Jan 26, 2012

What To Write...

You may have noticed that I haven't written anything in a while. It's not been for lack of material. Some of the things I haven't covered are:

- My thoughts about my relationship with Felicia, which is well over a year in length
- Matt enlisting in the army, and the process of moving out of my first apartment
- Any real detail into my short time in Rockridge, and moving out of my second apartment
- Moving to my current place, or anything about the place itself and the people who live there
- Any fiction writing development (to be fair, I pulled all this from IC a long time ago now)
- One of my heroes, Patrice O'Neal, died
- I had an idea to write about five music albums and how they've affected my life

I think since the last time I've written a serious piece on here, Alyssa has left the country and come back, Andrew has left the country and come back, Matt has left the state and come back and left again, Roper has moved to SF, Dalder has joined and left my company, and I think Travis has actually left the country at least twice, maybe even three times and come back and left and come back. Lucio has moved in with his girlfriend and is essentially a father now. Everyone's lives have gone through fast changes, big changes. I always wanted this place to be somewhere that myself and the people who are a part of this site could ponder their lives, and frame events in the way they understand them. I think that's difficult to do, by design, and not on just one level. Writing is hard. Being interesting is hard. Not feeling like you're wasting your time, other people's time, it's very hard to overcome that feeling, for me at least. Every update I've written here has been with two thoughts in mind: one, I hope people gain something from this, and two, I don't think anyone is gonna be interested in the slightest. Ostensibly, the idea of this site is to catalog my life and your lives so that we can go back and gain some insight into ourselves. But I don't think that dynamic is present when any of this is actually written. I have always and continue to write with at least one person in mind, with the goal of engaging that person and making their opinion of me higher. That's not what the point is supposed to be, but that's what my brain does, by default: it aims at someone or a group of people, and tries to impress them.

I'm a strange person, and I continue to become stranger. And more so than just being due to natural tendency, I think I'm a product of my time. Communication is changing, becoming something else, and it's changing us too. I am a born recluse. I always have been. I grew up playing with action figures and talking to myself, entertaining myself, comforting myself. And I only stopped doing one of these things, and it was only seven years ago. I was the kid who at six realized that I had irrational fears, of monsters in the closet or under the bed, and the way I dealt with them was by hashing out an elaborate system of protecting myself. I can't control that Jason is sitting in my closet, waiting to stab me, but I CAN control that he can't stab through my blanket, and can't move if my eyes are closed. I created a logic system for illogical thoughts. I used to think (after seeing an episode of Ghostbusters) that my little Ghostbusters car was possessed. So I threw a towel on it, flipped it upside down and jammed up its wheels. Problem solved. I decided at a fairly young age, after seeing so many movies with the theme of "person who doesn't believe until it's too late," that if someone I trusted like my mom said a ghost was trying to kill us, then instead of wasting time going "ghosts aren't real, stupid," I would try to formulate a plan to deal with it. I was 100% ready to try to help my mom kill a werewolf. My method of communication has always been primarily with myself. I have always been self-reliant in that way. Maybe this is why I want to be a writer. I've been actively feeding my own imagination every day that I've been alive.

But even I feel the need to express outward, to a point. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes around me knows that. Once that point has passed, I'm content and I don't need anymore. Used to be if I hung out like two or three times a week with people, I was satisfied and didn't need to see them anymore than that. And if this were still 1987, I'd probably be like most other people: a little bit strange, but forced to communicate on a physical level with people, so it'd stay there. I'd be socially inclined, in the same way that before video games brought all the entertainment into my room, I wanted to throw footballs and play tag.

But communication has evolved on a level that has allowed everyone to compartmentalize, to make bite-sized this entire process and change the parameters by which you are satisfied. To allow people like me to hole up, throw out some lines, and feel semi-relevant to humanity. It used to come out through this site. Check the archives if you need a refresher. This was my long-form twitter a decade before that was a word. But then came social media. Now I can pull out my phone, something I didn't even have as a teenager, and throw out all the mental garbage that before I'd collect and refine into an opinion before unloading in person. The space between thought and expression is about five seconds, where before it could be anything from five hours to three days. In the old timeframe, many thoughts and opinions would be shelved or changed entirely within that span. No more. Now it's thought, grab phone, everyone hears it. This is not good or bad. It's just change.

