Stoicism has changed my life for the better. I’ve only been practicing it for the past 6 months, but I can already see tremendous changes in my mental health. Let me tell you a little bit about who I was before.
I unfortunately suffered from what many other people suffer with too. A crippling need to please people and to be liked. I got a fortune cookie almost 10 years ago that I carried around in my wallet for too long. When I opened the cookie I couldn’t believe what it said.
“To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
It’s like it knew me personally. I felt like a ‘nothing’ because I basically was. I never shared my thoughts or opinions for fear that I would rub somebody the wrong way and they wouldn’t like me. I didn’t want to offend. That is until I found stoicism.
I happened to stumble upon a YouTube video about stoicism during one of my rabbit-hole adventures. We’ve all been there. You watch one video and then click a suggested title and before you know it you’re in a whole other solar system compared to your original search. This trip lead me to this video.
I was hooked. After that, I specifically searched for “Stoicism” on YouTube and Google and found many videos and articles that gave me numerous hours of reading. That, combined with my natural love for philosophy and being in deep thought, and everything just clicked. I found the thing I had been looking for all my life. Not quite a religion, but a belief system that I could worship, and I put it into practice immediately.
After a few days, I already developed a habit of asking myself, “Can I control this?” whenever something wasn’t going the way I had hoped or planned.
After a few weeks, I was able to care less and less about external sources of joy. I was on a path towards inner peace. With that, the wonderful side effect was that I wasn’t crippled anymore by the opinions of others. I finally felt free to be me. Now, I spend my days wondering how I can be the best me that I can, and each night I reflect on my day and ask myself, “Did I do my best today?” If the answer is yes, I can rest peacefully knowing that whether or not things went well, I did my best.
If I didn’t do my best, I acknowledge that, take responsibility for it, then figure out how I can be better tomorrow. Then, I rest peacefully knowing that tomorrow I will be better. Progress over perfection. There is so much more to stoicism and if any of this sounds intriguing, I highly encourage you to look into it. All I can say is that it has completely transformed me and I have never been happier.
You know the guy. Every time you see him, he works how awesome he was at football in high school into the conversation. Don’t get me wrong, if you were awesome at football in high school, by all means talk about it from time to time, but I’m talking about the guys who are defined by it. They want to relive their glory days because back then, they were somebody, and now, they feel just like everyone else. Working a menial job, paying bills, and wondering if this is really it.
I was that guy. I didn’t play football, but I lived with a different identity. I was the “back flip” kid. I was essentially a ghost otherwise. Barely anyone knew my name but if you said, “The kid who does backflips off the wall,” then they’d know.
I won’t lie, I enjoyed the attention. I loved hearing, “Yo, do a backflip! Everyone watch, this kid can do a backflip!” It meant, for those few seconds, they saw me. I was somebody. Backflip kid.
However, after high school, you run into people you went to school with and literally every single one of them would ask, “Do you still do backflips?” It’s completely understandable, but at the time, being young and aspiring to become a rapper, I got annoyed and made people feel dumb for even asking. I was reinventing myself as the pot smoking, wannabe-thug rapping bad ass.
I received even more attention for my music than I did for the flips. I loved it. It lasted a few years, and then it all ended. If you’ve read my book or had a conversation with me, you know that I developed a problem and hit rock bottom before I put the mic down and joined the military.
was my new peak. Being a rapper. I let it define me, and I felt like such a
failure. I didn’t get the same type of recognition in the military, so all I
talked about was my “glory” days of being a rapper and people giving me drugs
and partying with me. I talked about the places I’ve been to and the shit that
I’ve witnessed that always got a reaction from people. That was my “cool”
didn’t dawn on me until after the military, during college, I took American
Sign Language. My teacher, a wonderful woman, was born deaf and didn’t allow us
to have a translator during class. We had to communicate by basic signing and
body language. It was a transformative experience and on a side note, I highly
encourage everyone to learn some sign language (at the very least, the
part that made me realize that I was living in the past was during the first or
second week of class. We were sitting in a circle and we each had to introduce
ourselves and tell the class something we enjoy doing. I was all ready to spell
my name and try to communicate that I am a rapper/poet. However, somebody that
went before me said they were into poetry. Our teacher said that she doesn’t
like poetry because she doesn’t get it. There is a rhythm to poetry that we
“hear” even when we read it that she isn’t privy to. The same goes for rap
music, and most music. She likes very loud, bass-y music that she can feel, but
lyrics don’t mean a thing.
was stunned. I didn’t want to say that I was a rapper anymore, and it was
almost my turn to sign. In that moment I thought, “Who am I without music?”
it got to me, I just said I like hiking, which is true, but it was just the
first thing that popped in my head.
weeks, maybe months after, I was having an existential crisis. I kept asking
myself, “Who am I?” I realized that I hadn’t been doing music for a while at
that point, but I still defined myself as a musician. I wasn’t in the military
any longer, so I couldn’t identify as that either. I guess I was a college kid?
