Weak weeds, steady seeds, and a heap of happiness to follow.

This past weekend, I went to HARD Day of the Dead (Hard is the production company) and yes, it’s a rave concert. 

And, I have to tell you all about this transcending moment I experienced…

In this moment, I was dancing like there was no tomorrow. 

In this moment, I was singing like nobody could hear me. 

And in this moment, I looked towards the sky…

And in that subtle pause, I felt an overwhelming, unbelievably compelling, incomparable sense of gratitude.

Gratitude for the job I havewho cares if it takes up a ridiculous amount of time? It’s a job!

Gratitude for the parents I’ve been given. Who cares if they annoy me with their over-educated pieces of advice. I have two individuals whom I admire more than any other adult I’ve ever met, and I’m fortunate enough to call those people MY PARENTS. I’m fortunate enough to be the child of two of the most warm, hard-working and considerate people I’ve ever encountered in my life. 

I felt gratitude for the school I go to. Sure, sometimes the work load makes me want to throw myself off the top story of the U.S. Bank building in Los Angeles. However, I’m attending one of the most prestigious universities on the West Coast, and if working my ass till the tailbone shows is what it takes to stay here, then so be it

I felt a transcending sense of gratitude for the Lord, and the role he has played in keeping me warm in my struggles, cold in my sins, and passionate in my pursuits

Finally, I felt an overwhelming gratitude for the people dancing next to me. The incredible friends I’ve come to call my family. The supportive team that surrounds me. A team of people who love me for my weirdness. Who love me for my flaws. Who love me for who I am, and in turn not only allow me to continue to progress towards my dreams, but clear the path and push me through the gaps on the way there. 

And I offer a deep, heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you who are reading this. For caring what I have to say. For taking interest in my journey, and supporting that which I feel the need to express. It is the helping hand of people like you who have brought me to where I am today, and will undoubtably continue to contribute to my success. 

It’s time I choose to permanently live with an attitude of gratitude. To love the life I live, so that I may live the life I love

I encourage you to think about what you’re grateful for, and allow that feeling of warmth to overtake you. In the end you may find yourself in the same position as me… (leaving your mother a voicemail of tearing eyes and a thankful heart)

Because, in short, as a good friend once told me:

“Life is a garden, and your thoughts are the seeds – you can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.”

So, to translate into my own words – 

Break out the weedwacker and break out the seeds, water those flowers and pull those DAMN WEEDS.

 

Unending love to you all,

Remington

Immersion Experience (Draft 1) II “The Circular Problem of a Square Society”

II   I N T R O D U C T I O N   II

I know this may come as a shocker, but I’ve managed to change my mind when it comes to my topic for the immersion experience. Why? Because, in all honesty, the idea of evaluating freedom from technology is one of interest to me, but not one which sparks a particular sense of self-discovery or insight which is, in fact, the point of this project… is it not? Not to mention, the reality of the matter is that the absence of technological connectivity is also the absence of good grades in the case of a collegiate education. With so much of my work incorporating the use of the internet and the various news outlets included therein, its essential that I employ this technology to continue academic excellence in my schooling. With all this being said, it’s time I unveil my new Immersion Experience: the real one. However, a great quote I once heard said, “in order to know where we’re going, we must first look towards that from which we came.” So, here’s a little bit of background knowledge on the subject at hand.

Here’s the thing: I’m an extremely theatrical person. Always have been, and most likely always will be. It’s engrained within the very being of who I am. It’s what has caused me to act my entire life, and it’s oftentimes one of the favored characteristics about me by my peers. However, as often is the case, this is a proverbial double-edged sword of a trait, and many times leads to a misinterpretation of who I am as a person. As uncomfortable as I once found broaching the subject of this misinterpretation, I now find little displacement in acknowledging the fact that, plain and simple, people often times believe me to be homosexual. Why? Because, as one of my closest friends once stated in consoling me on the subject, “people feel the need to label and categorize things in this world. Especially things or people that have characteristics unfamiliar to them”. I suppose this is true in that people seek comfort in that which they find familiarity, and I’m not really the “normal” type of personality. I’m energetic, theatrical, and some may refer to my actions as occasionally “flamboyant”. It also doesn’t help that I have a voice to match my personality, and oftentimes an increase in pitch accompanies an increase in energy, reducing the inherent masculinity within my vocal projections. One thing I’ve always found odd, however, is how the opinions of those I befriend quickly change. This is exemplified by the simple truth that my late girlfriend of a year and a half initially wasn’t sure of my orientation when she first met me. In fact, this has been the start of many of my friendships. “Well I obviously knew after we started hanging out,” they often say, “but at the beginning – yeah, I wasn’t sure.” And, in all truthfulness, I applaud their honesty.

It’s important to note that while I’m comfortable admitting this presiding truth about my personality and the external perceptions which seem to accompany it, I am nonetheless displeased by these false-ideas about my orientation. It is not that I have a shame associated with the idea of homosexuality, rather it’s a disdain for false associations or stereotypes with regard to my character. I sense I’m not alone in this displeasure, and I personally feel it normal to have antipathy with those who attempt to categorize you based upon your characteristics and the qualities of your persona with the intent to label you with a description which oftentimes holds no validity or truth in the context of your character or, in my case, personal identity.

What I wanted to attempt to accomplish in my immersion experience is some self-definition and affirmation of my personal beliefs. We all try so hard to fit into the cookie-cutter identity which society offers us, but I’ve never been one to undertake that task. So, as a result, I am going to immerse myself in the world of societal pressure, and attempt to change my personal traits to better suit the environment which surrounds me. I wish to embark upon this journey in an effort to shed light and understanding on those who do so because they have no other choice. Millions of members of my generation attempt to satiate the status quo and fit in to what others deem ‘normal’ and ‘cool’. While I myself may not be gay, it will be interesting to see how the perceptions and attitudes of those I encounter change based upon a difference in my demeanor and a lessoning of the potentially ‘confusing’ traits I exhibit. How? I’m going to deepen my voice. I’m going to tone down on my loud and extravagant tendency of speaking. I’m essentially, to offer a brief description, going to take away all the personality traits which separate me from a ‘normal guy’ and replace them with those which are found acceptable by society. In the meantime, I’m going to relish in an acting project which ignites the creativity within me, and I’m going a adopt this new personal-identity for a seven day period. Throughout the process, I will offer insights into the discoveries I make, the encounters I have, and the reactions I witness. I will also attempt to offer anecdotes of my personal journey through this process and the lessons I learn from this project.

