Poetry

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

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.

 

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.

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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!

 

Fiction

You’re Killing Me Smalls


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That night I slept a dreamless sleep. I woke up feeling refreshed. Carla and I ate breakfast and neither one of us even mentioned my nightmares. Today was going to be a good day.
“I feel like getting out today. Would you like to take a walk with me love?”
“Yeah, a walk sounds nice.” Carla replied. She got up from the table and put her dishes in the sink. “I think I might need one more cup of coffee before we go. Would you like another?”
“No, thank you though, I’m going to drink some water. You should definitely do the same.”
“I drink coffee and only coffee. The coffee bean is my spirit animal.”
I broke out laughing. “Well dehydration is going to be your spirit animal if you don’t drink some water while we walk. It’s like 100 degrees out today.”
“They make iced coffee.”
“You’re killing me Smalls.”
She smiled and gave me a wink. That was a line from one of our favorite movies, “The Sandlot.” We had watched it together the first time she had spent the night at my old apartment. We had been dating for a few months when she suggested,
“Why don’t we just get some take-out and cuddle up under a blanket while we watch a movie tonight?”
“Yeah, that sounds great. What kind of movie do you want to watch.”
“Hmm, I don’t know. How about a classic?”
“Do you have a genre preference?”
“I trust you.” She said, looking directly into my eyes, letting me know she meant it, and for more than just my taste in movies.
When she arrived that evening, I had my place prepared for a perfect night in. I ordered Pizza from Regina’s; I laid out a medley of snacks, from chips to chocolates; I had beer, wine, and champagne on ice. I wanted it to go perfect. She walked into the candle lit room.
“Wow. It looks like the best sleep over ever in here! The only thing missing is the feetie pajamas.”
“I think I have a pair somewhere. I can put them on if you’d like.”
Carla giggled. “Do you really have a pair, or were you just being funny?”
“I was just being funny. Please, come in, make yourself comfortable.” I walked her over to my display. “I have pizza, booze, and snacks for every mood.”
“Are you rapping right now?”
“Word.” I said, squinting my eyes, slightly pouting my lips, and nodding, trying to make my best ‘cool guy’ face.
Carla sat down. “What movie are we watching.”
“The Sandlot.” I said, waiting for her to be excited.
“The Sandlot? What’s that?”
“You’ve never heard of the Sandlot?”
“No, is it good?”
“Umm, it is a classic!”
“Well, if I never heard of it, how can it be a classic?”
“You’re killing me Smalls.”
“Shut up, I’m not small, I’m vertically challenged.”I bursted out laughing. “It’s a line from the movie, you’ll see. I’ll be right back.”

I walked into the other room. I had lied before about not having feetie pajamas. I wanted to surprise her. Justin had given me a pair as a gag gift once after talking about how much we loved them as kids, and how it was too bad that adults can’t wear them.
When I came back into the living room, Carla was opening two beers for us.
“Beer over champagne? Is that because we’re eating pizza?”
She turned to see me standing there, hands on my hips, posing in my Batman pajamas. She started laughing while saying, “That’s a great observation Batman.”
“Well I am the world’s greatest detective.”
We watched the movie and laughed all night, and ever since, the quote, “You’re killing me Smalls” has become one of our many tag lines.

Motivation

The Biggest Lesson I learned in my 20’s


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I don’t know how it is for everyone else, but my 20’s were a shit show. Well the first half of my 20’s. I was homeless from my late teens until I was 21. I spent my 21st birthday as a guinea pig for a group of friends who wanted to see if I could stay drunk for 21 days straight (which I succeeded at, then surpassed into a habit). Life was terrible because I didn’t care about myself.

Then, I decided to live. I joined the military (GO NAVY!) and got my life on track. Not overnight, because while in the Navy, I still drank like a sailor and didn’t do much looking inward at first. When I turned 24/25-ish is when I began to rebuild myself, from the inside-out. If there is just one lesson that needs to be learned in your 20’s, though it may sound cliché, but it is simply to learn to Love Yourself.

People like me seek the approval of others in order to define themselves. I’ve been like that for as long as I can remember. I had an easy time making acquaintances, but my problem was that I would latch on to people. If I made a friend, I would say it is my best friend, and then I’d go out of my way to make that person happy. They would usually reciprocate when it would be just us, but when there was someone they thought was “cooler” than me available to hang out with, guess who’d be alone? Yup, little ole me. It took me over 20 years to realize that this was a problem with me, and not them. I thought that these people were fake and not a true friend, like me. Don’t be so full of yourself. They had lives outside of our friendship and that’s okay. I blamed my lack of a life beyond them, on them. Not cool old me, not cool.

