Illogic

Illogic

:

This poem is called:
mixed metaphors

or

the physics of nonsense and non-compliance:
radical action in the forefront

or
meager meandering of an eager and creative soul child
or
streams of neon-neurotic non-neo-liberal consciousness
or
things mother forgot to remind me
or
things I think of in between the oppressions
or
the science of living
or

If, as they say, E=MC2
then would ODB and Jay-Z squared off
freestyling in the market place of ideas
make matter reverberate off the window you forgot to put down in the rain storm?
Would your room be flooded with the 2 cents of disaffected black youth?
Could you handle all that realness?
Would the curvature of time-space triangulate slowly if Lauryn sung the hook?
If it got loud enough would it scare the birds in the bush worth the gander with the one Black swan?
Would your investment in bird watching books be squandered?
If, as the world turned faster the days our lives got longer
until a year became the infinity between the end of your first kiss and your eyes opening
would time still equal money?
What if we all woke tomorrow and decided that it would be Sunday
every day,
would we ever get our mail?
Would the mail-man,
mail-people,
persons,
zers be forced to work on sunday?
Would the injustices of the world perpetuate themselves in our own lackadaisical heaven?
Does liberation come with Paid Sick Days?
Does the revolution take water breaks?
Will the water be our grandmother’s lead lined tap water?
What if “Alf” was just an anachronistic prophesy of Clintonian democracy?
How much wood would a wood chuck need to chuck for Chuck and Heavey D to stop the violence?
If our best educated, best prepared, best equipped refuse to fight then when does the battle start?

What if we all got into a room and talked it out?
What if only the respectable folks could hold the mic?
What if I told her I loved her?
What if we all got along, all the time, all the time and love was everywhere?
Would we have room for our beds?
Would we have to sleep,
huddled in our happiness,
peaceful in our orgies because
fucking is the opposite of war?
Maybe the world is just too much.
Maybe we just can’t handle it all?
Maybe the revolution will just turn off the lights
Maybe we will spend our lives on our backs,
staring at the stars at night,
holding hands and signing hyms
praising how simple,
how beautiful,
how lovely it all is when take the time to look at it?
Maybe heaven is a world only perceived through our eyes and ears.
Maybe it just beauty without context.
Maybe this hell is being beaten with false histories.
Maybe death is the daily monotony of work and existing with our blinders force feeding us information and life is everything else…

Meditations On Liberation

IMG_6651

Liberation is ultimately an internal, self-reflective process even if it requires years of systemic change and collective action to be possible. Liberation means tearing down the barriers between who we are now and who we could be. Liberation is both a state and a process, each barrier destroyed, each chain broken, brings us closer to it.

Liberation means breaking the chains that limit our human potential and cultivating a communal nirvana. Liberation means believing in ourselves enough to love each other without limits. Liberation means trusting our strengths and bonds enough to be vulnerable to each other. Liberation means unlocking our greatest most authentic selves together.

Liberation means pushing ourselves past fears of inadequacy rooted in internalized oppression and into a realm of self-love which is the well-spring of communal self-determination. Liberation is not struggle even if struggle is necessary for liberation. Liberation is fully realizing that you are beautiful and together we are powerful beyond measure.

Liberation is celebrating our shared humanity through action. Liberation is making out between protests. Liberation is a meal between friends. Liberation is feeling loved, making love, spreading love, finding new love, rekindling old love. Liberation is preparing yourself to handle the soul bursting joy that healthy communities produce. Liberation is a block party, a birthday party and a wedding that can’t begin until everyone has the means, the time, the support and the invite to join.

Liberation is not dancing like no one is watching; Liberation is dancing like the world is cheering you on. Liberation is dancing like the movement in your hips is all that is keeping the lights on. Liberation is dancing like you were made to dance, like God is divine musician that just needed an audience.

Liberation is the life we lead in the narrow spaces between our oppressions. Liberation is the intimate moments where our full selves show up. Liberation is when our identities are not barriers but starting points; holy departures for interpersonal exploration; prologue not destiny.

Liberation is that good shit.

It comes in spurts and stutters and rarely all at once. It can be temporary, fleeting, and elusive. So we chase it, we long for it and search for it. We create gigantic mechanisms and machines to try and produce it yet Liberation can neither be found nor created. Liberation is all around us, we need only create space for it.

We need only destroy the soot and oppression and grime and hate and stand back as Liberation seeps into the vacuum. We do not need to destroy the old world in order to make space for the new. We do not destroy institutions of oppressions to wipe the slate clean and build a more just society. We destroy the systems of oppression because they are taking up the space where Liberation would naturally be.