Additionally, I’m going to title my project “The Circular Problem of a Square Society”, which refers to the circular (or never-ending) problem of finding self-validity and confidence in your individuality while surrounded by a society which places emphasis on square (cookie-cutter) living, predicating what’s “cool” instead of what’s “you”. This guide will attempt to analyze the effect it has on an individual to not live to their potential, and examine the important components of building a life which not only allows for personal expression, but a sense of freedom in doing so. Today, I began this experiment and, I must say, the novelty of it should be interesting, let alone the difficulty.

Wish me luck…

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II   D A Y # 2   II

What was interesting about today wasn’t necessarily even the observations I encountered, rather it was the difficulty of sticking to my newly-born role. You rarely realize how inherent many personality traits about yourself are engrained within the very definition of your being, and breaking away from those parts of your identity can prove awfully difficult at first. I have been forced to bring my good friends into the project, in an effort to employ them with the support of my continued experience. It is their job to do the following:

  • Nudge me whenever I say something that isn’t particularly ‘normal’ for someone to say.
  • Nudge me whenever my voice goes high in the context of a conversation.
  • Nudge me whenever I break character and return to “regular Remington”

The only problem? Not many nudges occurred today. But the reason for this absence of realignment wasn’t necessarily that it wasn’t needed (I’m positive at times it was), instead I came to find that my friends didn’t nudge me because they no longer find particular things I say to be abnormal – no, they see these as just as much part of me as I do. My voice? To them it doesn’t sound high pitched at any point, because it has become what they are used to, it has become their frame of reference when interacting with me. As my good friend Taryn put it, “Rem, we don’t see things you do as ‘weird’ or ‘out of place’ and we sure as hell don’t ever think your voice sounds different, because thats just you. That’s the you we love and thats the you we care about.” What was perhaps most interesting about today was my friends reactions to my newly-found social conformity.

  • “I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel like you. Honestly… It’s not as fun.” – Devon Norjean, Senior, Roommate
  • “It’s different. Like, I keep waiting for the outbursts and they don’t come. To me it just seems like you’re super tired.” – Ethan McCallum, Junior, Close Friend
  • “Stoooooop. Talk to me. Come back. This project is retarded I like you more when you’re normal.” – Alex Ghallegher, Sophomore, Close Friend
  • “What the fuck is wrong with you?” – Taryn Ashlen, Junior, Best Friend

Well, it’s become clear today that my friends aren’t exactly fond of my conformity, however the same could be said of those whom know little about me. I found that fewer people approached me with the yearning for engagement, and I didn’t make new acquaintances nearly as quickly as I have in the past. People seemed hesitant to engage in conversation with me. Ironic, considering the purpose of my immersion experience is to test if the opposite is true.

To label today with a topic of discovery, it would be that of friendship. I am learning that friends are there when nobody else is, ready to accept whatever weird traits you may possess. Why? Because they already have. There’s a photo which hangs on the wall of the den in my home in Oregon which reads, “a true friend is someone who knows everything there is to know about you – and loves you just the same.” The philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.” Yes, the importance of these close relationships cannot be denied, and has even been solidified by psychology experts at the Gallup Organization, which conducted a study on the powerful effects of friendship. In a book titled Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without the Gallup Organization’s director, Tom Rath, believes that we are all aware of the value of friendship especially during difficult times. In his book, Rath makes the point that if you ask people why they became homeless, why their marriage failed or why they overeat, they often say it is because of the poor quality, or nonexistence, of friendships. They feel outcast or unloved.

The book also reviewed some statistical findings of Rath’s research group, such as that if your best friend eats healthily, you are five times more likely to have a healthy diet yourself. Married people say friendship is more than five times as important as physical intimacy within marriage. Those who say they have no real friends at work have only a one in 12 chance of feeling engaged in their job. Conversely, if you have a “best friend at work”, you are seven times more likely to feel engaged in your job.

Now, is it possible that the lack of true friendships within my generation has built this destabilized environment of social pleasing? Let’s be honest, friendship offers solidarity to our traits. We are all ten-times more uncomfortable when doing something awkward in front of a group alone as we would if we were accompanied by close friends to share and disseminate the tension with. We all seek those which keep us strong, but when the importance of these essential friendships is lost on a generation with a flakey tendency and disregard for close personal relationships, what basis is built for supporting the unique and abnormal individual traits we all inhabit. This immersion experience has forced my recognition that the reason for which I am able to be my odd, crazy self is because I have a strong support base of those who care about me and support my endeavors, which empowers me to be myself and find comfort in my own skin. Why? Because, frankly, if you don’t like me – there are plenty of people who do, so feel free to disregard my actions and continue with your own life. There’s so much freedom in no longer being bound to the societal trends of this culture, and I would encourage anyone who’s reading this to look at the individuals you surround yourself with, and ask yourself one simple question…

Do these people endorse my personal expression, and do I find comfort in who I am when I’m around them? If the answer’s no, then its time to bail ship and catch some new fish.

Sources

http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-importance-of-friendship/0001381

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II   D A Y # 3   II

The roots are where it finds a start, the roots are where it comes to an end,

the roots are the source of the giant tree, which lives because of the water they send. 

You cannot see these roots, they’re deep beneath the ground,

Yet despite the absence of their appearance, the importance of roots resound. 

We must look towards the roots of our own, in the tree of life we live,

we must look towards the roots we’ve grown, and the water which they give. 