I didn’t like that identity. I began a long, arduous journey of self-reflection
and I came to the conclusion that I defined myself by what happened to me, not
by who I wanted to be.
happened to be poor growing up. I identified as that, even though I was no
longer poor. I got noticed for my backflips, so I wore that mask, and I allowed
other people to dictate when I did them, just for a small cheer. My friends got
into hip hop, and we wrote dumb little rhymes in our notebooks, then I got
noticed for mine, so I went down that path full force, just for some praise.
joined the military for me. I wanted to better my life, and I recognized that I
was deep down the wrong path. I did it for me, and yet, I never identified with
it. It’s like, I could only identify with what the world put on me, but when I
made a choice for me, it was just “something I did.”
I had to change the way I thought about things. I needed to learn to like me for me. To provide my own source of happiness from within. To be proud of myself for doing what I WANTED TO DO, especially when it ended up being a good choice. I completely deconstructed my belief system and tore it to rubble. Then, brick by brick, I built (am still building) the identity that I want to be defined as. I choose. Now, I am a writer and a motivator. I am a gamer. I am health conscious. I am a man. I am honest. I have integrity. I am responsible, and I am self-aware, with the ability to change my life as I see fit. These are some of the qualities that I am right now, and I will always be changing and growing. I refuse to be the guy who peaked in high school.
1: You have no control over where, when, or to whom you were born.
2: You don’t have the mental capacity to take control of your life as a child.
3: Some things are just NOT YOUR FAULT.
Now, what does that mean?
If you have no control over your past, and if you aren’t to blame for your upbringing, then what is in your control?
That’s right, NOW. Right now. Your life, your choices, and everything you do despite your circumstances is all in your control.
You have to look at two truths. The first being, what should be, and then the other truth is the harsh reality of what is.
For example. You should be allowed to dress however you want. You should be judged by your character and not by your appearance. You should be treated as an equal member of society regardless of apparel. Sure, I agree with that. However, the harsh reality is that you can’t in most cases. If you want to work in a corporate setting, you have to dress the part. If you want to dress like a street kid (which is how I was, 90’s baggy-to-the-ankles jeans), then you are going to be followed in the convenient store. You’re going to be profiled by the police. You are going to be assumed a lower member of society.
YOU HAVE A CHOICE. You can stick your middle finger to the man and keep it real, wear whatever you want, and for some of you, that will work. For most, probably not. The other choice is that you can dress for success and remove one obstacle from your journey, because let’s face it, you’ll have plenty of those on the way as it is.
You can blame your circumstances on your past, on your poverty, on your race, on your gender, etc. You can point the finger in so many directions, and EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, you are relinquishing control of your own life. Why would you want to do that? Do you want society to dictate your short comings? Do you want society to tell you that you are disadvantaged? Do you want pity, or do you want glory?
The two truths apply here. It isn’t fair that you are disadvantaged because of your living situation, or your race, or your gender, or whatever, and I AGREE! It shouldn’t be that way. But, what is the harsh reality? You are judged. You are disadvantaged. You were born into a shitty situation. That’s just what it is, and no amount of Facebook statuses or supportive profile pictures are going to help you out.
What can you do?
Well, the first step is to OWN IT! Take full responsibility. That’s right. Take the “blame” for things that aren’t your fault. Why on earth would you do that? Because, it puts you in the driver seat. It gives you the power!
Owning your life is the first step to changing it. I was born to a single mother who had no guidance and made terrible financial decisions, which meant we lived poor and moved around a lot. I didn’t have many friends, I had zero confidence, and I grew to repeat the cycle of barely getting by because that’s what I saw. You know what I did once I was on my own? I blamed my mother for everything she did that disadvantaged me. I blamed her for her bad decisions, which I wasn’t wrong about, but I used that as an excuse to not make my own life better. I basically convinced myself that my mother was broken, and therefore I was broken.
My friends were the same way. They had broken households, and they had no idea how to get out of it and blamed the world for their situations.
I let this be my narrative for too long.
Finally, I realized that my upbringing doesn’t have to define my future. I took ownership of my past. I admitted to myself that it wasn’t my fault for how I was raised, but it is 100% my fault how I chose to live. Living in housing projects wasn’t my choice, but the friends I associated with was. Even though I was too young to make good life decisions, that only allows me to forgive myself for my choices, not deflect responsibility.
