Comics and Recaps and Podcasts, Oh My!

I’m feeling the urge to write because I know I need more practice. And practice and routine are two things I’m not very good at. I wrote about exactly this, over a year ago when I announced I was starting a blog because I suck at routine and how I need to be more disciplined and this was my opportunity and my proof to the world that I would be better about it. Since then, I’ve written two blog posts and not much else. So, I’m trying again. I don’t want to make promises but I also want to forgive myself for being human. I want to be better, just like everyone else on the planet.

Problem is, I don’t know what I want to write about. I’m sitting on the edge of my couch, hunched over my work computer on the coffee table that I just cleaned. I have about an hour left of nothing to do until my boyfriend gets home from work and we leave for his dad’s house for Sunday dinner.

I woke up early (and abruptly) to drive my boyfriend to work, something I’ll typically do on the weekends when he has an AM shift at the restaurant. And since I usually can’t go back to sleep after doing so, I end up with a mostly full day to myself. When I’m in the car driving back, I have grand plans in my head of being productive, maybe writing something or even going to the gym. But 95% of the time I wind up on the couch under the blankets, watching TV and beating myself up for being lazy. Today was a 5% kind of day. (Maybe I’ll be able to change the ratio soon but again, I’m not making promises today.)

When I got back, I spent a good two hours laying on the couch (stick with me here) re-reading Thor: God of Thunder (Volume 1) by Jason Aaron. I highly recommend it to anyone who thinks they may be interested in the character of Thor in Marvel comics, because this series really deals with the fantastic elements of his nature as an immortal god and how that effects the very long course of his life. Many people have spoken highly of Jason Aaron for his work on the character of Thor over the past few years, so if you’re interested I know you can find out more about him online. I’ll just say that he’s the guy who created the new female Thor and that it wasn’t something completely out of left field from Marvel to fill a diversity quota. The female Thor’s storyline stems from the God of Thunder storyline. Aaron has been creating a vast, interconnected story about Thors and Asgardians and Mjölnir since 2012 and it’s incredibly fascinating. The artwork is detailed and grandiose and helps convey the sense that you’re consuming an epic story (in the Classic sense of the word, like The Illiad & The Odyessy). I’m excited to get back into it and pick up the other volumes that I haven’t yet had the chance to read. I’m trying to diversify the content I consume because I’ve been focused pretty heavily on TV for a while now.

Case and point: after some time reading and then surfing the World Wide Web, I ended up watching a nearly twenty-minute recap video about Game of Thrones. A video all about certain swords in Game of Thrones and their history/whereabouts. And I absolutely loved it. Has it sunk in to you yet that I am a gigantic geek?

But then I decided to be productive once again, so I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen while listening to the first two episodes of a new podcast called Nancy. I’ve only just started to get into podcasts in the past few months, but I really enjoy how they can take you on a journey while you accomplish other things, like cleaning or driving or completing mindless tasks at work. Podcasts are perfect for multitasking.

Anyway, Nancy is hosted by a gay man and a gay woman. Episodes are about a half-hour long and are about the modern LGBTQ experience, but I know people who don’t identify as LGBTQ would enjoy them, too. The first episode, in which the hosts talk to their parents about what it was like for them when their son/daughter came out of the closet, brought me to tears. The cord it struck  was that even though I’ll be learning to accept who I am and will be coming out for the rest of my life, others around me will always have to deal with it, too. I still don’t know if my parents have fully, 100% accepted who I am. They are supportive and loving and are two of the most wonderful people in my life. Bringing my boyfriend home is no longer an awkward situation. But I know it’s still difficult for them on some level. It took a while to get to this stage because most parents need time to mourn the person they thought their son or daughter would become. It’s hard to accept that their vision of my future (with a wife and kids) will not fully come to be. I can’t imagine going through something like that. And I’m really happy that this podcast was able to address and articulate this in a direct and honest manner.

So, this all may seem like a dis-jointed rant or a self-interested “here’s what I did with my day, don’t you want to read all about it?!” kind of blog entry. But for me, today and this blog are about the many forms of content I consume. There is so much good stuff I want to enjoy that it becomes overwhelming. I feel like there’s no way I’ll be able to get to all of it so sometimes I freeze up and just spend hours with what’s already familiar—re-watching episodes of Parks & Recreation or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia until I can’t keep my eyes open any more.  But what’s really going on is that I’m procrastinating the various forms of content I want to create.

