|Stream of Consciousness|

Here I am again. Usually, I hate the monotony of this daily dance towards the office. The bus ride is usually smooth. The BART is the worst part of things. We unenthusiastically file into this mobile metal tube and throw ourselves into our normal distractions. People hop on their phones, others make sure their music mutes the rest of the world.

All is normal on this front. I step into the train, I have Boyz II Men blasting old-school joy into my ears, and I have my latest novel on my Kindle. I’m all stretched and ready to play the human puzzle of fitting in without inappropriately touching anyone else or inviting opportunities for neighboring bodies. Awkward arm up, shoulders at a different angle than legs and feet. Perfect?

Then you step into the train at the next stop and immediately, I register: “pretty black girl” and put my head back down. Somehow you settle right in front of me, which is no big deal. I get back to my book, but between this one and the next stop, I can’t help but notice how good you smell. I don’t know what it says about general society, seeing that I’m a daily commuter, but I never notice good smells that stand out.

Immediately, I’m appreciative of whatever your morning routine is. Being on this train, butts to nuts, is usually the bane of my mornings but I figure that if people always smell this nice it might not be that bad. I could definitely get through this. After another stop, I’m done reading my book and I’m just imagining the morning routines of all of my neighbors. Based on the look of the guy next to me, he rushed out of his house, worried about missing a meeting, the way he keeps looking at his watch.

Then somewhere along the ride, I close my eyes and imagine writing a poem about the joy of a morning commute. I can suddenly see the beauty of every individual on the train as my eyes sweep over them. Am I delirious from a lack of sleep, or just suffering from hunger? I’m noticing my surroundings and taking a moment to appreciate them. Usually, I’m distracted enough by my book or music to fit right into the perfect anti-social sweet spot required for public transportation. Not that I’m against the idea of opening up to my fellow rider or anything.

Also, taking a look at my fellow riders makes me feel a rush of sympathy towards people and I have the feeling of understanding how society is supposed to work. I can be in my own little bubble, but I miss out on depending on people. I miss out on the social niceties that come along with growing friendships and relationships. For the first time in a really really long time, I think about how I miss the feeling of a hug. How I miss spending time with someone who smells nice, sharing observations about the small things with someone and laughing about how silly they may or may not be.

Then the door opens and the spell is broken. Off I go into the world. For once it’s with less of a grumble and more of a feeling of gratitude and an excitement about what the day is going to hold, instead of a sense of accomplishment because of what I just had to survive.

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| But really, I would rather by at home by myself… |

Here…

The quintessential jam of my summer 2 years ago. An isolationists’ anthem. A young lady singing about why she shouldn’t be at a party (mostly because she doesn’t want to be). A good enough reason to get caught up in the moment of feelin’ yourself and not wanting to deal with the rest of a social scene that isn’t your jam.

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As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really embraced the idea of giving little to no f#%ks. I read that this is just something that kinda happens with more experience. You begin to see what’s really worth your time and you’re able to make strong choices for yourself. People can follow along with you, or they can pass, it shouldn’t make any big impressions either way. I think that this is enhanced by pop culture though. There’s this prevalent idea that you are all you need. People come and people go, but you’re stuck with yourself, so the only person that you have to please is you. There are lots of memes out there about doing you. I mean, it’s also my personal motto for this year: “You do you!” Which really just equates to a pat on the back for thinking of yourself first. I can’t blame you for taking care of priority number 1 (yourself).

There are a lot of reasons that this might be true in some cases. Someone won’t earn money for me. No one will do my job for me, or pay my bills for me (if I were prettier, maybe I could work on getting that one reversed). Life is about the experiences that you go through. People can’t learn and grow for you. You have to do the heavy lifting for yourself on things. The world won’t give you any breaks, you have to prepare yourself for battle or for success. There are some people who think that the prosperity or struggle that you have in life is directly proportionate to the work that you do to get yourself into or out of that particular well being or hard luck. It’s true that some great lessons are ones that are impressed on you by the chances that you take, or the stretching that you do when doing something outside of your very warm and very safe comfort zone.

