Honesty is the Best Policy

We live in an alien world these days. The one I grew up in was far different from the one we’re experiencing today. As a child, I was raised with certain ideas that were universally accepted by American society as an ideology we should all be striving for. The United States has been the beacon of hope for the world for nearly two centuries, primarily because of the views we have on individual liberty and the fact that we genuinely believe that everyone is equal. If you come to America, your expectation is that you have the same chance as anyone else to create a successful life for yourself and your family.

Somewhere along the way, however, our clean view of the world has been corrupted by a growing segment of the population who believes that the truth doesn’t matter as long as it brings profit of some kind. I’m not just talking about big corporations who greedily extract from others to accumulate their own personal wealth at the expense of the less well off. A large part of the issues in our society come from the fact that people just aren’t honest anymore. The moral framework upon which our nation was founded has eroded away and the rate of decay appears to only be increasing.

You need only look at the average relationship to get a good idea of what I’m talking about. Husbands have always snuck around having relationships with multiple women, but it used to be socially frowned upon. It was even worse for women. Females who “slept around” were shunned by the mainstream, which had the effect of helping to keep that behavior under control because most women valued their reputation over the brief pleasure they got from a seedy tryst. There used to be real consequences for acting outside of a truly moral code of conduct.

Today, however, people are proud of their misbehavior, extoling it as a more progressive way of living our lives. Commitment to one person is no longer viewed as the end goal of a relationship. Personal pleasure and satisfaction are the primary goals in relationships today, and a growing number of people are willing to stop at nothing to get what they want. Our society now celebrates misbehavior as progressivism, casting off the “old ways” in favor of a moral code that places change ahead of what is best for us.

The same holds true in the business world, and we are all guilty of participating in it whether we like to think about it or not. As jobs have moved overseas to cut down on production costs, we have become accustomed to cheap, quality goods that make our lives better. However, businesses never tell us and we actively ignore the fact that these goods are generally produced in countries where labor is so cheap that the population is just barely surviving. We live our lavish lives at the expense of others.

Even if we ignore the practical slavery we exert on others, how many of us have cheated to get what we want, whether it be from an individual or a business or even a government organization? Our modern welfare system is practically built on fraud, with millions of people living parasitically off of free money from charitable organizations or government programs. The government itself is stealing from our futures with the way it spends money now at the expense of the future. No one is willing to stop it because both sides are benefitting in the short term, and everyone hopes that someone else will have to deal with the fallout.

Our media is the worst of this trend toward dishonest behavior. It used to be that news organizations were the most trusted and respected sources of information in the world, and the unscrupulous people of the world were terrified any time a reporter came snooping around looking for a story. Now the media is complicit in the lies we’re fed every day as they maneuver to control the average person into voting the way they want or submitting to the ideologies they believe in, or even simply blatantly lying in vain attempts to increase their own viewership.

The problem with this path we’re going down is that it works like just about everything else in life. Most things we do have to pathways: an easy way and a hard way. The easy way almost always provides a certain limited reward up front, with diminishing returns as we continue forward with that method because it doesn’t put anything back into the system. It is a system of consumption rather than investment. When all you do is take without replenishing the pool, you eventually run out of resources.

This is why America did so much better back when we did things the hard way. Investment is the key to the future, and you can only truly be invested when you are honestly participating in whatever system you are investing in. Whether it’s a relationship with another person, business with the public, or the conveyance of information so people can decide for themselves, it is only when we honestly invest in what we are doing that we create something that is sustainable for the future. Anything else is doomed to fall apart.

We are slowly seeing a shift of the pendulum back toward a more honest way of living, but the question has become whether it is too late to fix things. As the corruption of our nation at all levels has become evident, many people are struggling to scour it from what has been the greatest nation to ever exist. I believe this country can still be saved if enough honest people step forward and bring back the consequences of the past. Not the barbarism, but the moral compass.

History has shown us more than once that societies decay when morals are discarded, so let’s learn the lessons of the past by going back to the old ways of thinking. It’s what made our country great and it’s what will continue to make it flourish in the future.

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If You Can’t Bend You Risk Breaking

Our modern world is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the services and technology that we have access to have given us an unprecedented quality of life that just a century ago was out of reach for even the wealthiest of people. The other side of the coin is a darker part of our society that we don’t think about very much: the entitlement that comes with having everything given to us without much being required in return. Most people in the developed world have little to really worry about, and our culture has morphed into something that has little patience for things not conforming to our preferences.

