Life Choice: Changing My Wills

•April 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

For the past couple years, I felt like I said a lot of things.

I had these ideas. I had ideas of who I wanted to be, of things I wanted to accomplish, of things I could accomplish. I was going to write, I was going to draw, I was going to do comedy, and I was going to go back to school. Well, it took a life-altering event, but some of those statements finally could be followed through. I went through a relationship split, and thought that it was, perhaps, time to get my life together. I was no innocent party in the situation, and it was clear to me that changes needed to be made.

When the split happened, the future remained ambiguous. I had moved out of our apartment, but we never clearly established what was going to happen. I think we both realized things needed to change, but in my case I wasn’t entirely sure that a permanent break was on the horizon. I did have a lot to work on, and it was clear I wasn’t offering much in the way of support emotionally, physically, or financially. I started working on that immediately, if not just to get myself back to the city…back to my apartment, our cats, her…back to life.

Long story made short, it was not in the cards and the relationship ended.

So, changes!

I had moved out, so right away that was a change I had to deal with that had no alternative. Because of the move, I had to let go of city life, basically. There was no way I’d be able to come out to the city as much as current activities and friendships demanded, and one of the things I knew about my friends was city folk don’t like coming out to the suburbs. I had to let everyone know what was going on, and I also had to be prepared to cut ties with certain  groups. As I blogged about before, I had to sever my connection with the comedy world.

Now, I was in the suburbs and needed to fix things. In the beginning, I foolishly thought I could fix everything in a hurry and the relationship would be renewed. I say foolish, but looking back I realized it was natural for me to want that at the time; I was barely functioning and wanted something to cling to. That, obviously, was not in the cards, either. It was silly for me to assume that I could fix everything at once; my issues had issues and the relationship was done. It took a couple months, but it sunk in.

What to fix?

School. School was an immediate concern. Since my mom’s death in 2005, I had become numb to the importance of school; grades, attendance, and everything seemed meaningless and not worth my time.  I dove into jobs and comedy and drinking with friends since that seemed to make me feel better. Now, I was without comedy and without a job prospect…and I knew sitting around drinking with friends was a terrible idea.

So, I started school again at a local community college in order to boost my GPA, and enrolled in a fantastic art college. Once there, I just simply…was there. I fell into the routine of not caring. I made the mistake of trying to accomplish everything I wanted at once. After school, I had a lot of goals I needed to work towards.

My goals, at the end of my breakup:

  1. Get back into school and excel.
  2. Work out constantly.
  3. Eat healthy.
  4. Find a creative outlet.
  5. Seek therapy and benefit.
  6. Find a part-time job.
  7. Cut back on drinking.
  8. Stop smoking.

As you can see, I did get some of those started; I was, however, trying to complete all of them at once, which was terrible. Out of eight goals, I was in the process of three of them (since I ate junk, number 3 doesn’t count). It took about six months to figure this out, along with intermittent therapy sessions. I started realizing that changes were supposed to come when I was ready, and I wasn’t ready. I was still hurt, and still incomplete. I needed to wean myself off things; trying to cut things out resulted in lashing out and engaging in worse behavior. For instance, not smoking for a while meant the next time I got drunk I would smoke half a pack. Not drinking meant I would black out the next time. Eating healthy would mean I would grab fast food over the weekend.

It wasn’t until a year ago that I became healthy enough to begin my healing process. I used to look back on the months after my relationship ended and view them as time wasted, but now I realize it was part of my grieving process. It wasn’t healthy by any means, but it was what worked for me. I realized that I could be the guy that followed through on his word; I wasn’t going to say I would do things…I was going to do them, damn it. April of last year kicked everything off with the quitting of smoking. Since then, let’s review that initial list, with additional information:

  1. Get back into school and excel. I have definitely been taking school more seriously this semester.
  2. Work out constantly. The constantly is more like frequently, but I feel confident in my routine.
  3. Eat healthy. I still struggle with this, but it’s become easier with the exclusion of alcohol and soda.
  4. Find a creative outlet. I have a lot of things on my plate right now, and it’s exciting as hell.
  5. Seek therapy and benefit. Without therapy, I don’t think I’d be in a healthy place.
  6. Find a part-time job. Bartending/serving!
  7. Cut back on drinking. How about quitting? BOOM.
  8. Quit smoking. Over a year strong.