I’d beg to differ though. I think that there is something faulty here. There’s no way that you can have the full experience of life without others. No matter how hard you try to make it all about yourself, there’s no way that you can get by solely on your own. I don’t say this to mean that everyone has to be married or in a relationship. We need people! You can be single but still, rely on your friends and family. I don’t know of anyone that has been able to successfully cut everyone out of their lives and live a life of pure solitude (if they are, I’m sure that they’re suffering and trying not to show that they are lonely and not thriving). Somehow, we’ve decided to promote the idea that the self is greater than the group. Maybe this is just something that I’ve noticed being in America, but I find that it’s far too easy to get that validation (which I don’t agree with).

I bought into this so hard, that I used it as my only defense right out of college. My philosophy was that I was the only person who truly cared about me and my well being. I would read all this self-empowerment stuff and took it all exactly the wrong way. Instead of being willing to be vulnerable with anyone, I retreated into myself and convinced myself that I was doing the best thing. No one would be able to tell me anything that would affect me, I wouldn’t be misled or mistreated because I was taking life into my own hands. Any problems that I had would be because I put myself into them. I had no one to thank or acknowledge when I came out successful on the other side because I had made me! I was the vehicle for which this life would be best experienced. This mentality got me absolutely nowhere, but a place where I was depressed and sad for myself. I began to think that no one wanted to invest in me when really, I was just pushing all the help away and trying to shoulder things on my own.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with wanting to create your best self or live your best life. Those are definitely things that I want, but where I went wrong was thinking that there was any value in keeping people at a distance while I figured this out. I left a lot of people out of the “inner circle” and missed a lot of opportunities to learn the most about myself. It’s critical to have some people around to bounce ideas off of or to just get feedback from. As much as I hate dating, the great thing about it is that you can get some really specific feedback about yourself, that you absolutely cannot get from going through life solitary like. There are just so many lessons out there that a person will learn from their interactions with other people, as part of a community, whether there are romantic intentions or not. Now, in my post-therapy life, I find myself trying to slip back to the old things that kept me afloat. Now I have the tools to check myself and make sure that I am no longer making decisions without involving people. The best thing for me is to realize that I can actively choose to involve people and invite their partnership in my life.

I already caught myself just this week, wanting to have alone time with my upcoming three day weekend. My friend wanted to have a gathering for his birthday, that I immediately wanted to slink out of. Because I disliked this friend? No. He’s one of my closest friends and he will be leaving my everyday life soon, to go pursue his own happiness. I felt my personal time threatened and I couldn’t handle the idea of making room for celebrating someone else. What kind of crappy bullcheat is that, Justin? I’m a jerk, I know. I felt like I had so many people trying to get me to do something over this weekend with them, that I just wanted to curl up in my bed and ignore it all. WHICH IS THE OPPOSITE OF LETTING PEOPLE IN. This is exactly what I spent 2 years in therapy trying to avoid. The next morning, I apologized to said friend and let him know that I was not trying to hate on this gathering for him. He, of course, mentioned that he understood the need for personal time, but I had to call myself out. There’s no reason to be a whiny brat when people just want to enjoy their lives and include me in that.

bb5ba6debeb32ac8ed241a97f6a1d180It’s difficult to try to turn a new leaf, but hopefully, he’ll still have me at the gathering and I’ll learn to be able to cut those kinds of thoughts/reactions out faster, instead of just jumping into them. Like it or not, I need to embrace the idea that people enjoy me and want me around. It’s something that I enjoy. There’s no need to fight it. I need people in my life. That’s just what it is.

I gotta stop trying to keep to myself and wishing that I wasn’t “here”.

 

| drive slow, homie |

Good old Ferris said it best. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it

It’s actually crazy how quickly time does fly by. You never think about this until you’re 35, sitting in bed on a Friday night, and looking at old pictures of you being fun (and out of the house later than 9:30pm).

Today, I was painfully reminded about the fact that Tupac died over 20 years ago! Not that I was a fire hard Tupac fan. It’s just that I remember seeing the news that he was shot on TV, then days later, hearing he actually passed away. That was a major day in hip hop. Then the next year, Biggie was shot and killed. I was around for that and it was a big moment in life. My co-worker joked that perhaps ‘Pac should’ve been riding in an Uber (cue the loud groan). Then, because this particular coworker is young and fill of youthful spite, he reminds me that it had been over 20 years since the East coast/West coast beef.

