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Working Class Heroes, Their Boomsticks and Their Dreams

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/12/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

What happens when you try to fly solo?

I start my blog entries like that these days.  The above question looks very straight forward. I want to know what happens to the person who decides that they’re going to make a go of life on their own. I want to understand how an individual functions when they try to pull themselves out of mediocrity and live their dreams.

We live in a curious time in American History. Western culture demands that the average individual seeks guidance as a youth. A person is supposed to depend upon their parents for warmth, shelter, wisdom and love. Moms and dads nurture their children by providing the basics as well as opportunities for their education.

But children grow up. Expectations change. Life becomes high school (or is it the other way around?) Children are taught to believe that they are supposed to broaden their minds with books and technology. Yet they are also supposed to round out their learning experiences with intense athletic pursuits or “extra curricular activities.”  Meanwhile, if adolescents succumb to the bombardment of commercials, internet ads, or peer-pressure situations in which they find themselves, they learn that silence is no longer golden. To survive, one has to be a social butterfly, not just in real life, but on the internet. Social Media websites commit younger and younger people to creating a secondary persona that either modulates or inhibits their popularity in school or in other social situations.

A self-reflecting adult might scratch their head at the contradictory messages they received  about life. I was raised as a child of the eighties. Adults of our generation were taught that education was the key to financial success. I used a have an enormous, light-up  picture on my wall with three fancy sports cars in a three car garage by the beach. The motto that was emblazoned at the top of the picture screamed “Justification for a Higher Education.”  Enough Said.

Except not everyone who gets a higher education automatically get those sorts of things. Even going to a top tier college in the country guarantees nothing if you don’t get to know the right people and you don’t focus on the things you love. Anybody who tells you that time is money hasn’t had to look for a job for the last five years in this country.

“The economy is in the crapper.” Those were the words of someone who interviewed me for a sales position years ago. They still pretty much hold true.

Somehow despite all the contradictory forces screaming for our attention, we’re supposed live our dreams. We’re told that we’re better off pulling ourselves out of mediocrity by our bootstraps. We’re also reminded by oversimplified hallmark moments on television shows and food advertisements that we somehow can’t do it alone.

We have to do it by ourselves, but we can’t do it alone.

That includes living our dreams, doesn’t it?

I’ve been sick for the last week and a half. This is the cold that never ends.

Major illness tends to sharpen one’s focus when they begin to recover from it. I, for one, will make it through a major cold like this one and begin to take stock of how well I’m doing living my dreams and meeting my personal goals. Since my largest one by far is writing, I have to remind myself that I can and will write every day.

But like the rest of this story, I’ve come to learn that I can’t really make my dream a reality all on my own. While I try to get my name out there by submitting more and more of my work to various publishers for consideration, I’m getting to the point where I spend a lot of my time with my nose to the grindstone. I push so hard to get more and more writing done, it feels like I’m only picking my head up to notice that everyone else walked off to some social gathering. I’m perfecting the swing of my samurai sword, and everyone else walked to the river to drink beer and sake.

From a professional standpoint, my current solo method seems like a piss poor way to garner real opportunity. From a personal standpoint, I feel more and more like a lone warrior. What happens to warriors who stay alone for too long?

They go nuts and start saying things like “This is my BOOMSTICK!”

Now that I more or less know where I am from a professional and a social standpoint, the question I have to ask myself is “What now?” It’s one thing to understand how much one misses social connection when they’ve been ill for more than a week. It’s quite another thing to realize that this uniquely Western notion of “independence” is not quite all that it’s cracked up to be.

Nobody ever really meets their goals without help, even on a minute level. I’d love to sit here and tell you that I got my first short story published because I woke up one day and inspiration struck me like a bolt of lightning. But that isn’t even close to the truth. I got that story accepted by a publication only after my first attempt with them flopped. I never even asked the editors why I was rejected. I got really annoyed and decided to up the ante. I thought I was a warrior recovering from wounded pride.

But this isn’t about revenge, proper action or silt. I would not have even bothered to finish the story had it not been for my friends, writers or otherwise, who were there to encourage me from day one. My friends are still around, though it’s been a while since I’ve been willing or able to talk with them.

It’s also been a while since I’ve felt like I was a part of a real writing community. I don’t know if I need that feeling again so that my writing can reach the next level, or if I want to be a part of a community so that my social skills don’t fade while I write my next manuscript.