I wrote this poem to illustrate a point – that while you may not think, realize, acknowledge or consider it, your history plays a large role in the person you are today. As I was continuing my experiment today, I found myself spending a large amount of time in the library. This period of silence gave birth to thoughts of consideration in which I pondered the ‘roots’ of my life. What role did they play? I realized that as a result of living in a home which gave me the freedom to act in a manner which brought me the most happiness, I’ve never been forced to change the foundation of my identity because of my parents or siblings. I am a product of the childhood which shaped me, and all-too-often people forget what a magnanimous role this instrumental process plays in our life. This is the time when you learn how to interact with others and make friends. During these developmental years as your proverbial roots grow out this is also the time in which we begin to develop self-consciousness associated with external perceptions and opinions. For example, a three-year-old will yell, laugh and play at their own concern with little worry for what others may think. They will be gladly coddled by their parents and joyfully yelp at an intriguing situation. A ten-year-old, on the other hand, resents overlooking signs of affection displayed by parents and wishes to be the “cool” kid in the class.

My immersion experiment has continued and it has today forced my focus upon this theme of roots and the roll they play in our lives. Then, I began to wonder… perhaps we aren’t giving our children enough time to develop these fundamental roots which lay foundational strength which resounds for the rest of our lives. What if we aren’t preserving this monumental and importunate time period of self-validity and affirmation due to the vast hyper-sexualization of society? This is exemplified by a recent survey for the review into the commercialisation of childhood shows widespread concern about the pressure on children to grow up too fast.

A survey of over 1,000 parents of all backgrounds has revealed that 88% think that children are under pressure to grow up too quickly. The survey forms part of the independent Bailey Review of Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, commissioned by the Department for Education to unravel and tackle issues around the premature sexualisation and commercialisation of children. Celebrity culture, adult style clothes and music videos are all guilty in parents’ eyes of encouraging children to act older than they are. The survey aimed to find out what parents think and what help they need to manage the pressures on their children. The Bailey Review has also been listening to parents through focus groups and a call for evidence, which received an overwhelming response from parents.

These roots are fundamental to the identity of an individual and are the supporting stability for a confident and thereby happy future. Today, I find it difficult to continue this immersion experience because it goes against the roots watered by my parents throughout my childhood which taught me individuality and strength in my dissimilarity. The fascinating thing about roots, though, is that the strong ones can go quite a while without any water.

We’re putting that to the test in this immersion project and, in the words of the creative language itself, the show must go on!

Sources

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/almost-9-out-of-10-parents-think-children-are-being-forced-to-grow-up-too-quickly

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II   D A Y # 4   II

Today, I had my first encounter that seemed different in a positive light. On an average basis, I would say that it takes 3/5 guys a little bit of time to warm up to my personality. Whether the reason for this is that they find it too outgoing or loud at first I have no idea, but that’s the way its been for a bit now. Today, when I met a group of 8 guys through one of my closest buddies, I wasn’t surprised that my new temperament was more acceptable in the ‘chill’ environment of the room. Upon telling my friend Dylan that I was working on this project, his immediate response was “you’re acting this way for a class? That’s insane that a class can have the power to change you in such a fundamental manner.” This led me to begin to think, how much of an influence can outside sources, not only classes but mentors as well, have on the confidence and innate comfort of an individual. I know that my mother has played a magnanimous role in my development into the young man I am today, and had it not been for her continued dedication and promise to my success I would have fallen short many times throughout my life. My father has played more of a success-grooming role in my life, in which he covers many of the aspects my mother fails to be informed on – such as business, finances and politics. I am, without doubt, a product of these two fantastic mentors in my life. Then again, in some ways I’m a mentor of every adult who has ever had a hand in my life and offered any sort of guidance.

What’s especially interesting is how some mentors can have such a dramatic effect on the outcome of ones’ personal traits and identity. Take, for instance, my sisters. All four of them. Growing up with their influence reigning strong in my life is, without doubt, a strong reasoning for my outgoing and talkative personality (growing up surrounded by women will do that to ya, unfortunately). Yet, at the same time, I am able to converse with any woman I encounter thanks to the influence my sisters have given me and the lessons I’ve learned under their mentorship. However, its not a new idea that these influencers have a magnanimous role in our success.

Research confirms what we know anecdotally or intuitively — that mentoring works.

The 2013 study “The Role of Risk: Mentoring Experiences and Outcomes for Youth with Varying Risk Profiles,” examined mentoring program relationships, experiences and benefits for higher-risk youth, and among the findings determined:

  • The strongest program benefit, and most consistent across risk groups, was a reduction in depressive symptoms — a particularly noteworthy finding given that almost one in four youth reported worrisome levels of these symptoms at baseline.
  • Findings also suggested gains in social acceptance, academic attitudes and grades.
  • In addition to benefits in specific domains, mentored youth also experienced gains in a greater number of outcomes than youth in the comparison group.

Overall, the study’s results suggest that mentoring programs can be beneficial for youth with a broad range of backgrounds and characteristics. Tailoring the training and support that is available to matches based on the specific risks youth face has the potential to produce even stronger benefits.

These mentors shape us, building our characteristics into shapes of integrity and formatting our template for success based upon the traits we find most admirable about these individuals. I would encourage you to try and find validity in these instrumental individuals who have greatly impacted your life. These mentors have made a special effort to weaponize you with the experience of those who have seen much more than you ever have, and without that knowledge you would be flying blind. Be thankful, for it is essential to the happiness of yourself, as well. Be thankful for the wondrous lessons these individuals have passed down, and relish in the idea that your personality has been influenced by hundreds of people – all of which wish you the best and support your strive through this life of unfamiliarity. Stand strong in the knowledge that these mentors have brought you to where you are today, and find solidarity in the idea that you are a product of the same people you look up to.  You are one person with the traits of tens, like a beautiful collage…

One that’s still in progress.