What’s happened since then? You know… I went to high school, graduated from high school, I went to college, graduated from college, moved a billion times, lived in Sacramento, did ministry work, moved to Oakland, and dipped my toes in the tech sector. There are lots of other little things that went down in the margins, but that’s the general gist. It’s crazy to think that I’m basically two years away from being eligible for a 20 year high school reunion 😱!

Aside from being legitimately old now (mid 30s, crazy!) I’m trippin’ over the fact that time is real a slippery mofo. Some of this stuff seems like it happened yesterday. A lot of the pictures and working I read from myself at various points asking the way, sound like they’re from a different person completely. It’s weird to think about how much effort it takes to change some things, but other stuff is vastly different with just the passage of a little time.

I had a visit from one of my best and oldest friends this week and SILLY how life works. In some ways, it’s one of those fabled friendships, where to people don’t see each other in 4 years, but immediately hug it out and fall right back in rhythm like nothing changed. The inside jokes are still there, the timing is there, the back and forth is the same. Nothing seems to have changed, until it’s time to catch up. You both tell stories about what life has been like (which becomes difficult, once you remember where things dropped off). You realize just exactly how much you’ve been through. How much you might have just written off because you were going through it. You later to them and realize that your friend has been through some things! Life isn’t as simple or easy as it was in high school or college and together, you realize that in a lot of ways, things are better than they’ve ever been. So much to look forward to, lots of things still in store. However, you two are not the same two dudes that used to get out over a new Pharoahe Monch jam/feature (let’s be real, those are STILL exciting). That is included, but there’s more happening in life now.

It was amazing to see how much changed and how much stayed similar. It made me wonder how much I’ve set myself up for unnecessary reunions like this, with people that I could literally see easily at any time. All it takes is a text here or a phone call there, to incorporate myself in their lives. I disappear to get entrenched in some self pity, or self healing journey and emerge separated from community. I want to lean how to have those kinds of benefits without having to retreat into myself. I’m missing out on all the changes and progression in people’s lives. I gotta start doing better than that.

Life does move fast, if you’re not paying attention, people will not be the folks you remember (which is not a bad thing), but there’s some sadness in not being there to witness and support friends through the things that life throws at us

| Do I know you…? |

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Were you aware of my 2 hour stint as a male model back in the days? Yup. One sunny day in the city of Davis (in California) a star was born! This was the only acceptable shot that came out of that photoshoot (which explains why it was such a short lived stardom). The fun thing is that I have lots and lots of random stories and random pictures that just live in the depths of my completely open Facebook profile. Some of them are from way, way back in the day.

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Even lesser known is that time that I became a swing dancing prodigy and I set the streets of Oakland on fire back in 2005. Unfortunately for my friend Chien-Wei, he had to be the one willing to deal with my learning of all the aerials. After a lot of practice, we were able to burn that dancefloor down! No problems and the entire UC Davis team (along with some help from the UC Berkeley team) was able to swing, jump, jive, and wail with the best of them. Also, I lived with a bunch of people in a house for an urban mission trip in the streets of Oakland, working with kids in a summer camp type environment (ooh, i’m just full of all the random facts in this one, aren’t I)? It’s just one of those things. No big deal really.

When I sit back and think about it, I have so many stories! I have probably forgotten more than I should have (getting up there in age, my mind is starting to fail me a bit hehe). There are so many adventures and shenanigans that I have jumped in on, or have joined in for. People who meet me now, would never even guess at some of the things that I’ve gotten myself into. Again, if you were to ask me, I might not be able to give the clearest examples of these things anymore, but the idea is that there is so much history that doesn’t exactly get exposed to the light of day anymore. If you do a good enough job of Facebook stalking me, you’ll get treated to a few doozies. Like this one(I take my costume game REAL seriously)!

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I realized recently, that this all goes two ways! I only ever think of friendships from when they start with me. This is kinda problematic for 2 reasons:
1. I almost never remember how I have met people/became friends with them (seriously,
maybe you can help me remember these things, the next time that we hangout).
2. I negate all the cool things that have made you the person that you were when we met
(however it was that this happened. Again, see reason #1).

I feel like I should definitely take a more vested interest in these kinds of things. I feel like there are rich tapestries that were weaved of great times and fun adventures that transpired way before I had the pleasure of meeting you. These are especially interesting, because they give a new perspective to you as a person and that’s a valuable thing. I want to find out about how little <insert your name here> (props to you if you actually inserted your name there while you read this) dealt with such heavy topics like Prom night, Freshman year of college, or spring break 19/2k whatever end numbers those stories include.