The real issue was that these people didn’t depend on me for happiness as I did to them. I wasn’t happy with myself and I was using them like a drug to numb my emptiness. I couldn’t be alone without crying my eyes out for no reason. Maybe you’re not as messed up as I was, but the advice still applies. Love yourself. Spend some time thinking about your own insecurities and then figure out WHY you are insecure about them.

For me, I found that my older brother and my mother played a big role in mine. My mom was a single mother, living in poverty, who worked constantly for little money. She worked all day, and when she was home, she would be too tired to spend much time with us. My brother bullied me verbally and physically, so I went out and found comfort in friends. It was in my 20’s that I was able to figure this out and forgive them for their faults. I’ve learned that they have their own insecurities and that they never maliciously contributed to mine. I’ve learned that my brother’s anger was a problem with HIM and not with ME. I have learned to love me for me and you know what? I can be alone now, in fact, I prefer it most of the time.

One good decision led to another and before long, I ended the bad relationships that I held on to for no good reason other than my fear of being alone. Good bye to the drug users and dealers, Good bye to the unmotivated and negative thinkers, and Good bye to the old me! I now keep a small circle and if I see them, I enjoy what I can, and if I don’t, I enjoy my own company.

Love yourself! Nobody has a clue what this is…Life. Some people are convincing and pretend that they know, but I promise you, not a single person has a clue. We are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have. Unfortunately some people have less to work with than others, but we all can find happiness within. And if you ever feel like nobody cares, just know, you still have you!

Motivation, Musings

The Mountain


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“Maybe I’m just like my mother. She’s never satisfied.”

I’ve been told that I’m extremely stubborn. I guess it’s true. It isn’t that I refuse to do what other’s want. Actually, I’ve got an uncontrollable need to please people. Let me explain.

If we were to hang out, and I wanted to go to the movies, but you wanted to go do something else, I’d happily decide to do whatever you wanted to do. The same goes for dinner. That’s why I feel like Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook” when asking my daughter and wife what they want for dinner.

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I wouldn’t care if it were my birthday, in fact, as a child, I’ve given up birthday presents so that my brother could open up a gift too, because I felt bad that I was receiving toys and he wasn’t. Material possessions don’t mean much to me.

However, when it comes to something that I supposedly “have” to do, that’s where my stubborn self comes alive. I am a human being, equal to all other human beings around me. I don’t care if you’re the pope, king, president, or homeless; we all breathe the same air, and bleed the same blood. Therefore, no man or woman shall have domain over me. See, in the previous scenarios, I concede to other’s desires, but it is still my choice in the matter. When I am told, “You have to do this, or else.” Then my freedom of choice is being challenged, and I will usually go with the “or else” option.

I don’t know what it is. There is this feeling, deep in the pit of my stomach that just won’t allow me to give in to the power of someone else, unless it will harm an innocent person. For example, the time I walked in on a robbery, I was surprised to learn in that moment that I didn’t fear death. I was more disappointed that I was bested, like losing a game of chess. I was outnumbered, and unarmed, but my mind was still looking for a last ditch effort to fight. However, I was not alone. There were 10 innocent lives behind me, and one wrong move could have put them in danger, and so I decided to do nothing. It is a moment that I will wrestle with for the rest of my life as to whether or not that was the best course of action, even though we all ended up walking away unharmed (relatively, one guy did get pistol whipped when they first arrived), I also wonder, what if they weren’t going to let us live? And I did nothing. But I digress.

When I was in the military, where you have absolutely no rights. I still somehow maintained some respect. When I would get yelled at by a superior, and if I didn’t deserve it (sometimes I made mistakes, in which case I accepted the verbal lashing), but when they were just being jerks because of my rank, I always stood up for myself. I’d usually say something like, “Look, I know you outrank me, and I know how this works, so I will do whatever you’re asking me to do, but you don’t have to yell at me, just tell me what needs to get done and I’ll do it.” And to my surprise, and if we were alone, it worked. Only if they had fellow superiors around them would they dig their heels in and act worse, but I completely understand that.