It's impossible to say how I would be in an earlier time where this wasn't possible. I really can't speculate accurately beyond what I feel like I'd be. And if we all turned out like we thought we'd be, it would be a different world entirely. But the expression format of our time has become social media. I don't know where it goes from here, I can only say what effect it has on me now, the original point that I've spent ten hours to get to. Twitter challenges people in a way that I think many fail to grasp. That is, how do I express myself efficiently, while still putting forth something of value? Twitter has taught me how to get my point across more efficiently, in text. But it's also taught my brain, because of the standards I've always held myself to, that it has to be interesting, funny or thought-provoking. That sounds like I'm kissing my own ass, but what I'm really saying is: it's a product. It's a pitch. It's self-advertising. It has empowered my insecurity. It used to be that I'd write 8-12 paragraphs of shit, trying to impress or make the reader feel like, wow this douche is smart. Occasionally I'd try to make points or really frame out how under-equipped I am for emotional and intellectual cartography. Eventually, I'd work around to a point, and I'd write enough that I'd feel like everyone could find at least some part that was good or relevant or worth reading.

There is no time for that on Twitter. Twitter gives you time enough for a reaction. It's the Omega-13 device of social interactions (yes I did). You don't have the space to question your own point, to bring things around full circle, or to allow yourself room to be wrong. Twitter is the worst part of arguing condensed into a pure form, but while you are using it, you think it's a tool of discourse. You can't hear anyone's point on Twitter unless it's something you already agree with. You can't break down anything in a meaningful way. You can't organize your thoughts, or have any discussion at all. You have enough space for, "I'm right, you're wrong, and an idiot." It's expression in the same way a youtube or Kotaku comment thread is expression: everyone talking all the time, to no one's benefit. But more importantly, it crystallizes your insecurity. Your expression is zero sum. You get one sentence, maybe two, and if you're off the mark, the ENTIRE thing is shit. And you are only summed up by whatever you're posting now. If you were funny or smart yesterday, and you retweet something unfunny or hacky or worse of all, the reader doesn't agree with it (God forbid), that person can and will just unfollow you. It's the social equivalent of saying something and having the person you're talking to, that you may even be friends with, walk away completely and never return.

This is perfectly suited to every human being, ever, and I don't exclude myself. Everyone by default thinks they are right, generally speaking. Fairness is summoned, not pre-existing. But there is no value in being alone and right. I agree with every statement I've ever made on twitter, regardless of what other people thought. So what? What did I gain by expressing it? Hooray, I'm the king of my own world. So is everyone else. See, I'm not on twitter to share. I'm on twitter to express. But it used to be that expression wasn't possible without more than one person, it was a two-way street. There were people to challenge you, to present different opinions, to be wrong and right and smart and stupid. Twitter is great, if all you want to do is present constant sermons to the Church Of People Who Agree With You. I've been doing that for months now, instead of writing here, or hanging out. Because my brain feels like I'm socializing, on the level I always have been. Meaning, I will post something snarky on twitter, tell myself that people are listening, maybe get a snarky reply back by someone who agrees with me, and then not feel the need to go out and interact with them, friends included. I mean, I already have, right? And what has the net result been?

For the past 6-8 months, no one knows shit about my life except on a rudimentary level, and I feel almost completely disconnected from almost everyone.

Part of this is just because that's how life is. The 20s are a time of change, total, radical, absolute change. I'm 25 years old as of writing this. I'm only halfway through the shitty transition from teenager to man. And yet, even though I've undergone so much of it myself, I don't feel connected to it. I feel myself losing not only a connection, but just an edge in general. I lose a little confidence and self-respect regularly. But have I done anything wrong? Like I said, absolute change. There's no way for me to not feel out of my element, and no one out of their element feels strong. I feel like I'm playing a video game with no pause button. So my character is just standing there, while everything else around him is waiting for him to show up and trigger something.