It took a long time, and did not all happen at once, but I am in a healthy place and I want to stay that way. Future posts will go into detail as to each step I took. I’m just glad I became the man I want to be. Although I’m a man picking up the pieces of his life, I am a man doing so and moving forward. I can’t sit back anymore, numb and confused and full of self-pity. Bad things happened. Now, I have to make sure my life turns into one that pursues happiness instead of one that sits back and gripes.

“A man must stand. Should he be the first to stand, or the last, a man must stand. And if that man is the only man, that man must stand alone.”

Only I can change my life.

I am the only me there is.

I must stand.

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My Annoying Triggers: Part One

•April 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been in school-appointed therapy on and off for about two years now. The first year was a bit of a waste, but it wasn’t that the sessions were sub-par or unwanted; I think I wasn’t in a healthy enough place to fully open up, and I ended up postponing or cancelling many of my appointments. I was aimless, and didn’t really fully understand my feelings or what was going on under the surface. The second year was amazing, and I believe I really made some progress…forward movement. I got my life on track.

That being said, therapy did offer some fun in between the serious stuff. For instance, when my therapist suggested I make a list of triggers.

Now, what she meant by triggers are things in my life that cause me to be upset or to revert back into depression. Triggers stall forward movement. I do have a list of these things, and have been doing well in avoiding them. [/serious]

I opted to also make a list of funny triggers…triggers that annoy me, but don’t have a largely negative impact on me.

1. Elderly Drivers

I’m going to be that guy, and I don’t care. This year alone, I’ve had four close calls…one of which actually had me make an unnecessary swerve into a driveway in order to avoid being hit. The drivers? All elderly. It sounds mean, and sounds like a sweeping generalization. In all fairness it is, but until I’m involved with any close calls with someone who isn’t a senior citizen this year, the percent of cars that almost hit me and were driven by the elderly is 100 percent. 4/4. That’s a perfect record.

It’s just difficult to not feel this way, but it’s scary and puts me in a state of anxiety; I fear for my life and my car. I take great joy in driving; it’s one of the things that relaxes me the most. I haven’t been able to do it so much now that gas is so expensive, so when I do get to go out I relish the experience.

Then, I’m nearly up on the curb because the old guy in the left lane [who shouldn’t even be in the left lane] has drifted over to the right. I would yell, but what would be the point? He can barely see over the steering wheel, and how stupid am I if I make him turn to look at me? He’s already drifting over into my lane and he’s looking forward.

I should also add that the worst damage ever done to a car I drove was my family’s 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix. The entire paneling on the left side was smashed; the driver’s door and read driver’s side door could not be opened. the damage was caused by a 75-year-old woman.

My car was parked.

Apparently, my car came out of nowhere.

2. Guys With Neckbeards

Neckbeards a.k.a. the Pube Scarf

Fellas. Really?

For those blissfully ignorant of the situation, neck beards are facial hair growth that exists only under the jawline. A friend of mine once commented that neckbeards are the comb-over of facial hair. It seems to me that the only men that grow neckbeards are men incapable of growing respectable facial hair. My thoughts, gents, is that if you can’t do it don’t do it at all.

Neckbeards tell a story, and the story is:

  1. You can’t grow a real beard.
  2. You are lazy and have no clear grasp of hygiene.

This may sound a bit conceited coming from a guy with a full beard, but trust me…if i couldn’t grow it, I wouldn’t. Heck, when I was younger I didn’t try growing out a full beard because my mustache was not up to code.

Gentlemen, the thing about neckbeards is that no one likes them. It is never cool to have a neckbeard. Neckbeards are not attractive. Do you think people want to snuggle up to a neckbeard, or run their fingers through it?  The answer is a resounding no.

Out of all the facial hair styles, neckbeards look the most like pubes. And that is so so gross.

Sidenote: I should include “fat guys who wear skinny jeans” in this category, as the majority of neckbeards I’ve seen also are guilty of this violation. Come on, guys. Skinny jeans? Wearing something with the word “skinny” in it doesn’t change the fact that you’re fat. Take it from a bigger dude; if you have to sit down to put on your pants, get new pants.

3. John Mellencamp’s “R-O-C-K in the U.S.A.”

This song just.

I can’t.

This song makes me “River Tam” everywhere. When I hear it, I must turn it off. If I can’t turn it off, I must get away or people will get hurt.

Damn you, John Mellencamp. Damn you.

