G) want me to do? All that bullshit. I also got interested in my mom’s life when she was growing up as I got closer to the age she was when she had me, thinking “I could never have a baby right now,” and curious about my biological father, and Brandon Flowers explores similar ideas in a lot of these tracks. “For Reasons Unknown” spoke to me on a primal level, and “Read My Mind” was basically the soundtrack to my struggle with sexuality. I don’t know if everyone has experienced this, but you know that thought when you’re driving over the speed limit toward a sharp curve on a country road and you’re like, “You know what, self? You don’t have to turn, you could just, like…keep going straight.” Well, “Why Do I Keep Counting” basically kept me wondering enough about mortality and God and the future to stay out of the ditch and keep my feet on the ground throughout 2008:

 

bat_out_of_hellMeat Loaf, Bat Out Of Hell, 1977

If there’s one album that doesn’t fit in…except it totally does! It’s a rock opera, it tells a story, it’s about finding yourself (though admittedly finding yourself half naked in the backseat, dry-humping a cheerleader), and it’s epic. I think my mom got this on CD when I was around eight, and I’ve been listening to it since. It was always fun, even when it was about heartbreak and death, and it might be what introduced me to the idea of the devil being a pretty cool guy. Like with Bringing Down The Horse, I wrote supernatural stories in my head to this one too, only these were cheesier and self-aware. There were vampires and werewolves and demons and blood pacts and necromancy and, of course, motorcycles, but with bat wings. And all before Twilight! I’m not going to offer you a non-single suggestion because “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” is literal perfection and Ellen Foley is a goddess (that’s not her in the video though):

 

blackparadecoverMy Chemical Romance, The Black Parade, 2006

The Black Parade is a desert island album for me. In fact, if I could only listen to one album for the rest of my life, just one set of songs, it would be this. Why? I wish I fucking knew, honestly. It’s super dramatic, it’s sad and self-loathing, it romanticizes war and cancer and abuse all of which are absolutely not romantic, but it’s also loud, clever, thoughtful, uses “fuck” unabashedly, it is just so much fun. Of course, My Chemical Romance’s popularity wasn’t born out of fun, they rode a wave of emo tears to the top of their genre. I wasn’t a huge fan of their first two albums (but “I’m Not Okay” always does it for me), and I never had scene hair or a lip piercing, but I felt a lot of the things expressed in these songs. Yes, they’re self indulgent, but I don’t think you can really feel an emotion without wallowing in it for at least a little bit. On top of all that, The Black Parade presents music in some of my favorite ways: broadway-esque with vocals that are full of emotion (and also ENUNCIATION), borrowing from other cultures and sounds but making those things sound borderline poppy, orchestral sounds, and lyrics that are angry but also humorous and kinda grotesque and demonic. Or maybe I’m over-analyzing it and it’s all shit, but it doesn’t matter because I love it. So on that note I’ll leave you with one of, if not the, most fucked up songs on the album.

A Hairstory

This is roughly what I used to look like at the end of 2014:

2014.01
That bathroom’s theme was Ravenclaw except I was firmly in the “Ravenclaw is blue and silver” camp. I knew not what I did.

I had cut my own hair for the first time with Christmas-themed craft scissors that were a gift from my friend Maggie (you can see the handle under my armpit). I gave myself swoopy bangs and layers, and I was feeling VERY proud. Dangerously proud. Poseidon-threatening-you-with-10-years-at-sea proud. I wanted my hair a certain way, and I never really got what I wanted at the hairdresser, so I figured I should just do it myself.

It was at this point, on an emotional high from achieving something I thought I needed at least a year’s worth of training, a certificate, and two children out of wedlock for, that something in my mind clicked, and I realized: I could do what I wanted with my hair. And what I wanted had never been to be brunette.

I have, however, very desperately and for a very long time, wanted to be pretty. I know what you’re thinking: the girl in that picture is not necessarily ugly, and I don’t disagree. I have learned over the years and in the age of the selfie how to fake a good picture, but there is nothing about me that’s classically or even interestingly beautiful. My face is alarmingly asymmetrical (hence the desire for swoopy bangs), eyes sunken and tired with one lazy wanderer, nose broken and too big, eyebrows a fucking mess, a history of hair that would make year one Hermione thankful for what she had, hair in places that would make a lycan jealous, moles, and for about a decade I had the kind of acne that prompts older women and mall kiosk hawkers to grab you roughly about the arm and try to apply makeup to your cheeks without your consent. My eyelashes, I think, save my look, but to really see them you have to look past a whole lot of bullshit.

And I know this, it’s no secret: while most little girls get told at some point growing up that they’re some version of the word “cute” (for better or worse) I have literally never experienced that, not even from family members. I was a disfigured infant, and no amount of growing into my skull could convince anyone I could grow up to rely on my looks.