I’ve learned to praise publicly, criticize in private. So, later, when I felt disrespected, I would bite my tongue, and find them later, alone, and talk to them about it. Again, it usually worked. Most of the time, they’d make a conscious effort to speak to me better. Now, when I say better, I don’t mean that they’d not make commands. They still outrank me, and it is still the military. I mean the added nonsense. The name calling, or family insults. So, instead of, “Harrigan, go fucking clean that mess over there you inbred piece of shit!” They would begin to say, “Harrigan, I need that mess cleaned.” and I’d say, “Roger that” and get to it.

Moving on, when it comes to jobs, outside of the military, I understand that I have a boss and my position in the company. However, like the military, I won’t be told what to do. When I worked at Walgreens, before the Navy, I had tickets to a Celtics game. I told my boss, a month in advance, that I would need that day off because of the game. He said it shouldn’t be a problem. The day before, near the end of my shift, he approached me and said,
“I couldn’t find anyone to cover your shift, so you have to come in tomorrow.”
“Umm, I told you that I had tickets to the Celtics a month ago. Why would you even schedule me to work that shift?”
“That’s usually the shift you work. It isn’t my responsibility to find someone to cover your shift, it’s yours. You didn’t find someone to cover your shift, so you have to work. Plain and simple.”
“No, you said that you were going to find someone to cover my shift. If you told me to find someone, I would have. You said that it shouldn’t be a problem. I already bought the tickets.”
“You’re scheduled to work tomorrow, if you don’t come in, then you’re a no call no show and you’ll be fired.”
“Ok.”

The next day, I went to the game. I was fired. I regret nothing.

Shortly after, I left for boot camp and my life has been exponentially better since. I might not have had the guts to go to boot camp if I still had that job. The lack of options played a pivotal role in my motivation.

Perhaps these are just examples of me being a stubborn brat. I don’t know. What I do know is that when it feels like someone is flexing power of me, I don’t budge. When I was a teen, and wrestled with my friends, they’d have to literally choke me unconscious for me to stop. I would rather be put out than to give in to someone saying, “You give up?” while they clamp down on my neck. However, that same will is what drives me to succeed. It is the reason that I was able to stop drinking without help. Once I realized that people around me saw me as the “sure thing” when they wanted a drinking buddy, I decided that I wasn’t going to be their sure thing any more. In a weird way, it felt like a power they held over me. All they had to do was say something like, “Who wants a beer? Harrigan, I know you want one” as they’d toss me a can. Like they are the gracious beer kings throwing a bone to the lowly peasant. Not I. The moment I had that realization, I cracked open that last beer and just stared at it. I watched it for probably an hour before standing up, putting on my jacket, and leaving the party. I said, “I gotta go.” And I haven’t looked back. Those friends faded from my life, with no ill feelings, I still value them and wish them well, but I started walking a different path that they just wouldn’t fully understand without walking it with me. I still don’t drink, but because I choose not to. If I drink again someday, It will be because I choose to, not because I feel I have to.

That stubborn will is what made me go back as an adult to the Tae Kwon Do school I had quit as a teenager. I had always regretted not getting my black belt and it haunted me that I gave up on something I loved. I felt like the people in my past who said I wouldn’t amount to anything were right. So, during one of the hardest semesters of my life, taking 4 classes, 3 of them being at the graduate level, I decided to go back to Tae Kwon Do. Same school, same teacher. And you know what?

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That same stubbornness has driven me to achieve my bachelor’s and master’s degree. I thought of all the teachers I’ve had that didn’t think I would do anything. I thought of the few that believed in me. I push myself hard because I never want to be “less than.” I’ve lived too long in my life believing that I was nothing. A nobody. Because of my past, because of my financial status growing up, and because of circumstances that were out of my control, I felt like a complete waste of human life. I would never show that on the outside. Nope. I doubled down. I trained hard. I practiced everything that I did, whether it was athletics, video games, or rapping; anything that I could compete in with my peers, I became the best or the top contender. I would not let someone say that they are better than me at anything. I will not be looked down at. And when I am on top, I will not look down at anyone else. I demand eye level contact, and I promise the same.

I know that there is always someone better at something. I have grown to understand that I don’t need to be the best at anything to be treated equally. I used to believe in my youth, that those at the top had the privilege to look down at those below, because they’ve earned it, but I now understand that there is no top. There is no below. There is one level that we all exist on, and only when zooming in real close, on specific subjects, does one appear to have elevation. But we appear higher and lower depending on what we are looking at. I might be “better” at athletics, but my brother can draw like you wouldn’t believe. Michael Jordan is arguably the best basketball player of all time, but I wonder how well he can write a poem? Or if he sews? Does he bake? Or fix cars? Possibly, but the point is, there is something Michael Jordan isn’t “The Michael Jordan” of.

