Happy Birthday to the Blog!

August 31st will always be a special day for me. I can’t believe it’s been a year already, but I guess it’s true what they say, “time flies when you’re having fun.” And it has been fun, for the most part. Sure there were times when it seemed like the process was more work than play, a monotonous chore rather than an exciting endeavor like I had hoped it would be when it was first conceived, but that’s life, full of ups and downs, good times and bad, and the most important thing is how you end up. Of course the long journey is really only just beginning, so I have no idea how things will turn out in the end, but at the end of the first year, I’m very happy with what has been accomplished, although I’m nowhere near satisfied, and truth be told, I don’t know if I ever will be. Over the last twelve months the blog has gotten over ten thousand page views, 10,287 to be exact, something that seemed incredibly unlikely once upon a time when I wasn’t even cracking double digit page views on any given day. At times it was discouraging, after having particularly good weeks to have a massive falloff the next, but still I kept writing, and eventually things bounced back. I have mixed emotions every day when I write the blog, ranging emotions that pull me back and forth and leave my mind in a constant state of turmoil. Usually while I’m writing, the thought pops into my head, questioning why anybody would want to read this any way, and then when I post it and see the subsequent views it receives I wonder why more people aren’t reading it, a complete contradiction to my first line of thinking. Then finally, third, after the new blog post has had time to marinate overnight, I wake up feeling excited and humbled that anybody would take time out of their day to read what I write. It’s that which keeps me going, the thought that there are people in the world who actually enjoy reading my words, that and the desire to fulfill my dream of being a writer, to finish the book that has lived in my head for years and have an audience that wants to read it upon its completion.

From getting talked about on ESPN radio, to a book review being read and acknowledged by a well known author, the blog really has had some unexpected surprises, little things that seem to happen out of nowhere that give me a boost of encouragement and the belief that maybe I can actually do this after all. Even and especially when I share personal stories, when there is no lightheartedness or joking around, the outpouring of support from everyone is incredible and encouraging, something I am so very thankful for. To all my readers out there, thank you so much for everything, for sticking with me through the first year of this journey. Hopefully it will be the first of many, but even if it ends today, I am happy knowing that we made it through a whole year of writing a blog every single day. I often have the ambition but lack the follow through to actually accomplish what I set out to do, but this thing was different, and I look forward to continuing to prove to myself and everyone else that I can do this. I’m hoping year two can be much bigger than year one, so if you like what I’m writing, please share it with your friends, via social media, email, or even printing it out and tacking it to a bulletin board if that’s how you roll, that way more readers can be reached. I never would have gotten this far without you, and it’s ultimately up to you, the readers as how to far I will actually be able to go, so if you wouldn’t mind putting in a good word for me I would really appreciate it. I think it’s only fitting that we end today’s blog with a song, so if you’re completely alone, or just don’t care what people think, please join me in singing.

Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday Dear Blah Blah Blog!
Happy Birthday to You!

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A Forgotten Song Bringing Up Old Memories

Music has the power to bring back memories that have long been forgotten, taking you back to the exact moment and bringing back feelings in an instant that were first experienced more than a decade before, which is why I found myself about to break down crying when a random song came on my car radio. The other day I was headed to the grocery store with my wife. it was after work and I was feeling good as we cruised down the road listening to the music playing on one of the local alternative stations, and then the song switched, a light strumming of a guitar and a rush of emotion coming back to me. Before any words were even sung I felt my eyes began to tear up. It had been more than ten years since I’d heard this song, but I was immediately taken back to that dark movie theater in Little Rock where I received the bad news. It was a Sunday afternoon and my dad was visiting me from Memphis. I was in the tenth grade, sixteen years old at the time and we were at a movie that I’d already seen, “Stranger than Fiction”, and I had enjoyed it so much the first time that I was more than happy to see it again. Truth be told, it might very well be in my top ten favorite movies of all time, but since that day I think I’ve only watched it on one or two other occasions, unable and unwilling to bring back the sad memories that this particular movie conjures up for me.

There’s a scene in the movie when Will Farrell first kisses Maggie Gyllenhaal on the couch in her apartment, a turning point, the optimistic beginning of a relationship between the lonely IRS agent and the local bakery owner. A song starts playing by Reckless Eric called “Whole Wide World” and it’s a beautiful moment set to the tune of a perfect song. It was in this moment, during the kiss while the song was playing that I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket and I pulled it out in the dark movie theater to check the message. It was from my mom and contained some of the most devastating news that I have received to this day; Coach Brady was dead.

