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.

Me Too?

By Joshua Blake

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In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assault allegations by the likes of Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette and Gwyneth Paltrow and numerous other women, a firestorm of stories about other’s experiences in their own lives has surfaced with the hashtag MeToo

 

Weinstein admits he has a problem and that he wants to better himself – yet it seems that his willful ignorance was the only thing keeping him from making such a statement in the first place.

 

There’s been reports of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon knowing of Weinstein’s behaviour and keeping it hush-hush. There’s been people questioning why these Hollywood actresses waited so long to speak up. There’s political pundits asking what will the Democrats do about their relationship to Harvey Weinstein.

 

These are talking points that miss the actual talking point – or lack thereof. Sexual assault and harassment are difficult to talk about, and they should be difficult to talk about.

 

I saw tens-of-thousands of tweets and posts carrying the #MeToo banner, and I had this knee-jerk reaction against it. Not because of others will power, but of my own.

 

At the same time, I felt an amazing amount of pride and safety knowing that others are brave enough to share those two words. Not strong enough, but brave enough. Something like this isn’t about strength because heinous acts like these rob you of your strength.

 

However, that having been said, I have a story of my own. It’s a story that seems like something the best fiction writers come up with.

 

I’ve been afraid to talk about this for the fear it will cause those closest to me immeasurable pain, anger and sadness. Although this may also affect those farthest from me, and for that, I’m sorry.

 

I also feel like my experience isn’t worthy of such a title. Me too? How so? I always thought of sexual assault or harassment as physically violent – I never knew it could be so subtle-y applied to any situation.

 

And because of that, I still have problems identifying what happened to me. I don’t know how to speak up about it to this day. I’m no longer plagued by nightmares or pondering why this happened, but it’s left a scar since.

 

_____

 

I recall what happened nearly three years ago as vividly as I recall what happened last night. I was at a party and I sat down with a girl, a silver-tongued devil.

We were talking about music – the Australian band Tonight Alive released their second album – and I mentioned a song that made me reminisce about a time long gone. Little did I know that I opened myself up to a sharp bite I wouldn’t be able to escape from.

Now that I let my guard down, this silver-tongued soothsayer knew exactly how to play me, catering to my apparent need for a closeness to intimacy. I knew then there’s no intimacy to casual sex, but I didn’t realize how fooled I was until after our physical act of righteousness.

 

Well, for her it was righteous.

 

When you seduce the broken spirit of a depressed, anxiety ridden 20-year-old at what could go wrong?

 

At the time, my friends didn’t even know how to respond to the benign scenario. Some told me to accept it and move on. Others thought it seemed enjoyable. What followed the months after that night were feelings of guilt and sorrow, pain and suffering, insanity and malice.

I’d cry myself to sleep numerous times a week wishing for someone to save me, while having flashbacks of her legs around my waist, her breathing – her hands pulling the hair on the back of my head – that kiss on my neck that overtook my fears at that moment and turned it into blind passion.

I whispered for her to follow me to which we found ourselves at a point of no return. I asked if she was clean, to which she nodded in confirmation. I didn’t have protection, and I didn’t bother to ask. I didn’t know how to say no, or even ask if she had any, so I let her straddle herself atop my lap as she thrusted her hips and removed her shirt.

And to think that this moment started hours earlier with her sitting inches from me giggling at every word I spoke.  Although I know one thing’s for certain: you never forget your first.

It all still feels like as if it were a dream – a concoction of a teenage boy’s ultimate fantasy – only to be acted out in reality, without all of the “accomplished feelings” and high-fives from your bros. I think I always knew something was going to happen that night – she was flirting like a high-school girl with an engorged crush on the dark, mysterious guy who always sat alone at lunch. Only, she was no school girl, and I don’t eat lunch.

She brought out my fears and hopes all in an equal fashion. She enveloped my desire to feel normal – and normal I had felt – up until the point where my sudden attack of conscious decided to guilt me into fault for what ensued between two morbidly, sad lovers.

 

So, as any story goes, now what?

 

I managed to graduate from my community college and ended up at my state university four months later – to which I withdrew medically from my only semester.

I met with a counselor named Lisa for every week during that semester. The Devil was the source of my fear, my worries. Walking around campus feeling isolated from society, from friends and family and having no self worth, make life pretty unlivable. I hated her. She took something from me I still can’t get back: losing myself to someone whom I love for the first time.

I felt unwanted by everyone and everything. I felt like a freak undeserving of love and affection because of my disability. One day, Lisa asked me if I were a woman if that succubus were a man, would that change the meaning of what happened between us. I said maybe, but I really meant yes. I went through with my actions that night because I was too afraid to say “No.” I thought she’d judge me, too, if I didn’t give in to her advances.

In an odd twist of fate however, that night’s allowed me to reconnect with others and with myself. Fast forward a year after I withdrew, and I met a girl online named Anette. Psychiatry has become my best friend, and I understand my importance to others now. Anette has become my saving grace and without her love, I’d be a body with no shadow.

Anette helped convince me to return to school, and I’ve been back for almost a year-and-a-half. After this current semester, I’ll have been back for two years.

I felt like the most useless life form on this planet for nearly two years, and if I hadn’t met Anette, I don’t like to imagine where I’d be. That scares me too much.

But things do get better – eventually. It just a matter of when and how, not one or the other.