Of course, you don’t know you’re ugly just because of the absence of praise–you really find out when people tell you, mostly in the form of little boys who call you everything from Lurch to Pizza to Sloth (I’ve still never seen The Goonies and I never will, fuck you very much, but pizza is one of my favorite foods and the Adams Family is one of my favorite families, so who knows where my head is at.) I was an ugly baby, a weird looking little kid, a disgusting teenage, and I’m an occasionally okay-looking adult, but my body and my memories are the same.

This is all to say that when I realized I could do whatever I wanted with my hair I opted for distraction. The general consensus seems to be that people who dye their hair wacky colors are looking for attention because, I guess, doing something fun for yourself never crosses those uncreative minds. But the truth is, humans are all actually different people who do arbitrary things for different reasons and my reason was this: I think color is pretty and I want to be pretty and if my hair is colorful it will be pretty and also if THAT is what people look at when they look at me instead of my lazy eye or that chin hair I missed, then by the will of the gods my hair will be fucking purple. Also I wanted to take back my hair from the kids in high school who shot spitballs into it. (Yeah, I fucking remember, ex-boyfriend. Still wondering why I didn’t end up marrying you? That’s certainly part of it!)

So in the early months of 2015, I watched a fuck load of YouTube, bought some bleach and developer, and dyed the tips of my hair purple. It was nice, I liked it, but it was NOT ENOUGH. Because like tattoos and (I imagine) piercings, once you pop, you absolutely cannot stop.

So I bleached everything and dyed it pink into purple into blue. It was glorious and I…didn’t take a picture. BUT a month later when it faded, I did:

2015.03
March 2015. Husband and I had been married exactly two years and he was probably getting scared.

So just to be clear, this isn’t a searching for sympathy post. This is a celebration post. A post about making a choice and being much happier for it. You’re going to see a number of pictures of me that don’t prove the “I’m ugly” theory above, but trust me, they’re hand picked, and I’m not here to have you tell me otherwise. I’m here to tell you to do whatever the fuck you want with your body because you’ll never please all the people, but you certainly can kinda please yourself. At least a little.

By August of 2015 I had redyed the hairs a couple times and come out with a “bangs one color and rest of it a different color” theme:

2015.08
This would have been a great MySpace profile photo, and it was my Facebook profile photo for a loooong time.

I still had some bounce and life to my hair, but then I wanted to change, and I mean like BIG change, so I had to bleach it again because I decided I wanted to embrace my goth side and become a vampire:

2015.09
Honestly I miss this, but I will never go back.

In September I went red, and it was probably the biggest mistake I could have made. unless you want to be red forever and ever, DON’T DO IT. It’s impossible to wash or even bleach out. This was the turning point where I really started to damage the hairs. But on the other hand I had this rockin’ Ronald McDonald ‘do for like a whole month!

Then by October I couldn’t stand the way it constantly faded to orange like immediately after a single wash, so I went darker:

2015.10
Bonus pop art zombie.

I don’t actually remember making this choice, I think I actually tried to go purple and this happened. I really wanted to be purple though and I knew I had to lift to get there. So lift I did:

2015.12
I actually liked this orange it was hella unique.

You can see I have less hair here because…damage lol, but I was still having so much fun! And then I bleached it again:

2016.01
How do those layers happen? I don’t know, I’M NOT A PROFESSIONAL. Also if it looks like I have a bunch more hair here, you’re right, it sure LOOKS that way, but it’s actually just very dry and brittle here and taking up more space.

So that was January of 2016 and I don’t really have any photos of myself again til December 2016. I don’t remember what I did that year except probably played around with pink because that was my only option. Here’s the one time I dressed up in 2016:

2016.12
See I can take a good picture! Husband can too, but this was the best one of ME, so sorry, Husband.

In February of 2017 I redid my roots and fully embraced pink. The color I bought was called violet, and the color on the bottle matched the color you imagine when you buy something called violet. The company has since changed the bottle’s color (but not name) to match the actual shade:

2017.02
That’s REAL happy there, I actually loved this shade.

Then I went blue because blue is different and why the fuck not:

2017.06
Admittedly this is a bad photo for showing off hair, but look at that bird!

Then I went two-toned again:

2017.07
And I wore makeup. Why? I don’t know what this was for!

And finally transitioned all the way back to purple:

2017.08
Vacation mode activated, bring out the teeth!

So now I am letting my natural hair grow out again. I haven’t bleached it in I don’t know how long and I have a bunch of regrowth at the roots. I miss having insanely bright hair (it’s having the roots that bight color that really makes the whole thing pop), but for my hair health I need it to grow out. I still have my ends to dye when they fade, so I’m still colorful.