I am certainly guilty of this. When things are out of step with my expectations, I have a tendency to become agitated to the point where I’m unable to appreciate the things that I have because I’m so focused on what I wish was different. Rather than being grateful that I have a good paying job, I get annoyed when I’m asked to do things that aren’t really part of my job description. When I had a relationship with a great woman, I focused on the things she did that got on my nerves rather than appreciating that someone cared for me enough to take care of me. Instead of being content with my very comfortable travel trailer as a home, I pined after a boat because it’s higher up on my list of desires. The list certainly doesn’t stop there.

Unfortunately, I am not the outlier when it comes to this kind of behavior. Human beings in general seem to suffer from this acute need to have things exactly the way we want them to be. This by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but where we start running into trouble is when we allow our impatience to become the primary driver of our ability to be content. There isn’t anything wrong with having a list of things we want, but when we refuse to be willing to wait for those things to either work themselves our, or for us to put in the necessary effort to make them happen, we set ourselves up for some pretty harsh disappointments.

Even if we’re willing to wait, though, perhaps an even bigger problem is the fact that most of us have lost the ability to compromise. One of the most clarifying statements I’ve ever heard was something to the effect of “you can attain any dream you want as long as you can accept the fact that it won’t be exactly the way you want it to be”. There is perhaps no other concept that a person can learn to take the biggest step forward toward a life of happiness. Learning to accept that things aren’t going to be even mostly how you wish they would be is the most realistic way to get past the things in our lives that prevent us from enjoying what we have.

In reality, however, our society isn’t pushing this very reasonable idea as a mainstream concept. There’s no money to be made in teaching people to be down to earth with their expectations. If they didn’t pump up your desires for that sports car, you’d never buy one. If they didn’t make outlandishly romantic movies for lonely people to go to get their love vicariously through the screen, no one would buy a ticket. Much of the world’s economy is built on convincing us that our lives aren’t good enough the way they are and that we deserve so much more than what we already have.

For those of us in the developed world, it has bred this elitist mentality which convinces us that we’re too good to settle for anything less than perfection. If you look at most of the rest of the world, no one is clamoring for the latest iPhone and relationships don’t just fall apart because one person isn’t fitting the mold the other set for them. They’re too focused on survival for those things to matter. It is only because we’ve risen to the point where survival is no longer an issue that we have the luxury to demand what we want.

Yet, one of the craziest concepts that we hear about is that the poorest people in the world somehow tend to be some of the happiest. Perhaps it’s because they only have a few things to worry about, and their simple lives make it easy to focus on what’s important. They don’t have time for wishing they had this or hoping they get that. Perhaps it’s because they have no choice but to learn to compromise because the situation in which they were born afforded them no opportunity to even hope for anything more than just making it to tomorrow. It may be that they are the freest people in the world, unshackled by unrealistic hopes and expectations.

As I grow older and wiser, I begin to understand that there is a difference between being uncompromising versus being unrealistic. It’s perfectly acceptable to push toward something better as long as you can accept that it might not work out the way you hoped. As flawed human beings, it is unreasonable to expect anything we do to turn out exactly the way we imagine it. Perfection is beyond our capability, and the sooner we all start to remember that, the happier we are likely to become.

The alternative is a life of miserable disappointment, regardless of your status in life.

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Learning to Make Money with Something You Enjoy

Making money is one of the more sad things that we have to deal with in our lives on this little pale blue dot we call Earth. The laws of nature dictate that we have to put in time and effort into very boring things like finding resources to survive. As most of us have come to realize, the idea that we can find a way to survive that doesn’t involve long hours of toiling away at something we don’t particularly want to be doing is a bit crazy. A very select few of us have found a way to make a living doing something we actually like.

We’re seeing a shift in the job market today that is partly based on how we see this particular viewpoint. While it is so natural for us to have to struggle to make it that we rarely question it on a serious basis, a part of our consciousness is really starting to ask the question: “have we reached a point in our evolution where more of us can start ‘living the dream’?” As technology improves, perhaps the answer might be yes.

For myself, I’ve started teaching myself web development. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed is doing things on the computer. Video games are a staple, just like millions of other men out there, but there is also a small part of me that enjoys the programming process. Men typically like to make things, and though something like websites aren’t actually something real that we can physically hold, it does produce a visual, measurable result that can give us a feeling of accomplishment. When you look at a website at the end of your project and are satisfied with how it turned out, you get that same feeling of worth that a craftsman does when he looks at something he made with his hands.