4. Anything Beatles-related

I’m not a fan of the Beatles. I understand what they did for the music industry, and I fully acknowledge that they are well-liked by darn near everyone. I, however, don’t see the appeal. I don’t like their music. I dislike the sound of it.

More troublesome to me than the band is the following…the fans. I get into more fights about the Beatles with people than any other topic. In my life, the Beatles are more of a hot button than religions, politics, and human rights rolled into one. Getting into arguments about this goddamn band has made me leave birthday parties and lost friends. The arguments are insane.

“You can’t hate all of their music. They have so many songs. I bet you like one.” No. I don’t. Because you are Beatles fan number 948 to say that to me in my life, and I have heard every damn song the Beatles have put out because your predecessors have shown all of them to me.

After arguing about the Beatles for nearly an hour at a party, one person actually said to me, “You need to grow up.” Granted, that person was very drunk at the time, and later apologized. Still, the fact that my dislike of the Beatles actually makes me look childish or immature or uncultured in the eyes of Beatles’ fans just makes me shake my head.

6. People Who Chew With Their Mouths Open/Breathe Through Their Mouths While Eating

Like this, but with motion.

It’s disgusting. If they’re breathing is so labored that they have to stop chewing in order to take a breath, something is wrong. They need to asses their situation. A person like this can’t be that busy if they’re sitting in a cafe; yet, they sits there with fists clenched while they chew their food through gasping breaths.

Calm down, man. Whatever you’re heading to will still be there. If you were going to be so late, you’d be wolfing down that turkey pesto while you walked.

Comedy In My Life

•April 16, 2012 • 2 Comments

I need humor in my life.

It’s also essential I create humor in my life.

I’m a life-long goofball, and I don’t feel myself if I don’t have an outlet that will help me in that regard. I need to be able to be funny. The many relationships in my life do help, but after being involved in comedy since 2002 I need more.

I can’t speak for any other comedians, but for me comedy is a drug. If you don’t feed the habit, you go into withdrawal.

…probably not the most positive analogy, but bear with me.

I got involved in comedy and acting in high school, and I always wanted to give it a try. It took a catalyst for me to finally stop wondering and start doing. A friend was involved in the musicals and plays at school, and our school even had an improv group. I mentioned that it might be fun, and my friend uttered these magical words:

You? Act?! You couldn’t act!

That’s honestly all it took. I have a bit of a jerky streak that way, I suppose. You tell me I can’t do something, and I have to do it and shove it in your face. So, I joined the improv group and auditioned for the musicals and plays. I went from Background Guy #2 my junior year to the lead in the spring play my senior year. I had the bug.

So, high school was over, and now I was in college. I was definitely scared and wanted to make sure class came first, so I didn’t even check what extra-curriculars were offered. As college goes, you meet new people and strike up new friendships. Luckily for me, I met a cute girl and we began dating. One night, I noticed there was an improv show in her dorm, so we went. I lagged behind to find out more information, and once again the bug took hold.

Since 2003, I’ve been a part of comedy. It was a huge part of my life, and some of the most important people in my life were met through comedy. It’s a way of life. College comedy was like being in a band; you played a venue [in my case, it was the same place every Monday night], you spend your nights with the same people you come to call family, and you travel together. It’s a powerful thing. I’ve done improv, sketch, and some ill-fated stand-up. Once you’re in it, it would take a life-altering event to get out.

Unfortunately, a life-altering event did happen, and I cut ties with the comedy world in 2010.

What I said about comedy being a lifestyle is true. What I said about calling fellow comedians family is true. You live and breathe comedy, and that’s all that surrounds you. So, unfortunately, with my life changed and with my reluctant retreat to the suburbs, I lost touch with the comedy world and with fellow comedians. We no longer spoke as much. It’s not their fault and it’s not mine; it’s honestly the way the life is. You have a lot of buddies in comedy…a lot of acquaintances. When you’re not performing or going to shows, you don’t exist in that life.

I didn’t perform for a long time, and it hurt.

Recently, however, I was told of an audition for a play. Now, the last time I was in a play was in 2003…since then, the most lines I memorized at a time was well under 40. My friend insisted I try out, and I felt the familiar itch. There was also the feeling of complete dread. I haven’t done this in a long time! I haven’t had an improv scene in years! I’d be auditioning with people who were taking improv classes at various places all over Chicago, and I haven’t had one professional class! I was terrified.

I did well, though. I got a part.

It’s a catharsis. It’s just. I’m thankful, I’m relieved, I’m happy.