I chose to break the law. I chose to skip school. I chose not to pay attention and learn. I chose to smoke. I chose to drink. I chose to have sex. I chose to rebel. I chose to refuse to live by my father’s rules when I moved in with him at 17, and then I chose to live on the street instead of giving in. I chose to pursue a rap career, and I chose not to invest back in the business. I chose to party instead. I chose to go out to California with no plan. I chose not to work hard when I got there. I chose to take pills that led to my overdose. I chose to make a change in my life right then and there. Then I chose to call my dad, come home, and join the Navy. I made all of those decisions, but I only took credit for the last few that were good decisions.
Nothing is going to get better until you accept FULL responsibility for your actions, past and present. You must forgive yourself for the past decisions you’ve made that were during the times you didn’t have control over your life. You must forgive yourself, but you CAN NOT EXCUSE yourself. You just do your best from now on. You get in the driver’s seat, you grab the wheel, and you steer yourself to the life that YOU choose. It isn’t easy, and the road may be long and windy, but would you rather sit back seat to someone else’s adventure?
I’m nearing the point where I will have to make a decision. Do I self-publish my memoir or should I go the traditional route? I am having a hard time deciding. Here’s why.
My first instinct is to go traditional publishing for a few reasons. First and foremost, respect. Not everyone can get published through a publishing company but anybody can self publish a book, so it would make me feel more like a legitimate writer. As a writer, at least for me, there is constant doubt as to whether or not my writing is any good. Getting published through a publishing company and having a literary agent would make me feel official and I hopefully I would have less doubt.
Next, traditional publishing handles everything…for a price. I don’t know about you but I am not great at marketing. I know what to do, I can picture it all in my head, but when it comes time to follow through, consistently, I have zero interest. I don’t like to bother people. I know exactly how it feels to talk to someone and then they start trying to sell you something. I don’t want to do that to anybody. Of course I want to get paid to write, it’s my dream job, but selling yourself is part of writing, unless I go with traditional publishing.
A publishing company gets paid when your book sells so it is in their best interest to market your book. They will put it on the front of their website, post it on social media, and if you get really lucky, they’ll know somebody that knows somebody and before you know it, you’re talking to Oprah. (Or whomever is her equivalent today). At the very least, they will try to make some money from your book and so there will be effort on their part. However, as stated before, that comes with a pretty heft price, or a percentage of all sales. I don’t know the exact numbers but i’m pretty sure it’s akin to the old record label days when the artist gets like 7% after it’s all said and done.
Which brings me to self publishing.
If I self publish my memoir, I can either sell it through my website and get to keep any profit (minus cost of production and distribution) or I can host it on Amazon or something and get to keep a decent portion of all sales (I think it’s like 35% or something). However, I will have to market myself. *gag*
I hate marketing. I know it’s everywhere and anything I’ve ever purchased is probably influences by some brilliant marketing, but when I think of what it really is, it makes me sick. Marketing is influencing an audience to purchase a product. What does that really mean? Influencing is a fancy way to say manipulating, and audience is a way to generalize (or “other”) individual people. Marketing is manipulating people, and because we live in a capitalist society, it’s supposed to be ingrained in us that its okay. Really, what other way is there to make enough money to survive?
However, I can’t seem to do it when I try. You have to be consistent, selling yourself every single day, every chance you get, if you want to turn a profit. We do it with “likes” on social media, or even to get traffic (views) to my website. The ONLY reason that this website doesn’t have a larger following is because I suck at marketing. If I were to let everything go and really push this site, people would visit it daily and tell their friends about it and it would grow. And if I could do that, then self publishing would make sense because I would be able to cut out the middle man and sell my own book.
The possibility that I could some day do this is what prevents me from reaching out to a literary agent. Let’s face it, digital is the future and traditional publishing is a dying breed. Just like record labels, and cable TV, everything is going online.
I want two things from my memoir (and my writing in general)
I want it to be the best it can be. I want people to want to read it because they connect to my writing and enjoy the escape. I want people to look forward to my next book or my next article or whatever.
I also want to be able to not work a regular job and live off my writing. I don’t want to write things that I don’t want to write though, like working as a freelance writer, taking whatever writing job I can get to get by. I’d rather cut my dick off.
So I sit, still wondering what path to chose. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I need guidance from someone who has done it before. Thank you for reading.
To those who read this blog I want to inform you that my lack of writing blog posts, as I stated in my most recent post is largely due to my prioritizing and managing my stress. I am working on my memoir and it is coming along swimmingly, so I have most of my efforts directed there.