I don’t know if I actually have a talent for this sort of thing, but it’s something I want to at least make a try for. Becoming a freelance web developer is one avenue toward a larger goal that I’ve had for my entire life that I’ve struggled to find a way into: becoming my own boss. For most of my life, I haven’t really had a skillset that lent itself toward working for myself. You have to have something that’s marketable, and being a musician or an administrator isn’t really something that you can market very well. Just about everyone needs a website, though.

One of the more inspirational quotes I’ve ever heard said something to the effect of “follow your dreams, but just accept the fact that it probably won’t turn out exactly the way you hoped it would”, the point being that it is our expectations that typically cause us to be unable to find what we’re looking for. Many of us either have or could have a version of what we want, but we become paralyzed thinking that what we want is out of reach. This is absolutely true in most cases; exactly what we want is almost always out of reach, but perhaps getting even a small slice of it is worth the effort.

As I grow older, I become increasingly discontent with the life I’m living today. The first decade of my adult life was marked by so many amazing experiences, and this last decade has been a long series of nothing. I’m content to live a simple life of simple means, but the idea of toiling away for someone else’s profits just doesn’t sit well with me. There is a tiny hope welling up inside of me that I might have finally found something that can make me money that I actually enjoy doing, and it is starting to spark an excitement in my soul.

Still, being the pessimist that I am, I’m holding on to a very large chunk of reservation about the whole thing. While things involving my survival typically work out in the end, I rarely end up in a place where I’m actually getting something I want out of the larger things in my life. Hope is a fleeting thing that can be snuffed out in an instance, and I’m trying very hard to shelter that little candlestick of light from any vagrant gusts that might come blowing my way. Pull your hand away too soon and the wind can blow your heart away.

At any rate, my hope is that I’ve finally found something I can do that I enjoy that earns me a living. I always hoped it would be writing, and in truth most of website development is writing code, so it’s not turning out exactly as I hoped, but maybe it can be a version of something I’ve always wanted. You have to be willing to accept a compromise to your dreams, or you may never realize any of them at all. Take a chance on something different.

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Why Is No One Getting Hired?

We hear it all the time these days: so many jobs and not enough employees to fill the positions. It seems crazy to think that with so many people out of work, yet so many available jobs, that we are struggling to get people hired. There are a lot of theories as to why this is, and the primary one I’ve heard is that government handouts are encouraging people not to work because they make more staying home. I’m sure this is the case, but as someone who is in the market for a new job, I have seen a trend in the jobs I’ve been looking at which and a personal feeling which leads me to two separate conclusions.

The first is that many of us are simply tired of doing the jobs that no one else wants to do. There’s a reason you pay someone to do certain things, and most of the time it’s because it’s too boring or time consuming or mindless for you to bother with. As an employer, it makes sense to hire people to do the small, detail oriented tasks so you can free up your time for bigger, better things. The problem is that none of us want to do it any more than you do. Having spent the last seven or so years of my life in construction administration, I can tell you that I spend very little of my time actually doing administration and almost all of my time doing all the little stupid tasks that everyone else hates. I’m supposed to be working on the computer; instead I run errands.

For many years, most of us had no choice but to accept these kinds of jobs. It wasn’t until very recently that technology grew to a point where a large number of people could reasonably expect to work from home. It was already starting to move in that direction, but the pandemic supercharged that trend a significant portion of the country was forced to stay home. People like me, who dream of getting away from needy bosses who think their time is too precious for menial tasks, are looking toward a future of working from my own office in my own home.

The problem here is that while it seems nearly in reach for many of us, most employers are still stuck back in the old days of wanting a traditional office with traditional hours and traditional employees. They want that person of convenience there to serve them and make their day easier. “Go out and grab me this order from the vendor” or “run this thing over to this place because our guys need it” is the order of the day for most bosses. Many of us are simply tired of these meaningless jobs that are only around because people are too lazy or arrogant to do it themselves.

Aside from all that, the second conclusion I’ve come to is that employers just aren’t willing to take a chance on people anymore. I read all these job postings that require an unreasonable list of requirements for prospective employees. Ten years of this or five years of that, or you have to be familiar with this particular system or program or process. Employers want ready made workers who require little or no training, let alone an actual investment.

