Category Archives: Uncategorized

| 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.

| You should go and love yourself |

JustinBieberLoveYourself

I’ve only heard this song twice (listening to it as I write this). I can never say that I’m promoting the Biebs (even though we share the same name, I can’t completely hate on a Justin…), however, this Lil’ ditty made me think of some things.

Personally, I am learning every day how much I am hampered by the societal ideology of men being strong and unemotional. There are so many times where I feel like I have to react to things stoically or more accurately, suck things up. No one wants to hear a man bitching about how he’s currently feeling (ironically, people don’t seem to want to hear a woman do the same thing, go figure). It’s not in vogue to give in to such feelings either. Men are supposed to process things immediately and correctly. If you do anything less than that, you are incapable or you have been maladjusted.

This mentality, in addition to being the eldest child, has given me the special ability to laser focus on myself with such a sharp edge. Behavior had to be exemplary because I had a younger sibling or well contained so that I was not disrupting things. All this produces,  is a cyclical tendency to stuff things down until they cannot be contained, followed by an explosion of emotion. Usually, I was able to hold on to these emotions until I was behind closed doors or until everyone else had gone to bed and I was free to feel the feels and process them.

My default behavior, when not feeling particularly ecstatic about things, is to jump into seclusion and lick my wounds until I feel as if I am ready to get back into the swing of things.

As of November, I have lost my car. As of January, I have lost my job. What does this mean constructively? This means that I spend a lot of my time these days, sitting in my room. I am less than optionally active and more than optionally secluded while the rest of the world does their thing. Now, thankfully, I have had the foresight to start a certification program through City College of San Francisco. Thanks to this, my days are not completely empty, but even studying and doing homework gets sad after a little while. Additionally, I am in a long distance relationship. Along with that comes all the normal concerns and issues that one might expect when a significant other is not in the picture traditionally.

What does one do about this? How is self-love accomplished? Well, the first thing is actually talking about my issues. Which is super difficult for me, because I am still hard wired to believe that people work out their own issues. While some of my friends can attest to my bitching, it’s not as bad as it really could be because I don’t want to burden people with a bunch of noise. Everyone has problems, who cares? The truth that I have to remember is that everyone has a need to be heard. I love helping people so much, but it’s so hard to give myself the grace to let people help me. It’s so difficult for me to believe that there are viable options for me to open up to and get my thoughts out. One way is this blog! A lot of people wonder why I can write some of the stuff I write here. It’s largely because I need some way to process and this is a judge free (to my face) way to get that done.

So. How can I love myself and get out of this funk that I’m in? I’m going to start by realizing that I’m not a robot. I have feelings, I need to express and explore those feelings. I have the right to do both of those things and pursue happiness. I also have friends. Friends are not mythical beings that I can swoop in and be there for, at any time, they are real people. They are real options for me to spend time with, to speak with, and to trust with my feelings as I process them. Friends are resources for the advice that I cannot give to myself, or refuse to acknowledge for myself. I’m also checking out some therapy options. Talking to someone and building trust is a challenge that I have to accept to push myself forward.

If you are my friend and you’re reading this, encourage me to chat with you. Open yourself up for conversation. The more that I do that, the more I’ll hear things that I need to hear that are not part of the lies/silliness that my head produces (in unfortunately mass quantities). If I’m doing a bad job of reaching out (I’m admittedly horrible at this recently), holla @ your boy. I should definitely get out of the house more often.

It’s time. I should go and love myself. Thanks, Justin B. (Never imagined getting any inspiration from HIM. Perhaps I should start crying right now…)

 

 

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| To my ride or die… |

heart_pizza

Hey, you…

I know you’ve been confused about things between us, so I wanted to just write you a little something to clear the air and give the definition that you’ve been looking for. I’ve got a few things to say, so here we go:

My earliest memories with you were always associated with some of the happiest times of my life. We were tight, right from the beginning. Our initial meeting was fraught with a little apprehension. I had never come across anything like you however, you had this warmth and pleasant nature that I was drawn to. I wanted to have you around all of the time, but you were so hard to keep up with. We wouldn’t get too much time together in the early days, but you were always the life of all the parties that I went to. I knew that I could look forward to some time with you when someone had a birthday party, or there was some kind of celebration (graduation, new job, field trips, etc). I could always count on being tricked twice a month at school by someone who looked like you, but never gave me the right feeling.