Humans were not simply born free; we were born before the concept of slavery. Liberation is what will exists when slavery, privilege or rape are no longer options. Liberation can take many forms and it is not defined by its aspects. Liberation is simply the lack of social limits; it is unchained, untraumatized humanity flexing its communal muscles of self-determination.

Liberation is not an end, rather it is the most beautiful of beginnings…

A Farewell to 2013

Dear Father Time,

We regret to inform you that your daughter, 2013 has died. We want you to know that our thoughts and well wishes are with you on this most difficult of days. We are so lucky to have known your daughter, even though she was a difficult person to know, we literally could not have gone on without her. Personally, I will remember 2013 as the most formative year of my life. My list of personal accomplishments and triumphs this year dwarfs nearly every other year of my life. So, I’d like to honor your daughter with my list of accomplishments:

  1. Your daughter allowed me to find myself by making me too busy to continue looking. She started her life with me being an unemployed and thoroughly depressed former educator, living with his Uncle. She forced me to decide what I wanted to do with my life and most importantly, taught me that happiness is never beyond my reach. She blessed me with a renewed connection to my Chicago Family, without whose support I never would have made it out of Chatham sane. With support from my cousins I was able to move into Su Casa which, though perhaps the single most stressful place I’ve ever lived, was fertile ground for a personal transformation.
  2. I pushed myself to create meaningful, fulfilling relationships with a diverse set of people who took me out of my comfort zone. Working at 57th Street Books proved to be an amazing experience. The people who I worked with were some of the most amazing individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting. We make each other laugh in the face of common enemies and problems too numerous to count. I was fortunate to work with some of kindest, smartest and funniest people I have ever met. I know they are all headed on to do great things and I feel so lucky to have been able to work with them. My time at Su Casa saw the renewal of a cherished Friendship with a veteran of my College organizing days as well several new friendships. Where would I be without my friend, confidant and platonic life partner the Liturgical Michigander! Would I view breakfast the same without the odd mix of hilarity and sexual harassment every morning from the Michigan’s other #1 export? Would the word Freedom instantly bring a smile to my face were it not for Simone? Would I have made it through those harrowingly stressful months without watching Jericho reruns and talking about my childhood until 2 a.m? Not to mention hundreds of Puns, impromptu performances of “Gungdam Style” and the families who taught me that laughter and love are universal languages. Or to mention Germans who proved to be capable sparring partners in fantastical debates and volunteers I met towards the end of my stay who probably think I’m crazy but can at least respect the method [and reason] of my madness.
  3. 2013 saw the rebirth of my creative endeavors and witnessed the largest creative outburst of my life. In the last six months I wrote over 50 post on this blog and sent 6 pieces off for publication [with 1 published and another accepted!] All told 2013 saw me right over 100,000 words! Yes, that’s right, I wrote over 100,000 words in poems, essays on Masculinity, essays on Hip Hop, personal journals and fantasy themed letters to dear friends. I wrote more words for fun this year than in any previous year. And, thanks to my blog, the majority of these words were read by more people around the world than ever before. I have been blessed with readers from around the world. From friends studying in Mexico and the UK to strangers and kindred spirits in Estonia, Brazil, India, Vietnam, Korea, Poland and many other countries. So, 2013 will also go down as the year my insecurities, humor and philosophy went Global! I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank my loyal followers for that. I couldn’t have done it if it were not for friends who showed me what true beauty and unconditional support looks and feels like. From friends who discussed our principles in late night walks through downtown Chicago & who read everything I sent them to my Bay Area friend who gives me a much needed dose of reality. My Oakland comrade who teaches me to strive and taught me that sometimes all it takes to succeed is to have the guts to walk in like you own the place. And of course, my Bay Area native turned Chicagoan who encourages my writing as eagerly as he encouraged my teaching when we worked together in Englewood.
  4. 2013 saw me push past my geographic comfort zone in an all-out sprint towards my dream. 2013 say me move away from my erstwhile muse into the warm embrace of another city. I moved from Chicago to D.C and was greeted by dozens of amazing new friends. From Falcons who go as hard for social justice as they do for Dancing to social innovators fighting for a more just and democratic economy. I have met some truly wonderful new people here. Including some people whose drive, passion and creativity inspires mine. Though my Chicago and Su Casa family can never been replaced, I’m excited to know that I will not be lonely in D.C. I rekindled friendships with old SummerLinks friends, proving that the more things change, the more the stay the same. I’ve been blessed live in same metropolitan area as one of my most faithful snail mail correspondents, proving that sometimes the best friendships are the ones for whom distance matters the least.
  5. 2013 saw me struggle to understand my role as both oppressor and oppressed. I spent a large potion of this year thinking about the intersecting oppressions and privileges that constitute my identity. I like to think a have grown significantly from my first foray into these thoughts from a guilt ridden man to a confident man able to check his privilege more often than not and learn from mistakes when I don’t.
  6. I actively and respectively [if awkwardly] put myself out there. Never before have I gone for it so many times and failed so awkwardly or succeeded so unexpectedly. From awkward confessions of affections to completely disinterested women over NYtimes crosswords to 4 hour long dates that turned into new and exciting relationships 2013 was the year of putting myself out there. So, I may start the this new year as single as I started the last one but I start it with a lot more confidence and comfort in who I am.
  7. I was able to maintain and build upon my oldest and dearest connections. And, given that today is traditionally the day I spend with my two friends for whom Distance matters least to, I’d remiss if I did not give a shout out to The General and House Husband with no kids. My two oldest and dearest friends without whose friendship support and shared memories I would be lost. I was blessed to see the former get married and return safety from war the same the year. I was over joyed at knowing not only that he was safe but that his faithful wife, who I am thankful to count as a dear friend, can rest easier knowing he is back. The latter musketeer finally found love and college degree, while I knew both were inevitable; I am still overjoyed that he has found what he has been seeking for so long.
  8. I grew closer to my familyI developed stronger bounds by biological and informally adopted families. It was a year for learning my about my parents and being there as my friend welcomed his wife into our extended 21st century family. I have received so much support from both my families that it breaks my heart with joy.  2013 was also the year of the Goggans Family. Our arrival was announced by Drake, and we have started our take over. My parents are thriving in one of America’s better kept secrets, my Brother is traveling the world, my sisters are getting it done in D.C and my niece is coming into her own the only way she knows how: loudly and with plenty of style.
  9. I increased my commitment to my ideals. Whether it was by refusing to work in role that was unhealthy or by redoubling my commitment to service, I’m proud that stayed true to what I believe in. I was able to grow and create better, healthier relationships. I’m not perfect and 2013 stands as a testament to that fact as well, but I continued to struggle to live my beliefs despite set-backs and moral failings. I’m living a life closer to how I think it should be lived than ever before.

