Author: R.J.Harrigan

Musings

How To Write a Mean Letter


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Dear _____,

I hope you’re having a day as terrible as your breath. How don’t you notice that you’ve consumed nothing but coffee and cigarettes for the past four hours? We all talk about it, but I’m on to you. I think you know. I think you do it on purpose as a little social experiment. You’re trying to see how gross you can be in the office and still get away with it aren’t you? Well, not anymore! I am writing this letter to tell you that your breath is so bad that it makes me want to light a match and burn off my own taste buds. (I hear those are necessary for smell). I have taken the liberty of including a care kit for your breath with this letter. Enclosed you will find a tooth brush, tooth paste, Listerine, and Listerine strips. Please use them immediately, and especially when you need to speak with me directly. Otherwise, contact me via email or text message.

Down-wind and ready to vomit,

(Your Name Here)

Motivation

How to Get Back on The Horse


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“If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.”

That was my motto for many years. If I was great at something, I showed off. If I sucked, I pretended it sucked and that I wasn’t to be bother with whatever it was. Loser mentality. However, I’ve grown into a person who admits failure, and that is something that I’m proud of.

We’ve all seen them, the people who are amazing and never fall. Well guess what? That’s BS. They fail, all the time, but they, like I used to, don’t admit it. When you see a photo on Instagram and you think, “Wow, why can’t I look that perfect?” What you don’t see is the 100 photos that got deleted, or the number of filters put on it, or even some Photo Shopping that happened.

When you see a video of someone doing some crazy stunt, a flip or trick, they’ve got hours and hours of footage of them falling, failing, and trying again. You just see the final product.

Even your favorite TV show or movie has an outtake reel.

The point is, no matter what you’re trying to be better at, the road to success is built on failed attempts. I’m not perfect at any of the things I preach. My diet slips now and then, and I’ve gone on a 3-day Chinese food bender. I’ve skipped workouts, and I’ve even missed some writing days. It happens, and that’s okay.

Don’t let your idea of perfection ruin your attempt. Be proud of your failures, because that’s what makes your story great! Nobody wants to read about someone who was born amazing and never lost. We all love a good comeback tale. I learned that lesson early. My brother was the “screw up” and I was mommy’s perfect little angel.

I couldn’t understand why, even though I was the “favorite” child, did my brother get all the attention. He got unbelievable praise for basic stuff. Like if he didn’t misbehave in public, he’d get candy or a compliment. I behaved all the time, but nobody rewarded it. It was expected of me. I got good grades, and my brother didn’t do his work. If he ever did, he was showered with love. It wasn’t until I fell off my pedestal that I got attention, but negative attention. When you do the right thing all the time, people notice when you don’t. When you do the wrong thing all the time, people notice when you do the right thing. It’s a strange dynamic that we all tend to do. We grow accustomed to people’s behaviors and expectations form.

After a while of doing bad things, it wasn’t shocking to my family any longer. I was expected to be rebellious. Then, whenever I did something right, I got that praise I longed for. I learned that people love to see you fall from grace and come back up. They will criticize you the whole way down, but, depending on how far you fall of course, they will build you back up too. There’s no hope for Cosby or Weinstein, but we’ve seen many celebrities fall down and come back. Robert Downey Jr. Brittany Speares, Mike Tyson, etc. Their failures give them character, and it makes them interesting. Yours do too! Embrace them. Yes, people will judge you, and that is why we hide, but I’m telling you, they will forget and/or move on and suddenly you will be revered for overcoming your failure.

So make mistakes, fall off that horse, but don’t destroy the evidence of trying, embrace the error, learn from it, get back on that horse and maybe fail a little less next time. Repeat and before you know it, you’ve succeeded at whatever you were trying to accomplish, and ready to fail at something new!

 

pandasuccess

Motivation

Quotes I Adore


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“A wise man has something to say, A fool has to say something”

“Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.”

“A single raindrop feels no responsibility for the flood.”

“Remember, you’re just a walk on part in everyone else’s play.”

“Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.”

“Pay no attention to what the critics say; no statue has ever been erected to a critic.”

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”

“When you start yelling, you lost the fight.”

“What we think, we become.”

I love quotes like these. They help me ground myself when I am off balance.

 

Motivation

What’s Your Story?


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Last summer I was taking a course called “Literary Sites and Spaces.” It was one of the best experiences I had ever had with a class. We took field trips for a week, visiting literary places around Massachusetts. For example, we went to Walden Pond and read excerpts of Thoreau in the woods, near where he had gone “into the woods to live intentionally.” We visited Louisa May Alcott’s home and saw the very spot that she wrote “Little Women” by hand. We headed to Salem, Ma. and took a tour of the “House of Seven Gables,” and read excerpts of Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. There were several other places we visited but you get the idea.