My teenage years were some of our hardest times. Our interests seemed to grow in different directions. You were still down with the party crew, getting mixed up with all the cool kids and making frequent appearances at large gatherings. I spent more time studying and keeping more to myself. Sometimes, we’d get together during busy weeks when I just needed to unwind and take it easier, but most of the time I was always giving time to other friends. My mom successfully got me introduced to this nice little chicken and rice dish that grew to have a special place in my heart. However, I never completely forgot about you.

My young adult years were where we really reconnected. It was great to be able to see you whenever I wanted. You were around for all of the best times! I could get down with you at any time of the day. If I was feeling particularly adult, I would set up breakfast dates with you (because I could)! Usually, you’d be around for social gatherings, but we definitely spent some time in front of the tv and got to know each other better. With the expansion of my world, I found that you were one of the best travel companions that anyone could have. Although you sometimes liked to dress up differently, depending on where I was, I could always rely on the fact that you were the same, deep down. We had so many deep conversations in Chicago and even though you tried to act like you didn’t recognize me, we kicked it hard in New York.

Fast forward to today. I’m still feeling you like no one else. I can’t imagine life without you. I know in recent years I went through a long term thing with hamburgers, but you gotta know that this was all about me, I wasn’t unhappy with you. I just wanted to try some new things and she was sizzling hot, can you blame me? Also, to be real honest about it, you’re a terrible vehicle for pickles (whoops, this is not that kind of letter).

*Ahem*.

I’m sorry that I try to sometimes cover up my love for you. I shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the fact that I secretly want to hang out with you all the time. I can’t lie and say that you don’t make random appearances in my dreams. As I get older, I do realize that I need to make our time together more special/memorable. We’re only going to be in the prime of our lives for a short while, but I have to make the best of things while I can. I just want to clearly state that I’m all about YOU, I’m not trying to mess around with these flavorless patties in the streets anymore. It’s me and you, boo. You’re the pie for me.

Pizza, if you’ll have me. I’m ready to make a commitment to you. I only have eyes for you. Burgers be damned. I have been in denial, but you’ve always been my ride or die. Time for me to make the same commitment to you.

❤ ,
Justin

 

| Cheers or McLaren’s? |

SURPRISE!!! I’m ALIVE!

No, that’s morbid. Why would I not be? Let’s start this again.

Hi! I’m back (and almost a year older!). Remember how I used to blog on this thing? Maybe I should try that again.

I had a lovely evening with a pair of good friends and they let me know that they were on a “secret” search for a neighborhood bar where they could become regulars. Out of respect to their search/results, I will not give any names up.

HOWEVER, I WILL SHARE MY IDEAS FOR MY PERFECT BAR!!!

 

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Location

I almost feel silly for posting a general idea like the location for a bar of choice. I can feel the rolling of eyes as this is being read (love my sassy friends!). Hear (read) me out, though! Some people think that it’s best for a bar to be local and within walking distance. I care more about the neighborhood the bar is in. I don’t mind having to drive a little bit to get to a good place. I’m of the opinion that you can walk to your bar, or you can get a reasonable uber ride to and from your watering hole of choice.  As long as either is manageable, that should be sufficient. The worst thing is being stuck out in the middle of nowhere when trying to get to bar number 2 or proceed to any post bar activities. If it’s centrally located for any of your other frequent exploits, then you’re set up pretty well for a quick drink and subsequent shenanigans.