I’ve tried a lot of them (blog-writing, movie-making, novel-writing, starting a YouTube channel, developing an aesthetic on my Instagram profile) and haven’t started others (podcasting, reviewing TV shows, actually writing the book series that’s I’ve been thinking about since high school). But I never fully follow through. I’ll get excited about something, get started, and then it either feels too hard or I get bored. I need to attempt to follow through on at least one of them.

On the other hand, I don’t want to focus all my energy in just one area. There is a lot I want to do and I want to be able to jump from thing to thing. Different content will evoke different feelings and hold different meaning. Talking about a comic book series or a television show may not hold the same objective importance as talking about the reality of being a gay man in the modern world, but I think they both hold value.

Maybe all I need in order to start being successful in whatever outlets I choose is to continually think of myself as a content creator and a storyteller. Maybe then, the action will follow. Or maybe a shift in the way I think about myself is the best I can hope for right now.

In any case, this is me trying. I don’t know how good of a job I’ve done today—especially because I can’t for the life of me think of a proper way to end this blog—but I’m going to keep trying. Hopefully I get better as time goes on.

(You can hear Nancy online or however you listen to podcasts. You can follow Alt Sift X on YouTube if you want to fall deeper into the black hole that is the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. And if you find any of the Thor stuff interesting, I’ll let you borrow the books I have—as long as you promise to keep them in good condition. I’m a freak about the way books are treated.)

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On The Pulse Nightclub Tragedy

Obviously, everyone is talking about the tragedy that occurred at Pulse nightclub last night in Orlando and while I don’t want anyone to think that I’m just adding to the noise or using it to promote my own writing, I literally am not able to sit by idly and stay quiet. We need everyone to speak up and speak out about this. So yes, I’m going to make this personal, but we all need to make it personal. If we all continue to stand by and simply say that we have become desensitized to news of shootings, nothing will change. The terror will continue because all shootings are acts of terror. We are all in this together and we all need to work to make sure change actually happens.

I have not kept up with this blog and I was already considering writing a new entry because I made a very large life change this week: my boyfriend and I officially live together. I know there are many people who were in my life at one point that didn’t even know I have a boyfriend, so I need to be more vocal about it.

Here goes: I met an incredible man two and a half years ago. We were immediately compatible. The thought of actually dating a man scared the hell out of me, but I pushed that fear away and took a leap. We’ve grown closer as the years have gone by and I can honestly say that I have never been happier. I love him with all my soul; sometimes thinking about how much I love him makes my heart actually ache.

Everything I have gone through in the past few years—hiding this relationship from my family, finally coming out to my parents, dealing with the extra year it took for my father to really become accepting, introducing him to family and friends—are things I never thought I would have to deal with. My younger self would have never believed that I could handle it. But I have been able to do so because of his support and his love and his understanding. In certain ways, it has not been easy and it will never be as easy as for those who are straight. While many can take a girlfriend home after a couple weeks and introduce her to extended family shortly after, he didn’t meet my whole immediate family until about a year in. He had to meet my mom one-on-one with me at a restaurant because my dad could not handle it yet. Meeting my extended family took an extra year.

That is not to say that I have not felt love and support from those around me. The majority of my friends and family didn’t bat an eye when I first mentioned that I had a boyfriend, but those words never came easily out of my mouth. I simply don’t have that luxury. The words come easier now, but I fear for all those who will never be able to speak them.

As a country, we have made incredible strides towards equality for all people. As a 24-year-old, I have experienced a great deal of acceptance and love in my lifetime about my sexuality. Had I been born thirty, twenty, or even five years earlier, this would not have been the case. So when I woke up this morning, in bed with my boyfriend, and checked my phone as we all do, I was absolutely floored by the news of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. The fact that this can happen terrifies me and baffles me. I simply don’t understand how hate like this still exists. I could quite literally be killed because the love I hold in my heart does not align with what somebody else believes I should be allowed to feel.