Case in point, my current employer has paid me for four years to sit around the office doing almost nothing but twiddle my thumbs. I have many years in administration, yet the job has never had enough work to keep me busy. So what does my supervisor do? He sends me on errands. The career I’ve built for more than fifteen years is meaningless where I am, and when I asked for something more meaningful to do, I was just given more meaningless things to do. No investment or risk taken on me. Just a bunch of useless work that does little for my employer and absolutely nothing for me.

We’re told all the time that to be successful in anything you have to be willing to take risks, but it seems that employers today are too busy trying to avoid potential headaches or focused on their own priorities to actually consider someone other than themselves. Perhaps the biggest reason why the job market is the way it is today is simply because employers are the embodiment of everything wrong with our society today: they want instant gratification.

For example, I served more than eleven years in the Marine Corps and have nearly twenty years of administrative experience, along with several other skills and experiences I’ve picked up along the way. However, because my list of skills doesn’t match what some person put on a job description, I’m disqualified before I’m even really considered. We’re not people anymore; we’re an algorithm.

It used to be that you would get a job and your employer would invest in you hoping that you would turn out to be a great employee that would stay with the company for many years, or even decades. Today, we live in this ridiculous “gig” economy, where it’s rare to stay with an employer for more than a couple of years. People like me, who crave stability, are sick and tired of jobs with no shelf life…with no real future. We’re tired of being stuck in positions where all we are is a convenience.

Perhaps the cure to the current dilemma in the job market is for employers to start seeing people as people again. We’re not mindless automatons that are here to service you. We’re people with our own goals and dreams and hopes for our futures. Maybe if you start looking for partners instead of servants, you might start finding more of the kind of people you need to make your business successful.

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First World Living Is Hard

I’ve said in the past that suffering is relative. It can be difficult to have sympathy for someone who appears better off than you do when you see or hear something from them that claims unhappiness or pain or whatever other negative experience they might be going through. It is a natural thing to write off the bad things others experience when we feel like what we’re going through is so much worse. How hard can it be when you have access to nearly unlimited resources? Why should I care if you aren’t getting exactly what you want?

If you live in the United States, chances are that you aren’t living in abject poverty like most of the rest of the world. Nearly 700 million people live on less than $2 US per day, and with numbers like that it’s difficult to justify feeling unsatisfied with what we have here in America. Any reasonable person living even a modest life in a first world country should take that information and begin second-guessing any negative feelings they might be having about their lot in life. Literally millions of people have it much worse than any of us do.

Still, as Dave Chappelle famously said during one of his Netflix specials in response to a friend pointing out the children are starving in Africa: “So what? I still want lunch.” As harsh as this sounds, if we keep in mind that he’s just trying to get a laugh we can get past the apparent heartlessness of the statement and get to the core of what it’s trying to get across: the suffering of others doesn’t lessen our own needs. Starving ourselves doesn’t do any good if it isn’t actually helping someone else who’s starving. We still need to eat, even if there are others who aren’t able to. A need is a need.

One of the things that most people don’t stop to take time to consider is that most of us have vastly different needs from one another. Once you get past basic survival needs like food and water and shelter, the things each person needs begins to branch off in many different directions. Although there are an infinite number of ways that a person might have a need, these all can be categorized in loose groups. My personal favorite is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which lays out a clean, progressive pattern of increasingly esoteric things that a person needs to be fulfilled in their life.

Whether we know it or not, each of us is on a very personal and individual journey to reach a very specific destination. We don’t know exactly where it is, or even really how to find it, but it can be summarized by the word at the top of Maslow’s pyramid: transcendence. Most of us aren’t cognizant of what that word really means, but ultimately it comes down to finding that peace in our lives that fills our soul with satisfaction. It is important to us that our lives mean something, even if it is only to ourselves.

The difficult part of reconciling our own needs versus those of the other people in the world who are objectively much worse off than we are comes in the disparity that results from living in a civilized world that has removed much of the law of nature from it. We tend to forget that outside of our comfortable, first world nations the rest of nature, including those human beings unfortunate enough to live outside of the developed world , lives in a “survival of the fittest” state of existence. Only those who are strong enough to will themselves into action are able to succeed in life. All we can see is that so many of us here have it so good while so many others have to struggle just to put food on the table.

As harsh as it might sound, we have to think about what it is to be a living creature on this planet. The primary biological purpose of every living being is to procreate and perpetuate the species. It is an inherent, typically unconscious goal of each creature on this planet to bear offspring and do whatever is necessary to ensure not only their survival, but also a better future. Most people are completely understanding of this attitude, and because we are so genetically predisposed toward caring for future generations, there is little thought that really goes into the full and complete scope of what this idea truly means.