Aside from that, I was given 3 courses to teach at my University, so I have over 50 students writing me papers that I must grade in a timely manner. All of my time not spent on writing my memoir, is spent grading, and the remaining time is spent decompressing to do it all over again.
I appreciate those who read my blog, and I apologize for those who may feel I’ve abandoned this altogether. That is not the case, I assure you. Once my book is finally finished, which I have made it a goal to be completely done with it this year, with high hopes of it being ready to send to publishers within a few months, I will have much more time and focus for writing online.
This website is a passion project for me. I bought the domain name as soon as possible because I didn’t want anyone to take it, but my plans for this site are way beyond posting my thoughts and ramblings. Eventually, I want it to be inclusive, my mission being to find as many stories to tell and have a platform to promote them.
In order to do that, I feel it is important that I myself have a story that is not only told, but has received enough attention for people to look to me so that I will have a platform to promote others. Thank you for reading and have a lovely day!
Since my hiatus from writing, I’ve done some looking inward. Like I stated in my previous post, I was letting external forces dictate my satisfaction. I placed attachment on things I could not control. I gave up some of my values to hopefully gain a little attention.
I’ve centered myself again. That’s not to say that I won’t fall off track again, but every now and then, hopefully sooner rather than later, I catch myself and make some adjustments to get back on track.
For starters, as silly as this sounds, I hate hashtags. However, from what I’ve read about marketing, you’re supposed to hashtag the shit out of a post so that it reaches more people. I’m not against putting a relevant tag, or few tags, to emphasize a point. For example, “I’m feeling like I can conquer the world!” #motivated
That makes sense. I still don’t love doing that, but it flows. But when I see 25-30 hashtags, or even worse, when I’m the one doing it, I could barf. It’s an unfortunate necessity, or so I think, to getting more views. I let my desire for views outweigh my disdain of excessive hashtagging, but, at least for now, I’m refraining.
The other thing I’ve done is posting too often. I run out of things to say, and then I force myself to write something because of my fear of losing viewers if I didn’t post every day. Honestly, it’s exhausting, and it sucks the fun out of writing. So, for now, I’m going to post when I have something to say. When I don’t, I won’t.
The final thing I am still working on is filtering my opinions. I am too afraid to say the wrong thing or displease a reader that I either refrain from saying anything at all, or I write like I’m walking on egg shells. That isn’t me. If you talk to me in person, I am a very reasonable man, and I like to look at both sides of a story, but sometimes I lean towards the unpopular belief.
For now, which I keep saying because who knows what tomorrow brings, but today, I’m me again, and “damn it feels good to be a gangster.”
I’m currently working on placing my happiness in things I can actually control. I find that when I care about how many likes an article, or Instagram picture, etc. gets, then I stop creating content when I feel like nobody is watching.
It never starts that way. I begin by writing for me. Naturally, when you keep at something and put it out there on the internet, people will eventually come across it. I can rationalize easily in the beginning that “It will take time before people see my work.” I am able to continue writing.
After I pick up some traction, which this site has been doing, and I come across a dip in views, that’s when I get discouraged. I start to question whether or not my writing sucks, or whether I said something that turned people away. The thoughts are endless, but I question every possible angle as to why my viewers stopped reading.
Lately, I’ve tried to push through it and continue writing anyway. It worked for a little while. I even got motivated again when I saw a rise in the views again. However, the dip inevitably came back, and with it, my anxiety.
I can come up with excuses, and don’t get me wrong, I’ve got some real life stuff going on that any reasonable person would hear and say, “You’ve got a lot going on, it’s okay to step away from writing for a bit.” The problem is, I know that I should keep writing through it, but I let the comfort of sympathy allow me to relax.
You know what that does? It furthers the cycle. When you don’t write consistently, you lose viewers, followers, likes, etc. Then, when you return, as I will with this article, it’s like starting over again. They say that the key to success is consistency. Like water eroding rock over time, eventually, you’ll get there if you just keep at it. The only thing I’m consistent with is my inconsistency.
I have been using this time away to work on myself. I’ve been trying to focus on what I can control and place my happiness there instead. I can’t control whether or not this post is seen by anyone, but that shouldn’t dictate my writing it. I shouldn’t be writing for praise. I should be writing because I like to write. It should make me feel good that I wrote something at all. I should be able to say, “I like it, and I like me, and that’s enough.”
You know what? I do like my writing. I like this article. And hell, I like me. I am good enough. So, if you read this, cool, if not, whatevs, at least for today, I truly don’t mind. Tomorrow is another day, and another chance to practice inner happiness.
There are two sides to every story…. unless it is your side.
This is what I don’t get with today’s political climate. People are either Left or Right. When I tell people that I don’t have a side, they treat me as if I said, “I’m on the other team.”