Of course, I’m interested in having more stories to create with friends as the year continues on, but don’t be surprised if you find me liking super old pictures (cause I’m about to get my stalk on with my friends), or if I start asking you much more questions about your past. I’ll try to make sure to have a few of my own on hand, because reciprocation is the name of the game. Conversations, am I right?!

Let’s make more moves to get to know each other better, friends!

 

How’d I get h… Hold on.

What’s the hot new show that you’re into?

Oh? Me? Nothing! I haven’t been catching up on anything!

You know what I realized? I have a very short attention span. I can barely keep myself interested. Why am I even writing this? (you want people to read and connect with you, Justin. Duh).

Remember when Television shows were 24 episode mini-series style? I had the patience of a monk. I remember waiting with bated breath for each episode of How I Met Your Mother each week. Remember that show? If you do, I love, you! Let’s be friends. If not, you should check it out on Netflix Hulu. Twas my favorite and I feel like I grew up (into my 30s) with it! It also felt like forever before I would be able to get the next bit of joy from Barney and Co. That might have been largely because I could never figure out CBS and the mountain time zone (seriously! 8pm or 7pm?!).

Now we have the joy of being able to consume a whole season of some shows all at once. I have literally spent a whole summer watching Friends, just because I could. Before you judge me, it was a long summer before I could watch any new Marvel tv after I had finished Jessica Jones, let’s be real. So you know, I did what I had to do. That’s right! I stepped up!

Or was that Joey? Ahem. Anyways. You can just waste a weekend and get caught up (because 3 days after a premiere makes you behind on things). Even with that, I find it hard to get started with anything new, simply because I can’t find it in me to sit still for anything other than movies or sporting events.

Somehow, this even translates into being distracted when I’m with people.

“I’mma let you finish, but MKBHD just posted his crispiest video to date! It’s all about mini electric skateboards and I wish that I could afford one.” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your bad day. KLAY FOR THREE!!! Tell me more about what went wrong”. In the middle of this rousing (read: convicting) example, you probably got a text message that requires your attention. Go ahead. I’ll wait for you.

Hey, took you longer to get back than you thought, right? Good thing I’m just the writer. That break was about 3 return keys worth of pause for me. 😀

Everything that’s out there these days, is all about distraction. We’ve developed this need to be constantly engaged with something(s). I can’t tell you how many times I enter a pause in conversation, or become the impassive voice in a group, then jump on my phone for engagement. People get on the bus, or on BART and instantly jump into whatever entertainment is on the 4 inch screen in their hands (ugh, fine. 6+ inch screen, you size queens). There’s something to be said about how it’s kinda impossible to be focused on something and only that thing.

What does it look like to give something/someone see undivided attention? Not in that: “I’m-clingy-and-can’t-let-you-breathe” kinda way. I’m that: “I’m-into-what-you’re-saying” or “I’m-feeling-what-we’re-doing” type way. Is it really that uncool to not have like 12 options at once? Is it lame, because what I’m doing at the moment is really all that I have going on? I think I read somewhere that to many options available can make you unhappy (that sounded scientific enough to ease my lameness).

Of course, I write this because I’m intrigued. I’m terrible at focusing myself. I’m literally writing right now, on my phone, as I’m riding BART. I am secretly hoping that looking busy and having headphones on will be enough for this “Nosy Nellie” on my right, to keep her eyes focused on something else. Also, the trip is boring. I need to distract myself from other conversations happening, or these damn bone breaking dancers with their shenanigans. I really want to just pick up, fly somewhere, and settle for a week. Somewhere where I can practice this focus. Being with myself and dealing with the thoughts that will come up, allowing myself to not be distracted.

Sounds scary, right?

Sounds like a vacation to me.

| I’m alive |

For a long time, I wanted to get a tattoo. I actually remember thinking that it might be my first “adult” act once I turned 18. On my 18th birthday, I hadn’t come up with any good ideas and instead, I got a piercing. A shiny, gold plated cubic zirconia in the cartilage of my left ear. That was the expression of my adult self that I settled for.

It took me 11 years to finally settle upon something and pull the trigger on that tattoo. Crazy right?! Some people get a tattoo on every trip they go on. Some people keep an idea around for a year or so, then they go for it. I waited 11 years to get sold on the idea that I had. Took me that long to find a way to represent it. Once I saw it, it was so obvious.

