Tag: Friday 500 (page 1 of 10)

500 Words on Redemption

The premise for this post began thusly:

“Everybody loves a redemption story.”

This is something that has been said to me, and about me, in the past. And there are a lot of stories on the subject out there. We want to believe that the people we love, and by extension ourselves, are people that are capable of being redeemed, of coming back from dark places in life into better, healthier ways of existing. Darth Vader pitching the Emperor into a pit to save his son. Boromir running to the rescue of Merry and Pippin after almost succumbing to the temptations of the One Ring. Tony Stark using a box of scraps — and later his vast wealth, creativity, and intellect — to solve problems he created and protect the world.

It’s a difficult thing to stare our demons in the face. Some of the mistakes that happen in our lives have catastrophic consequences. Knowingly or not, we can and often do hurt others in pursuit of our goals. Not everyone has the self-awareness or courage to face those mistakes, admit their fault, and accept the consequences. What makes Zuko’s story special is that he does all of those things, and begins making different choices. Nobody saves him; he saves himself. The only reason he takes the steps down a road to redemption is because he chooses to do so.

A lot of turning points in redemption stories come out of life-or-death situations. Anakin Skywalker’s rebirth, Boromir’s sacrifice, the creation of Iron Man — these all come to pass because the situation is dire and there’s no other moral choice. Zuko, while he endured many similar situations, did not have a dramatic “face turn” in the midst of one of them. Instead, each of his many defeats was a brick in a foundation for a new version of himself, one that he built with his own two hands, rather than the one that had been informed by the influences of others. While his uncle did attempt to guide him, in the end, the decisions he made were his own, both when he doggedly pursued the Avatar and when he decided, instead, to help his former quarry.

He began asking hard questions: what does “honor” actually mean to me? How do I want to make a difference in the world? How did my old choices lead me to failure? How can I make new ones that do make a difference? The answers to those questions, the choices he made as a result, are what lead him in a redemptive direction.

Here’s something you might miss: Zuko didn’t do this to prove anything to anyone except himself. He decided that it was worth the risk, for his own sake, to become a better version of himself.

That is how Zuko redeemed himself. That’s what makes his story powerful.

Because if Zuko, who we meet as an arrogant fuck-up, can redeem himself, for his own sake and on his own terms… then so can we.

500 Words on Entitlement

Here’s a simple question: what do you feel you are owed?

If you put in hours and hours of your time at a job, you are owed compensation for that time, right? That’s how jobs work. If your employer says they don’t owe you anything, you have rights. You can sue their asses. You earned that money. You put in the time, therefore you deserve the pay.

When people talk about entitlement, often it’s in reference to someone who quite obviously hasn’t done anything to deserve what they are after. Here’s a quick example from Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck:

Ever watch a kid cry his eyes out because his hat is the wrong shade of blue? Exactly. Fuck that kid.


https://markmanson.net/not-giving-a-fuck

There are a lot of people who, in one way or another, don’t grow up past that stage of their lives. The most obvious example is the male-bodied Internet denizen who’s acting pissed because a woman isn’t giving him the time of day, let alone nude selfies. “Look at this pathetic motherfucker,” you might say. “He’s so entitled it makes me sick.”

I’ve certainly said something along those lines in the past. I’ve also, in my own way, acted like an entitled asshole. I’ve acted like the world at large owes me something. I felt the world owed me special treatment because I was born bipolar, got bullied, lost a sister, and basically got emotionally and mentally more and more fucked up as time went on.

I was different. I was special. I felt like dogshit and I hated myself. I sought to destroy myself and sabotage everything good to prove that I deserved nothing good, especially the love of others, who in my mind should hate me too, for being such a disgusting entitled hairy nerdy weird-ass male. I was so wrapped up in hating my entitlement that I didn’t realize I felt entitled to special attention, in this case having women take turns to spit on my grave. And while I feel that, for the most part, I’ve managed to shake off a lot of that bullshit, there’s a part of me that wants to convince me that how I feel makes me somehow a special snowflake.

I feel frustrated. I feel lonely. I feel that I could have done more to not fuck up my life.

To which I say, to myself: “Guess what, dumbass, so does everyone else. And if everyone else feels that way, you are not special.

Here’s the thing: if I’m not special, if how I feel isn’t different than how anybody else feels, what am I owed? What have I got to prove?

Not a fucking thing, is the answer.

Accepting that is more important than I can say. Along with my expectations, my other flaws, and my mistakes, once I accept this sense of entitlement, I can let go of it, and that leaves room for me to love myself.

You owe me nothing.

500 Words on Happiness

HOLY SHIT IT’S A NEW BLOG POST

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much time I’ve lost, or has been stolen from me, because I’ve been unhappy. Unhappily married, unhappily employed, unhappily living. As human beings, nobody would choose to be unhappy, save for the willfully masochistic, and I’m not one of them. I neither wish to glorify nor romanticize ‘the struggle’. I’d rather not struggle at all just to be happy for more than a couple of hours at a time.

I know that a bulk of my unhappiness is not my fault. There’s trauma in my past that has undeniable influence on my bipolar disorder. The grief I carry is fairly substantial, and with that comes a generous helping of survivor’s guilt. These things raise barriers, between me and happiness, between me and others. They alter my perceptions, deprive me of balance, and prevent me from focusing on happiness. They squat in the back of my mind, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. And I have to work to wrangle them, every single day.

