I can write a song, but not a story

By Joshua Blake

Hi. I can’t recall when I last wrote an entry on this blog, and I’m not intrigued to find out, either.

I start my second-to-last semester of college tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Yeah, that’s not a typo or anything. My Monday morning’s for college this semester start at 1:00 p.m.

That’ll be the only time in my life where I’ll start my week off in the afternoon – though knowing me, who the hell knows.

I’ve been attempting – and when I say ‘attempting,’ I really mean thinking about how – to go on writing this story I thought of last November.

I can write a song, intricately describing what ails me, but not a story.

It’s a damned nightmare. I have a basic idea down, along with a plot and characters. I think it’s a pretty neat take on the tried tropes of sci-fi dramas – if that even is a category – but I’m stuck.

Why am I stuck? I haven’t got a clue. Apprehension? Depression? Subjugation from my own thoughts? Sounds rather bleak, doesn’t it?

And that’s the thing about the characters in this world I’ve imagined: they’re a reflection of my apprehension, of my depression, of my will to keep fighting on, too.

I don’t understand how to isolate my emotions to focus on driving the narrative. Maybe that’s what makes it so hard for me to know how to continue on with my story.

Or perhaps I dont understand how to channel my emotions into my characters, and that’s why my narrative is progressing at a snail’s pace.

Then there’s the part of me that says “this [my story] is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, like life. But then there’s the other side of my thoughts that say “Yeah, but maybe not.”

Do you see my problem, dear reader? Yes? No?

I believe it’s natural to wonder if what we do in life really equates to anything of substance, of impact – not just in our lives – but others.

Everyone wants to have a role to play in this game called Life. But you can’t always play the role you want – and not only with the way we push 17 and 18-year-olds to get a post-secondary education – but how we push college students into this mindset that their degree is “worth it,” borrowing tens-of-thousands in student loans, only to end up paying them back years after graduation, and maybe not holding a job in the field of their degree anyway.

That’s worth all of the stress of graduating college – especially in America? Every adult I know who’s graduated college and has a job has told me a variant of the phrase “not what I started doing.”

My therapist studied to become an English teacher before finding psychology. Hell, my previous college advisor switched majors four times before sticking with journalism…my current major of the last six-and-a-half years.

Is it wrong to tell teenagers “think of a subject you wanna major in at whatever college, cause that’s gonna be your job one day?”

Of course, for some students this becomes their reality, but just because the S.T.E.M. field pays well, doesn’t mean every major in that field is going to have a S.T.E.M. focused career. It’s not sustainable economically.

People used to bash Liberal Arts majors, but at least those students have some versatility in their skill sets, unlike hyper-focused majors.

Johnny Awesome could know all about bio-engineering, or Quantum Theory, but not a damn thing about landscaping, construction, or writing.

And that’s okay. Not everyone needs to know how to do everything.

But we can’t limit ourselves to one-dimensional task-performers, either. That’s just boring. And more importantly, kind of sad.

I wanna be a good writer one day. I want my writing to impact people – whether that be in a good or bad way.

But I don’t wanna just be “a writer,” or “a journalist.” Those terms are subjective anyway. What kind of journalist and writer do I want to be?

I don’t think I’m supposed to know the answer until I get there. But, I do have a couple of aspirations, that maybe with a pinch of luck – and the good fortune of knowing some people – could get me there.

If I could be a columnist, I’d be content. If I finish my book and get it published, I’d be content. If I could play music out on the side once my career’s goin’, I’d be content.

As long as I have friends and family around me, and live with the love of my life for all of my life, I’ll be happy.

And I think this is the problem with people who feel stuck in this world: they think being content will make them happy.

Myself included.

I was talking to my dad yesterday about physical therapy and we both agreed: I should at least do something for my physical health. Having Cerebral Palsy is a huge detriment to every physical and mental aspect of human life.

But I told him that it’s hard for me to encourage myself to better myself physically.

“Cause it’s work,” he told me.

And while I agreed, there’s more to it than that.

“Yes, but does it matter?” I wondered.

I know my depression plays a role in these “does- this-really-matter” scenarios, but I also think it goes back to this idea of being content equals happiness.

Yeah, if I exercised, I’d feel better – even a little bit mentally. I’d be content, but not happier.

And that’s my point. Happiness doesn’t have a price. Not a tangible price, anyway. Robin Williams was an amazingly talented, funny, charismatic actor. But he was depressed and took his own life, because his happiness couldn’t be bought. Chester Bennington was a talented singer, he took his own life, because his happiness couldn’t be bought with his talent or all of the money he made.

Happiness is a desire based out of necessity.

So much of our focus on life is on physical attributes and assets, that we often forget about the mental side of it. It’s just as – if not even more – important.