If we accept that we want to create a better future for our children, then we also have to consider the fact that previous generations did the same thing for us. Few people living in a rich nation do so because something was somehow given to someone in their past. For most, their ancestors struggled hard over many, many years to slowly build their family up to the point where their children had the opportunity to succeed. America itself was built from the ground up by people who had to flee subjectively terrible circumstances to find a life they could be content with. It is our forefathers over the last two centuries slowly building us up that provided us with the insanely rich lives we have today. It’s what they wanted for us.

When we begin to understand this aspect of life, we can feel a bit less guilty about our own dissatisfaction with the lives we have today. The prosperity we have now is a result of the centuries of hard work that our ancestors put in to advance us to the point we are today, just as we put in hard work to make our children even better off than we are. Life is the struggle of moving from where we are now to the next place we want to be. Some of us are further along the path than others, and that’s ok. Each of us must figure out how to walk it on our own, perhaps with a little bit of help now and then, but mostly the journey is ours to make.

It is commendable to have compassion for those suffering in the world, and it is good and right to try to do something about it. Just remember that your own needs are just as important, and striving to meet them, whatever they might be, isn’t a bad thing. When we ignore what we need for ourselves, we have nothing extra to give to those who don’t have as much as we do. And you can only really give when you have more than you need. Seek out that abundance.

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Relationships Are Only As Difficult As We Make Them

I don’t declare myself to be an expert on relationships, as there have only been two people in my life who became serious love interests for me. One was a marriage that lasted nearly a decade; the other an engagement that lasted three years. When it comes to telling people what they should do when it comes to their partner in life, I am not really the best qualified to give advice.

Still, there are some basic concepts that apply universally across all areas of life. While I don’t really understand all of the nuances of how to make a woman happy, I can point out on very large factor that contributes to the happiness, or lack thereof, in a relationship. People jump into serious relationships for a multitude of reasons, and each of us has a different primary goal when we decide to commit ourselves to being with another person. Regardless of what those reasons might be, our ability to be content in any relationship comes down to a single factor: expectations.

Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we each bring in our own expectations of what our relationships with other people should be like. For many, especially women, romance is an important part of being with another person. They like to be made to feel special and important, and this is accomplished through the method of providing them with the kind of attention they seek. For some, it’s special gifts, expensive or cheap, that show that you know and understand them. For others it might be kind words or physical affection. Regardless of the type, it is the attention given that makes a woman happy with her partner.

This attention seeking behavior isn’t really a bad thing all by itself. It is normal and healthy for a woman to want the important people in her life to reassure her that she matters to them. As with all things relating to happiness, however, it is the level of expectation that marks the line between a reasonable partner and one seeking a co-dependent relationship. The line between the two can be very thin, and where the line falls exactly is dependent on the people in the relationship. No universal guide exists to set the bar because each couple is a unique pair.

It is this variance in people combined with an abnormally high level of expectation that likely causes the widespread dissatisfaction with relationships that we see today. We hear all the time that more than half of marriages end in failure, but we almost never hear good reasons as to why this might be. Of course, the natural assumption is people rushed in too quickly, not getting to know each other well enough before deciding to tie the knot. While this is absolutely a contributing factor, it can’t logically explain the common cause that ends a relationship. People of all types and backgrounds have joined together across the span of human existence, and if it was only because people were “too different” that relationships failed, we wouldn’t see very many successful unions at all. We are all very different.

In the end, it all comes down to our own expectations. We each want to get something out of the relationship that matters to us. If we aren’t getting it, then we become dissatisfied, and then eventually unhappy. This is not unreasonable all by itself, as nothing we humans do in life overall makes us happy unless our expectations are being met. The difference is all in making sure that we are being realistic about where we set the bar.

It makes sense to me that most relationships today fail not because people don’t love each other, but because we have all become quite unrealistic about what a relationship is supposed to be. Movies and books and whatever other media we consume presents us with fantastic stories of couples who fall madly in love with one another and get their “happily ever after”. This is a nice little fantasy to daydream about, sure, but like most things in life, the statistical probability that any of us will find something as special and unique as this is much like winning the lottery. When was the last time you got a winning ticket?