I was other colors over the last three years, turquoise, green, faded periwinkle, almost lavender, but I do always come back to purple because that’s where my heart is. As my brunette comes back, I actually feel unhappy. I don’t like the color of my natural hair. Where others have these warm, chestnutty, honey, oaky tones to their hair, mind is best described as “mousy” and while mice are absolutely adorable, the matte, almost grey tinge my hair has is unappealing. But I know I can change it, and I will eventually because I can and that’s a pretty great feeling.

Do the assholes who called me names still have power over me? Yep, they certainly do. Their words and actions were impactful enough to make me feel bad then and feel bad now and even take action to change myself. No, I never learned to love who I am completely. I never overcame those bad feelings and I don’t think I even will. But I did learn to love something I wanted, something that was a little out of the box and controversial, and I’m happier for that. Will I always hate my lazy eye? Yes. Will I always be happy I can cover it up with PURPLE hair?? YAAAAAAS, BITCH, YAAAAAAAAAAAAS!

2018.04
And thanks to the one dude who loves this ugly ole broad.

Searching For Home

In moments of great stress, every life form that exists gives out a tiny subliminal signal. This signal simply communicates an exact and almost pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his birth.

– Douglas Adams

Husband and I are on the hunt for a new place to live. Or, more specifically, on the hunt for a town to settle down into on the outskirts of the city we’re now residing in. I end up writing a lot of fiction with location at the heart of the plot (Vacancy is no exception), so I’ve definitely internalized the significance of place, and I have a soft spot for the epic quest which you could call the exact opposite of a location-based plot. As Husband and I visit suburbs and feel places out, I’m finding myself contemplate what “home” is more and more, both where you live and where you’re from. I think I so often like to write my characters as finding purpose in their place by being impacted by it or trying to find it because I don’t know that I’ve ever really felt whatever it is that people experience as Home. In that sense, my stories, like those of so many authors, are wish fulfillment.

I find “where are you from?” a difficult question to answer. “Everywhere,” though easy, is definitely not accurate–there are people who really are “from” lots of places, but for me, listing off the specifics is tedious and really only blog post worthy, and just narrowing it down to one place feels like a disingenuous answer.

I could say I’m from New England. I was born in Massachusetts so technically my origin point, beyond my mother’s womb, is there, but I left before my second birthday. On the few occasions I’ve been back to visit, I’ve gotten this feeling, the “I’m in close range of the place I was born” feeling, but I don’t think that’s the same as Home. I was also raised by people who were born and lived almost their entire lives there, so the culture of the house I grew up in had a very New English vibe.

I could say I’m from Florida. I spent my formidable years there where my standard for everything was shaped. I learned about the world through a sandy lens, truly middle class, never saw–or wanted to see–snow. The suburb I lived in was sleepy but it was certainly not small town, nor was it anything close to urban. It just was. The defining characteristic of that city was that it had none.

I could say I’m from Ohio. I became a teenager there, a college student, an adult. But instead of being molded by the midwest, I always felt like I was just observing it. Even at twelve I found a lot of things fairly odd in Ohio, the accents, the mindset, the jargon, and while I conceptually understood that people from different places were, well, different, I never had to explain to anyone when I lived in Florida that I was not born there. Ohio never extended that courtesy, and I was perpetually an outsider by my own actions and those of others.

Once I was an adult, I moved back to Florida, and there was at the very least a small chance that I was chasing Home. I remembered being happy there and idealized it, but the reality of the state was that is was not the beachy, progressive, sunny place I remembered. Well, it certainly was sunny, but long gone were the sparsely populated beaches and the memories I had of people being happy.

So here Husband and I are in Georgia which is never a state I would have pictured myself in. Maybe we’ll live here forever, maybe it will only be a year. At this point in our lives and in the current economy, we follow job opportunities so that, perhaps, many years down the line, we can follow our hearts. But to where?

There are a couple places I feel like I would probably be happy, might feel like I fit in, couple possibly call Home, but the disappointment that was returning to Florida has really changed my perspective of that. See, I thought when I went back I’d feel like I belonged, that seeing the ocean and escaping what I thought was centralized conservatism would be comforting. That didn’t happen, (to be fair seeing the ocean still makes me cry happy tears, it’s just almost impossible to actually get to), and I realized Florida never really was–or it couldn’t have been–Home.

So maybe I’ll never have that feeling, and maybe that’s okay. My brain has figured out a way to give me phantom nostalgia every time I hear a song by Billy Joel or see a cassette tape, so it’s not like I don’t have any experience with the concept of “happy longing,” and maybe it’s better this way. Home can’t let you down if it never existed, and you can’t really miss something that was never there. Keep your heroes alive by making them fictional, right?