We are no different than anybody else. We take more time agreeing on something to watch on Netflix than actually watching it. He cooks dinner and I do the dishes. We go out to new restaurants to expand our culinary horizons and then get drunk at a dive bar with our friends. I let my alarm go off in the morning to the point that it wakes him, so he has to kick me out of bed. We sit in silence with one another, both browsing Reddit. We fight, we laugh, we tease one another, and we celebrate one another’s accomplishments. And today, we sat on the couch together, watching the news reports of the Orlando shooting while reading more about it on our phones.

I drove him to work and we barely spoke on the way there. Because even though we do not have as many problems as the gay people in other countries or in other time periods, this vitriol continues. It exists right here and now. I don’t know how long it will continue but for as long as we have to deal with it as a society, our hearts will ache. There are people who could be our neighbors that want nothing more than to destroy our happiness and the life we’re trying to build with one another. It’s mind-numbing.

I know we will continue to move forward with our combined life in spite of this. He is on his way home from work as I make a simple dinner so we can watch the new Game of Thrones episode. In the coming days, we will hang pictures and artwork on the walls of our home. In a few weeks, we will throw a party in the apartment. We might even move into a new home in the further future. But I will do better to be more vocal about my love. Because at the end of the day, I know that hate will never defeat love. That is something we all need to remember and act on.

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Nothing Ventured, No Sleep Gained

I know, I know, it’s been a little while since the first blog; so much for a routine. I could say conditions just haven’t been right, but I’m currently stuck in the middle seat on a two-hour flight directly behind a screaming baby, so conditions aren’t exactly ideal, either. I’ll call that progress.

My week-long vacation started in New Orleans with seven other people. I thought I might have something profound to say afterwards, but in all honesty, the four days really only involved a steady string of eating and drinking. Mere hours after flying back to Chicago, me and one of those friends returned to O’Hare to board our 6AM flight to New York.

I feel already feel like I’ve done a disservice to New Orleans, so I’ll say this before moving on: the people are some of the sweetest you could ever hope to meet. I had many conversations with Uber drivers and people in restaurants that I doubt I would have had in Chicago. I visited with a lot of my family, and I made new friends. I listened to live music outdoors in what felt like a friend’s backyard and I joined a random parade in the street at 11PM. I had an absolute blast* and I can’t wait to visit again.

*(Imagine a young British woman saying that in an exaggerated American accent for the full effect.)

Back to New York. One of my best friends provided the opportunity to go without having to pay for a flight or for a hotel room, with one stipulation: I would have to wait with her all night on the street so she could go to one of the biggest auditions of the year.

Of course, I jumped at the chance. For the first time in my life I saw a Broadway show, and then the next day I saw another one. I took a stroll through Central Park, and I ate at least three slices of New York pizza on the street. I sat in the middle of Times Square to catch up with a good friend. But waiting in line for 12 hours, knowing full well that I would not personally reward from it, is an experience I’ll never forget.

It all started at around 7:45PM. We had flown in the same morning, napped on the couches of a friend’s tiny four-person apartment, taken the subway all by ourselves without getting lost, and picked up our tickets for the show. We wanted to check in on the audition location so we knew where to go, and figured we would do so periodically for a few hours before officially joining the line.

The line had already begun. Two people were sitting outside the door in lawn chairs and surrounded by blankets. They had been there since 5PM, they said, and anyone who joined the line after midnight wouldn’t even get inside. We were a little worried since we had a show to see, but they also had that familiar hint of crazy in their voices. So we enjoyed the performance as planned and officially joined the line at 10:30. My friend would be the eighth person to audition.

The dark and windy night passed slowly and I can’t recount everything, so I’ll give you the highlights. I purchased the last lawn chair in a Duane Reid, and offered to pay $5 to another person in line to use their thin blanket. I tried to sleep, bundled as best I could and sitting against a construction barrier. I failed miserably. I used a McDonald’s bathroom that had a broken lock on the door—twice. My friend went back to that Duane Reid to walk around and get warm, and ended up crying to the manager; he let her use the employee-only bathroom and searched through their basement to find her HotHands (which, as everyone who lives in cold weather can attest to, are life-savers).