I’m proud. I spent the last two years in that stopped time, focusing on the negative. I had convinced myself that things weren’t happening because I wasn’t worthwhile; I wasn’t performing because I wasn’t any good. It took a lot of time, a lot of self-realization, friends, family, and therapy for me to figure it out…but I can perform.

am good. I wouldn’t be in this production otherwise.

Am I still scared? Absolutely. It’s a healthy fear, though…one that drives me to perform better and support my cast. Stronger than that fear is the pure happiness I get from being able to do this again.

Comedy is a hell of a drug.

Life Choice: Sobriety and St. Patrick’s Day

•April 10, 2012 • 1 Comment

It’s hard to describe my choice of sobriety. I did not have any complications with the law, and I did not put myself in a position of danger. I will say this: on nights when I did choose to drink, there are nights I had trouble cutting myself off. Some nights, it wasn’t clear who was coming to the party: two-drink me or many-drink me. I started getting the feeling that drinking was becoming a part of my personality; if I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t me.

That is a terrible thought one should have.

I wasn’t planning my week around drinking, but I found myself making plans with certain friends and saying to myself, “Tomorrow is going to hurt.” An automatic response! I’m hanging out with [friend], so obviously I’m going to drink excessively and feel like complete shit Saturday. It became more and more apparent to me that this behavior was unhealthy, but it wasn’t really until St. Patrick’s Day 2012 that I made up my mind.

St. Patrick’s Day is a source of contention among the Irish Catholics [and I should note I grew up as such, but have been an atheist since 2000]. For some, it’s a fantastic day of the year and should be celebrated loudly and proudly with family and friends. It’s time to bust out the green attire, throw on a goofy hat, and go see the parade and the river downtown. It’s a holiday of excessive drinking and ruckus behavior. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

I hate this holiday. For a few reasons.

St. Patrick’s Day has become less of a celebration of Irish culture and the celebration of Irish heritage, and more about the negative stereotypes associated with the Irish. St. Patrick’s Day gives people an excuse to get hammered, be jerks, and cause fights. It brings out the ugly in people, and therefore tarnishes the image of the Irish American. All around Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, people are drinking and puking and fighting and crying all because they think this is what you have to do on St. Patrick’s Day.

Even when attending U of I in Champaign, an “unofficial” St. Patrick’s holiday was created by the bar owners because the actual holiday fell on Spring Break. Working at a prominent campus bar for two years, I witnessed this event on the front lines, so to speak. Completely sober, I watched people destroy themselves. I got kicked, punched, spit on, shoved, and verbally berated by people who just wanted to show their “Irish spirit”. It’s become a destructive and negative holiday, and it is that way because people think it’s what happens on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!” No.

You’re acting like a jerk, your mouth is stained green, and all you’re doing is promoting a stereotype. Being Irish is not about drinking and fighting and wearing green; being Irish, or being any heritage, is about respecting where you came from! It’s about traditions and ideals. It’s about your family. It’s about respecting that history, and respecting yourself. Respect.

I realize my opinion of St. Patrick’s Day may not be a shared one; I know for certain my opinion is not shared with my close friends, or even my family. I understand that the holiday will continue to be what it is. It’s why I choose simply to shut myself off from it, and stay indoors. I didn’t even want to discuss it in this much depth, but it applies to my decision to not drink.

This year’s St. Patrick’s Day, I did decide to stay home and not venture anywhere near the city or go out to a bar with friends. The thought of so many getting so drunk just made my stomach turn. Instead, I got in touch with a friend of mine and suggested we grill in the suburbs. She agreed, and I planned to meet her at the train station blocks from my house.

When I went to pick her up, I was shocked at the number of people on the train. It was packed like the Blue Line is at 8 am, and this was a 5 pm Metra train! I have never seen anything like it, not even for Cubs games. The whole train was a sea of green; everyone looked tired, sick, angry, sad, or a combination of those. As we walked back to my house, my friend told me she witnessed two people throwing up on the platform as she waited for a train. The more we talked about the holiday and previous St. Patrick’s Days before, I realized my decision was not a passing one. I wasn’t just thinking, Maybe I’ll take a break for a little bit. I wanted to be done. For a long time.