This expands my understanding of equality. And it strengthens my stubbornness ten-fold. If you dare look down at me, or demand something from me, while we stand on the same ground, breathe the same air, bleed the same blood, then you better believe that I stand firm, like a mountain

mulan

Fiction

My Fiction Project


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I didn’t expect to open my eyes. Not after I felt the barrel push slightly harder into the back of my skull as the gunman pulled the trigger. I sprung up in my bed, gasping while frantically reaching for the spot where the bullet entered. Nothing…again.
“It’s happening more often.” A muffled voice came from beside me. I looked, still rubbing my head, to see Carla, eyes closed, face half in her pillow. “You need to talk to someone.”
“You know how I feel about therapy.”
“And you know how I feel about sleep.”
“Alright, alright. If it happens again, I’ll consider it, but for now, let me figure it out.”
“Fine, but you go make us coffee.” She looked at me with the eye that wasn’t buried in her pillow. I chuckled.
“Ok, that’s fair.” I leaned over to kiss her head when I felt her hand slide up my inner thigh until she reached the top, where she gave me a gentle, playful squeeze. “Yeah?” I began kissing her neck, but she flinched and moved her hand off me, then said,
“If it happens again, I’ll consider it, but for now, coffee.”

I had just about finished my cup when Carla walked in.
“You know, a gal could starve waiting on you.”
I knew I messed up. I looked over, coffee mug still pressed to my lips, to see her leaning against the doorway, wearing her favorite of my dress shirts. It was my favorite too, and part of me wanted it back, but I have to admit it looks better on her. I swallowed the last sip.

“Hey babe, I was just about to brin-”
“Mmhm, save it, my mug is still in the cabinet.”
“Ok, you got me. I’m sorry love, I was caught up in my thoughts.”
“Yet you managed to get a cup for you. Egoista.”
I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out.
“That’s what I thought.” She said with a victorious grin. She walked over and wrapped her arms around me.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve you love.” I said, hugging her tight.
“It certainly wasn’t your barista skills.” She could always make me laugh.

Motivation

Holy Trinity


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“I’m fine.” The man said in response whenever he was asked how he’s doing. That’s a typical exchange among most people around here. He never assumed that anybody actually cared how he’s doing, and to be honest, he didn’t care how they were either. He was too tired to care. Barely 9 AM and he’s already on his third cup of coffee. Anything to get through the day, so he can get home and relax.

This man was me. A lifeless zombie, going through the motions, like so many others that I know. It’s too easy to fall into this mode of “wake up, work, eat, home, Netflix, bed.” However, I noticed that on the days that I wasn’t as tired, or perhaps I was a little extra productive and felt great, when people asked me how I’m doing, I’d respond with, “Wonderful! Thank you, how are you?” and many times, people would be taken off guard. They’d double take a look at me and some would even comment on how nice it is to hear such a response. I’d feel even better after the exchange.

I learned to give 3 syllable responses in the military. There was a First Class Petty Officer on my base. I can’t recall his last name, but we just called him ET1, which was his job (Electronic Technician) and Rank (Petty Officer First Class). Whenever anyone would ask him, “How are you ET1?” he’d always, without fail, respond loud and proud, “BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!” It made everyone around him smile. I’ll never forget that. I don’t have the oomph to shout that, yet. But I do try to say things like, ‘Wonderful,’ ‘Excellent,’ or ‘Fantastic!’

So, why don’t I say these things every time? I have noticed that on days that I’m tired, I fail at being the person I want to be. There’s a quote, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I couldn’t tell you who said it originally because I heard it from a guy on a podcast, citing another guy who read it somewhere. The point is, whomever said it, said it right!

I began to take notice of the days that I didn’t get enough sleep, or didn’t get GOOD sleep. The next day was a struggle, every time. I didn’t want to do anything, and even worse, I would make poor decisions when eating. Whatever was quick and tasty. I had no desire to cook, and I wanted something bursting with sugary flavor, anything to bring a little joy to the day. After eating crap, a short burst of energy is followed by a crash, and even more exhaustion, demanding another cup of coffee. After work, I’d go home, and kick up my feet, put the TV on and say, “I’ll hit the gym tomorrow.”