So, all in all, your daughter 2013 will be sorely missed by us all. Yet, I think 2014 will be Time’s finest year to date. While I know it will bring sadness and hurt, I have no doubt that 2014 will also bring triumph and success. Who knows what adventures I will find myself having in the next 12 months? All I can say is that for this 25 year old, youth will not be wasted on the Young! I look forward to new causes and new friends. Not to mention being excited to see a few old and cherished friends in a few weeks! 2014 is going to be a year for the record books.

So that’s my year in review. How about you? I’d love to hear about what 2013 meant to you. To paraphrase a question from my friend, what did you do this year that you were most proud of?

Unsent Letter To All The Girls I’ve Loved

bell hooks on love

[Below is an unsent letter to every female friend I’ve been secretly in love with whom I sent really long e-mails to or hand written notes to after/before I went to college/when you were studying abroad/when I moved back to Falcon in 2008/when I moved to Colorado Springs in 2010/when you moved to a coastal city once I made it back to Chicago/when you went to grad school/visited your family for Hanukkah/ moved with your significant other [sometimes another female friend I had also once liked] back home/I moved to D.C.  If this sounds remotely similar to a letter I once sent in you in one of these moments then this was probably the first draft of a letter I wrote and decided not to send for one reason or another. I realized that this a recurring pattern in my life that I need to analyze…so I did…and what better way to process self-analysis than self-parody?]

To All The Friends I’ve Loved,

[There always start with some  overwrought and florid metaphor for whatever I’m unhappy about in the moment. In most of these letters it is my hometown] I’m not sure if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest with no one to hear it but I know from experience that the speed at which it falls is in direct proportion to number of observers. Falcon is not a place for me to write. Falcon is where writers are born. It is where the bigotry and backwardness drips from the lips of neighbors destined to be characters; cold as molasses and twice as black, pumping sweet visceral into an author’s creative glands.  Falcon will serve as the time capsule I use to write of time so long ago that it never really existed, at least not in the way I remember it.