While on this trip, a group of us formed a bond and swapped life stories. I gave some examples of my past which often shocked the group. They came from stability and I must have seemed like Oliver Twist or something to them. I’ll never forget what one girl in the group said to me. She said that she didn’t feel like she had any stories to contribute because her life was so boring compared to mine. I assured her that her “boring,” normal life is what intrigued me. I was fascinated by people who got along with their siblings and actually hung out with them. I was fascinated by people who called their parents on a regular basis and met up with them for meals. I told her that her stories are like fairy tales to people like me and I would love to hear them. She eventually shared, and she explained how her sister is the “favored” one because she was married and pregnant, which their mother was excited for, and my friend was pursuing a career over family at the moment. I said, “See? You have some stories after all, and that one has some drama to it!”

I believe that everyone has a story. That’s what makes us unique. Although the path of life is linear, birth, career, death, when we zoom in to any one person’s lens, their path varies in their own way and that is fascinating. Even if your life isn’t filled with explosions, or adventure, and if you lived in a little town your entire existence, you still have a story to tell. Your life isn’t boring. Your life is your own, and you might think that nobody wants to hear about it, but I’m telling you that people do. I do. I love life experiences more than anything else in this world. Oddly enough, I despise reality TV, but that’s a separate issue. I want to hear your story. Pick up a pen, or start a blog! Write it down, and be brave enough to share it. I guarantee, somebody out there will read it and they might even say, “Wow, my life is boring compared to their’s” about YOU.

 

Typewriter What is Your Story

Musings

Diligent Dilettante


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Remember that old Planet Fitness commercial with the big guy who repeats, “I pick things up and put them down?” Well that’s me, only not with weights, but with everything I do.

As a writer, I am told, “Find your niche and stick to it.” If I want to make any type of living off my writing, I am supposed to be an “expert” at something and write content in that area. Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t I be that way?

I love too many things to pick just one or two. I have always been that way. A jack of all trades, master of none type of guy. I have a gift/curse that allows me to be “naturally” good at most everything I try, which creates motivation enough to stick to something for a little while, while it is fun.

dilettante-1

Then I reach a point that it isn’t as fun anymore, because it takes real dedication and time to get to the next level. That’s when something else will pique my interest and surprise surprise, I’m good enough at it to want to do that instead.

Some activities that I’ve done include:
writing, rapping, painting, crafting, cooking, gaming, Tae Kwon Do, boxing, power lifting, calisthenics, poetry, running, gymnastics, etymology, English composition, teaching, dog training, food critic, movie critic, relationship advisor, motivational speaking, plumbing, electronic technician, chauffeur, customer service, waiting tables, light construction, hiking, camping, survivalist, archery, how to bulk on a budget, protein powder reviewer, dress nice on a budget, yoga, mediation, etc.
The list goes on.

I loved every moment I spent pursuing these momentary passions, and I learned so much doing them, but inevitably, they all came to an end. Some were picked up again, and some lasted longer than others, like rapping, which I did almost daily for 10-15 years. Poetry was sporadic, but something I still do, and writing motivation comes and goes, though I am currently on a hot streak of daily writing with this blog. I stay in relatively good shape, though I don’t hit the weights nearly as hard as I used to. I got my degree in English Composition, and I teach at Umass Boston, but that is coming to an end because there aren’t enough classes available next semester for me to teach any, being lower on the seniority totem pole.

Either way, I don’t know what I can write about to build an audience big enough to allow me to write as a profession. I have a vast amount of knowledge through life experiences, but I haven’t the slightest clue how to create a niche with it, nor do I really want to.

I never want to become something I’m not just to make money. I never want to be locked into something I no longer enjoy. Being a niche writer is putting me in a box, and that’s something that I cannot do. To quote Roy from Shanghai Noon,

“I am like a wild horse, you can’t tame me. You put the oats in the pen though and i’ll come in for a nibble every day, but if you ever shut that gate, i’ll jump the fence and you’ll never see me again.”

 

News and Updates

10,000 Words


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Today is a very special day for me. I have reached 10,000 words of my memoir. It was my first goal, and milestone when writing this book. I feel like I have accomplished a great task and even though I have tens of thousands of words left to write, I am proud.

Like a house is built one brick at a time, a book is written one word at a time. Just keep writing!