Coach Brady was without question one of the greatest teachers that I ever had, teaching me math both my eighth and ninth grade years, a subject that was my least favorite throughout my entire scholarly career, but for those two years it was my favorite class, solely because of the teacher. He had a knack for storytelling and on those lucky days he would breeze through the lessons, imparting the necessary knowledge that the job required then for the rest of the class would tell us stories from his life that would oftentimes make me laugh so hard that it hurt. It didn’t matter what particular story he would tell us, he would make the classroom shake with laughter as naturally as another teacher might assign homework, which is why I relished the fact that I could make him laugh too and would do so as often as I got the chance. Coach Brady was the first teacher that I ever felt really thought I was funny and appreciated that fact, which gave me the confidence and courage to be more outspoken. He made me want to share my sense of humor with others, which is something to this day that I consider one of my best attributes, and for that I will be forever grateful. I wish things would have happened differently, that he would have gotten better and I never would have received that horrible news, but things don’t always turn out the way that we would like. Although I only knew him for a couple of short years, Coach Brady left me something that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life, and even though he is gone, he will never be forgotten.

Being Uncle Sam

Late in December of 2006, I sat at my grandparents breakfast nook in their kitchen, their acres of land laid out before me, completely covered in a blanket of frost. I had their newspaper spread out on the table in front of me, and I was perusing the job advertisements for some reason. The previous summer I had worked as a little league baseball umpire, but given the fact that I walked away from that job in the half hour break between the double header, there was no chance that I’d be rehired, not that I really wanted to do that anyway which is why I found myself on that cold December morning, looking for a job in the local newspaper. I looked for a while but being a sixteen year old kid, I didn’t really seem to qualified to become a certified nurse or a truck driver making seventeen cents per mile, but then, just as I was about to give up hope, I saw an advertisement offering “good pay” to dress up and dance on the side of the road, which naturally the performer in me couldn’t resist, so I called and got the job, sight unseen, which probably should have raised a red flag for me, but back then was a simpler less cynical time for me, excitement at having gotten the job was the only emotion I felt.

I was told to wear gym shorts and a white t-shirt to report to work, so I did as I was instructed and arrived at Liberty Tax Services abut ten minutes before I actually had to be there, because you know, I”m a real go-getter. I was shown to the little bathroom that doubled as the changing room and was handed my costume. The pants baggy, the beard was itchy, and the hat was too big and kept falling down in front of my eyes, which is not something you want to happen as you’re dancing around next to a busy street with cars careening past, but all of the negatives aside, I could have passed for Uncle Sam’s twin, you know the guy pointing his finger at you and saying to join the army. Apparently the tax place thought he was a good mascot for them, along with Lady Liberty, but since there was already somebody assigned to play her, I was stuck with Sam.

I stepped out of the bathroom, one hand holding up my pants and the other holding up the hat, the picture of idiocy, but my bosses told me I looked great, and sent me out into the cold winter day, but not before explaining to me that this was just a try out, and that if I did well, then I would be able to actually work there and get paid. I thought it was a little unfair to just be finding this out now, but I was determined to make a great impression so I could get the job, so that day I marched up and down the sidewalk, making elaborate gestures with my hands and arms and pointing at the little tax place. I was the best worker they’d ever had, each car pulling into the parking lot surely a result of my stellar performance. At the end of the long day I was tired, but invigorated, knowing that there was absolutely no way that they wouldn’t be giving me the job, and I was right. The next day I went back, only this time with nothing to work for, I didn’t feel all that excited or put much effort into the job, standing there on the sidewalk and occasionally waving at cars, knowing deep down that it didn’t matter what I was doing; they would either stop if they needed to stop, or they would keep going if they didn’t, I was just the idiot on the side of the road that didn’t factor into their decision making process whatsoever.