I’ll get back to that tattoo. I actually will! This is not one of those stories that spirals out of control and loses itself. Just be patient.

So, faithful reader… You might be surprised to see that I’m writing anything. You might not every have read anything on this little blog thing. If you did at some point (umm yay!) Thank you.

2 years ago this very month (give or take), I was dumped! I know, what the WHAT?!? Who’d let me slip through their hands, right? You’re too kind, reader. Really too kind. Anyways, I won’t hash out the details (again). I thought that I had something figured out! I was dating, I was leaning about relationships, and I was going to make something of myself. Earlier that year, I had been downsized from a job that I should never have taken in the first place. It was the result of being unhappy in a previous job and seeing the wiring on the wall way too late. I snapped up the second offer I got and it was with a company that just didn’t know what to do with me. From the beginning, the fit was never quite right. However, I couldn’t think of quitting. I would never have the money to do that. That happened though. I wasn’t sad about losing the job, I was a little upset about potentially becoming another black man without a job.

Anyways. I was freshly back from a trip to Costa Rica and I was dumped. I thought that this was the end of all the good stuff. I had a job coming along, but now nothing with this person that I had been imagining a future with and back to the drawing board. Having to forget her friends and family and all of that good stuff. It was going to be back to nothing for me.

So you know what happened to me 2 years ago. What’s up between then and now you ask? Well. I did what I always used to do. I started living because of someone/something else that was not good old me. I think that the biggest shifts for me, within maybe the last 6 or 7 years, were the results of me feeling like I had something to prove to the world. I had a run-in with a girl from my history and decided to lose about 70 pounds (which are, of course back on me, dammit). I wanted to show that I was good enough to be cool to her. This time, I started doing all the things that normal Justin would never do. I got into dating (HARDCORE). My friends were shocked at how many girls I was dating at one time. It was weird to keep that all together. I started going places. I flew to different parts of the world. I thought that I should be making up for lost time with traveling. I never went anywhere due to hatred of flying, but now I was post-breakup. I could do all kinds of crap that I didn’t know I had in me. I started getting over my fear of planes. I started living the life that I thought someone my age should’ve been living.

The kicker though, the kicker was that I always had this idea that I was just looking for redemption through all of that. People could look at me and not see this broken person, they’d see the guy who was flying all over the place and having all of these experiences. He was in control of his life and making moves. I had no idea that I was just hiding through everything. Of course, I was having a good time with everything that I got into, but it wasn’t because it was actually anything that I wanted to do. It was being experienced to prove to myself that I was being different, or that I had grown in some significant way.

This absorbed me for the last 2 years. Under the guise of living my best life, I was able to do all of these great things, but they still felt like they were happening to me, not like I was DOING them. Not like I fully chose them. It wasn’t until recently, that I realized that I was trapping myself in this behavior. I didn’t really have to be in any kind of relationship with people, because I was always gone, or there was always another person to meet/get to know. In this way, I was executing the perfect hermitage. I would make random appearances here and there, but I had more reason to lay low, in between experiences, because I was always out and about and I just wanted time to myself. A perfectly reasonable alibi that wasn’t a lie, but was definitely a product of my own self-shielding.

I did all the therapy during this time and it helped me realize that what I thought was depression brought on by my current circumstances was really a culmination of how I was feeling all along. Just drifting along and going with what seemed good had gotten me there. As much as I wanted to blame my ex for all of it, I was unhappy before she came along. It took me 2 years of therapy to realize that I did have an importance. I did have a voice and my needs were important to pursue and aquire.

Back to this tattoo. It took me 11 years to find a tree. I’ve always liked trees because to me, they signify patience. You never plant a tree and get shade from it in the same season. They take their time and when they’re grown they’re strong. A theme for me is that I always take my time to things. Whether that’s understanding a situation, or getting clarity about who I am. It will never be instantaneous for me, but the reward is greater then the time it takes to get it.

Seemed like I feel of the face of the Earth for a couple years, or that I was all over it. I was taking time to get myself right and discover that I don’t have to just float through things.

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Never thought that we would ever be more than friends, now I’m all confused, cause for you, I have deeper feelings…

This is where it starts.