Over the years, I’ve learned that my Holy Trinity is Sleep, Diet, Exercise. In that order. I’ve had some days that I’ve forced myself to go to the gym even when I was tired, and it feels a little better than days that I skip, but I’d still be in a depressive fog. Even if I ate clean all day, if I was tired, it felt like work, and I just wanted to hurry up and get to the part of the day where I was just mindlessly watching TV or playing a video game.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing with watching TV or playing games, I love both of these activities. It is the mind set while doing them that I’m attacking. On days that I am well rested, eating good, and working out, whether at the gym, outdoors on warm days, or at home doing calisthenics, I feel like I earned the reward of TV or games.

Here’s what I’ve managed to do for my own schedule and what I HIGHLY recommend for everyone. Go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. I used to say things like, “I can’t sleep at night,” or “I’m a night owl.” Whatever the reason, I wanted to use the time at night for myself and to wind down after a long day. I’d stay up until 2-3 AM and wake up exhausted all week, and sleep in a little bit on the weekends.

Now, I’m in bed between 10-11, closer to 10:30 most days, 6-7 days a week. I wake up at 5:30 on the days that I have to teach at 8 and 6:30 on the days that I don’t. I’m working my way down to being in bed between 9-10 and getting up between 4:30-5:00. For now, I still get great sleep, between 7-8 hours, and when I wake up in the morning, my new routine is coffee while I work on the fiction story I’m writing, then I read about 25 pages of a book, and then I write a blog post for my site.

I started by just fixing my sleep schedule. Baby steps. I woke up at 5:30 and had coffee, and I’d surf the web on my phone or just sit and relax and enjoy the quiet. Once I got used to it, I began writing in the morning. I felt so great and proud of myself, and that carried through my day. I couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning and write some more.

After a week of doing that, I decided to add the reading to my morning routine as well. A few days of doing both, and now I’m blogging too. I think that when I am able to get up even earlier, I’m going to add another thing to my mornings. I’m trading my exhausted evening TV time for some morning, productive, feel-great-about-me time!

Sleep is the most important factor in the Holy Trinity. If you want to get your life together, or improve how you feel on a daily basis, then I recommend you work on your sleep, diet, and exercise routine. Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to take on all 3. Just start with fixing your sleep schedule. Go to bed early, and wake up early. Just start there, and slowly add one more improvement when you feel you are ready to take it on!

You know how I feel today?

BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!!!

Motivation, Musings, News and Updates

I am a Writer


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I finally figured it out.

It has been 31 years that I’ve been on this earth, and I have been writing for most of them. The moment I could put words into sentences, I wrote my first short story. Of course, back then I thought they were long stories, being around 5 hand-written pages.

I can’t remember when it stopped being fun. I don’t think it ever did. What I do know is that when I was writing those stories, I didn’t think about anything else other than writing them. Once I reached middle school, I became painfully aware of what other people thought of me. I only thought about what I should write that would make them like it, or me.

The crazy thing is, I have never received a negative comment about my writing, from anyone. That’s mostly because I never shared it with anyone that wasn’t my inner circle of friends. I wrote stories that were a bit longer, but I couldn’t seem to finish them. I would get an idea for a new story and then start all over.

What was really happening was that I would get to a point in the story that would demand a revision. I’d find a hole in the plot, or a character flaw, and once I reached that point, I began to criticize my writing as if I were someone else. “This is what they’d think” is the frame of mind I would be in. I would rip the story apart verbally, then literally, eventually turning the anger inward and telling myself how terrible I was. I spoke on behalf of everyone I knew, and even those I didn’t, as if I had just read my pages aloud in the school auditorium and was met with boos and insults.

Starting a story feels great. The idea is fresh, and you haven’t had the time to develop it much, which means you haven’t had time to find its flaws. I love thinking of the opening line. “What can I write that would make people want to read the 2nd sentence?” It might be my favorite part. So I lived in the constant state of blissful creativity to a slow decline, ending at malicious self-hatred and doubt.

This cycle continued for years. I just turned 31 and it was only recently, like a few weeks ago, that I finally figured it out.

Now, for those who know me, you probably know that I spent most of my teens, up until my late twenties writing rap lyrics. The short version is that, besides writing stories, I love poetry. I began writing poetry and stories around the same time. However, poems are shorter, which means that I can write them while still in the creative bliss state. I’ve definitely turned negative on some of my poems, but I have boxes, like BOXES full of ones that made it.