Sources

http://www.mentoring.org/about_mentor/value_of_mentoring/

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 II   D A Y # 5   II

Today, I have felt an overwhelming reflection upon the role my aspirations have played in bringing me to the point at which I sit today. I can feel myself dragging wary over the progression of this project. I all honesty, I don’t feel near as happy as I normally do. I feel disconnected. Discombobulated from the person I am. I feel dull and lagging, and almost as though there is a thick wool blanket of melancholy over my inner self, and I feel that the loss of my theatrical personality has, in a way, led to a loss of myself. I couldn’t imagine people who undergo day after day of suppressing their true traits in favor of more societally traditional methods of communication or personification.

However, I digress. Today, I attempted to find the reason I have always chosen more of a ‘crazy’ form of articulation. The problem? I simply couldn’t narrow it down to one thing. As I’ve already addressed the role of friendships, background, and influencers in the casting of our identities, I attempted to seek other ‘areas’ of the human environment which offer a large contribution to the molding of our individualism – bringing me to the aforementioned role of aspirations. Think with me for a moment… if a little boy wishes to be a professional baseball player when he’s older, what’s going to happen? Well, first will come the costumes and non-stop watching of baseball games. Then will come the little-league tryouts and baseball cards, which will start the continual progression in this field of interest. Now, oftentimes this is not the case – oftentimes, it seems, kids change their interests many times and it is a continual work for the parents to keep up-to-date on the latest ‘favorite thing’ of their little ones. For me, I started off loving soccer, yet soon found interest in skiing. This interest evolved to snowboarding, before progressing to football. At that point, I decided I liked crosscountry and track instead, before settling on swimming – for a bit. My point in this anecdote is to illustrate that I, like any other child, changed my mind often (and based upon my first post in this project, still frequently continue to do so). Yet, the one thing that never changed, the one passion that truly remained evident throughout the progression of my childhood was an innate ability and passion for acting. By ability – I mean that I was a fantastic liar, and the idea of illustrating an untruth to the point that it appears to be real was of a fascinating nature to my little mind. I loved stage acting from a young age, though my sights have been set on screen-acting as a career since as long as I can remember. So, the important question I asked myself this afternoon was this: my interest in acting has provoked my participation in countless plays, theatrical camps and auditions, and therefore reaffirmed my extroverted personality and hardened my confidence in said method of communication. Even from a ripe age, my passions have influenced my identity because it is through the proverbial nails of acting which have built the foundation for my character. We are all a product of not only our roots, but the water we use to nourish these branches of foundation which hold us strong.

In order to find circular solidarity in this square society, you must first look towards the aspirations you’ve held for this square society, and how those have influenced your circular solidarity.

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II   D A Y # 6   II

Struggle.

It’s what we all experience every day.

Struggle to be on time. Struggle to be financially secure.

So frustrating, yet so essential.

Why?

Because happiness, by very definition, would mean nothing without struggle.

All that you find enjoyable… artwork, vacations, a strong drink.

It would all mean nothing, if not juxtaposed with assignments, work, and a stack of to-do’s.

Struggle is as essential to happiness as the activities which bring us that warm feeling of contentment.

Need an example of this? Oftentimes, it is those who have the most, who feel they have the least.

Without struggle, we are monotonous creatures of ill education and a lack of validity.

Struggle = Essential

Who would have thought? Not me. See, that’s the most frustrating thing about struggle; at the time, it seems horrid, uncomfortable and intolerable all at the same time.

I’ve realized, though, that if we hope to be a circular individual in a square society, you must have a strong foundation. A foundation which must first be built.

Sometimes, this process is painful. Sometimes, it cuts deeper than we ever expected. Most the time, however, it will play an essential role in building your personal confidence. The trick is to build the walls back up. Repair the damage and it will be stronger than ever before. How is strong muscle formed? It is torn over and over again, each time growing back a little bit stronger than the time before. Sometimes, the pain is essential.

Essential = Hurtful

Today, I had someone I haven’t seen in a long time say to me “thank God you chilled out you could be a little much sometimes last year.”

This comment offered endorsement in the idea that I’m sticking to my immersion experience with great dedication and effectiveness, and at the same time – it didn’t bother me at all. Not in the slightest. As a result of the antagonization I would receive occasionally throughout my childhood because of the traits I inhabited, I grew thick skin.

Much like a callous forms over fragile and irritated skin, I formed a callous to the perceptions of others. I learned to block out the innate human need to please others, and instead learned to find self-sufficiency and appreciation for the person I’ve become. It didn’t dawn on me till recently, but some of the most hurtful things which have been said to me have also been the most helpful.

Hurtful = Helpful

So tear that muscle, feel the burn and build the foundation of your life, because the more burn the stronger the foundation, and the more struggle you encounter, the more appreciation you have for the things that shine laughter into your life. To you, a cup of water is meaningless. Few people reading this drinks a cup of water and thinks “oh I’m so thankful to have this water.” Juxtaposed to the struggle you’re encountering, the pleasure of a cup of water is probably very small by comparison. To a young boy in Africa who has had little to drink in over a week, though, a cup of clean water is the world and a half.

It is not the material worth of that which brings us happiness which defines it’s magnitude, rather the heaviness of it’s impact on our life when offset by the the struggles we’re facing. 

So, if my math is correct… and

Struggle = Essential

Essential = Hurtful

Hurtful = Helpful

then, by extension:

Struggle = Helpful

Now, isn’t that what I’ve been saying all along?

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II   C O N C L U S I O N   II

“If everybody is special, then nobody is.”

Take this quote in. Think about it. It offers a criticism of the popular encouragement to be different and unique, and seems to play off the idea of “remember – you’re unique, just like everybody else.” Now, if this quote was offering a broad truth, then I would have to agree. However, I think we can all agree that the purpose of this quote is not one of observation but criticism, and I wish to juxtapose the intended rhetoric with the truthful application that this same sentence offers.