 

Musings

Vietnam Trip


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I’m currently writing the section of my memoir about my trip to Vietnam back in the summer of 2005. It’s a strange experience looking at the old pictures that I have locked away. I want to share some of them with you.

view

Check out this view!

tossoverboard

Wait guys, I come in peace!

nicerocks

Why am I looking satisfied like, “Hmm, this is a nice rock.”

money

That money exchange rate though…

prisonpose

Check them Jesus sandals! Also, our dumb prison poses

monknun

Had to take a picture with these two. No clue what’s the deal with that unfinished wooden structure behind us though.

kungfuguards

Ok, so this was actually in the Hong Kong airport on our way TO Vietnam, but I just thought it would be a good one to share because it is important to laugh at yourself!

 

Overall, I had the best time ever, I can’t even describe what it did for my perspective in life. I only knew my small chunk of the world in Massachusetts and our way of life there. It is amazing how different life is on the other side of the world, and also how similar we all are in other ways. If you ever get the chance to travel, do it. Those memories and lessons are irreplaceable. I recommend Vietnam to everyone because I had an absolute blast! Thanks for reading

Musings

Vow of Silence


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One of my oldest bucket list items is to take an extended vow of silence. Ideally, I’d like to do it for a month at first, but maybe even work my way up to a year. I’m not exactly sure of the details, but I strongly believe that there is something unbelievably valuable to be learned by not speaking.

I tried it once. For a day. I only made it a few hours. The problem arose when I was faced with an instance that talking was required of me. I hadn’t thought of how to actually get a message across without speaking, I was too focused on the not speaking part. In order to take a vow of silence, you have to give up more than just your voice. You must give up using the phone, teaching a class, ordering food, telling your dog to sit or stay (or you’d have to retrain him/her to learn hand commands before taking the vow). I had no idea how much bigger of a task it was to actually stop speaking.

Then there is the question of, “Is communicating through other means cheating?” What about writing? Can I use sign language? Do these defeat the purpose of a vow of silence? I haven’t sanded out the edges on this yet, hence why it is still on my bucket list, but I will take a vow of silence in my lifetime, then report back what I learned.

As a lover of words, a writer, a poet, a conversational wizard =] It might be hard to believe that I find language a hindrance. Communication is limited by the limitation of words. Could you describe, in words, the feeling you get when you’re in love? We’ve tried for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years to do that, but some would argue that words just can’t describe such a powerful emotion. We do our best to compare it to other things. What about a crazy dream? How many times have you tried to explain the emotional content of a dream, only to reiterate that your explanation isn’t doing it justice? Or an event that you end up saying, “You just had to be there.” Because sometimes time and space play a role in the feeling.

If you’re still not convinced, what about a psychedelic trip? Anyone who has ever tripped on a heavy does of mushrooms or LSD will tell you that words can’t describe that. Or what about the concept of ‘nothingness.’ If there was nothing, no space, no stars, no us, just nothing, what would that look like? You can’t say clear, because that’s something, you can’t say black, that’s something. The moment you try to describe it, you’re using a “something” to describe a “nothing,” which is something! Confused? Me too.

If language wasn’t limited than text messages would never be misinterpreted. There would be a clear way to right something that get’s a message across with a specific emotion. Emojis do their best to fill the gaps between language and feelings, but it isn’t perfect. What does this have to do with a vow of silence? Oh yeah, that’s what we were talking about.

Before language, people still communicated. Their ideas were probably more simplistic, or maybe not, I wouldn’t know, but we got our message across some how. I don’t think that it was just a system of grunts that we imagine the stereotypical caveman to use. I think that we had more intuition, like animals, and could pick up vibes better. There’s a reason we say things like “trust your gut,” or “go with your instincts.” It’s a real sense that we have. Have you ever walked into a room and just thought, “Nope.” and left, only to find out later that something bad happened there? What about meeting people. Sometimes you get a bad vibe from a stranger and can’t really pin point why. Has it ever happened to you that people like that person but you don’t, and eventually they turn out to be bad and others are like “Wow, I don’t believe it, I always thought they were so nice.” And you’re just sitting there like, “Nah, I never liked them, always got a bad vibe.”

Stuff like that, I feel, can be strengthened by not speaking. Just looking at someone, in the eyes, and trying to communicate through intentions, rather than words. I’m sure it will be confusing and fun all at the same time, but If there is just one moment that someone completely gets me, without me saying a word, then it would be a successful experiment. If nothing else, I just wonder what I’ll learn by observing others more since I wouldn’t be participating in the dialogue.

“Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.” – No idea who originally wrote it, but I saw this quote way back in high school on my English teacher’s chalk board.

Motivation, News and Updates

Black Friday Update


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Let me begin by saying that it was stupid of me to attempt a new diet two days before Thanksgiving. Especially a Keto diet considering Thanksgiving is the carbiest holiday of the year! I’m not giving up, but I definitely chose to enjoy myself on Thursday.

With that being said, I want to remind those who are struggling with bringing new, good habits into their life that there will be days that are set backs. Don’t let that turn into giving up! I had two successful days of Keto, then I carbed up. Does that mean those two days are worthless? No. Even though I have to start over, I learned alot from those days. First, I learned that I can do go a whole day with minimal carbs. Second, I learned what meals to eat. So now, it will be much easier to attempt it again! Don’t let a set back ruin your motivation. You still learn with every attempt. I know people that attempted to quit smoking, 5-6 times before they actually succeeded! The goal was still reached, and they are living a much healthier life now. You just have to keep at it. What is the old saying? “If at first you don’t succeed. Destroy all evidence that you tried.” Just kidding. “Get your ass back in gear and try again!”

I think it is important to admit your failures. Especially when you’re like me and bragging all over the internet that you’re accomplishing your goals. You never now who is reading, or listening, and taking your words to heart. The problem begins when someone is influenced by you, but they reach a set back, and when they compare themselves to you, Mr. “Never fails” then they think they just aren’t capable of being better. I’m here to say, I’ve failed my way to success, every time. There are always set backs. I don’t feel bad about them anymore. I used to, but now I know that they are part of the process. Water beats stone every time in the long game.

erosion

After indulging in some delicious food, my wife and I decided to go to bed early to wake up and go out shopping. We didn’t have anything in mind that warranted being out at midnight, so we got up at 6 and headed to the stores after the mobs have left. It was slow at first, not really finding anything great, but after 8 hours of shopping, we made out pretty good. We got our daughter some stuff that she wanted for Christmas, and we got our puppy some bones and a few hoodies. He’s a little guy and it gets mighty cold in Massachusetts.

I took the day off from posting, but I’m back at it again today. Perhaps the break was necessary because this very morning, I finally figured out the plot of my book! I’ve been writing a fiction story for a few months now. I have written 50-60 pages, most of which is being thrown out, but it led me to where I am now. I have far fewer pages, but they’re good pages and I’ve got the plot now so it is going to zoom from here! I’m so excited. I used to write all the time in the past but when I reached a road block that would demand me starting over, or throwing out most of my work, I’d give up on the story entirely and start a new one. I thought that If I didn’t write it perfectly on the first go, then it wasn’t a good story. How dumb was I right? Now I know, writing is rewriting. A college professor changed my world when she said, “Nothing is ever done, only due.”

I just wanted to share what is going on with me, with you. I’m just so excited to announce that my book finally has direction and I can’t wait to get back to writing it! Have a wonderful day!

 

Motivation

Attempting a Keto Diet


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I have been trying new diets for the better part of a decade now and I’ve been toying with the idea of going keto. It seems to be all the rage right now.

When I first started paying attention to my food, it was a mess. I wanted to gain weight, being a life long skinny man

swan

Yes, that’s a baby swan.

So, I only focused on the calories. I didn’t care how I got them, just as long as I kept shoveling food into my face. At one point, I was eating 4000 calories a day.

 

 

These became my portion sizes, every day. I was eating full meals, every 2 hours.

But I grew into a 205 lb beast!

bigboy

I got big, and strong, but also slow, tired, and not as little around the middle. I could bench 315, squat 320, and dead lift 405! Not record breaking numbers, but for the kid who could barely bench the bar when he started, it was like climbing Everest!

However, I couldn’t maintain the caloric intake after the military, because food wasn’t free anymore. Because of my metabolism, I quickly lost size. I shredded up, which was nice, but I couldn’t get over the fact that I lost all of mys strength.

Back down at 170

171

I started paying more attention to my diet. I cut out sugar, almost entirely. No more soda. I tried to eat vegan, vegetarian, and even a very short attempt at carnivore. I just didn’t feel great on those diets. I’ve lost even more weight, now back to my original 165 lbs, but with a much more solid frame. Recently, I’ve got the kick to try Keto. I’ve been hearing so much about it and decided that I’d give it a shot. I like trying new diets, and if worse comes to worst, I’ll just shovel pasta in my gullet and balloon back up!

photoshoot