Cocktail Choices

There are a couple of things that have to be on point if I am even going to consider checking out your bar. Before I settle down, I need to know whether or not I can get certain things. Sometimes, I feel fancy and I want a mojito. If you are lacking mint, I want nothing to do with ya’ll. Seriously though, I’m always more than a bit miffed when I find an establishment that does not have ginger beer. I need moscow mules and the occasional dark & stormy to make appearances during my outings. If the place can’t make your favorite drink, it takes things out of the running. The other thing that I like dealing with folk who are up for a drink challenge. Don’t be so against the formula. If you’re too “by the book” I can’t drink at your establishment. This leads me to the next important thing…

Bartenders

Bartenders are an important part of the bar going experience. I don’t need to be fooled into the idea that you want to both make my drinks and be my best friend (although, to be honest, I will probably want to be your bestie if you make me a good drink). I like places where the bartenders are up for a challenge. One of my favorite places to go, back in my Sacramento days, was the Elephant Bar. I know what you’re thinking: “it’s a chain restaurant, the drinks had to be formulaic and weak”. The Friday night bartenders were not only super knowledgeable about drinks, but they were willing to have me stump them. I could come in and name a drink and they’d try like hell to produce it. I hate the kinds of bartenders that roll their eyes if you ask for a cocktail that has more than 2 ingredients. Life can’t be all jacks and cokes! Friendly people, knowledgeable about drinks, and not afraid to suggest great ones. That’s the dream!

Atmosphere

Loud bars, quiet bars, big bars, small bars. So many options, which one is the best?! Personally, I like bars that have an inside and outside environment. If  the weather is nice, what’s better than having a drink in the sunshine? If it gets cold later, move the party indoors. I like a good, even balance of available options. Recently, I went to a place called Mad Oak in downtown Oakland. I loved that there was a good indoor space, if you wanted to sit and chill, but more importantly, the entire roof is a lounge area out in the open for those spring/summer nights when the sun is still up after 5pm. Another place that I like with that mix is Southern Pacific Brewing Company in San Francisco. The indoor area is huge, has many levels, and the outdoor area is pretty accommodating. I like the idea of options. Nobody makes baby drink in a corner! Also, there need to be cool folks chillin in the spot. I don’t want to be in the presence of a bunch of douchbee’s (what up bologna barb?!), but there can’t be a bunch of people watchers (that’s boring/too much like me).

Food

I don’t know about you, but when I drink, I get hungry. Unfortunately for me, I am also really picky about what I’m eating. The truth of the matter is that a lot of bar food sucks. Thankfully for me, I spend lots of time in a place that takes their food as seriously as I do. The Bay Area has lots of establishments that also cater to those with pickier preferences than just bar nuts or nachos (actually, shout out to well done nachos. I’m looking at you, Royal Exchange). There has to be some good eats if I’m going to sit and spend a good amount of time at your place. This heavily factors into things. As a backup, I can throw it right back to the location. If you are at a bar that doesn’t serve food, they should be close to a place that does and will allow you to bring that food into the bar so that you can eat and drink simultaneously.

Little Extras

Lastly, I have a certain fondness for places that have the small extras. One of my favorite places is the Hobnob in Alameda. Not only do they stock up on ginger beer, but they have many games that you can play. There is a bookshelf full of board games and you can rent decks of cards from behind the bar. Another place that I like is Albatross in Berkeley. This place has lots of tables for playing board games (which you can rent from behind the bar). It also has a full area for pool, a dedicated area to darts, and cheap popcorn! The drinks there are also pretty good. Depending on what time of the year it is, I would also love a place that had tvs that could be paid attention to for sports events.

If I had to try to create the perfect bar for me to become a regular of, it would have the tasty drinks of Mua (in Oakland), the nice extras of Hobnob, the space of either Mad Oak or Plank (without the bowling alley, arcade, and shenanigans), and the foot traffic/ambience of Dr. Teeth (in San Francisco). That’s my random assortment. What kind of stuff do you look for in a bar? Perhaps we can grab a drink together sometime, if I haven’t offended you with my list of demands. I promise I’m a pretty chill guy…

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| Imagine Me… |

“Thank you, for allowing me to see myself the way you see me. Thank You.”