But we made friends with the competition. The first ten ladies, as well as their parents and significant others and friends, all banded together, and it wasn’t just to huddle for warmth. We kept each other entertained with stories from back home, political discussions (I didn’t partake), and our experiences visiting “The Big Apple.” We rejoiced together when the sun finally came back out and when the Starbucks reopened. We saved each other’s spots in line so we could eat and walk around and go to the bathroom and take turns in the one doorway that actually blocked the wind—and the stench from the nearby garbage pile. We made sure that late-comers knew where the line ended because we waited all night, damnit, and we were not about to let anyone weasel their way to the front.

And then, after it was finally bright outside, the news crews arrived. They did interviews with the first 10 women in line, and got footage of the line that now wrapped around three street corners. They had the girls laughing and singing and smiling like the cold had never existed. It was like they were reminded all over again why they were doing this. They got their applications, and walked into the building with their heads held high.

What happened after that is not the perfect, fairy-tale ending I wish would have occurred. But that final image of the young women, rejuvenated after a sleepless night and walking into the unknown, is where I would end the story. Because the experience wasn’t about one of those first ten, or even any of the thousand that followed, getting the part.

It was about having the opportunity to do so. It was about being determined and going the extra mile to prove how much you care. It was about loving a fictional character so intensely you would literally brave the elements for the chance to play her. It was about making friends with complete strangers, and realizing the amazing capabilities within yourself to be a great parent, a great significant other, a great friend. It was about cheering someone else up and reminding them why they would do such a crazy thing. It was about love.

I don’t really have a great, one-line ending to this, but my plane just landed and we’ll be at the gate soon, so I’ll end by saying something I never thought I’d say: I had a wonderful time waiting in line, in the dark, in another city, for 12 hours. I learned a lot about human nature—both good and bad, but mostly good. And in the end, no matter the outcome for my friend, I will always treasure this crazy, insane, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You’re Starting A Blog?

Picture-1711-468x348Yes.

But why? Why commit to starting a blog when it’s 1:22am on a Tuesday night and I only have my phone to write on? The short answer is that I’m mentally tired but my body just can’t seem to figure that out yet.

The long answer is—well, longer. I could say that it’s because I want to be a writer, but we should all know that there is a very big difference between saying a thing and doing a thing. Sure, my degree is in Creative Writing, but what have I actually done to prove it since the last time I walked out of a classroom? I haven’t written any short stories in that time. I may have written in my journal a grand total of twice in the past 18 months.

I’m no good at being disciplined when it comes to routines. I have never gone to the gym consistently, and from this bed, currently, I sit a mere 500 feet from the entrance to the YMCA. Since my work hours are slightly flexible, I’ll silence my multiple morning alarm anywhere from 20 to 90 times. I dread the thought of brushing my teeth every day, and dream of the future where nanobots will do the work for me.

And so I’ve put aside writing since graduation. I could blame it on the stress of trying to find a job, or then the stress of said job, or then the stress of quitting said job only to start the cycle all over again, but the fact is, I lack discipline. I like to think big, dream of some glorious final product that I will someday finish, but if I can’t even write on a semi-consistent basis, what’s the point?

Dreams are great. I love to dream. I am a wonderful dreamer. But I need to put in the hard work if I want to accomplish anything.

My dad has always said I was a hard worker—and that was true when I was helping him wash windows in northwest Indiana at age 10 or aerate lawns in the south suburbs at age 15. (Due to those pesky laws that prevent free child labor, yes, my father always paid me.) When it comes to the stuff like schoolwork, I’ve always coasted. I never felt like school was hard work.

But school is over for me. It’s time to go to work.

It’s like the song by Bleachers says: “I Wanna Get Better.” Yes, that’s way too cheesy. Yes, I kind of hate myself for writing it and I hate myself even more for not editing it out. But I just couldn’t help myself. I need more practice.

So that’s what this blog is for: Practice. Hard Work. Discipline. Some other cliché. Maybe one day I can leave the clichés behind, but for now, I need to start a routine. So thank you for reading if you made it this far, and thank you in advance for sticking around, if you do. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

(Seriously, dude? Come on.)