Yes, we are all special and unique, as we have been taught since the sunday school rhymes of individuality. However, rather than look at this idea as a devaluing idea of the individual simply blending in with the commonality of the majority, let us look towards the powerful unification of diacritic identity. We all have fingerprints, and no two fingerprints are the same. They are our identifiers, and among the eight billion people who share this planet, you are the only one who can be matched to that fingerprint. Now, imagine if your fingers were all cut off – thing’s would be a little tough, huh? Even the most simplistic of activities would suddenly inherit a whole new level of difficulty. The reason for which I raise this grotesque illustration is because the same can be said of personalities. No two are the same. Your personality is as much a part of you as your fingerprint. Why would you cut it off? Why would you hide the one thing which makes you different from the other billions of beating hearts on this giant floating rock? Embrace this key to individuality, because without it, the proverbial room of happiness will surely remain locked.

On my final day, I honestly couldn’t be more thankful to be completed. I can’t describe the feeling besides simply unhappy. I’m truly not myself, and I don’t feel as though I am. The only way I can provide a feeling to equate it to is how my friends used to describe the effect of ADHD drug Ritalin – that it made them feel too mellow, and not like normal. I have this proverbial weight as though I’ve been so fake and out of touch with the person I truly am. I feel as though I’ve been suffocating the real me for too long. Though, I will say, I can see how if an individual was to act differently for so long, that eventually they would begin to personify the fake characteristics they’ve been portraying. When you leave a piece of trash in the grass, eventually the vegetation begins to absorb the trash as a part of the whole, accepting its inevitable incorporation based upon its lengthly presence. This is comparable to the human instinct, in that if you force different personality traits upon your mind for long enough, it begins to accept these traits to be part of who you are. We see this exemplified every day by the slow integration of the traits of our friends into the identity of ourselves. Haven’t you ever had times where you’ve begun to display characteristics startlingly similar to someone you spend a great amount of time with? Exactly.

This project has revealed many thing’s in my life. It has revealed that I would not be the person I am today without the love of my friends, the strength of my foundation, the influence of my mentors, the role of my aspirations, the power of my struggles and an appreciation for my individual identity. I have shared this growth with you in the hopes that you, as the reader, have shared in the knowledge reaped from this experience, and have found a personal application to the lessons I’ve learned in order to better enable you to find self-validity in that which makes you different or sets you apart.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 8.34.19 PM

This photo exemplifies a stable “tree of stability”, as is illustrated by my previous journal entries.

Was I treated dramatically different? No. Was I surprised at the outcome of this immersion experience? Absolutely. While the result wasn’t what I expected, it drew out insecurities I never knew I had, and forced me to critically examine what has brought me this far. In addition, it gave me a new sense of the term ‘attitude of gratitude’. We spend so much time focusing on whats wrong with us, what’s insurmountable in our lives and what’s holding us from our dreams, that we spend little time focusing on what is absolutely f*cking fantastic about our individuality, reflecting upon the numerous ‘insurmountable’ mountains we’ve conquered and witnessed the view from, and appreciating that which holds us back and makes our successes that much more incredible. My mother has always said, “Don’t be so focused on the journey that you forget about the destination.” Well, I fully plan on enjoying the journey ahead, along with all of its setbacks, deadlines, stressors and fallouts. Why? Because without all of that nasty, depressing sh*t, I would have no reason to fully appreciate those rare, still moments in which I get to take a deep breathe and know, that even just for this one single moment in time, I’m going to be just fine. And in the simplicity of that moment, I find all the joy I need to continue. I encourage all who read this to find your circle – that one thing about you that doesn’t seem quite ‘proper’ – in this square society, and relish in the knowledge that you, by all accounts, are one of a kind. At the end of the day, this immersion experience has taught me one, magnanimous lesson:

I am not like ‘most’ people

(and I wouldn’t have it any other way)

-Remington Bruce

Finding Validity in Your Personal “Truths”

While I had to sort through the personal opinion of my prior “Theory of Writing the Truth” post, I narrowed it down to the definition I found most in-line with my feelings towards the matter. What’s interesting, I found, is that I don’t focus on the dictionary definition of “truth”, I focus more on what drives one to compose it and the foundation on which it sits.

Writing the truth is about the truth, not about kissing ass or making friends. In fact, some of the most revolutionary stories in history have pissed off a great amount of people and yet, these stories were honest and evoked emotion on the subject – regardless of how they were seen. American History X was not received well by the southern white community, and yet went on to become one of the most revolutionary civil rights compositions in all of history. Writing an emotional truth is being honest about how you feel, while a storyline truth is being honest with the events that took place. So lets do just that. Lets be true to how we feel. Let’s find emotion in even the most monotonous prompts. I once had a teacher who told me that “writing the truth isn’t about only writing about things you’re passionate about, but rather finding passion in all that which you write.”

Yet, let’s take a look at why I choose not to focus on the dictionary definition of “truth”, listed below…

Conformity to fact or actuality.

Conformity. What a word. Most of us conform to the laws of society, yet do we conform to society, itself? Some of us surely do. I guess it just comes down to the sort of person you wish to be and the manner in which you wish to express your life from day to day. It only makes sense that such a loaded word would require equal dictionary support as well, right? So let’s look at the definition of “conformity”:

Action or behavior in correspondence with socially accepted standards, conventions, rules, or law

“Socially accepted standards.” Oh boy. Isn’t this a constant contributor to societal debate… Miley Cyrus, Lady GaGa, Lindsey Lohan, Amanda Bynes – what do they all have in common? They refuse to conform to what the great majority of society deems “appropriate”. What’s ironic, however, is that while I don’t support the litany of rogue celebrities because their “truths” differ from mine, they seem to cause a paradoxical split in society. While they infuriate many, they also seem to acquire a legion of loyal followers, who all seem to praise the fact that they don’t fit the conformity of which we speak. Ironic, huh? So, this begs the question, is conformity the definition of truth? I don’t believe so.