You might be one of the lucky few who meets someone who clicks with you so well that it’s no effort to make them happy and you both enjoy a lifetime of powerful love. For the rest of us, though, the real goal of making a relationship work is learning to set our expectations based on the person we choose to be with. This obviously isn’t very romantic, but the brutal truth is that relationships only work when both sides are able to meet the other’s expectations. If your partner simply can’t, do you go looking for someone who can? What if you never find them? Are you prepared to be alone for the rest of your life while you stubbornly cling to what you’ve decided you absolutely need?

For myself, I’ve finally learned at this later stage in my life that it’s better to be lonely than unhappy. My expectations for any relationship are quite low, consisting of seeking lifelong companionship with an attractive woman who enjoys being around me and occasionally doing things together, but doesn’t need me to constantly be taking my attention away from the things I’m interested in because she needs me to reassure her. Since I don’t expect much from my partner, I’m not willing to do nearly as much as most women today seem to expect. Part of me has accepted that maybe I’m just not cut out for a relationship. I can’t live with the chains that women seem to want to shackle me with.

Regardless, the point of this article is to make the case that happiness is simply a matter of adjusting our expectations. While it sounds sad to say, it’s much easier to lower our expectations than for someone else to work harder to meet something higher. It’s all good and well to be uncompromising and stand firm in what you want, but just be sure that you’re willing to live with the potential consequences of that position, including spending your life alone.

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You Get What You Pay For

They say the best things in life are free. It would be nice if that were true, and perhaps if you’re talking about money, it has a ring of truth to it. However, it is the unfortunate truth that anything worth having has a cost associated with it, something we have to give up in order to have it. Many times it is money or resources, but even if it’s just a positive interaction with another person there is a cost of some kind, be it time or effort. As with everything else in life, you get what you pay for.

I have spent most of my life yearning for something more. There has never been a time in my life where I’ve been content with where I am. When I look back on my life, I know that objectively I’ve had it pretty good. So many opportunities have come my way, and they could have been so much more than they were if I were willing to just do what it took to get the best out of them. A little bit of elbow grease and a positive attitude would have yielded a life many times more rich and vibrant than what I’ve come to now.

The problem is and always has been that I’m unwilling to put in the effort to achieve that kind of life. I know deep down that the ability to do great things is there, but the will and courage to do it simply aren’t. When I was growing up, I was told over and over that I could be anything I want, and while it may sound a bit arrogant, I know that for myself, at least, that was the truth. I’m no genius, but I have enough intellect to do most any job out there. The only thing holding me back is my own apathy.

It is the same problem in my personal life. My heart yearns for the same feeling of love as everyone else, but relationships are hard work and I never seem to get enough out of them for the effort to be worth it. It’s not because the people in my life aren’t worth having that effort put into them. I’ve been lucky enough to have amazing people become part of my life. The problem has always been me and my inability to focus on anything other than what I want. It is a selfish heart that keeps me down.

Despite this knowledge, I can’t seem to find the will to come back from this place that holds me back. An insidious laziness has taken hold of my soul, quashing any chance at something more than just a mediocre life that wastes me away until my body expires. I look into the future and there is just a huge, blank wall staring back at me. What is there to look forward to when all you can see is just an endless parade of the same day over and over? And then how do you break that cycle when you can’t stand what is required to escape it?

The core issue is that anything worth having is hard work, and I have always been averse to putting effort into things that don’t give me an immediate return on my investment. I was raised in the era of instant gratification, and that makes it very difficult for me to find the will to keep trying at things that don’t seem as if they’re going to pay off. I’m not a risk taker, and I likely never will be. You can’t find greatness if you never take any risks. Still, knowing this doesn’t change who I am.

It is nearly impossible to keep going when you have no hope for the future. A man wants to know that what he is doing matters and that his work and effort have meaning. One can only pointlessly plunge away at something for so long before he realizes his effort is simply going to waste. Some people can hold out for a long time; others give up after only a short while. They say persistent people are successful people. I’ve always struggled with persistence.

At any rate, I know there are so many people out there who are just like me; big dreams but no ambition. Part of it is our fault, but part of it is the environment we grew up in. Everything was handed to us growing up. There was no real effort required to get the things we want. As time moves forward, it only gets worse. The conveniences of life have softened us to the point that we simply don’t have the will to really go after anything anymore. We want it laid out at our feet.