Even when they don’t overwhelm me, fighting back against the tide of negativity takes focus and energy. It’s an expenditure of spell slots, to put it in D&D terms. And those are fewer spell slots I have for writing, for looking ahead, for just enjoying life and the good things and people I have in mine. Again, this isn’t anyone’s fault. I refuse to make it anyone else’s fault or responsibility. Because these damaged processes and erroneous perceptions are entirely internal, they’re mine to understand and overcome. Even if I can’t, at least I can try.

On top of that, it’s not just me they effect. It takes a toll on my relationships. It has for a very long time. I’ve built most if not all of my committed relationships, anything beyond being close friends, on some form of false assumption or premise in terms of what role I feel I need to fulfill. I know that I am able-bodied, privileged in many ways, and simply have a willingness to add value to the lives of those around me, rather than keeping it for myself. That creates in me a sense of noblesse oblige, that it’s not only my desire to use these things for those I care for with less privilege than me, but it is my duty. It’s another thing that negatively impacts my happiness.

And rather than actually adding to the happiness of others, as consistently and completely as I want to, it gets in the way of their happiness, too. Thus creating a cycle that breaks me down and wears me out.

So, what can I do about it?

I can talk to my therapist, adjust my medication if necessary, keep reaching out for resources and knowledge and guidance. I can push myself to learn more and do better. I can at least try. I can fight.

And I can write about it.

Sometimes, that’s all I’ve got.

500 Words on Outrage

Between the political landscape and my personal situation, it’s very tempting to just type out the word “AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH” 500 times and be done with it. It’s also tempting to just fire up a video game and try to forget about the things that are taking up space in my brain and making me froth at the mouth.

However, no amount of playing cards, rolling dice, or escorting payloads contributes to the solutions of the problems at hand. And even if I spend my time writing fiction or working on programming tutorials and projects, there’s a nagging voice inside of my head telling me that my time should be spent finding more work, or doing something about my country’s political situation, or fighting for the rights of others. You know, addressing the stuff that makes me angry.

Anger, as an emotion, can get a bad rap. I remember Yoda saying in the first Star Wars prequel “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering,” as if there’s always a linear path that emotions take. Anger is almost always spoken of in negative terms. After all, anger fuels a lot of negative or violent outbursts.

But as with so many things in life, the proper application of anger can get a lot done. Anger is a problem, as are its causes; what matters is how we use that emotional energy to create some sort of solution. It motivates us to finish more projects, to put forward better behaviors, to act in defiance of injustice. Sure, there are those who subscribe to false narratives and let their misinformed anger push them to make bad decisions. But I’d like to think, optimist that I am, that those folks are in a small (but very vocal) minority.

I get little bits of hope, here and there. Seeing people come together in solidarity to fight back against abuse. Social media exchanges of trying to reach a mutual understanding in a civil discussion. Servants of justice constructing their cases to take down the wicked. A phone interview. A comment on Ao3. A hug and a kiss from a loved one. Play of the Game in Overwatch.

It quiets those annoying head weasel voices that try to convince me I’m wasting my time and getting nothing of substance done. I have to look after myself, stay on top of my mood, and keep from falling to pieces. It’s self-care. It’s necessary.

I have a lot going for me, when I stop to look at it. There’s a lot of love in my life. I’m in a safe place. I’m trying to keep an eye on my diet and what little income I’ve actually got, and doing my utmost not to be a drain on my family or friends.

The outrage remains. It bubbles under the surface. It seeps out through cracks in my veneer.

But at least it’s not exploding. Because nobody deserves that.

I’m using my anger; I refuse to let it use me.

500 Words on Job Hunting

One thing I didn’t anticipate when I moved to Seattle was how competitive the job market would be outside of the gaming industry. I knew I’d be in for a fight if I went straight for video gaming’s jugular. It was something I wanted to get into, for sure, but first had to come gainful employment for which I was already suited and trained. So I started looking for positions as a web developer. That, too, has turned out to be a highly competitive field.

I probably should have anticipated it’d be this difficult. After all, some major companies with healthy profit margins exist out here. It’s natural for people, especially younger professionals, to scramble and fight for the positions that would be available. I wasn’t adequately prepared for that. Years later, I’m paying the price.

It’s taken me a rather long time, but I’m finally coming to grips with the fact that if I’m going to be employable to a degree that will support my partner and my distant family, I need to catch myself up on what I’ve been missing in terms of development and programming. As much as I want to get paid for writing novels and making games, my imagination doesn’t need the refreshers that my knowledge of languages like JavaScript and PHP do. Plus, there’s quite a few new languages I’d benefit from picking up — Python, TypeScript, C#, and so on.

I can’t afford to take classes, especially since my unemployment ran out months ago. So I’m on my own, using tutorials and code examples forked from GitHub and posted on blogs. But I’m making progress. I know that some people go into positions like the ones I’m applying for without knowing anything about frameworks like React and Angular. The more I can learn, the more employable I’ll be when I walk into an interview.

The barriers between me and those interviews, at times, seem insurmountable. I’ve sent out dozens, maybe hundreds, of resumes. I apply to jobs on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and CraigsList every single day. I’m working with recruitment agencies. Yet, for all of that effort, since my last contract ended in January, I’ve had three in-person interviews that could have yielded paying work. That, I think, shows just how cutthroat it is out there.

I’m not about to give up. If I have to, I’ll take another office job while I stay on the hunt. But I’m not giving up this hunt. I’ve had a dearth of energy over these previous few months, and with it seemingly to be finally on the upswing, the last thing I want to do is settle for less than I can earn. If I can land the right sort of job, a lot of the problems I’m currently dealing with will be obviated. It’ll free up mental bandwidth to write more, create more, do more. I’ll have to manage my time differently, but there’ll be structure to work around.

My job’s out there. I’ll hunt it down.

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