In my stories I call it Mesa Valley, my Yoknapatawpha County [always includes an oblique reference to writer whom I feel an unjustifiable though visceral connection to. Sometimes I’ve only read their shortest published work but count them among my favorite authors] I write about the villains and saints of my childhood in this Mesa Valley so that the fictionalized grandiosity of the moment evokes the same emotion as the tonnage of years of microagressions and mini miracles. Put simply, the events are lies but the emotions are real. My neighbors will undoubtedly protest but I imagine my fame will soften their protest the same way their privilege softened mine. Their bigotry bit into my psyche layering trauma upon trauma [I actually had a pretty chill childhood but I thought for a while that I need to be a tortured artist to be a good artist.]

Is life so miserable? Is the darkness seeping in, encroaching on my happy moments? No, I suppose not. [almost all of these letters start the second paragraph with a refutation of the overwrought opening metaphor…insecure much?] In reality life is bland and it is that blandness that frightens me. Like Oscar WildeI live in terror of not being misunderstood. [quote is purposefully out of context. In an example of hipster letter writing, it serves as an illustration of my meta awareness] Drama and vibrancy are my heroin. In their absence I fiend for the thematic like a smoker turned niciderm addict. I lust for action with all the gusto and impulsiveness of a sex addict.  In the late hours of the night, when time seems to drip like a leaky faucet in a silent kitchen instead of flow, I try to figure out why this is. I have always had an overactive imagination and I have always been vicarious reader, living the lives of the characters as I read them. If you had asked my 12 year old self what I wanted to be when he grew up he would have said “a living legend.” Yet no childhood trauma or tendency could explain this burning desire of mine in its maturity [though, when I was 8 I used to scream “I’m going through a stage!” at my family when my siblings complained about my parents bending over backwards to not accommodate my latest fixation. I heard my parents discussing my habit of hiding eggs around the house and whether it was a “stag” or ealy onset mental illness one night and decided to use the phrase to justify my weirdness…jury is still out about early signs of mental illness]

There is an answer to the question. And yes, that is the short one. I’m doing fine. [you are supposed to assume the unasked question “how are you?” Man, is this guy meta or what?] Living with my parents has been interesting though not ideal. I am doing what I can to not waste way. When the monotone hum of prairie life turns into a tempest of passive, almost inert, aggression that threatens to overwhelm me I try to think of you and your adventures in [insert study abroad program, grad school, or new city her]. I imagine your [insert distinguishing feature] as you [insert activity that can I think can only be done where you are]. How is it in [insert colloquial/pretentious nickname for current location]? How is the air? What are you thinking about? What things are challenging you? Forcing you push your limits? What do you know now that you didn’t before? [still not sure where this habit of asking these sorts of questions to people became a thing that I do…constantly… but I can remember doing it as early as middle school]

I know you are probably laughing at my intensity. You mention that intensity often and each time I want to tell you how I really feel. [this when I show my insecurity in a self deprecating way. This portion is usually added to qualify previous or subsequent statements that were overly florid or ridiculous but I found too well phrased to delete.]  I spend so much time trying to calm that intensity for fear of scaring you away yet sometimes restraining my love for you seems more intolerable than your absence. I want you too know, finally, that I love you fiercely. [this is the part that is ALWAYS cut out of the final draft. The unspoken longings off…ugh…I’m doing it again!] When we take our walks through [insert significant place in our friendship] I’d be convinced that my feet never touched the asphalt if hearing you about what’s one your mind this week didn’t make me feel so grounded. I love the way your mind unravels in those moments. Your thoughts are distinct and intricately laced like braided steel cables supporting intellectual bridges from Kafka and Morrison to Weber and Du Bois [I always reference Kafka but never actually read Kafka until like 6 months ago.] Sometimes I am too mesmerized by how an individual thought of yours develops that forget how your smile gives me butterflies.

Your wild and frantic idiosyncratic hand gestures that increase in their assertiveness as the topic turns from history to your theory of how we constructive our identities through narratives remind me of the awkward girl I first met and not the poised woman I know now. As your passion burns through your light brown eyes I’m tempted to believe that my world has the same golden haze has its reflection in your gaze. In these moments I want to tell you that I love you. I know you would just smile and say “I know.” I know that I would have to hold your heart-wrenchingly beautiful gaze longer. I would lock my eyes with yours to add weight to my words; to tell you this was that kind of the love. The kind of love that causes me to fear that I’m losing myself in you, the terror of thinking that maybe falling so hard for you that I forget who I am sounds more like heaven than white clouds and halos. [who says that…seriously….I mean…it has a nice ring to it though…reminds me of this poem I wrote about my first “real” love]

Instead, I smile and hold my tongue. We walk miles through this city, you and I, with the secret of my love between us like a warm invisible sea. Swimming through it is the most exhausting endeavor of my life but living without it seems dry and barren in comparison. When we hug goodbye I wish I could wrap my hands around your soul instead of your waist and I pretend that my sadness is contemplation and not the awareness of the inevitability of your departure. [this would typically get re-written to something about missing you but not loving like THAT.]

