Just Beyond the Barrier


“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”  ―Molière

The mouse maze would be a lot more manageable with a bird’s-eye view, and those towering peaks in the distance have done a nice job of blocking out the sun. Seeing the path unfold at my feet in inch increments, while tripwires and banana peels snicker at my cautious discretion, has made me wish more than once for the gift of flight.

If I could only elevate to see what’s waiting around that next bend, perhaps I could find comfort in the soft center of the present moment, even temporarily. Just a few precious minutes without the sense of an approaching sandstorm would feel like drops of water on the tongue of a desert wanderer.

But as I attempt to maneuver, jockeying for position among a throng of marathoners, my trusty compass abandons true north, testing my resilience and trying my patience. How many times must I substantiate my intent as the lake freezes, leaving me sliding around in socks instead of skates?

I am defined by my defiance, then and now, and no flash of light or fake whiff of cheese will divert me from finding that finish line.

This mouse is more method than instinct, and the only footsteps to follow are the ones I leave behind.

Adolescence Interrupted

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The Benefits of Resetting

Pots boiling over. Tea kettles screaming to be heard. Every line racing to red. Pressure valves begging for release.

We have all felt the strain of inescapable compression. Bands tighten around temples as blood vessels constrict. Faces flush and jaws clench. Shoulders tense as teeth shave enamel.

These desperate attempts to hide our particular brand of bats in our carefully decorated belfries are rarely successful and often dangerous.

When the gasket is finally blown, picking up the pieces is more complicated than reaching for the nearest dustbin. Damages are felt more than seen, and the gritty residue left behind has an odd habit of clinging to the cavities.

So what’s the plan of attack? How can we combat the feeling of impending doom before we’re pulled underwater by a false sense of limited oxygen?

Like every unresponsive phone or frozen computer screen…just reset.

Even though we’re made of cells and blood instead of slots and bytes, the fix takes a similar form.

Stop. Close your eyes. Inhale. Exhale.

It’s incredible to feel the cure. So many of us are walking through the world, unaware that we’ve forgotten to breathe. We unconsciously shorten our intake when we’re worried, working, and stressed. Sometimes even intense focus can produce the same effect. It’s not our fault. It’s our formula.

So the next time your nerves are knocked into overdrive or you feel a seed of rage starting to sprout. Take a beat, and take a breath.

Adolescence Interrupted

Luck be a Founding Father Tonight

It’s easy to view the world as a giant game specifically rigged against you. When enough hopes and dreams fall in succession like a neatly-choreographed domino dance, the prospect of second chances further dwindles with the sound of each ivory thud. The finish line retreats one step at a time to contrast your hard-earned momentum, and the impetus to dig deep feels like a relic from years when you wore much younger skin.

But every once in a while, the universe is flipped on its head, pure oxygen fills the lungs, and those serotonin deficits sit in surplus. Impossible odds and implausible victories make you question the very existence of ruts and worry, and the idea that anything is achievable feels as common a notion as the prior certainty that your particular brand of shadows would never see the sunlight.

One day. One minute. One singular moment everything changes. A notification that you will be sitting in the front row, dead center of a brilliant show that has occupied all your conscious waking thoughts for over a year sends a wave of anticipation and gratitude surging through every single cell. Surreality is too tame a word. You assume there is a mistake and triple check the email. But facts are facts and this is happening. You’re going to Hamilton on Broadway.

Just days earlier, you strolled past the Richard Rodgers Theatre, looked up at the shimmering marquee, and lamented the fact that the modern musical has created a chasm between the rich and poor. There was a time when orchestra seats were expensive, but special occasions justified the cost. Now the sticker shock of tickets priced to maximize profits and establish a notion of “exclusivity” make you yearn for a time when the power of musical theater was accessible to everyone. But you shelve your sentimentality, bathe in the fact that you got the biggest break imaginable, and strap into the experience.

You walk down to the edge of the stage, take a seat that’s close enough to count the number of cavities in the mouths of these musical demigods, and try not to faint from anticipation.

To say that you’re blown away would be an understatement of laughable proportions. You have sat in these theaters since the age of seven, wide-eyed and engaged, soaking up every syllable like a sponge. You buy soundtracks, meticulously memorize every lyric, and belt your lungs out in the middle of traffic. This is, and has always been, your life. Tonight everything changes.

It’s not just good. It’s not just great. It’s the single best play, music, lyrics, and choreography ever created. Hands down. Hamilton sits alone at the very top of a mountain specifically carved to honor the genius it contains. There are no rivals. There is no second place.

The unthinkable is actualized. The dream is a reality. It’s quite possibly the very best night of your life.