One morning you wake up and everything seems to be completely normal. Sun’s out shining, the birds are chirping, but you’re completely bored. Don’t mistake it, there are SO many things that you could be doing. The adult life presents nothing less than 1 billion choices and responsibilities (nap time, am I right?).

You spend time with people innocuously, you share a little bit of yourself and get to know someone. You enjoy spending time with them and doing mundane things together and somewhere the creep sets in. Initially, (if you’re me), you fight it. Technically, I’m not interested in girls anymore. I’m all about that single life! No more thinking about any of that stuff. It’s been a good run so far, but I’m only like 8 months into the mission. I’m seriously shortchanging the rest of my life, guys. Something is wrong with my math, or my head (either is a viable choice, actually). You convince yourself that there is no reason to be concerned, you’re steady in your choices and that’s simply going to be that!

For a little while, you’re actually ok like this. You get about a month or so under your belt and you don’t have any outbursts or any feelings or anything. Maybe you’ve beaten this thing! You, have figured out a way to keep yourself on the outside of things and you’re flying high. You’re also quite ridiculous and running on the fumes of pride, you silly, silly fool. So unassuming. So recklessly hopeful. hehe.

One day, you reach that tipping point… One hangout too many. One interaction that throws everything off. Some interesting insight, some drawn out conversation. Something pushes you back over the edge and makes you sit up and take renewed notice. Next thing you know, you’re chillin’ on a Saturday, wishing that you were in this person’s company and holding off from any extraneous communication, for sanity’s sake. Even better yet, you want to hang out with them during the week, or whenever you’re not in the middle of a meeting or gathering of any sort. Interesting, no?

In the back of your head, however, there is something exciting about the idea of being excited about someone. It’s been a minute since that was a thing for you and finally, it’s just more of a happy situation than anything else. It’s like a breath of fresh air and honestly, it gives you the desire to be open and let something happen, which was completely off the table after the last year that you had. So, what happens? Do you play it cool and let something happen, do you make a move and push forward, or do you just keep that little joy to yourself, in hopes that when another situation presents itself, you’re fully ready to go all the way in on it?

Like our friend Usher Raymond said: “Situations… Will arise. In our lives, but you gotta be smart about it”.
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| Self Medicating |

A 5 year old boy pushed his bicycle and kept thinking: “I’m going to fall. It’s going to hurt. I’m going to fall. I’m going to fall.” He was comfortable with the training wheels. Honestly, wasn’t it kinda early to move away from that? He was weeks away from his 6th birthday and just wanted things to stay as he knew them. This brand new year and no training wheels seemed like a lot to take on. Where was the fun in this? This just seemed like something scary. Something an 6 year old would be able to handle.

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His mom and dad were right behind him. They gently put their hands on his back and encouraged him to make the step forward. They said things like: “don’t be afraid.” Or “It’ll be ok. Just give it a try.” More than anything, they didn’t want their son to fall and hurt himself, but they knew that the initial hardships were worth the effort. Once he could ride a bike, he’d have so much fun. They could picture the squeaks of laughter as he streaked up and down the sidewalk. Yet, they saw the fear in his eyes and wanted to fast forward through the painful beginnings for him.

Eventually, the boy got through the hard parts and his parents slyly removed their hands from his side and they all celebrated together, once he realized that he could ride the bike all by himself.

I recently read a book called: “How To Be Here” by Rob Bell. I have no idea who this guy is, but in general, he’s written a book about being fully in the present. His bigger picture concept is based on the fact that the past doest write the future. The future doesn’t happen all in one go. All the stops along the way are what make for great learning and great experiences. There’s no greater gift than the present (cue the old joke about it being called that for a reason… I’ll give you the side eye and a second).

Sometimes we don’t take the risk because of something that happened in the past. We tried something and it blew up in our face and so whenever there’s a new opportunity all we can think about is what happened back then.

If I’m to be real, I’m  in a space where this is totally true. I am also in a spot where I am definitely a little jealous of where some friends are in life. I am 33 years old. When my father was my age, he had a wife, a 6 year old me, and a 3 year old my sister. He was already pushing forward in the world. I have no wife, no kids, no house, nothing. I’m living with two housemates and I don’t have a car. I’m surrounded by friends who are all married and having kids. All I can think about is where I missed there boat. I want these things, but it seems far off.