[I feel like some of my friend must have suspected that I was not so secretly in love with them. Yet, I still write letters to some friends like this, long after I’m crushing on/overly-dramatically in love with them so I think most of friends probably just think its par for the course…and I guess it is par for the course. I love all my friends dearly, male or female and I’ve had a crush on like 95% of the women I’ve met who are no more than three years younger or 10 years older than me. I think if I had to put a number on it, which I don’t but will anyway, I’ve been in love with about 30% of my good female friends at some point in my life. I don’t actually think I’m using the phrase “in love” lightly here either. I have a natural tendency to love easily, deeply, quickly and fiercely. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been with a female friend and thought “we should just get married…like… right now. Why wait.” Yet for most, the timing was off or I was too shy. By the time either changed, we had changed.   But I’ve been in love with almost 1/3 of my female friends even if only for a moment and while that might seem pathetic and laughable…well…it might actually be laughable…it is not pathetic. I feel very fortunate to have befriended such amazing and beautiful women in my life.

I’ve been blessed to love women who have pushed my intellect, who have encouraged me to follow my dreams by pursuing theirs, who have shown me what it means to live by your principles, who have become teachers, and mothers, and executives and dancers and writers and organizers and PHd candidates. They are the unofficial therapist of their friends, the shoulder to cry on, fierce advocate for justice, level-headed and practical guides, the uplifting jokers and gorgeous wordsmiths of my world. I have learned and grown so much from these friendships and am so glad that we got  through the infatuation, the puppy love and the romantic love to richer and more sustaining and truly platonic love with my friends. I feel that with a few of my friends our relationship has matured into something greater than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced; we’ve learned to “love each other well.”  So to all the girls I’ve loved. From the playground to county fair to the main quad and whether I loved you for a conversation, a week or since the moment we first talked about our passions, I’d like to thank you teaching me, for bearing with my florid passion and intensity and, most of all, for accepting my love even if you were unaware of its true form. Know that every letter I send and note I write expresses the truth of how I feel about everything, even if only a part. Though honestly Erin, if you are reading this, my offer of marriage still totally stands. My romantic love for you is eternal and forever enriches my platonic love for you which is equally eternal. So, uh…call me, Maybe?]

With love [in all its varied forms and meanings],

Aaron

True Love

All Happy Families Are Happy In The Same Way

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. –Leo Tolstoy 

 

So, here I am living with my two amazing sisters and wonderful niece in a house in Washington D.C. My sisters and I had a heart to heart a few nights ago. One of my sisters looked at me and said “You have got to be one the luckiest SOBs I’ve ever met.” My first reaction was agreement. Not many people have a the family support, friends, and opportunities that I’ve had. Then I thought about it. I remembered the year spent living with my parents because I couldn’t afford to go the school. I remembered the hours spent in the library studying. I remembered months spent feeling like a failure after graduation. I remembered working 60 hours a week at a school in Englewood. I remember hours of meetings and mountains of stress living in a homeless shelter in Back of the Yards and I was reminded of the all the work. Then all I felt was anger. “I made my own luck” I announced before recounting all the things that had happened to me over the years that I never told anyone because I knew that they would worry. I realized that I always make my life seem easy and make every good thing that happens to me about chance because I hate to brag about my accomplishments. It is not humility, I wish it was but its not. I realized in talking to my sisters that I don’t tote my accomplishments with my family sometimes because that is not the role I’m expected to play.

I am the lazy but brilliant slacker of the family who is always content to have others do for him what he could do for himself.  That is the expectation, the default narrative. I realized that I purposefully reinforced that narrative as the path of least resistance. They was no way that I could foresee convincing my family that I was no longer the baby, that they didn’t need to treat me like one. So instead, I decided to reap the benefits to fullest extent possible. My sister was amazed by my rant and realized that I had never let my self admit that fact before. My sisters then went on and talked about the roles they felt forced to be in our family and whether or not they want to change them. It was really transformative to hear their accounts of our childhood.

We all viewed arguments, vacations, presents and statements very differently. I realized that while I have a happy family, I think it must be a happiness unlike any other.

This left me wondering what it is like for other people becoming adults along side their siblings. How did or are your relationships changing now that you are becoming adults? Do you have a role to fill in your family?