Disconnect

For nearly a year I’ve been writing a blog every day, and then sharing it multiple times each day on various social media platforms, but I’ve noticed that I’ve been spending more and more time on social media, trying to constantly figure out how to drive more people to my website. I’ve gained a lot of followers and my blog in recent months has increased in viewership by a pretty substantial margin, but I feel that I’ve lost sight of why I decided to write daily in the first place, so as of today, right now, I’m completely disconnected. I’m sure if I were to seek the advice of most anyone on the subject, they would all tell me that I need to maintain a strong presence on social media, to keep people clicking on my links, but it has become a depressing and monotonous routine that I no longer want to worry about. I’ve spent too much of my time thinking about what to write in order to get more readers, instead of focusing on what I actually want to write, but hopefully these changes will allow me to go back to actually enjoying what I’m doing instead of just worrying about how many times a certain blog post got read.

I’ll continue to write every day, but once I hit the publish button on WordPress, that is where it will end. There is no doubt in my mind that my views will take a substantial hit due to my lack of sharing, but that’s not really of much importance. For the time being, I’m not even going to look at how much traffic comes to my blog each day, because in the big scheme of things, that doesn’t matter at all. I want to write for me, not for anybody else, which is what I’ve been doing for far too long. I have bigger goals beyond having a popular blog. I want to write books, and I feel that social media has become an unwelcome distraction in hindering my progress and taking my focus away from the ultimate goal. I want to read more books, so I’m planning on using this period of disconnect to do that. I’m not sure for how long I will be off the grid of social media, perhaps it will be permanent, but this is what’s necessary for me to refocus on my writing, which is really the most important thing for me.

Over the past few days I’ve been questioning my motives for doing things, whether I’m doing them because it’s something I want to do, or if instead I’m only doing them to have something to write about, and unfortunately, I think my intentions have fallen into the latter category more often than not. It’s time I got back to writing because it makes me happy and it’s something that I enjoy doing, instead of letting my happiness depend on how many people read the things that I write. In life I feel like we’re all just trying to find happiness, so this is my attempt to find joy in the simplicity of putting words on paper. I’m officially disconnected, and it feels great.

My Regrettable Decision

I’m not above admitting when I’ve made a mistake, which is exactly what I did, earlier this week, on a Tuesday. Since I had to work on Saturday, I only had to work from eleven to two on Tuesday, so I spent the morning writing and drinking coffee, and then perusing my bookshelf for the next book I would read, since I just finished Lust and Wonder, by Augusten Burroughs the day before. When browsing a bookstore, I wait for the spine of one of the books to interest me, then I pull it out to read the back to see if I’m interested, and only then do I make the purchase, and that is the same way I choose what to read at home, looking at my bookshelves until something jumps out at me. I’m not sure why, perhaps I liked the style of the font on the spine of the book, or something about the author’s last name, Navarro, spoke to me, but for whatever reason, I decided to start reading Story of a Sociopath, and now I regret it immensely.

Don’t get me wrong, the book so far has been fantastic, but my timing couldn’t have been worse. A week from today, my wife and I leave for a weeklong vacation on the Gulf of Mexico, along with my brothers, my mom, and grandmother, and I’m not at all confident that I will finish this book before that time comes. It may seem insignificant that I finish the book before vacation, and perhaps I’m a total nut job in the way that I think, but I absolutely don’t want to take Story of a Sociopath on this trip, and it has nothing to do with what the book is about. I grew up going to the beach every summer, and one of my favorite things was picking out the books I would take, interesting books that I had restrained myself from reading, reserving them especially for week where I had nothing to do, and could lose the day, sitting in the sun and reading them.

For me there is something special about the books I read on vacation, picking them up years later and being transported back in time to those wonderful days of summer spent at the beach, and for some reason, taking a book that I’ve already started before vacation just doesn’t have the same effect for me. I have 708 pages left in this monstrous book I’m reading, so now it’s a race against the clock, to see if I can finish it in the next six days, which given that I have to work forty hours, write six more blog posts and ten thousand words in my book, and somehow find time to get the sleep necessary to have the energy to perform all of these tasks, it’s seeming more unlikely by the minute. I’ve consulted my wife, the resident expert on all of my personal problems, and she suggested putting it aside, and resuming it when I return home from vacation, but that too doesn’t appeal to me. I’m too invested in the story now to put it aside, while reading something else, my mind will likely wander back to Thomas Spencer and what is happening in his world, so it seems that I have no choice but to read on, trying my best to finish the book before we leave next Saturday. Wish me luck.