Truth is meant to be unique, individual, and personalized. While there are certainly universal truths by which we all agree (or conform) – such as the sky is blue and the grass is green – there are also individual truths. If I tell my good friend that him disregarding plans we had and blowing me off was offensive, that may or may not necessarily be true to him. He doesn’t know if it hurt my feelings, rather he must trust in his perception of my integrity and truthfulness. While he may not have considered his actions offensive, it is a personal truth to me that he violated the mutual respect of our friendship. My mother always had a saying she was very fond of:

“Apologizing isn’t about admitting if you’re right or wrong; it’s about acknowledging that you hurt the individuals feelings and truthfully admitting that you had no intention of doing so.”

Now, how many more arguments would be settled instantly if people shed their stubborn outlook and instead chose to apologize, not because they were necessarily “wrong,” rather because they value the truthful opinion of the other person enough to tell them they never meant any harm. My point being that the truth isn’t always a cookie-cutter theory, but oftentimes deals with the complicated emotions of another individual by which we don’t understand. Nobody has the right to say that Amanda Bynes is just trying to get attention – hell, she may very well be (and most likely is) genuinely psychotic – but that’s the truth. When homosexuals come out of the closet, they are expressing their personal truth over their preference of sex. Who am I, simply because I don’t share that particular truth, to condemn them for theirs? Simply because, what? Because they don’t conform? Because they don’t fit societies definition of “truthful sexuality”? In some ways, truth is synonymous with belief or perspective. While my personal religious preference is Christianity, and the idea that Jesus died and was raised for our sins is what I consider the truth, those who share the Muslim belief are in the exact same respective positions. Let’s pause for a moment, and think about how the world would be so dramatically different if individuals, groups, religions and countries all stopped attempting to impose their personal truth on the rest of the world? Hmmm, I know there would be a much shorter list of wars on the proverbial docket of history. As Marcus Aurelius once said with regards to meditation and finding peace in this hectic world, “everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” By “truth” of course he’s referring to universal truth, (think sky-is-blue scenario), rather than the synonymous use of perspective, truth and belief I referenced above.

I would advise those who read this to remember that, in a simplified anecdote, my personal definition of writing the truth is to write your truth. No matter how crazy, no matter how societally unacceptable and no matter how “crazy” it may seem, I encourage you to find personal validity in your beliefs, and instead of seeing them as “different” or “strange”, accept them as your exclusive truths. Then – and this is the tricky part – don’t express them in a way which infringes upon the beliefs or perceptions of others. Their viewpoints, much like yours, are unique to them – and are that individuals right to have. Then again, maybe that’s just my opinion.

My truth. And you know what? Nobodies’ doing a damn thing to take it away from me.

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Millenial Disappointment

Now, theres many things that I believe contribute to the great differential between my generation (the millennial) and those above us. Some of these things are of economic nature – such as the fact that we have been raised in a trepidatious global atmosphere in which we have been forced to stay up-to-date on the many economic happenings. There’s also those of the social matters, growing in an age where we have the unparalleled ability to be interconnected with our peers on a level which transcends any and all similar methods employed by our parents. No longer is the age of pen and paper, rather typing and blogs. Polaroid’s have been overruled by Instagram, while email has fallen victim to the grasp of Facebook. However whats more interesting yet is the great variety of statistic-breaking individuals within my age category – me being one of them. According to a Pew Research Study, 97% of teens ages 12-17 play computer, web, portable, or console games; while 50% played games “yesterday.” (1) While this statistic may be shocking, it holds no universal truth or acceptance by my generation. For example, I haven’t played a video game in over a year as I find it to be a blatant waste of time and, quite frankly, a monotonous endeavor. While “most” (roughly 78% according to the Pew study-(2)) of my generation would self-identify as liberal, I prefer to align myself with a more novel theory of political beliefs, and that is the idea of being “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” (which – I should note – is widely agreed upon and adopted by a great range of individuals in my generation when I share this belief with them.) This is essentially the idea of social equality supported by fiscal foundation. I believe that the individuals of this nation should have the right to be with whomever they choose, however I also believe that this should be a universally implemented idea. I shouldn’t have to where my helmet if I don’t wish to, and the government forcing me to do so is, in my opinion, a complete overstepping of their authority. But I digress. Which, ironically enough, seems to be a problem of my generation. In fact, lets address some of the things not surveyed by the Pew Research Study. Some interesting information which cannot be seen or known until you’ve lived amongst our “kind”. 

The first of these observations I’ve come to notice is that, while the millenials may be well on their way to becoming the most educated generation in American History, with 39.6% attending college in October of 2008 (3), they are also the most ADHD in history. Who can blame us? With so many social media outlets, entertainment websites, and a demand of occupational activities outweighing any of that of the previous generations, we just can’t seem to focus on one thing. When I surveyed a group of 20 Chapman students, 17 of them stated that they regularly check their social networking sites while they do their homework or classwork. (4) All 20 stated that they check their phone for text messages in the process. Yes, my generation has most certainly been raised at the center of the age of instant information, yet we’ve also adopted a policy of instantaneous gratification: in communication with our peers, in ordering products online, and in all aspects of living in a society which emphasizes efficiency and expediency beyond measure. Another problem of the millenials is the degree to which they value moral integrity. While the Pew study offers a small amount of information on this subject, my personal experience can conclude that as a result of the interconnectivity of my generation, there is always a wide range of events taking place and, therefore, its become commonplace for many to disregard solidified plans in favor for others that have come along. What’s even worse? This has become societally acceptable by my age group which practices, and it’s become “expected” that oftentimes plans will fall through. What’s worse? The millenials have an innate ability to believe they are an exception to the rule, and to place blame on others. According to the aforementioned 20 students surveyed, about 6 of them said they hadn’t “flaked” out on a friend within the last two weeks, while an astounding 19 of them said they themselves had been “ditched” within that same period of time. Now, either I chose a group of exceptionally well-rounded individuals to survey, or they are all vastly uninformed as to the degree to which they keep their commitments. We are a generation who believes others are responsible for our actions and the outcomes of the global atmosphere. Want a perfect example? Watch THIS video of millenials blaming the Baby-Boomer generation for all their faults. 