Either that or they tell me that I’m too scared to pick a side because it is obvious which side is right and which is wrong.
Coming from the academic circuit recently, It was generally people that were on the left that are confused as to how I don’t see the left as being the correct side. I have some views that lean right.
In my personal life, I have family and friends that are on the right, and are equally confused when I say that I have some ideals that lean left.
Why can’t I be in the middle?
Is it because there isn’t a “Middle Party?” At least not one that stands a chance of winning the election.
I’m baffled that we teach our children to express their opinions in a respectful manner, and to also treat others with the same respect they want to receive, then we turn around and scream at other adults that “I’m right and you’re clearly wrong, so you’re the enemy!”
On the news, on the internet, and in person, when it comes to politics, all I ever see is “MY SIDE RULES!”
What I find most interesting is the mob mentality of it all. I can usually get a person to be rational if we’re talking one on one. Not everyone, but generally speaking, people are more willing to admit that there are two sides to a story so long as they aren’t at risk of being heard by their fellow party mates.
What does that mean? Why are people so afraid? When did logic become obsolete? Emotional reaction has taken over and it scares the shit out of me for our countries future. Would a middle road future really be so bad?
Today I have reached a major milestone in my memoir. I have written 70,000 words. That’s about 230 pages, and I can’t even believe it! Technically, it is enough to call this a novel, but I’m not finished yet. I still have more to say. However, I will be done with this in 2019 and will be shopping it around to agents and publishers!
The best advice I’ve ever received about writing is to write in the morning! I write first thing when I wake up and over the past four months I have written more words than I ever have in my entire life! (maybe not combined, but total for one project).
Thank you so much to those who have been reading and giving me advice. Thank you to those that have been encouraging me to keep writing. Thank you to those that bet I would have given up by now, you’re my favorite! Thank you to myself for getting up, day after day, and writing, regardless of the stress that’s been lingering!
That is all, thank you for reading this, and I will keep you posted when I reach the next mile stone!
If you’re religious, or have any knowledge of the Abrahamic religions, then you’ve probably heard that “God made us in his image.” Because of this, many people depict God as an old man with a long white beard. God is also depicted as a single dad that loves us all. If we trace human nature back as far as we can go, this just can’t be true.
Men are not loving by nature, we’re tolerant. Read the old testament, God was vengeful, and full of wrath. But, what about women?
Women were supposedly created from the rib of men. I don’t buy this. If that were true, then why wouldn’t it be the way in which women are created today? That would be pretty cool though.
Imagine being a young boy, playing and hanging out with your friends, but once you hit a certain age, and “grow up,” you could decide to settle down, remove one of your ribs, creating the perfect wife for you, and have a family. It would make it clear that men are superior, and women are here to please us. Sadly, that is not how it works.
How do we make people? Sex! Men and women are both required to make a new person. That alone should tell you that we are fundamentally equal and that whatever story was written about women being inferior to men is BS. We are equal, but opposite, and that’s okay.
There are exceptions, but in general:
Men are external. We act OUT. We wage war on the world. We hunt, we kill, we provide. Our sex organ is on the outside of our body. We are strong physically, our outer shells made of steel. We are dominant and intimidating. We overtake by force.
Women are internal. They act IN. They wage war in their bodies, growing life from within. They sheath us. They receive. Their sex organ is inside. They are strong emotionally, their inner shells made of steel. They are submissive and cunning. They overtake by strategy and persistence.
Fire and Water.
Fire can boil water. Water can extinguish fire. Fire can warm a home, or fire can scorch the earth. Water can nourish life, or water can drown it. Neither better; both necessary; both deserve respect. It isn’t better to be a man, nor is it better to be a woman.
God is a singular word that represents the duality of life. Broken down, God would be two Gods; God, the mother, or Space, and God, the father, Time. Space and Time. Without one, the other can’t exist. If there was no space, just time, what would that even be? It is impossible to describe, because nothing could exist without a space to exist in. The only way we know that time exists is by measuring the changes in space. When you see a banana rot, it is indicative that it has been sitting out for some time.
On the other hand, space, no time. The universe would be like a photograph, or a model. It would just exist, but nothing would ever happen, nor change. No moving parts, no clouds, no rain. No wind, no us. Beautiful, but pointless.
No, we need space AND time. God, the father, made love with God, the mother, and he seeded her womb, space, where life grows and is nourished. Not every sperm makes it to the egg, not every planet sustains life, it takes a miracle. We live inside our mother’s womb, and when we die here, perhaps we are really being born there, wherever “there” is. Call it Heaven if you’d like.