There was a period in my life when this was a theme song for me (I know I have a new one of those every few weeks, but we won’t worry about that right now). The topic of self-esteem is something that I periodically struggle with. I find myself using minimalization as a defense mechanism. I seek out ways that I can keep myself from standing out, not wanting unnecessary attention. A manifestation of this is the recurring thought pattern that I have a minimized place in the world at large. When I’m not feeling happy, I tend to shrink into myself and become reclusive. My internal reasoning works on a rotation of the following thoughts:

  1. It will not matter if I don’t show up for this event(s).
  2. I will just bring down the mood of <insert group or event>.
  3. I am too preachy.
  4. No one cares about <insert topic I am passionate about>

In a candid conversation with my friend Laura today, I realized that these are silly assumptions to make. We talked about my tendency to find inconsistencies with other people, but ignore them for myself (duh, classic cliché much?). I tried to think of what might encourage these thoughts recently and, of course, it’s because I’m in a “less than stellar” mood lately. However, in the way of a classic encourager, I sought some examples that spit in the face of these reasonings:

  1. People do care about my presence at certain events. My friend Beth thought that I was dodging her (how silly, yet easily misinterpreted) by skipping out on events. I also had friends reach out unexpectedly, to find out how I was doing and where I was.
  2. I sent an email to my small group, explaining to them that I had been struggling for a while and wanted to let them know why I’d been missing in action. I got many replies with kind words and offers to help by praying/talking.
  3. When I get out of my own head and try to be useful, it actually happens. I have great experiences to draw from and they can be useful to people. Also, my opinions on things are not always radically different from other people’s opinions.
  4. Even though I was preaching the magnificence of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for a little too long, people appreciate seeing my passions.They lead to  great conversations and help me relate to people.
Ironically, I like to think that I have a low level of impact on people. The truth is that I have a high level of influence (it’s kind of cocky sounding to write it down, but hear [read] me out). I often find myself in positions of leadership, or find myself being told about ideas that I’d brought up. It’s weird to imagine, but there is some truth to the old saying: “There is always someone watching you”. When it confronts me (and it does) I’m always thrown for a loop. Today’s conversation with Laura was one of those moments. She broke down my impact on her and it was heavy. I really appreciated hearing it and it reminded me that I can change things. I can re-imagine me and change the way I live my life.
Who would’ve thought?

| Move it Along |

Everybody hurts.

Everybody gets hurt.

One hurt does not mean that you stop progressing, but it sometimes leads people to move to actions that will keep them from feeling that same hurt again and again.

inspirational quote

I saw this quote online earlier, and it registered with me pretty deeply.

The older that I get, the more I understand that life isn’t so much about what happens to you, but how you react to the things that happen to you. The power is then, checking how you react to something, and how you learn from it/move forward from it. It sounds like it’d be a simple thing, but I’m really checking myself lately on how this works out in real life.  There’s that old cliche about lemons being given and lemonade being made.

Seriously though, I think there is something to be said about the fact that we try to come up with coping mechanisms for things, and those coping mechanisms work for a season or two in our lives, but there is a point after which, these things become nothing more than a crutch for behavior(s) that we’ve become accustomed to and are too comfortable with to manage in any other way.

I am not the king of the silly self-imposed rule, but I am somewhere in the high court of the silly self-imposed rule kingdom. Of course, some of these rules that I follow are not silly, and some of them just need to be re-examined as relics of a previous iteration of myself that could be given a makeover. One example of such a thing is my “No dancing in public” rule. At one time in my life, this was actually a requirement of me, as a member of a Christian fraternity, but I have clung to such things because it keeps me from making a fool of myself in front of people in dancing situations.(I’m not a horrible dancer, but not all of us are MJ ok?) I’m sure there’s not that much wrong with cutting a rug in public (I’m actually told that it’s fun), but it’s something that I haven’t wanted to let go. I fear that the time for the death of that rule is upon me, based on a semi-recent conversation I had with Iona and Helene… (Yup, I just called y’all out in a blog!)

The face of the: “don’t hold yourself back so much” movement, for me, has been my friend Laura. She really pushes me to just question the motives behind my actions (or non-actions), and encourages me to rage against that machine.  (I think I just became a robot in my mind? Not quite sure on that one.) I have appreciated being able to take a step back sometimes, and really think about where some of these things come from, and how they can affect my current or future happiness, without any real reason or logic.