Though the world doesn’t work that way, and I’m fully aware that it doesn’t, a lifetime of terrible habits and attitude isn’t something most people can just decide to change. Part of me waits for an opportunity that will captivate my imagination and convince me to summon the will to put my whole self into something I find worth doing. Unfortunately, the rest of me knows that it is only people who go out and find their own passion that live the kinds of lives we all yearn for.

I simply can’t take that leap of faith.

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Life is More Like Burger King Than Denny’s

A few times during the course of my life I’ve heard the phrase “you don’t fill my cup”. This rather innocuous phrase is an indirect pointer to the way our society has evolved over the last century as we become more and more consumer centric. One of the most dangerous mindsets in the world is the idea that other people owe you something, even when it comes to the relationships you choose to partake in. If there truly is a pandemic in the world, this is it.

The idea of having a cup to be filled makes a certain amount of sense and contains a certain amount of truth. We all have emotional needs that must be filled if we are to find any amount of contentedness or happiness. The metaphor of a cup being filled with the “water” that makes us happy is an easy visual reference that makes it quite clear what both the perceived need is and the method in which many people think we are supposed to find that “water”.

Unfortunately, like many things we tend to be rather selfish when it comes to being philosophical about how human beings work. Most of the time we apply concepts to other people that we can’t or won’t apply to ourselves. The idea of someone “pouring into our cup” implies that the person gives us something that adds to our life in a way that increases our happiness. Unfortunately, we tend to forget that life is far more like Burger King than it is like Denny’s.

You see, when you go to a “sit-down” restaurant like Denny’s, a waiter comes by and brings you a cup and keeps filling it as required to keep you satisfied. You have to do nothing for this to happen; the waiter comes by and fills up your cup. It’s quite simple and, if the waiter is doing their job, you stay very content during the extent of your visit because your expectations are being met. Someone is filling your cup for you and that is what both parties have agreed to.

In reality, though, relationships in life are supposed to be a lot more like Burger King. When you step away from the counter with your cup, there is no waiter there to grab your cup and fill it up for you. You actually have to walk over to the fountain and fill up the cup yourself. You don’t walk into a fast food restaurant with the expectation that someone is going to service you, regardless of the fact that there are employees there performing certain minimal functions. You understand that it’s a fast food joint.

In our spoiled modern times, we tend to expect our relationships to be far more like Denny’s than Burger King. Both parties are expecting the other to service their needs, all the while oblivious to the needs of the other person. Much of the unhappiness in modern relationships comes not from terrible people, but from unreasonable expectations. If we all treated our relationships like a fast food restaurant, I think there would be a lot less discontentedness in the world.

What this overly drawn out metaphor is trying to make clear is that it is up to you to fill your own cup. No one else can do it for you. Rather than expecting someone to wander by and pour into your cup for you, it is your duty and responsibility to pick up your cup and walk over to where the water is and fill it yourself. If you can’t muster the will to that, then you’ll never appreciate a full cup anyway.

A Life of Aimlessness

I’ve said a few times before on this blog that I struggle with knowing what I want to do with my life. Over the course of nearly four decades, I’ve done so many different things that most people probably wouldn’t believe it. If I recall, I covered some of that in one of my first posts, and every time I go back and recall the things I’ve experienced in my time here on Earth, I’m surprised at just how varied my experiences have been.

While this sounds like an amazing thing, it really is a double-edged sword. I struggle with the fact that I don’t have any one thing that stands out to me as something I can be passionate about. Most of the great things that I’ve experienced have actually been side effects of the various situations that I found myself in through an organic process of just moseying my way through life. Virtually nothing has been a result of me knowing where I was going or what I was doing.

Perhaps the biggest force of this was my time as a Marine musician. While music was very important to me at a young age, having spent my middle and high school years focused on being in the band, as well as spending a year pursuing a music education degree, it grew less and less important as I spent more time buried under the weight of the rigid program that is Marine Corps music. I became very disillusioned with the whole thing, yet some of the most powerful memories of my life come from that period of time. There was no willing heart in any of it; it was just something that happened to me unexpectedly.

The last eight or so years of my life have been much the same from an attitude standpoint, but the experiences haven’t surfaced as they have in the past. The unfortunate reality is that you can only act upon the opportunities that are presented to you, and when none are provided you are forced to either accept where you are or make attempts to create opportunities yourself. What do you do then if you can’t accept where you are but don’t know how to create those opportunities? Even if you did, how do you know which opportunities you want to make?