There’s something though, about trying to self medicate/protect. I would say I live a pretty safe life. I use my intuition to keep me safe and not make take many mistakes. This has served me well until recently, where I am seeing that this muffler of the road life… It’s missing something… There’s flavor being missed. No growth is happening. Failure is a part of life, however it’s something that I’m running away from. What does it say about me, that I want a perfectly content life without challenge? It sounds like I want all the spoils and none of the adventures.

For the last few months, I was dating 3 women. No, not 3 women successively, 3 women simultaneously. No, I’m not exactly brushing my shoulder off (shout out to jigga). I really wanted to try this whole dating thing after some recent events. I was constantly questioning my motives with each young lady. I have zero experience with dating, in case you were wondering (I know, I am charming. You’re correct, but it was just never anything that I was super concerned with). Throughout this time, there was one girl who I really was excited about. Through the process of elimination ( I got eliminated by one, I eliminated the other), I found myself going on dates with just one woman. Yay! Cue the rom-com music and celebration!

The last woman standing is the one I was most excited about all along (big surprise, right)? The problem is that I’m currently sabotaging that situation. We’ve been on 7 dates. I have a mental block about her. Can’t read how these dates are going, haven’t even tried as much as holding her hand ( now what do you think about that silly shoulder brushing)?

I had a conversation with a friend last night. She was legitimately questioning my motives and desires. I walked away from that conversation with the conclusion that I am definitely getting in my way because I am not sure how things are going. It’s like I’m looking for signs or guarantees that something could happen. Classic middle road actions. The problem with that is simple. While I’m fumbling around and waiting for an in, some self-assured hottie with a fresh ( Man bun? Undercut? Insert trendy hairstyle here) is going to take a risk and win her over, right in front of me.

Instead of making a move, I’m already pushing her away and steeling  myself for rejection. The problem is that it doesn’t have to end that way, if I get over myself. I swear, I’ve been in this spot before and the outcome was exactly that. It’s hard to learn things, isn’t it Justin?

Why speak on this, you ask? Well, technically, It’s my blog and I can cry if I want to… Wait. That’s not right. I like to think that if I write something down, I’ll kinda carry it out correctly. I realize that I have to stop protecting myself. I’m depriving myself of the gifts of life. Mistakes/suffering/pain are around to let you know you’re alive. You learn from these things.

I’m definitely  couple of lessons short of real living. It’s worth a try, I think.

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| Don’t worry, you know that I’ve got me |

I may have mentioned this once or twice, but I have trust issues.

I started seeing a therapist a few months ago, because I recognized that I have developed a pattern of extending myself to others, then flipping the switch and isolating myself from people. There isn’t a regular time frame to this cycle. I know what it looks like, however.

I am currently in the throws of one such cycle. I am observing the choices that are presented to me and I see myself making the choices that alienate me. My therapist asked me to identify what it is that I get from being alone, that I can’t get from being around other people. Why would I choose to be alone. My answer came quickly…

SAFETY

I will never hurt myself. I know my triggers, I know the solutions. Unless you have ever seen me react to a musical. Then it would obvious that you know those things can soothe me like none other 😉. I can (and will) care for myself better than anyone else. A big reason for this is because I just won’t let anyone else. To be more accurate, I hadn’t until the last year.

If you know me, you’ve unfortunately been exposed to this cycle (I apologize). I’ll be around and active and all about spending time with you, then I’ll just drop off the face of the earth. Sooner or later, I’ll emerge as suddenly as I disappeared, almost as if I’d never been gone.

If we are friends, I apologize to you. I’m ashamed to admit that in most cases, I keep things superficial. I’ll let you share with me when you’re hurting or upset. I’ll give you advice (whether or not you want it, oops). I’ll encourage you if you need a little push. However, I will not let you do that for me.

I’m sorry that I haven’t trusted you enough to let you be an ally. I didn’t think highly enough of you that I could trust you to keep a secret for me. I didn’t believe you when you thought that something I said was interesting or entertaining. I sold you short and thought that the strength of our friendship was directly correlated to how much I could do for you, in hopes that you wouldn’t notice me keeping you at arm’s length.

When I ask myself what I’m looking for, I realize that I’m looking for someone (or some people) that will have my back. I’m looking for a ride or die, a group of friends that feel like family, a steady roster of folk that I can enlist for my audacious adventures whenever the mood strikes. People that won’t pass out when I wax poetic about the genius of Timbaland or geek out over Pokemon Go (Yes, I’m one of those people).