The fun thing is to now see how many of those rules, when destroyed, invite others to get to know me in ways that they might not have previously. This can be a tool for infinitely more true connections with others, or deepening existing connections with people. This, being the 11th anniversary of my 21st birthday, seems like a really good time to try out something new.

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| Worst Behavior! |

I am an idea man.

There. I said it.

Some dudes aspire to be movers and shakers. Some dudes aspire to be point men, and they want to have a hand in all of the endeavors that they can manage. Me? I like to think. I like to think, and I like fleshing out ideas. However, I tend to think that ideas are not the sexiest thing in the world (cause I’m an expert on sexy, obviously). If you really think about it though, ideas are what keep things going! Just think, if no one ever thought about being luxuriously comfy/warm all the time, we’d never have such classics as the snuggy! Who wants to think of a world without a snuggy? Is this a fair question to be asked from someone who has never worn a snuggy?

Hi. I’m tired. Whoops, what a way to introduce myself. Actually, my name is Justin *takes bow*. I’m silly, I’m dorky, (sometimes funny) but, I am also an INFP. (What did you just call me?!) There are lots of convoluted definitions as to what this really means, so I’m just going to go with the breakdown as I understand it:

Introvert – This means that I can get away with not wanting to deal with small talk, big group settings, and helps to illustrate my occasional social awkwardness to people. I get my energy from being alone, and I operate well within the confines of one-on-one hanging out. However, this also means that I’m really good with speaking in front of people, because I can disconnect myself from an audience (this can come in handy sometimes).

iNtuitive – This means that I can judge stuff, because that’s how I gain information from it. I also base my actions/ideas on past dealings and experiences. This can keep me safe, it can also keep me unnecessarily guarded in things.

Feeling – I’m just a big sap. There’s no shame to that (right)? I’m a lover, not a fighter, and supposedly, I’m good at picking up what you’re putting down (If you feel me 😉 ).

Perceiving – I’m supposed to be really observant about things (usually, I’m just blankly staring into space, but i’ll take it). It also means that if you invite me to something, you might want to tell me to get there 15-20 minutes before you really want to start. This is the best way to get me to be on time for things. I am not a jerk, I just feel like I have ALL THE TIME for EVERYTHING, EVER (it’s a wonder I’m not more tired than I am).

I often find myself setting rather lofty (or maybe not so lofty) goals in life. At the beginning of the year, I told myself that I would take one photo a day, for the entirety of a year. I also told myself that I would be getting to the gym at least 3 times a week. Now, based on the proximity to New Year’s day, I could understand if you just wrote these things off simply as resolutions for the coming year. However, as the dork that I am, I considered these to be full-time life changes. The fact that I did not make it past 2 months on the gym thing, and 111 days on the photo project should not reinforce your aforementioned judgement on my short term life changes (thank you very much, Mr./Mrs./Ms. Mc Judgerson!). This type of thing is normal for me, really. I get all big and excited about something, and then get distracted by another big, shiny idea in short order.

Now then, onto the reasons that I love the fall. DAMMIT Justin, STAY FOCUSED.

drakeAs I sat and pondered things up to this point, I remembered that there was one thing that I set out to do this year that I was able to follow through on! Thanks to Drake, I had a mantra set for myself for 2014: WORST BEHAVIOR! This was going to be the year that I spent some time really trying to get away from doing things the way that I usually did, up to this point. It was supposed to inspire me to get out in the world and start really just jumping on opportunities and taking chances in ways that I was not used to. I wanted to shake things up, why not? What was holding me back from any of that? The interesting thing is that without even knowing, I was able to do just that (oh, such the cliché).

As corny as this might seem. I totally got started on the road of the idea of Worst Behavior, thanks to an experience that I had around a young lady that I fancied right at the end of the 2013. I said nothing to her about any interest in her, and she up and got a boyfriend (NOT me, of course)! Which was awesome for her, but made me realize that I needed to start making some opportunities for myself, and acting on them. Life throws out some great situations for us, but if we’re too busy chasing after the wrong thing, or hesitating on everything, stuff really just passes you by. I didn’t want to be on the fly-by list anymore.