Ever since leaving military service, my dream has been to find a way to make a living for myself, not relying on others to provide me with an income that is contingent on doing whatever it is they want me to do. The problem is that I just don’t possess the imagination or creativity to figure out how to do that. Like everything else, I’m just waiting around for that spark that ignites my passion so I can jump onto something I can get excited about. I’m not very good at waiting.

I’m not really sure what I’m trying to get at with this post. My life is in a place right now where I’m struggling on many fronts, from career to relationships to just finding a way to be happy with my circumstances. There are so many ideas for what I think I could do, but no apparent way to get to any of them. My mind has become locked in the rigidity I have become accustomed to, and I just don’t know how to break free from it.

So I continue to wait, hoping fruitlessly for some random thing to surface in my life that points me in a direction I can live with. That’s no way to live, but it’s all I really have. I can talk about all the different ideas that make sense to me, and the fact that I can’t reconcile them with own life doesn’t make them any less valid. It is simply a reflection of the fact that the emotional side of our being cares little for logic, preferring to just run wild with its own idea of what should be.

It just makes it so much harder.

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An Echo of Reality

I came to a rather stark realization this morning: I don’t exist. At least, not in the way that everyone else around me seems to. So many people seem to have at least a vague understanding of who they are and what they are about, but I’ve spent my entire life struggling with what I want and who I am. After so much soul searching in trying to figure out what might make me happy in life, I realize that there is one thing that defines me as a person: the stories I’ve immersed myself in from the very beginning.

From fantasy novels as a kid to online roleplaying games as a young adult to binge-watching my favorite Dungeons and Dragons stream Critical Role over these last few years, as well as the hundreds of movies and television series I’ve experienced along the way, my entire life has been a strong desire to escape this mundane world we live in to experience something new and fascinating. I have lived through many adventures and stories in my own imagination, participating vicariously in lives far more interesting than anything I could ever find in the real world.

It is because of this that I struggle to find any passion here in the actual life I’m living day to day. The things I do outside of my personal time delving into new stories and worlds are the things I have to do to allow myself the ability to stay in that space. I’ve always wondered why I tend to detest almost everything, especially the relatively good jobs that I’ve had, and it now makes so much sense: because they take me away from the worlds I crave so much. My anxiety on the job or doing other “real” things comes down to that yearning to return to that space within myself that satisfies a burning desire for the next amazing story.

The consequences of this way of living are very costly, not so much to me but for the people who have wandered into and out of my life. While I have a strong desire for those relationships I’ve had, including the one I seem to be losing now, nothing trumps my need to experience something new and exciting. The idea of settling down into a mundane routine of the same things and the same people and the same grindy existence for the rest of my life repulses me beyond what I can bear. It is this inevitable boredom that causes me end up with everything in my life fading into the background in pursuit of the next amazing thing.

This way of being is in direct opposition to the lessons that life has taught me over the years. My upbringing and time in military service brought a pragmatism to my naturally dreamlike state, teaching me the skills and abilities I need to maintain what is necessary to not starve on the street. Like every double-edged sword in life, it helps me survive while at the same time stunting everything about me that brings passion. How many opportunities have I missed out on because my rational side told me they were ridiculous? Was I even capable of recognizing them even if they happened?

The honest truth is that I don’t know how to be a “normal” person, and I’m not really sure that I want to be. Everything about me is a desire to escape the boredom of the mundane. My entire time in the military was a struggle against conforming to the will of others, and my time since then has been a continuation of this internal rage against anything approaching sublimating myself in favor of what others demand from me. I don’t know how to be the kind of person who is satisfied with everyday life, but my life experiences have molded me into someone who doesn’t know how to break free from it. It is a gridlock of wanting something I don’t know how to reach.

This is the silent wailing of an echo of reality, a person who doesn’t really exist here in the real world, but in that ethereal place where imagination meets the soul. It is there where I find contentment, where I’m able to free myself from the bonds of all the things I hate about life; where I can separate myself from a world that holds no meaning for me and live the kinds of lives I always dreamed about. How can I be content with anything else after that?

I can’t help but hold out hope that I can somehow shed the kind of life I’ve led so far and figure out a way to make my life about the stories that have meant so much to me over the years. There is no way for me to know at this point in my life what that might look like, but I can say with absolute certainty that I will jump at the opportunity to move into a space that allows me to make my life about shaping something beyond what we have here in this life. Whether that’s through acting or writing or whatever I have the talent for, I yearn for the next phase of my life to be completely different from what I’ve had so far.

So the question is: can I?

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