Thursday, December 31, 2015

End of Year Reflection, or Introspective Nightmare, or For Jay Whitecotton

No one makes me think "fuck you, you're right" on a daily basis like my friend Jay Whitecotton. He is my confidant, adviser and sounding board. He recently mentioned how much he enjoys reading a person's "year in review", which was motivation enough to write this. And considering I've been a bit desperate for inspiration recently, I'll take what I can get.

This has been a tumultuous year for so many people, so it has been a little odd that 2015 was, for me, "The Year I Did Jack Shit." I needed it, though. I've spent the previous two years creating a new lifestyle without drugs or booze while jumping through hoops for probation. Having a year free of any obligations outside of my job and my cat was a welcome change.

There were a few things in the realm of "self-improvement" that I pursued and successfully infused into my daily schedule. I read every day now. I drink smoothies because it's the best way to trick myself into consuming fruit and vegetables. I work out. Yes, really. Shut up.

Those are all nice things. But I noticed one change from the previous couple of years. I hardly posted any blogs or essays this year. I think this occurred for a couple of reasons. First, I became very comfortable with who I am and the life I lead. My anxiety due to addiction or daily struggles had subsided significantly, and I didn't feel the need to "write that shit out" as often as I used to. The need to work it out is a big motivator for my writing, and I almost think I was spoiled with a consistent need to have something to say. The downside to this was I got used to only writing when I was inspired. So once everything was fine...I quit posting.

I'm not a fan of not writing, by the way. When you constantly overthink and analyze every thought, interaction and activity of your day, you will at some point feel guilty that things are fine. "Really, John? It's a good day, is it? Then why aren't you being a productive artist?" It's like my brain will impose some kind of creativity quota for the day that has no logic to it. "You can't just watch that TV show now. You need to write something. A new joke would be nice. Okay, fine, that was an impressively mediocre tweet. Enjoy Rick & Morty."

(Incidentally, if anyone has any suggestions on how to escape thoughts without self-destruction, I'd be glad to hear them. I am visiting the concept of meditation's not as effective as heroin or Jameson, unfortunately.)

I did write a bit this year...almost 2 composition books worth of journal entries and random thoughts. But here's the second reason I didn't post as much on my blog: I wanted to be "right." 2015 certainly felt like "The Year of the Opinion." Daily outrage coupled with multiple convenient soapboxes to jump on turned social media into a very loud place. It's like a crowd of people gathered together, and everyone has a megaphone. How do you make yourself heard? And if people actually listen to you, what if you're wrong?

Being wrong is one of the three big fears of people like me (white). We don't want to be thought of as a) racist, b) a hipster, or c) not in the right on a subject. Keep that in mind if you really want to nail someone. Ooh, or sexist! HOMOPHOBIC, yeah. Fit all those in. You're full of shit, you racist, bigoted, misogynistic hipster motherfucker. (brain explodes)

It seems to me that the reason opinions online are expressed so strongly (besides uncontrolled emotions and lack of empathy) is we're compensating to quiet any possible doubt that what we're saying might not be the whole truth...that it's a point of view based on our limited experience and perception. The fear of publicly being wrong and taking damage to one's ego could be key to why we don't really listen to each other. We don't share ideas and have discussions. We take turns vocalizing points of view without compromise.

Strong opinions are odd when you consider that really, we all know nothing. Outside of personal experience, everything we know we've read or been told, and we assume it to be true. So it's really presumptuous to think that we know the whole truth about anything.

Even knowing and observing this, I felt like just avoiding any possible confrontation on social media. What is the point in presenting questioning thoughts that conflicted with the opinions of friends or acquaintances, I thought. In retrospect, I think the point is to add another perspective to the collective.

No, I don't think we need to ban guns, but it would be nice if they weren't easier to own than an automobile. I don't think all cops are bad, but the system sure makes it difficult to not be. There's a difference between "racism" and "prejudice." If there is no god then let people believe dumb things and move on with your life. Caring about money more than people isn't Christlike. Some people like to victimize themselves so that they can appear to overcome adversity that isn't really there...because we all want to be the protagonist in an inspirational movie. No one asked you to formulate and vocalize a verdict on whether a sexual assault victim is telling the truth or not. Being an American and telling another American to check their privilege seems kind of stupid. Redefining language and terminology is easier than actually having a conversation and addressing the problem...which is why we do it so much. Maybe we shouldn't quantify and compare suffering of individuals and instead attempt to rectify problems. You don't know how it feels to be another person.

Sorry. I needed to get all that out. Here's the deal. I'm probably wrong about some of those things. The more I think about it, maybe I need to be vocal not because I have something to offer necessarily, but because I need to be wrong. You don't get anything out of being right other than an ego boost. Being wrong leads to actual growth...and that's what we all need. We grow and learn until we die.

That's what I've learned this year, Jay. Be vocal but questioning rather than accusing, if possible. Attempt to share thoughts and ideas vs opinions. Don't be another asshole with a megaphone. Be open and willing to be wrong.

Also, I should smoke less.