A Big Problem

There is a persisting problem going on in Memphis, and I suspect throughout the rest of the world as well, but since I’ve only lived in Florida and Memphis over the past five years, I don’t feel comfortable making that assumption. It’s something I didn’t really notice when I first moved here last July, perhaps due to the huge increase in traffic that I was unaccustomed to living in a small Florida town, but lately the problem has become unavoidable and it’s driving me crazy. A lot of people here drive so freaking slow, and it seems like every time I drive anywhere I’m surrounded by cars moving at aggravatingly low speeds, and it’s not just older people as one might stereotype but people of all ages, in no hurry to get where they are going but content to waste time in the car. I really hate driving, in fact it’s one of my least favorite things to do because to me it’s an extremely boring task that has to be done, and I’m not really able to do anything productive while driving so it’s essentially a waste of my time. If teleportation ever became existed I would sell my car and never look back. For these reasons it makes it pretty difficult to fathom people who drive along in a lackadaisical manner, and it frustrates me to no end every time I’m caught behind one of these selfish drivers.

It wouldn’t be too big of a problem if the slow drivers followed the rule of the road and kept to the right lane, but apparently unbeknownst to me a new real has been put in place that says anyone driving any speed can drive in any lane, and it’s absolutely infuriating. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been behind someone, gaining on their bumper going under the speed limit. I feel like in those cases I should be allowed to bump into the back of their car and they should be considered at fault because driving too slow really is a danger to other drivers on the road. Surely I can’t be alone in feeling this way right? I’m sure some of you out there have noticed this terrible trend that is taking place, unless of course you’re part of the problem. We are all adults here and no that we are going to die someday, so you should be spending as little time driving as possible. All driving accomplishes is getting you from point A to point B where theoretically you can do something meaningful. Driving is waiting at a restaurant between looking over the menu and ordering the food and when the food arrives and you get to eat it. It’s just a necessary stepping stone towards accomplishing something else, it’s not the main activity but something you are forced to do before you can do the thing you actually want to do. So please, in the spirit of ending this trend ASAP do you’re part and honk ceaselessly at people who are driving to slow, and most importantly you need to lead by example. My philosophy is that if you don’t slam on your breaks when you see a police officer, you are driving to slow. Feel free to use that for yourself.

Lying

I lie a lot, like every day. I’ve done it so much throughout my life that I hardly even think about it anymore, I just do it, and you know what? I really don’t even feel bad about it. I’m not sure that I actually ever did. Everybody lies, that’s a fact, so why shouldn’t I get to do it too? I was told growing up that lying was bad; every week I went to church and that message was hammered into my head time and time again, but still I couldn’t help myself. I was told that lying leads to more lying, which seemed pretty obvious to me, but supposedly that was supposed to keep me from doing it. The people telling me not to lie were hypocrites, they did it every day. Whether you want to admit it or not you lie too, and that’s just a matter of fact and there’s really no denying it.

Even the most sanctimonious people lie; Gandhi, Mother Theresa, the Pope, I know he lies constantly. Why is something that is so natural considered to be so morally wrong. Jesus said not to lie, but I’m willing to bet that in the days leading up to his death he did so on multiple occasions. I’m not trying to commit sacrilege, I’m just trying to expose the truth. Every human throughout history has been caught lying, and that doesn’t make them any less of a person. I actually look up to people who admit that they lie, rather than trying to hide this obvious truth. If someone says that they don’t lie I want to laugh in their face and call them a liar because I know with one hundred percent certainty that they do.

I didn’t wake up this morning with the desire to shed light on this subject, but over the course of the day it has eaten away at me, and I think it’s about time that the truth is out in the open. Just admit it, you lie as much as I do, maybe even more, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Lying is as natural to humans as eating, or using the bathroom, it’s something that we have to do to survive. Don’t you get it? You wouldn’t be able to make it in this world without lying, so I’m calling everyone to just be honest about it. I honestly don’t even remember the first time, but I know that in some way I was lying from the time I was born and now I continue that refreshing habit on a daily basis. The truth is about six to eight hours of each day I spend lying. I do so in the comfort of my bed as I sleep soundly. Heck, I’m even lying right now as I type out this blog about lying, because for me, maximum comfort is achieved when lying down. If this seems controversial to you then you are just lying to yourself because I bet at some point tonight, you too will lie in bed until it’s time to wake up in the morning.