Right from the beginning of the year, my idea was that I should start saying yes to a lot of things, and stop saying no to a lot of things. I remember that I was meeting up with my accountability group (yup, this post is about to get REAL Christian, Ya’ll!) and they were asking me about when I’d stop saying no to church, and try going to a small group or something. It was high time that I was getting involved again with things. I started pondering what that looked like. Up to that point, I had not regularly been attending church for at least a good year, and the church that i’d left, did not feel like a place that I was totally comfortable with. The people that were there were good folk, and a lot of them were awesome, but I just never really fit in completely (first world church problems). I went a couple of times and thought that it might be time to check out a new place.

I landed at a church called Re:generation. I had been there a couple of times, and remembered that some people that I had known (in what feels now like a past life), had attended. I thought that I would give it a good college try. I checked things out around early April, and decided to stick with things after Easter. Of course, I wasn’t just throwing myself out there yet, but I did end up meeting some cool people, and decided to jump into a home group, to check things out. Of course, I was shy, and didn’t know what to expect, but I found a group of people who were excited about life, and about pursuing Jesus together. I got hooked up with Late Night (Shout Out the the Late Night Crew!).

Also, a college friend, Erin found me after church one time, and mentioned that I should play cajon at church (Just in case you’re interested, a cajon is a wood box that is kinda like an acoustic drum). I found out that there was a monthly Jam Session at church, and decided to jump in one week and see what things were like. This turned into me having a quick convo with a gal by the name of Jane, who just happened to be the worship leader. She thought that it would be a good call for me to start playing with the worship team on some Sundays. Again, this being a “yes year”, I told her that I would jump in. It was pretty awkward at first, but after a couple of Sundays, I felt like I was able to play in front of the congregation with some confidence. It was awesome, as it opened up conversations with people at church that I don’t think I would’ve had if left to my own devices.

One of the most interesting things that I found was that I could be real with people at home group. This was completely different than I had been accustomed to in the past few years. People were struggling with real stuff and they were willing to open up about it and challenge each other on things. This was quite refreshing, and led me to want to invest more deeply with the people in the home group. My roommate Wayne has even began to see people regularly at my house as I decided to open my place up to hosting the home group. It’s kinda awesome, cause it makes me feel like an important part of the group, but also gave me access to having some conversations with people that I would not have had before… Including this really amazing woman that I met through the church… However, that’s a different and awesome story, in itself.

I randomly sat down earlier this evening and thought about how I hadn’t followed through with a bunch of things that I wanted to do this year (I am working hard to still hit my goal of getting 30 books read by the end of the year), and realized that I actually came really far with the simple idea of changing things up, and being open to new possibilities that were showing themselves around me. WORST BEHAVIOR for me, meant me getting out of my head a bit, and out of my comfort zone even more. The year isn’t even quite done, and I have a lot of exciting things on the way… It’s good to be able to recognize that, and I’m grateful for what 2014 has had for me.

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| What’s Going On (with me)?!? |

It has been said somewhere, that I have a blog, and that it’s actually an interesting read. I have yet to see any evidence of this supposed blog, however. Furthermore, if I was a successful blogger, you would think I’d update it on a somewhat-regularly-more-frequent-than-a-yearly basis (Yes, a lot of hyphenating, but for what?).

The point being, I get lazy a lot. I forget that I have this as a basis for communicating ideas, but I generally flock towards the quick bursts of expression a la twitter or facebook. HOWEVER! I have something to say (Deal with it… Or not.)

A lot of noise has been made regarding the situation that has been unraveling in front of the nation, in Ferguson. I think, rightfully so. There needs to be attention to the growing issue of young men being subjected to any kind of injustice at the hands of those people who are in charge. Although, the direction of my rant is less about the specifics of this situation.

I am ashamed. 