So far, it’s worked. I hadn’t drank for a week before St. Patrick’s Day, and I haven’t drank since. I have gone out as a designated driver, and that’s done nothing but cement my stance. I watched people drink, go overboard, and then heard of the fallout the next day. I watched, two weeks in a row, a friend make two separate people cry while all were heavily intoxicated. I watched people fall, break furniture, and hurt themselves. Watching this completely sober is difficult, and it’s honestly life-altering. When drunk, it’s hard to focus on more than one thing; while sober, I am focusing on everything. I’m trying to stop a friend from crying, I’m getting someone else water, I’m stopping an argument, I’m figuring out transportation plans. It’s exhausting, and scary.

It’s even scarier because I’m starting to realize that I can’t hang out with certain groups of friends if all they’re doing is drinking heavily. There are hangouts with the sole purpose of sitting around and drinking; if I’m not drinking, why am I there? It’s awkward for everyone; not only am I not drinking and am cut off from the group’s main activity, but I keep getting asked why I’m not drinking, and if I could have just one.  It’s difficult, for all involved, when a member of a group of drinkers stops being one. I’m not the guy who likes to chug anymore. I’m not a formidable beer pong competitor. I’m not the loud guy with the obnoxious drunk laugh, and I’m not the friend who passes out and snores like a dinosaur on your couch.

I’ve lost my identity to some people in my life, and I realize that. I just hope I can make up for it with actual positive aspects of my personality. It might not work and, sadly, I will lose many friendships keeping with this course of action. After telling a friend of mine my decision she responded, “You know, there’s more to life than alcohol.” Thinking about it, though, alcohol has been a major part of many friendships and relationships. To cut that out of my life will test how strong these relationships truly are. It’s scary, it’s sad, and it’s going to be difficult.

But it’s important.

The End of That Last Part.

•April 10, 2012 • 1 Comment

I decided to finally start this blog, based on the momentum achieved through serious life changes. I’m finding it necessary to write about this sort of thing, since it’s ideal for one to be in touch with one’s self. You can’t sit around and wait for life to happen; in my case, I can’t sit around and wait until I have everything figured out. That just won’t happen. The best I can do is figure things out when they come to me, and…by writing them down…better understand myself and my thoughts.

I can forget myself if I don’t pay attention.

I honestly thought about blogging many times. The ideas were all different and, in the end, would have had a brief existence on the internet before I took them down. One idea had me writing about my involvement in the bar and entertainment industry, and the supposed seedy underbelly. That blog would have lasted three posts; how often could I write about bar fights and complain about the hours?

A lot of these blog ideas made me sound like a jaded asshole with a bone to pick. I don’t want to be that guy. This blog is supposed to be about me, to help me and assist me through times that don’t seem so structured and easy to understand. I could write a sarcastic blog and be cynically humorous, but that’s not what I want this to be.

Instead, I’m going to write about positive things. I want to write about things I’m doing, things I’m seeing, things I’m hearing. Things I’m changing in my life, for the better. This needs to be genuine…an actual journal containing real thoughts and emotions. Sure, humor will seep in to every post, but the important part is I’ll be figuring things out.

I named my first blog “The End of That Last Part.” I want to name it that for lots of reasons.  It means that I’m letting go of the past; I’m not trying to forget it or block it out, but I have to realize that moving forward means acceptance…acceptance of the past and the inevitability of change. I can’t keep living in the past if I’m to make positive changes and secure a better future. This forward movement will facilitate the moving away from regrets, past transgressions, and “what-ifs.” Consider this movement the first steps towards my true rehabilitation.

I don’t want to be that version of me anymore. That version of me blocked out how he felt in the present, and instead focused on his pain from the past. He used it as a crutch, even as a part of his personality. He was unhealthy in many choices in his life. He was selfless at the wrong times, and selfish at the wrong times. He was a jerk. He was someone who couldn’t be counted on.

I intend to leave that version of me in the dust. In the past.

With the start of this blog, the following forward movements have begun or have been in motion:

  1. I have begun eating healthier.
  2. I will be working out 4 or more days out of the week.
  3. Since mid-April of 2011, I have not smoked any cigarettes.
  4. Since mid-March of 2012, I have stopped drinking alcohol of any sort.

More will come, I am sure, but this seems like a good list with which to start. More blogs will come explaining my choices in these matters, and will hopefully give myself [and you] an insight into my thoughts, actions and feelings.

This is going to be fun.

Mostly. :)

Wrapping up, I’d like to end with a favorite quote:

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” -T.S. Eliot

It’s an accurate quote, especially when considering myself in the past. I ran as much as I could from reality, using any means necessary. It’s time for reality. A lot of it.