My family. I'll always be the baby

My family. I’ll always be the baby

The Depressing Pursuit Of Happiness By The Petty Bourgeois

So, I’ve just finished reading Karl Taro Greenfield’s Book “Triburbia.” Its about being a middle aged artist turned businessman in Tribeca New York.  The main characters have made it by most American’s standards yet feel relatively impoverished by their wealthier banker neighbors. These men all have beautiful wives and successful careers, children who love them but no real connections. They are, to a man, too self centered to have real connections. They spend decades getting rich, hoping that winning the rat race will make them happy and they find themselves more depressed than before. Oddly enough, unlike Eddith Wharton’s “House of Mirth” or Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” it provides no alternative for happiness other than move to California and start over.

I have been thinking a lot about the book though because it makes me wonder about what I want out of life. What kind of life do I want to lead? As I consider employment options, my anger at working a minimum wage job with a college degree wanes, my fears of being a failure subside, my passion for writing increases and I am still at a loss. What do I want to do? What would make me happy? I have moments of wanderlust punctuated with moments of extreme unease with my life. My life is happy over all I guess but there is still something missing. Something intangible and ineffable. There has got to be more.

Yet all that being said, I am happier now than when I made 3 times what I make now. I am also much more content with life even though I think that the work I was doing a year ago was nobler. I was making a difference a year ago that I am not now.  Yet, I am much more content and less angsty. Even as I contemplate these same questions with less certainty I am less stressed than I was two years ago.

I think it has a lot to do with my being more intentional about my life now. I am spending more time thinking about what makes me happy. What I want out of life and finally actually going for it. I am constantly working on creating positive relationships. I am meditating and praying trying to understand more about myself. Yet still managing to serve others and not become completely inward focused. Heck, even as I oscillate between resignation and aversion to where I live and work I must admit it just doesn’t seem that bad compared to a few years ago.

I have a nagging suspicion that this is what adulthood feels like. Less passion, fewer butterflies but ultimately less drama…in everything. I have a degree of control in my life that is unprecedented in my history. I am less impulsive, less defensive more confident. Yes, this is adulthood. I’m becoming my father, slowly but surely.  That’s not so bad I guess. My father’s pretty awesome. He’s gearing up to ride his bike 150 miles soon. He’s 63 years old and in better shape than me. I wonder if he ever felt what those middle aged men in Triburbia felt though? He lost his job even before the great recession of  2008. He had always been pretty concerned with maintaining a middle class life. Being unemployed had to be hard on him. I’m not sure if we ever really talked about it though. I mean we had family meetings about cutting back but it was always his job to provide for me so he could never really open up.

My parents both decided to cut down on expenses. They sold their house of 18 years and moved to Canyon “nothing-to-see-here” City Colorado. They started living the kind of lives that you see on movies. The kind where Ivy-Leauge educated professionals are forced to move back in with their middle class  hippie parents and realize that maybe they had it right all along. My parents don’t smoke weed or walk around naked but they have permanently excised themselves from consumerism. No more Christmas present rush, no more new SUVs, more black whatever day sales. I think they compost now too.

There’s a picture my mom texted me of her standing on top of a mountain, age 65, with her hands above her head and infectious smile: triumphant. That could be on the cover of AARP magazine with tittle “Life At 65!” None of that ? b.s. from the nineties [Life at 65?] when baby boomer all though retirement meant times shares in Reno, Nevada before you slowly come to accept the home your kids put you in. I’m starting to think that maybe my parents have life figured out.

Maybe I won’t go follow the Depressing Pursuit Of Happiness By The Petty Bourgeois. Maybe I’ll pare down my life, move somewhere cheap, get to know my neighbors, pass out wisdom to my children, teach my truth and continue to learn till I die…when I’m 90…from exposure…in Tibet. It is a comforting thought, until I remember the look on my mom’s face after coming home from a 9 hour work day and seeing my older sister covered in eggs…along with all the furniture. My parents put in 40 years of adulthood before 150 mile bike rides and hiking mountains. I’m not sure if I have that in me. Is their a middle way? Is there that good life in America? I’m twenty-four, my parents are supposed to envy me and my life!

Well…at least I know how to text properly…oh wait…mom and dad do that too now…

Living Life Intentionally

I realized recently I’ve spent so much time worrying about updating this blog with enough stories and poems to keep this blog fresh that I haven’t thought to update people about my life. What good is having a blog if you can’t put every thought out on the internet and pretend that the people who are reading think it is profound? I would be certifiably derelict as a self absorbed, fame obsessed millennial if I didn’t devote any time on my blog to writing about me as a real person. So, for those of you know me and for those of you who don’t [yet] what have I been doing?