I am ashamed and disappointed, if I am going to be frank. I am upset at myself. I’m upset because I feel numb to things. 

What about my experiences in life has made me to be so numb about the things that are affecting people in the national community of African Americans, and in more specifics, the local happenings in a city that is known for violent encounters and radical thought?

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I currently live in Oakland, California. Like many young African American men, I have had my share of racism to deal with. I have experience with some police silliness. For example, towards the end of my college career, I was pulled over as a passenger in a car. I’d never thought that it was possible, but I found myself having to explain myself to an office from the passenger window, of a car that was being driven by a white friend of mine. It was a pretty ridiculous experience. As a resident of Oakland, I have heard gunshots right outside my window, and have woken up to hear about a homicide on the news, and have police cars sweeping my neighborhood as a result of the previous night’s actions. Disconcerting situations, and I know that there are lots of people who are out there like me, who have had similar experiences. I moved over to Oakland, and the Fruitvale district right after the shooting of Oscar Grant. That was an incident that shook the neighborhood, and was definitely my introduction to the Oakland area/stories of how police (even BART police) deal with people. I guess hearing about violent incidents and constantly being barraged by news that is similar to that did wear me down. 

A couple of months ago, there was a campaign on Twitter/Facebook about Women’s struggles against sexism and harassment, the #yesallwomen hashtag was popular and people were all about sharing their stories of both situations that they suffer through everyday. I liken my experience (probably poorly) to that of any woman that has been catcalled or whistled at while walking down the street. It seems to become something that can be ignored in lesser cases, but really shouldn’t have to be. I think that it’s something women develop a thick skin around it though, because it could be too much to deal with, as the frequency of these offenses can be something that happens daily. It changes the way you think and act, but I also feel like it deadens the world for people a little bit. Whether that turns into just keeping headphones in, to not give attention to harassment, or just turning a blind eye to the perpetrators, to not give them any satisfaction. I think that trying to distance myself from the injustices that I saw, or heard about, were ways that I tried to minimize the hurt of them and their existence. 

I also think about how things were for my parents/grandparents! As a race, the pain of fighting towards recognition and equality is not that far off. Both of my parents were alive (albeit, young) during things like the civil rights movement. The stain of injustice is still a fresh one, even though people of the generation that my sister and I belong to, have had nothing but the benefits of those fights. I feel called out, by what I think my grandparents would think of such an attitude towards the injustice that is set up systemically for minorities in general. I am letting people down, who had to live through some of the things that I have only experienced through a textbook experience in high school/college African American studies classes. All of the extraordinary struggles and triumphs that were experienced were not centuries ago. They happened very recently, and I feel like I should endeavor to have an active interest/voice my opinions based solely on the fact that my ancestors gave their lives, to make sure that these were things that we did not have to struggle against in the same ways that they did. 

Lastly, I feel like my Christian faith calls me to investigate these types of situations in love. I have double feelings about how that is played out when it comes to situations like what is going on in Ferguson. I think that there should be discussions about how this affects things in our world. How do we explore God’s love in an experience like this, and reflect some of that in how we deal with each other in our cities/homes? On the other hand, for me personally, I have generally been one of a handful of people of color within my church groups/homes. This usually reserves me to being either the “token” or “angry” black male role (neither of which are comfortable for me on a continual basis) when it comes time to bring up things like this. So for me, I think that letting that get in the way of trying to provide an example of the way that I think my Christian side should engage with things. I should speak up louder, and I should speak up quicker with regards to any of these things. Although, I do think that it was great to see that people in my new small group were definitely willing to attack the subject by getting involved in conversations in reaction to what is being seen on TV. I’m only sorry that I was not there to hear their perspectives, but I will and have started engaging people in these convos. 

Thankfully, I have time to rectify this! I don’t have to be ashamed,  I don’t have to sit and stifle my voice, and I don’t have to try to and distance myself from the pain of seeing injustice in the greater world around me. Part of that starts with me acknowledging the feelings that are brought up, instead of trying to stuff them in. I have always heard that revolutions start with one person. Me keeping my mouth closed keeps a revolution from starting.