Adolescence Interrupted

Listening for the Unreturned Echo


“Sometimes the world seems like a big hole. You spend all your life shouting down it and all you hear are echoes of some idiot yelling nonsense down a hole.”      -Adam Duritz

I double-checked the address. The flap was sealed without a crease. A Forever stamp was cleanly tucked into the corner.  I watched the mail carrier slide it into his satchel. An irrefutable delivery confirmation teased the idea of progress. So why am I left staring at empty inboxes? How can every call made to the universe go unanswered? Why should a desire to bring positive change be met with such opposition?

Recently, I was discussing the sensation of life in LA with some friends. I used the metaphor of a series of tall concrete walls. Placed strategically in a circle with just enough space between them to present the false illusion of freedom, the only way to escape the enclosure is to sprint, at full velocity, directly into the unbending slab. You crash, stand up, shake the dust from your shirt, and then speed head first into the next one. Being an isolated idea maker isn’t a job for the faint-hearted.

In your mind, you believe it’s tenacity and the will to succeed. You subscribe to all the theories that recommend attacking a problem from a unique angle, never doing things the same way and expecting a different result, keeping your nose to the grindstone, etc. There is an addictive false sense of forward momentum, simply because one foot is traveling in front of the other. But racing on the surface of quicksand will only bring you so far. Like dancing in the open jaw of an alligator, execution ultimately falls short of strategy.

So, is the answer to stop trying? Should you simply refuse to acknowledge the impetus to help others through your work? Do you chalk up years of tireless toil to one giant strikeout? After innumerable swings and countless misses, do you throw the bat to the ground, shake your head, and wave that white flag?

No. Not now. Not ever.

Adolescence Interrupted 

Keep a Torch Lit

As I leap from one straw-grasping session to the next, I am reminded of the importance of maintaining hope in the face of adversity. I cannot continue to swim upstream against a current of unthinkable pain without a support system in place, and I will never find my way out of this cave without keeping a torch lit to reveal the path.

It’s been all snakes and spikes, pitfalls and peril, but some fuel is still available to burn. So I will compartmentalize to maintain sanity, and think of this as a puzzle to be solved, as opposed to a maze without exits. Toppling towers haven’t crushed me before, so there’s no reason to believe that they’ve suddenly become impossible to dodge.

I like my deck neatly stacked, with clean corners and even edges. I just prefer it’s not stacked against me.

The enigmatic nature of a lack of diagnosis might be the most bitter pill to swallow. My feet have gotten so cramped from staying on my toes, it’s no wonder I get knocked back on my heels. But some people ride a life of water slides and some get the rock walls. I’m digging into the crevices that barely fit fingers, and just hoping to hang on before I make another push.

A wily and unruly mind has certainly not helped slip the splinter from the skin, but it may be the only tool I have to ultimately vanquish a villain who occupies both the world of the brain and the body.

Far too many sleepless nights have been spent standing inside a conundrum, so a dawn delivering answers or optimism could be the first step toward regaining the person and personality I’ve lost.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Consequence of Inaction

As we race to outrun imaginary deadlines set by our own unbending need to measure achievement and self-worth against an arbitrary yardstick, I can’t help but think of the mountains of wasted minutes that sit in a heap at our feet.

We’re always late, rushed, cramming far too much into far too small a window, and wondering how morning seems to sneakily turn into afternoon. We complain that “there are never enough hours in a day” and we lament an adjusted project deliverable date like it’s the end of life as we know it.

But how much of the blame sits on our shoulders? If we factor in countless distractions, daydreaming, social media addiction, and procrastination, how much more time would be available for real productivity? Is it simply a part of the human condition to crave a focus reset or soothe an overworked brain with mindless activity? Or has a society that’s built on the backbone of a dwindling collective attention span created manic little monsters who feel like they’re tackling task after task when they’re simply spinning circles in the sand?

As eye contact, basic social skills, and the English language continue to die a speedy death, I’d probably go with the latter. On a macrocosmic level, that’s pretty terrifying. But maybe the demands of a modern workplace are simply setting the foundation for a technological future in which we all function like poorly programmed robots, unable to attend meetings, complete assignments, or even arrive on time without megadoses of psychotropics buzzing in our bloodstreams.

Evolution? Hmmm…

We’re hurtling toward The Singularity, and I’m sure all these tendencies will be wildly useful when we merge man and machine, but there’s still a piece of me that thinks there’s something pretty special about a handcrafted wooden table, and the skill and focus required to start and finish.

Adolescence Interrupted

Cutting Through the Static

We’re often told to stay on the path. Avoid distraction. Maintain focus. Keep our eyes on the prize. I won’t dispute that these pieces of advice are apt reminders, but the real challenge is putting the prospect into practice.

Deterrents and impediments wait for us at every turn. As if intentionally constructed by the principal designer behind Double Dare’s demented obstacle course, unthinkable pitfalls lie in wait beneath far too many piles of leaves. Many days can feel like a fever dream of implausible coincidences, cleverly choreographed in the control room of The Truman Show. We duck and spin and bounce off these padded pillars that seem specifically situated to reroute us from our plotted course.