Well, honestly, if I had to sum up what I’ve been spending the last year doing it would have to be spending my time trying to live my life with increasing intentionality. I spent a number of months, years really, going about my day to day life being intentionally about one or two things. The rest of my life was almost on auto-pilot. I took a lot of things and people for granted. Towards the end of 2012 I began to feel increasingly dissatisfied with the way I was living my life. My work was stressful and seemed like one crisis after another in a way that was completely unsustainable for me. I spent most of time outside of work escaping from the stress of work in way that were very unhealthy like eating and retail therapy. Around December of 2012 I knew that something had to give.

I decided to leave my job as a paraprofessional at a school in Englewood. It was a very difficult choice for me but looking back on it, I am more and more convinced it was the right one. While I still love the kids I worked with I felt that, for a variety of reasons, I was not helping them develop in positive ways. This started a few months of unemployment and spending money that would quickly run out. I eventually got my act together and applied to live at a Catholic Worker on the southwest side of Chicago. Around the same time I got a job at a book store in Hyde Park. After a few days of getting settled into this new life I begin to spend more and more time inspecting my life and my beliefs.

During this time one of oldest and best friends also got married right as I started my new life at the Catholic Worker. We was married to… the Girl of my dreams for him if that makes sense? I firmly believe that you should not look for a wife to complete you yet I think my friend and his wife complement each other in a way that is truly magical to behold.

I often worried about this particular friend because he had tendency in high school to give more to girls he dated than they deserved. I realize that he did this more out of a fundamental belief in what it meant to be a good person than in some naive romantic beliefs on dating. While I’ve always found this to be admirable I did worry that he, as a man clearly destined to be financially and  personally successful would either end up with a wife who didn’t appreciate what he had to offer or a wife who merely recognized he was a great guy but didn’t offer anything of equal worth in the relationship. Fortunately he found himself someone who was equally smart, funny and driven. Someone who would give as much to the relationship as he would.

At their wedding I realized several things. One was that how all of my oldest and most dear friends viewed me. They all mentioned how proud they were that I quit my job and did what I thought was right. They were all proud that I had chosen to continue being my brother’s keeper and all called me successful. I was shocked because I had felt so unsuccessful and lost for numerous months previous to this. I also realized how much I missed out romantic love.

Compounding this feeling, my other equally old and equally dear friend was also at the wedding and a member of the wedding party. No one has taught me more about the meaning of the word loyalty than this friend. He also reminds me about my younger self. He reminds me of the moral, self righteous and hopeful 17 year old I was when we spent the summer working at a call center in Colorado Springs.  8 years ago he said that he could imagine the three of us meeting once a every view years for the rest of our lives. The three of us committed to that idea and it is the only promise I made as a teenager that I intend to keep.

At the same time, so much time had passed since we last hung out. We had changed in so many untold ways. I was amazed at how easily we feel into a similar routine and accepting we were of how we had all changed. My conversations increased my desire to explore what changes I needed to make in my life because I knew that regardless of how I changed, I had at least two friends who would stand by me.

On my last night at the estate where the wedding was being held in upstate New York I called another best friend. [All this talk of best friends reminds me of a Mindy Kaling quote “best friend is not a person, its a tier] This friend lives out in the Bay Area is by far my most honest friend. I think of him like family now more because he embodies the blunt honesty and stalwart support of my mother’s family than because of the length of our friendship. Though honestly, our five years of friendship would be enough.

I talked to him about my odd mix of elation at seeing my friends and a feeling that something ineffable was missing. He said something that resonates with me still. He said that most adults he knows usually only have involved relationships, meaning the kind where you spend almost every night hanging out, with romantic partners. He suggested that was part of what I might be missing.

Living at a Catholic Worker was very challenging for me. I met a lot of new people and was forced to live and work with them through all the false assumptions, misconceptions and misunderstandings that go along with diverse community life. I decided that as part of living in a community I wanted to understand my roommates as much as possible. I quickly began to realize that things that I had thought so universal believed as to be assumed to obvious were often vehemently disagreed with.

I lived with people who didn’t believe in human progress only change. I lived with people who considered themselves Christian but believed that all religions held equal truth about the world. I lived with white straight middle class christian men committed to be an ally to oppressed people in new and startlingly refreshing ways. Slowly my paradigms about people and the models for human behavior that I developed started breaking down. As these things broke down I continued my introspection.