Around high school, 2001, I was going through puberty, and poetry wasn’t considered manly. As boys, our biggest insult we could deliver to each other was the suggestion that we were gay. Poetry…gay. It’s so dumb, but we were kids, and we were dumb. For some reason, if you take that same poem, and put it to a hip hop beat, now it was rap, and rap was suuuuuppper cool. Thus, I became a rapper.

My rap journey could be an entire 3 book series in itself, but for this post, just know that it was some of the most fun I have ever had in my life.

Towards the end of my rap “career,” I was making music with my friends, as usual, but something was different. When I used to make songs, my friends would make a big deal about it. They were impressed with my lyrics and my ability to string syllables together. For some reason, perhaps they weren’t impressed, or perhaps they were just used to it from me, I don’t know, but for some reason, the compliments stopped.

Then, I began hearing my first ever, believe it or not, after a decade of rapping, I received my first negative critique. It came in rapid fire succession, by the people I valued most. My producer, my friends, even my wife.

“Just rap, don’t sing.”
“You sound the same on every song.”
“You sound different on every song, you need a unique style.”
“Try switching genres.”
“You’re too political, nobody wants to get lectured on a track.”
“It’s cool, but you aren’t saying anything of substance.”

The list goes on. Suddenly, everyone was a critic. The compliments stopped and everybody wanted to put their two cents in. I know they didn’t mean any harm, but it got in my head. I doubted my ability to create. It was like reaching that point in the story where I had to revise, and the flaws in my plot made me hate myself. I hated myself.

I made excuses, I blamed others, I created obstacles to prevent me from making music. Eventually, I just stopped writing altogether. I haven’t written a lyric in years. I fell into a deep depression.

I managed to keep myself afloat by working out. A good workout is like a quick pick-me-up. It suddenly made the weight of the world bearable enough to put a smile on and go to work/school.

I felt like a failure in music, a failure as writer (having never been published), and a failure at life. I have done things that others would consider an accomplishment, for example, I went to school (for English composition, masochist? Or cathartic?) and achieved a master’s degree. I remember talking to Penelope about it and I told her, “I feel like I settled for a master’s degree.” I didn’t realize how ridiculous that statement sounded, but she told me I should definitely write that down. I felt like I settled because it wasn’t my intended goal in life. I wanted to be a big time rapper, and so every day that I went to school and not the studio felt like I was giving up on my dream.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a video from Dr. Bruce Lipton. It was about the movie “The Matrix,” which I love, and how it is more real than we think. Not the actual events, but the idea that we live in a world that we create with our minds. I recommend going to watch them, as they are too long to summarize accurately here, but he gave some tips on how to retrain the brain. Basically, I have a brain that is programmed for self-sabotage and self-defeat. My mother has the same mentality, and I learned it from her. It isn’t her fault, she had a tougher childhood than mine, but through no fault of anyone’s, I have this type of mind set. I could write forever about this idea and its link to impoverish neighborhoods, but perhaps in another post.

I tried some of the techniques that I had just learned and I can’t believe it, but it works! One of them, as silly as it sounds, is while you are laying in bed, about to fall asleep, your brain is dropping into a lower frequency, Theta waves, and that is like being in a hypnotic state. During this state, when you are feeling yourself about to drift off, but are still conscious, just start thinking, “I am happy.” while picturing yourself being happy. I did this, and the following morning, I woke up in a great mood. Maybe it is the placebo effect, maybe not, I don’t know but I have been doing it every night since, and so far, I have been feeling great!

Feeling great about myself is new. I have always been full of self-loathing and have many times looked in the mirror, saying aloud, “You’re worthless” or “You’re ugly” or “stupid” etc. I have never liked me. The past few weeks, I actually do. It is an incredible feeling. What’s crazier is, I have been writing again, every day. I enjoy writing by hand, and so I bought a nice fountain pen, and I have been writing a fiction story. I have 26 hand-written pages so far, and I already have reached that point of finding plot holes. This time, I just wrote down some notes on a separate sheet of paper, and kept writing. I look forward to waking up at 530 in the morning to write. I write a few pages, no pressure, and then I read. I haven’t read a book for pleasure in god knows how long. So I decided, I’m going to add blogging to my morning routine. I don’t care what about, or who reads it or doesn’t. Not anymore. I cared so much that I gave up on it when I didn’t get praise. Now, I don’t need it.  I don’t need anyone else’s validation.

I write, therefore, I am a writer.