However, this does not happen by magic. I can’t expect to find depth of relationship if I don’t dig a little deeper myself. So, after my apologizing, I would like to ask for some help.

Don’t be afraid to ask me the hard questions. Ask me how I’m really doing, ask me about how I’m moving forward in life, how I’m challenging myself. Ask me what I want to accomplish within the next year. Don’t take my wishy-washy non-committal answers. Invite me to get vulnerable.

I need all the practice that I can get.

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| What is it that you’re looking for? |

The Awakening


Around this time last year. I was on a break. I was on break from a girl who, at the time, was a really good friend that became a little bit more. The general idea was that we both had some feelings for each other, but we weren’t looking for a relationship. We started hanging out as “more than friends” in April. By the end of June, the elephant in the room was her upcoming venture to Costa Rica. She was going to spend a year there, to teach English and get exposure to teaching English as a second language.

The explanation for the break was that she didn’t want things to get to deep between us, when she was just going to leave. It would be much harder to walk away from things, if they were allowed to progress. She was set to leave in October, so four months of interaction world be quite significant to leave behind. I didn’t like the idea, but I had to respect it. This was what she wanted.

The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this woman was special. For the first time in a while, I was positive that there was something unforgettable afoot. I had this unfamiliar feeling of being brave and fighting for the exploration of this. I reluctantly admitted that it was ok to feel what I was feeling and that it was worth the effort to pursue things. I recognized that there was something special being built here and I didn’t want to run from it.

The Realization


By the middle of July, we were back in regular contact and were hanging out. We concluded that things were worth getting into and decided that we’d be open to things. We grew super close and eventually decided that a relationship was something that we could both get behind (and wanted).

The tl;dw (too long, didn’t write it) version of this part of the story is that I fell in love. I spent time with this woman and realized that I could have lots of things in common with someone. I did not have to hide how I felt and my feelings were ok. I felt validated. Most of all (importantly to me), I felt valued and I felt backed up. I had met someone willing to partner with me. We knew things would be difficult, but we were worth it to each other. I learned that I was able to feel and show love. It was lovely.

The Post-Mortem


About 10 months later, I was told that the desires that we’d shared had changed. What she previously wanted in life had shifted. She loved being in Costa Rica and wanted to extend her time out there. She didn’t want to lead me on anymore, she didn’t feel like she could put the work towards keeping things up. This devastated me, of course. This was the first time I had fallen in love. That being said, I also always had an idea that she would do exactly this. She would get out there, she’d love it, she’d be held back by this person far away.

Even though this was not surprising, the severing of our connection did throw me for a loop. I thought that perhaps there would/should’ve been more of a fight for us. I could be encouraging of her getting to know a different part of herself. The truth was, I felt like part of loving this person, was allowing her the freedom to do what she felt was necessary for her. She was not my possession, but my partner (as long as she was willing). Once she stopped being willing, it was not my job to try to convince her, but to support the decision made and try to move along with the rest of life.

The New Rules


I learned that I was able to be vulnerable. I learned that I wanted to be vulnerable with someone. It was entirely possible for me to give myself freedom to invest in someone in unfamiliar and scary ways. I finally learned what it felt like to fall in love and what it meant to truly be selfless with it. However, I had these questions left over. I wanted to know what I was supposed to do with someone else. How did that look? What was it that I was looking for? The only real issue that I could see was that timing was incorrect. How do you move on while still kinda hoping that things are only finished for the time being?

For me, it included being comfortable enough to put myself out there for people. I decided to start seeing a therapist. I wanted to dedicate some time to myself. I also thought it might be a good idea to stop saying no so much. Saying no kept me from some potentially life changing and memorable experiences before. Had I just said no from the beginning, I would never have gotten to know the joys that make pursuing love worth it.

I also decided that I was worth making time for. That includes opening up space for the expression/development of ideas. I get to make big moves like actually talking about what I’ve been thinking/feeling. I deserve to give myself space to feel things and share those things, which will make me better at communicating and recognizing myself for the next time that I happen to take a chance on love. It’s a move that is necessary and inevitable (hopefully).

Here’s to fully committing to me, to figuring out what I want, to being open, and moving forward thoughtfully. What I’m looking for, is me.

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