One of the many results of this introspection as a rapid evolution of how I thought of myself in context. I was talking to people about their identities as they inadvertently said things that challenged mine. I spent a great deal of time thinking about gender and race and privilege [which resulted in The American Male]. I spent a lot of time coming to terms with being both oppressed and oppressor.  The more I thought about that duality, the more radical I became in my desire to stop being complacent in patriarchy and rape culture. Yet at the same time, it is becoming increasingly obvious and disturbing to me how difficult and murky a path exploring how I sustain patriarchy and rape culture will be.

As all of this was happening I met an extraordinary young man whom I who considering entering the Catholic Church. Those of who know me well, know that my views on religion have shifted a lot of the years but I was recently in a strongly anti-organized religion state of mind. Yet, despite initial impressions of thinking me and this bible thumbing, show tunes humming, cheese and fruit eating Michigander could never get along we developed a very strong bond. After hearing about his faith journey and opening up to him about my feelings of something being missing, I came to realize something very important about myself. I had never resolved my feelings about God. Oh, I had resolved my thoughts on organized religion and by extension my thoughts on God but not my feelings. I realized that so much of my anti-religious sentiment was based on a child hood of being told that I was going to go to hell for not being a christian and emerging into an adult world that I couldn’t reconcile with my faith.

I was also raised by two very religious parents whose faith journey, for lack of better term, was never very compelling to me. My parents have always given me logical and emotionally moving stories of why they are Baha’i but not why they believe in God in the first place. This lead be internalize a lot of the Baha’i faith’s morality which I feel has served me well but left me at a loss for explaining why I believed in God because God’s existence had always been assumed as a child. By the time I began to question it I was too upset with religion to respectfully hear my parents out.

My friend, the liturgical Michigander, suggested that I visit a spiritual director. Had he suggested this a few months earlier I would not have laughed in his face I actually would have probably been offended. Yet time and conversations had changed me. I was open to change and open to explore my inner-self. I went to Loyola University and meet with a Jesuit Priest about my feelings of lacking something in my life. He was a sort of no BS kind of guy and challenged me on every statement. Fortunately it was exactly what I needed at the time.

The Jesuit Priest and I talked about my goals in life and a increasing feeling that their was something more out there. I briefly brought up my concern about being single and he said “Are you seriously asking a celibate man if he thinks you need romance to be a healthy, happy person? Have you ever had a Dog? I guarantee you a puppy will give you more affirmation and a sense of being needed than any girl friend.”

While I don’t think that a dog is the same as getting married but I do think he is right about a relationship not being able to fill the void i was feeling. It was something deeper, something…well…spiritual. I came to the conclusion that I need to resolve my thoughts on spirituality and God and then decide on what I want out of life. Over the next few days I came to realize how much of my spirituality that I repressed out of anger, fear and stubbornness as opposed to just stopped feeling.

I decided to go with my friend, the liturgical Michigander, to the Baha’i gardens in Wilmette. There I was flooded with warm memories of my childhood spent in 19 day feasts and winter schools. I was reminded of my mother teaching me the remover of difficulties and my father explaining how he became a Baha’i. The experience almost brought me to tears.

Before I left I made sure to buy a prayer book, the Book of Certitude and The Seven Valleys. I committed  myself to explore this rekindled spirituality.  As time passed I realized that I could no longer consider myself to be an atheist but I also am a long way from being okay being in an organized religion.

So, with all of these things happening I am hoping to reinvent myself. I’m eating healthier, exercising, meditating, praying, working within a budget, reading, strengthening relationships with friends and family and being proactive in the dating scene for once in my life. This has all lead to hilarity, schadenfreude, a lot of apologies, a lot of stress, hunger, relief, catharsis and growth.

So, in conclusion, I’m changing things up. Hopefully things will work out for the best. I feel healthier, more stable and more…adult (?) than I ever have before. Ready for the challenge and it’s not even new years. I’ll write more of each individual aspect of my wellness plan but yeah…that’s how I’m living.

Happiness and Pain

In order to be happy one must have an end which is infinite and in which the journey is enjoyable. By that I mean that you have to have a goal which you are striving for, a goal in which you can take pleasure in trying to achieve and not just in the achievement. I think that is true happiness, the pursuit of a noble end. True happiness is devoting yourself to something intrinsically rewarding.
Therefore true sorrow is to find yourself without purpose. Lost in a sea of opportunities, looking for something to want.
True pain is wanting something you can’t have.
The road of life is a long, unpaved, overgrown path. The key to satisfaction is learning to enjoy the walk.