And when the planet gets blown to bits I won’t be nearly as sad as everyone else which puts me in prime position to snatch up the new Supreme Leader title.

The Need To Be Liked

I talked about the freedom of being phone-less recently, and since I’ve replaced my sad cracked-screen with a much more expensive but narrowly different model, I’ve been trying to limit my use of it. I could do better (damn you, Hogwarts Mystery!), and admittedly it hurts to drop a few hundred dollars on something just to be like “NO, DON’T TOUCH THAT!” but when I am using it, I’m really starting to pay attention to how it affects not just my production, but my mood, specifically my self worth. And it’s…a lot.

I like to think I’m less easily swayed by what I see on social media than the average whoever, not because I’m superior–of course I feel jealousy like any other human, and when I see an ad for pizza I WANT PIZZA–but because 1) I’m actively thinking about how these things are making me feel, and 2) I’ve put in effort to work past that jealousy stage so that mostly when I see someone who is successful, attractive, and happy, I’m inspired. I’m interested in how people that I follow got their ass to look that way, produced such riveting content, managed to smile after heartbreak. It helps that I try to follow people who are very open about their flaws, but I don’t have that sort of control over everything I’m exposed to, and sometimes I’m left feeling, well, let’s say contemplative.

The path to success is shrouded in mystery, especially when your horse is a creative endeavor and your satchel is stuffed with naught but pencils and a thesaurus. Practice, work hard, risk failure, fail harder. These are some of the trials of our hero’s journey, and don’t get me wrong, they make a great journey, but then you bump into the already popular knight brandishing his shiny teeth and stylish but hollow swordplay, and you wonder: WHAT THE FUCK? His troupe consists of a grizzled, retired mercenary who’s universally loved but misogynistic as hell and frankly devoid of any actual personal development, and a sidekick that’s just like always there, and loud, and why is he always there? But sometimes the righteous and pious and good make it to the top, and you’re so happy for them, so pleased, but it’s still so terribly confusing. Success isn’t wholly unfair, so you wonder if there’s a formula, a way to make it all worth it. I’ve only come to the conclusion that luck is playing a role, and that’s not really just to make myself feel better about failure–I just don’t have any other explanation.

I don’t want this post to come off as whiny. I do think the effort is worth it even if you never go anywhere with your work and you die alone, penniless, rotting away from the plague. It’s, you know, the journey or whatever. Plus there’s always the possibility of being posthumously discovered and your words, your art, your music, reaching someone who cares and gets joy out of it all (presumably you’re producing something in order to bring joy to others). I’m just trying to figure out the how (you can’t bring joy to people without reaching them), and trying to govern my own ego along said journey.

the journey

I don’t buy the saying “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Yes, if you’re doing what you love it’s exponentially less stressful and difficult and soul-crushing than doing something you hate, or something you tolerate, or even something you like, but no one’s creative passion isn’t actual work. If you’ve ever encountered something good, you’re experiencing the result of somebody’s labor and at least one broken mug, a handful of abandonments, and infinite swearing sessions.

It’d just be nice to know it’s all probably leading somewhere.

I see this mirrored in this one weird trick that I’ve been noticing a lot on both Twitter and Instagram. People will follow you, like a handful of your posts, then unfollow you a couple days later. I’m assuming this is done through a bot and they’re doing this to all the users posting under a specific tag and probably get enough people following back and sticking around to be worth it; it’s just so insanely shallow. These are not real views, not real fans, and when I’m trying to promote my actual work I just find it frustrating. Maybe I should be thankful? That’s a handful of likes I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise that might push my post up higher in some reverse-Robin Hood algorithm where the popular get more popular (which is its own bullshit ranty blog post), but it’s not genuine. It doesn’t let me really gauge if I’m reaching anyone, and worst of all these users clutter up the tags we might use to actually reach real readers.

And then I realize I’m guilty of this too when I use tags. Maybe not to the gross extent I’m seeing out there, but if others are playing the game that hard, don’t I need to at least engage to be seen at all? In the end, tags are words, and I love words, and I’m a little pissed at how this makes them lose their meaning.

But in the end it comes down to this, the contemplative self-worth part: maybe I’m just not that good.

That thought it scary and intrusive, but legitimate. I don’t have much else to say beyond that except that I’m actually glad I’m having the thought (not that I haven’t always had this thought, it just takes on a different shade in the world of social media). I think it’s helpful, kind of like seeing a fitspo model’s perfect ass on my Instagram feed. Yeah, I feel bad about my ass, but I might be able to have that ass if I work at it.

Might.