My only point in all this being that I was raised in a home where your word was your identity. When you made a commitment to an individual, no matter how big or small you presumed it to be, it was your duty and your prerogative to follow through with said commitment. While I feel fortunate to be part of a progressive generation with unparalleled access to resources and information, I worry for the dissemination of moral aptitude that seems to be sweeping over this generation with quick haste, and I can only further be concerned about how this will effect all aspects of the future which we all share: from business to personal relations alike. 

Get it together fellow millenials, because while we may be the smartest generation to date, we sure as hell aren’t the best. 

(1), (2), (3) http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/02/24/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change/

(4) SurveyMonkey survey of my fellow students at Chapman, 10 of which invited one of their own peers to avoid bias based on my choices. 

Waiting for the Lights

Confusion. The incessant grinding of wheels which produce no movement. Like the spinning colors on a MacBook, able to see whats happening and yet incapable of doing anything to respond, change or adjust. You just – stare. She just… stared. Blankly. Wonderingly. Suspiciously. Those gentle blue eyes which once held so much love – so much warmth, and so much hospitality – they were now a rough, baron land of emptiness, wherein the flame that once warmed all those in her presence had been doused by the wet bewilderment that invaded the recesses of her mind, shutting the doors of a once-welcoming home to those who seek solace. The wheels continue to grind. Her eyes move in tiny little fragments, searching desperately for an answer – any answer – almost as if it’ll be written on a sticky note and taped to my forehead. Her mouth opened slightly, as though a smidgen of sound was going to crawl through her parted lips, yet the only tune to satiate her waiting audience was one of frightened curiosity, one of worry. One that, at least for me, cut through my chest like a dull cerated blade crusted with salt, “who are you…?”

The funny thing about statistics is that we rarely appreciate them for their value until they hold personal validity within our lives. Comparability. Definition formed from the role it takes in the proverbial casting of our identities. I’d heard the seminar-worthy figures, 5 million people are plagued with its symptoms in the modern day society while 15 million specialize in the care of those who fall victim to this epidemic diagnosis. In fact, I’d even read that if these specialists were to congregate in a single state, it would be the 5th largest in America. There was no shortage of horrific facts to support its classification as an epidemic: the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, the only of the top ten causes which cannot be prevented, so on and so forth… And yet, none of these facts meant anything to me. They were numbers. Figures on a powerpoint. Someone else’s problem. Someone else’s battle. And while that same someone is diagnosed with it every 68 seconds, I never comprehended the personal affect it might have on ones life. That is until, what seemed like 68 brief seconds later, my grandmother fell victim to its deadly grip. Who would have thought that out of 5 million people diagnosed with Alzheimers, one of them would be this sweet, genuine and courageous woman I have the great fortune of calling my grandma? I sure as hell didn’t. 

Upon hearing the news, it stopped me like a window stops a bird, and left me shivering in the cold, hard realm of trepidation. How could such a bright, brilliant woman who had slaved over her career her entire life, suddenly be ill with such a morbid disease? I mean, sure, people age and the going gets rough while the years get long, but the going shouldn’t disappear and drag the years with them, should it? That seems so… wrong. Almost like losing your swim trunks in pool, feeling vulnerable, only to have them grab you and drag you to the bottom, drowning you in the same water you once employed for relaxation and activity alike. I could see them almost immediately – the proverbial swimtrunks – tugging at her ankles while she tried desperately to gasp for air, just a breath of clarity to hold her over for the next few moments. But the surface was too far away, and all that remained was a pale light in the distance, untouchable but present nonetheless, taunting her with the promise of air – if only she could get to it. None of us saw it coming. None of us, that is, except her. 

We thought she was crazy. Nuts. And not in a way that necessitated padded white walls and restraints, no… In fact, quite the opposite. We didn’t think she needed anything because we didn’t see it. We didn’t see the swim trunks slipping off. But she did. She knew. As Patti Davis once said, “My father started growing very quiet as Alzheimer’s started claiming more of him. The early stages of Alzheimer’s are the hardest because that person is aware that they’re losing awareness. And I think that that’s why my father started growing more and more quiet.” Who were we to say that she wasn’t? It’s common for us, as human beings, to belittle the worries of another simply because we don’t find reason in their rationality. It’s a comforting mechanism as we try to calm the worries of the individual with reassurance and confidence based on an uninformed outside perspective. It’s not our right, but it is our prerogative. And often times that same instinctual optimism has a tendency to bestow false confidence in the recipient. Well luckily, my grandmother didn’t fall victim to our faulty affirmation, and upon psychological testing revealed the progression of the aforementioned disease, turning off the confidence-driven light which illuminated the comfort we’d come to find. 

So now, eight months later, we sit in her kitchen, face to face, speechless as I watch her attempt to decrypt the senseless puzzle which lie in front of her. Who is this man? Why is he in my kitchen? Why does he look at me with such a strong sense of familiarity? The same mind she once used to work, to talk and to converse was now a faceless fog machine, hiding her thoughts in places she didn’t know to look, similar to stealing a flashlight from a child and killing the power to the house. “Find me” I wanted to say, but as her eyes searched wildly for the illuminating light switch, I realized that it was only more upsetting for her to attempt to validate this experience which she had no reason to define. At that moment, there was a turn. No longer was I worried. No longer did I feel pain and remorse for her disease. Instead, I felt sympathy. I felt sympathy not for myself, but for the fear I could only imagine inhabited her mind. I felt loss not for the absence of my grandmother, but for the absence of her memories. For the first time in the course of her progression, I understood how she felt every passing day, and finally grasped the idea that perhaps rather than try to call her in the dark, to sit silently and wait. Wait for the lights to come back on. Wait for the power to be restored. Wait for her to call for me, rather than stumble in the dark searching for my identity. “I just dropped off the mail and wanted to tell you how much I love the new garden out front.” And with that, the confusion dissipated and the golden twinkle returned to her eye… “That just made my day!” She said. And you know what? I’m perfectly content with that. 