If you’re just content with life, how can you ever enjoy it? A long time ago, I wrote about how emotions like happiness are finite – they can’t last indefinitely. So, it’d make more sense to strive towards being content – cause that’s more realistic.

How wrong I was.

This Is My Element

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By Joshua Blake

So, for those of you that may or may not know, I play music – pretty frequently as of late, too – and I love every second of it.

Something about performing gives me a sense of power, as if I have some hidden ability within my soul that can only unleash itself when the time comes. I have no fears, I have no worries, I have no conscience. I just play.

I’ve often called myself a writer, but I’m also a musician, and lately, I’ve been more of a musician rather than a writer. Nevertheless I’m enjoying myself to lengths that I’ve never had before. I’ve been making strides musically as well as educationally, setting my sights on returning to college in late August – which will be an adventure in and of itself.

In an odd twist, I’m horrible with time-management, but good at keeping time when it comes to playing the bass. Don’t ask me why or how because I haven’t got a clue. College is gonna be one hell of a ride – again that is. It’ll have been two years once I go back since I started there. I’ll be going back into the journalism program since I didn’t even give it a shot last time – nor could I – due to my depression and anxiety.

Is this life meant for me? A journalistic one? Do I have the drive to “go get ’em?” Sure, I could write a story about the differences between European educational programs and American ones – talking to people from other countries via Twitter or other means to get an idea of what the differences are, and how we can adopt ideas to fix our system – but nothing in America really changes and the people don’t really care. The news has become mainstream, and for those who are still fighting to report the truth, they have no outlet.

In a way, the news business is like the music industry – anything that challenges the status quo is cast aside like a damn leper, while the same thing gets said over and over and over again. I guess my point is that I’m unsure of the future of journalistic integrity and acceptance. Everyone says the news is biased, but they also fail to see the bigger picture. We’ve lost our innovation as a nation.

Kennedy once said on the decision to send men to the moon that “We choose to do these things in this decade not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” But if you think that the moon landing was fake, or that reptilian’s rule our government, or that we’re the greatest country on Earth, I’ve failed my duty as a journalist to report the truth because it’s not believed as truth. Or maybe it angers people when they hear the opposite of what they believe. In that case, I’d say research it yourself – look at every outlet.

Mississippi is one of the lowest ranking – if not the lowest – states in America when it comes to I.Q. Their governor – Phil Bryant –  singed a bill recently allowing the refusal of LGBT people to get married, adopt a child, enroll in foster care services, seek employment, or be declined to rent or sell property. What is this? The 1950’s?

Apparently, it’s a religious freedom bill – which I find ironic because if you’re a part of the LGBT community, you’re not infringing on the right of others to practice their religion. You’d just be pissing them off because it’s not what’s seen as “normal.” In the 1900’s no one even thought about the slight chance of inter-racial marriage. 50 years later and that notion slowly – slowly – started to change. Nowadays, it’s not even thought about. No, nowadays, two men – or women – getting married is going to tear the fabric of America apart. Not the offshore tax accounts, outsourced jobs, or fraudulent housing loans given out to people who couldn’t afford it back in the mid 00’s. No, that’d be too much to think about.

And that’s the fundamental problem with Americans: We’ve believed that complex issues have simple solutions for so long, that we’ve forgotten to question why – or how – things happen. Trump’s gonna build a wall. Why? To keep out illegal immigrants. How? Most immigration is via plane or other means, so I guess President “big hands” Trump is gonna build a dome around the United States of America and keep us safe – because he’s a business man! America’s a nation of immigrants, and for some reason, we really hate any new ones coming in because they steal our jobs, right?

I could then tell you about how unemployment is at 5% and Obama cleared nearly three quarters of the deficit since he took office in a New York Times piece written by Andrew Ross Sorkin a couple of days ago, but my audience is half of what it should be. Most people should receive the facts when it comes to news reporting, but now, there’s certain demographics that are targeted to certain people. Why? Because the news is a business. And businesses one goal is to make money by any means possible.

How does this relate back to music? Well music is diluted and generic now. Make some catchy pop song – probably written by a way more talented person then the one singing it – and you’re a millionaire. Meanwhile the ones who have something to say, something to add, something to improve the system are pushed out because people don’t like what they don’t know.

Sixx:A.M. has been making headlines recently, asking YouTube to be “fair” to artists when it comes to compensation, as the video streaming giant pays less than all other major music distributors.

Who knows where my musical or writing talents will take me. I’m willing to test the waters, but from the look of things, it’s gonna be pretty rough out there. But that’s life I guess. At least I’ll always have my loved ones, my friends, and music. Because in the end, it’s about the moments you’ve experienced with who and what you care about that matters the most.