At any rate, here I am world. I’m not quite recovered my from my eternal snot fest. And yes, I know that that description of my illness will make everyone want to stay around me. I’m going to start small and post this blog entry. I’m reentering my former social media sites. I’ll keep on writing, of course. Maybe I just won’t use all of my words to add to the chapters of unseen stories and manuscripts.

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A Lot To Tell

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/18/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

And here we go! Follow the bouncing shuriken.

If you’re going to ask me “what’s new,” I’m going to answer you with the following sentiment: There’s a lot to tell.

I’ve found myself wondering why some people have a tendency to tell me that there “isn’t much to tell” when it comes to their own lives. I know this isn’t the case. For my short time on this earth, I’d like to think that I’ve learned some things about the complexity of life. I tend to want to hear people’s stories. If I’m asking you what you did before you came to work, for instance, I genuinely want to know what makes you tick.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that I interview people on the spot because I’m a writer and I want to secretly write them into my books. That isn’t the case for me. People’s motivations for getting up and being alive matter to me in the same way that mine do. I like to think that there are reasons for some of the crazy shit I end up doing. I believe that there are deep roots behind the emotions I experience when I run into an unexpected situation.

But maybe the real reason I’m writing this entry is because I can feel myself changing.

I don’t want to get lost in the crowd. I don’t want to be invisible or anonymous anymore. And part of the reason I don’t want these things anymore is because they no longer serve me.

It used to be a romantic concept for me to be the silent, wandering observer. In many ways, I still do that when the mood strikes me. If I want to think about the next few chapters of a book I am trying to write or edit, nothing does me better than to wander the streets of Manhattan and watch people. But I’ve been looking into people’s faces more and more of late. Instead of making up stories about them without their knowledge, I stare straight on and almost dare them to speak to me. I smile, I laugh, and I even interject myself into the occasional conversation about ice skating and coffee at a Starbucks just before I buy that white chocolate mocha and wander into the park.

That’s not the me that I am used to. If you want to know the truth, I haven’t done things like this since I was a very young kid.

I began to ask myself questions at the beginning of this week about how closed off I’ve been since I’ve moved back to New York City. In a city that seems to teem with life, how is it that I haven’t made new friends? Oh yes, it still appeals to me to some extent to keep myself a mystery; to hold onto the secrets of my sordid existence. But how secret is my presence on this planet going to remain if I’m busy trying to make a career out of writing? True, writers need a lot of alone time, and I finally seem to be able to get some when I need it. But people are social creatures, no matter how alone they wish to be. The art of being alone seems to manifest best when loners have the choice to reintegrate and be among others on a moment’s notice. Nobody can be truly alone, or they would cease to exist. If I wanted total Isolation, I could try something like solitary confinement, but I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn’t like it once I woke up from a twelve hour sleep.

Certain aspects about my history are still very difficult to reconcile. Integrating the lessons from my past with my progress toward my long term goals is still a challenge. But utter silence and self isolation both fly in the face of everything I truly know about myself. I can yammer with the best of ’em. I can hold my own in a political debate or a contest to see who can murder the most songs in a karaoke stand-off. Life is so damned funny to me these days that I stop every few minutes and laugh at nothing in particular.

How can I not explore social interaction when I have trained myself to read people so well? That’s easy. What I learned about people was how to read extreme, negative emotion. I can tell right away when someone is a bully, a sexual predator, a child abuser, or just not a nice person. But that’s a lot like a police officer who can spot a perp at 50 yards before he or she does anything to get themselves arrested. After decades of honing that skill, it’s become clear to me that it actually keeps me pretty separate from people. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s a fine thing to be able to tell these sick individuals apart from the rest of the populace if you mean to live another day on this planet or otherwise avoid trouble. I’ll neither understand nor accept child rapists, but I can spot them a mile off thanks to my past experience as a mental health professional. It helps to have a family member who was in law enforcement for more than two decades. But if you were to ask me if a woman was attracted to me, for instance, I’d say that more than half the time, I would give you the exact wrong answer.

So here’s to a new challenge for me coming in 2013. I haven’t waited that long to start the journey, but I’ll certainly continue it. The rule, if I want to call it that, is simple. I’ll hold my head up high, stop pretending that I’m invisible, and I’ll stop turning around and looking for trouble whenever I hear excited shouting in my own neighborhood. It seems simple, doesn’t it? Don’t think for a minute that this is not a major undertaking for me. But spending years in a shell after having been dealt a crappy hand by life has finally gotten old. I’ve already reclaimed writing as a part of my being. It’s time for the next step. It’s time to stop playing the social ninja.

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