 

 

 

Sources:

 

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/alzheimer.html#lU3zQyKrqy07V3lE.99

 

http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp

Personal Theory of Writing the Truth

Writing… It’s the one thing that we, as writers, love and hate at the same time. I love writing when inspiration strikes, but I absolutely abhor writing about things which hold no validity in my life. Inspiration is the proverbial match which gives flame to the candle of composition. Without such a match, I’m simply an idiot rubbing sticks together and collecting the sparks. Like pushing a boulder up a hill, I must force myself to write and push through, even though the quality of that which I actually want to write about is noticeably more than that of essays or drafts which held no personal validity. Take this class for example – don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for lesson-plans, structure and schedule, however when registering for this class, I was under the impression that we would be writing the truth, not an assignments version of the truth. I thought that we would be lighting that proverbial match and burning the house down, but instead I find myself standing here with wet matches and no candle. As Andre Aciman states in one of his essays, Aciman uses writing to escape from life. Yet, what am I to do when I find myself writing to escape from writing. Where do I turn when the things I’m writing are a problem within themselves? Think of drinking expired milk, then trying to get the taste out of your mouth with regular, non-expired milk. Even if it taste’s fine, your tastebuds are repulsed any smell, taste, or sight of lactose. I mean this in no way to be disrespectful to the class because I see the necessity of much of what we’re doing, however I also believe that sometimes teachers have a way of forgetting what the demands of students are outside of class. I work 25 hours a week at my job, and 10 hours a week at my internship. Aside from the aforementioned commitments while also taking 16 credits, I oftentimes don’t wish to spend my few quiet evenings with hours and hours of homework (and it doesn’t help that doing said work keeps me up late before I attend this class at 9am the next morning). So, some may be wondering, “what the flying f#ck does any of this have to do with the subject listed above.” Well, thats just it – this is the truth. While it may not be the “right” thing to say, nor the smartest, its the truth. In fact, it may be one of the most honest things I’ve ever written for a class. Our culture has adopted this theme of political correctness while attempting to assimilate to the group-mentality of the demographic which surrounds them. Writing the truth is about the truth, not about kissing ass or making friends. In fact, some of the most revolutionary stories in history have pissed off a great amount of people and yet, these stories were honest and evoked emotion on the subject – regardless of how they were seen. American History X was not received well by the southern white community, and yet went on to become one of the most revolutionary civil rights compositions in all of history. Writing an emotional truth is being honest about how you feel, while a storyline truth is being honest with the events that took place. So lets do just that. Lets be true to how we feel. Let’s find emotion in even the most monotonous prompts. I once had a teacher who told me that “writing the truth isn’t about only writing about things you’re passionate about, but rather finding passion in all that which you write.” Then again, as Aciman so eloquently puts it, “there is no past; there are just versions of the past.” 

Well, this is my version. And I encourage everybody to find their own. 

Dear Robert,

I remember it like it was yesterday. Walking into the school, my face burning with the physical manifestation of “caught”, you know – that flush, faint feeling you get when you’ve been called out, and the blood from your heart seems to beat at a rate your heart is unable to facilitate, flooding your cheeks with a rosy tone (mind you, this is by no means a scientific observation of the causes of “blushing”). I walked down the chaotic halls with a sense of tunnel vision wherein my interactions, classes, endeavors and goals seemed to fade from attention, and the overwhelming necessity to converse with one particular individual was at the forefront of my thoughts. This individual – as I’m sure you recall – was you. I remember the instant curiosity in your face as you asked me, with an undoubtable sense of trepidation, “whats wrong?”. 

“Were f*cked.”

The questions came like the winter season, slowly manifesting as the conversation went on. I’d like to apologize for my lack of sympathy, because I feel we can both agree that “theres nothing we can do, we’re both screwed, might as well accept it” wasn’t an ideal means of conflict resolution.

“What do you mean, they know?”

“One of the owners saw the car.”

“And called your mom?” 

“Yes.”

“We’re f*cked.”

“Thats what I said…”

Then, of course, being the dubious friends we are with a proclivity to employ creativity in our resolutions, thought immediately of the need to parallel the timelines of our stories.

“We only went once.”

“They’ll know thats a lie! How about we say three times?” I proposed.

“Fine.”

With our timelines figured out, and the stage set for a performance, we embarked on a day filled with stress and anxiety over the coming conversations. We knew my dad would call yours, it was just a question of what came next. As my mom picked me up after school, she drove the car back to the house. Although, it seemed she put on a performance of her own. “Hi sweetheart!” She said suspiciously. The car ride home was filled with monotonous conversation about the days’ activities. Upon arriving home, I immediately wondered where my parents disappeared to. Then, the dreaded six words echoed through the empty cavities of our house… “Remington, could you come here please?” 

My father, much like I imagine yours, sat livid in his seat.

“How many times?”

“Three.”

“What the hell were you thinking?” My mom prodded.

“Apparently, not much.” I replied.

“How did you do it?” My dad asked. 

Nervously, I decided to rid my self of the anxiety through answering many of the questions I anticipated were soon to come.

“I would shift the car in neutral with the lights off. I would let it coast backwards, then turn it on once it was down the driveway a bit. I would then go pick up Robert, where we proceeded to go retrieve several girls from our class and go doorbell ditching around the town. Unfortunately, it seems we doorbell ditched the wrong house. Your friends house. Your friend, who recognizes your car’s, house. And she then chose to weasel us out. Which is why mom got flush on the phone this morning when her friend just ‘happened’ to call for her. I’m not an idiot, nor am I patient, so can we get my punishment over with so I can proceed to more pressing matters.”

Needless to say, this wasn’t the best answer for a 14-year-old-caught-sneaking-his-parents-car-away to use. It did, however, coincide with yours Robert. Besides, a month without friends or electronics did me well, let me focus on some “me time” as my father called it. Yet, we always seem to make it out of these situations – one way or another. One of the many reasons I consider you my best friend.

Now, lets just hope they never realize it was really 26 times.

Much love brotha,

Remington