Maybe this is an art vs. contentment thing. My relationship with my girlfriend is so fucking great. I really cannot overstate that. To the degree that I burn 100% of my energy and attention on just being immersed in it. A question I've asked myself many times in the past three months is: what is more valuable, being stagnant and happy, or sharp and insecure? Meaning, writing a book, expressing myself in a meaningful way that garners attention or respect from peers, is that more valuable than literally having a person who's entire existence makes you feel like, "wow, being alive is kind of awesome, actually"? Why do I feel the need to be relevant to strangers? Why is that in my head? Is it a mortality thing? It's the reason that spurs everything I've written, be it fiction or twitter joke. Does this create a moment of value for someone that justifies my existence? SHOULD someone worry about justifying their existence? Why do I need to make something to feel okay about being alive? What is the difference between being an artist and being insecure? Because I'll tell you, the only way the 'justifying' angle even pans out is if I feel like what I put out is good, and that can be shattered by a negative opinion. And most of what I write doesn't even stand the test of time for myself. I'll read old writing and be disgusted, calling it hack shit and rewriting it completely. What is the value in this?

Most importantly, is there a resolution to this problem that doesn't involve just giving up completely and going through the motions? Is there a way to not become just another dead-eyed adult that shrugs instead of has a meaningful resolution? This is the shit I'll be laughing at in my 30s, assuming I don't drop dead of a heart attack or something. These are the musings that replaced my teen shit that I laugh at now. See, I'm doing it right before your eyes and my own. I'm already downplaying the value of my thought process, marginalizing it without gain. There's just no feeding this stupid monster, there's no getting ahead of it. Maybe that's what the dead eyes is, not surrender but willful removal of one's self from his own games. That's the rub, and what makes the question loaded: the insecurity is not either/or. It's present, and feeding it success or personal happiness does not diminish it. If my book got finished and published, my insecurity wants me to believe that that would be the solution to my problems. I'd say, "look, validation. I will now exist forever. I couldn't possibly ever feel insecure again!" But there is no quantity of books or blog posts or overstated twitter opinions that will make that go away. Even if every woman on the face of the earth simultaneously decided that they needed me to go on living, there'd still be that feeling. Validation is temporary. There's some way to navigate this, I just haven't worked it out yet. Maybe I won't. Life isn't long enough for us to figure everything out, and if it were, we'd squander it anyway.

1 comment:

Brian said...

This reminds me of something that's been bouncing around in my head for a while: the nature of procreation. I think as human beings we have the rare gift to procreate in two distinct ways: sexually, and culturally, with the latter having the potential to have a greater impact on our environment. I think the feelings you've expressed here kinda of illustrates our innate need to reproduce culturally, and that need is being amplified and encouraged with social media.

To cross over into a sci-fi realm: what if those cultural creations, whether that's your best-selling book, scientific discovery, or hilarious internet meme, took on a life of their own? What if they acquired the ability to replicate on their own? Or is that happening already, but we choose to qualify it with words like "popular" and "genius"? Once upon a time chains of lifeless nucelotides got together and replicated themselves, changing and competing with one another until they started forming living cells, to multicells, to vast complex organisms such as us, all in the quest to compete with one another for better opportunities to replicate. The latest innovation in this ancient competition, the human brain, has the unique ability to cross into another realm of existence: the consciousness. Just how DNA was born of the environment (physical world) and forced to compete in it, the new replicators, memes, are born of the environment (virtual world?) and forced to compete in it. And just how individual DNA strands got together to form cells to better compete, memes/ideas get together to form broader cultural strokes and ideas, to compete with another in a sort of virtual space (that's excellerating now that we have computers and the internet).

I know I just blabbed a bunch of crazy stuff but the nature of replication (DNA, us, crystal lattices, memes) is something that fascinates me and helps me demystify things for me, if only for a little bit.