We chalk most missed catches up to fate or universal interference, but there are lessons living in the midst of that hazy smoke screen. Tasks wait to be tackled. Puzzles long to be solved.

So, how do we maintain a consistent level of perseverance, despite the flying pies? It’s not a question easily answered, but I have found that the higher the tower of obstacles is stacked, the faster it produces an exponential growth effect. As a way of fighting the impending wave of overwhelming water, never look at every brick in the tower at once.

Take a deep breath, and attack one task and one challenge at a time. Appreciate the satisfaction felt from checking off each box, slowly and deliberately, when the job is complete.

I have remained on this path, the wind whipping in my face, for a long time. Despite the sometimes frightening financial hurdles, I have honored the deal I made with myself to live a creative existence because of an artistic impetus to put something out into the world. Staying true to these desires and resolutions has not made for smooth sailing, but it has anchored that distant finish line to an unwavering track. One step, and one breath, at a time.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Fixer

I spend the majority of my time tucked behind computer screens, scrutinizing every comma, semicolon, and em dash, in an endless effort to peel back the layers of literary smokescreens in hopes of revealing an author’s genuine intent. After years of tapping squarely-lettered keys, I can resolutely stand behind one indisputable discovery. There is almost always more meaning in the mistakes.

It is my job to bend language by squeegeeing sentences to wipe away the dirty ambiguity born from a writer’s internal monologue. We are all guilty of celebrating the dizziness achieved from riding the carousel of private broken records. It’s not our fault. Revelations routinely sound sweeter when they’re produced between our own ears.

But consistently revising these misappropriated intentions makes me wonder how much real-world editing we do on a daily basis. How many conversations are buffered to limit impact? How often do we feign interest in the details of other people’s lives to pretend we still share a connection? What does truth look like…unabridged?

I am beyond lucky to live in this pretty plastic city, surrounded by a core group of friends who shun pretense and smoke-blowing so adamantly, we barely even notice the permeating artificiality waiting with disinterested fangs at every corner. We’ve miraculously been able to avoid the bite by floating above the nonsense and holding firmly to our East Coast roots while baking our skin in the California sun.

But on a macrocosmic level, the question remains. Are we editing ourselves so severely that even the notion of veracity will someday sit beside 1950s table manners in a dusty museum of relics?

Truth isn’t necessarily the most popular concept to hang a hat on these days, but its extinction will undoubtedly leave some craters no clever repartee can fill. We might be wise to lay the eraser down for a little while and speak from the heart. What’s the worst that could happen? Honesty?

Adolescence Interrupted

Grateful for the Example Set

Growing up with squinted eyes blinded by the light of a seemingly untouchable force of grounded pragmatism and consistency made for an interesting cocktail of security and rebellion. Organized order, punctuality, and checked boxes built a foundation of unwavering dependability. With only one captain on the ship, there were few available alternatives. But oats strain to be sewn, and rigid rules stand as giant impediments to any misguided notion of freedom.

While nonchalantly savoring the spoils born from a hard-working parent’s willingness to haul that load alone, I dismissed the concept of a career that fit snugly into a spreadsheet schedule and haphazardly charged into the sandstorm of artistic instability. Assuming that everything would simply “work out” has made for a marathon of quicksand sprinting and rugs that seem destined to be pulled just when I think my feet are stable.

My life was so regimented and routine, I couldn’t fathom my work following suit. I felt compelled to float on top of that salted sea of possibilities and available options, so a door could always remain open when the need to run or pivot presented itself. I made certain no relationship would sustain, no child would be born, and no personalized nameplate would ever adorn some mahogany office throne.

Well, I got exactly what I wanted. By eschewing balance and structure, I have floated inside an artistic bubble, arbitrarily drifting from one project to the next. Dreams imagined. Dreams crushed. Blueprints written. Blueprints erased. Never seeing past the three illuminated feet in front of you makes for a precarious stroll, and my walking stick is now saddled with an inconspicuous nub.

I cursorily studied a road map clearly created by the cartographer responsible, and I wish I had at least learned to split the difference between margins and maybes. I will never live up to that example set, but I am beyond grateful for the cataloged tray of nuts and bolts offered to build my engine.

Adolescence Interrupted

One Common Denominator

mirror6

When you spend the majority of your life wondering why each attempt at progress ultimately lands at the feet of failure, it could be wise to start taking inventory of the repeating variables.

If every social situation feels strained. If the looping cycle of start, stop, and repeat has scarred you with burns of a broken skipping record. If it seems like the world is reading a different page. If the inconceivability of normalcy is shocking. If there’s a security in remaining a prisoner to your own thoughts because that’s the only space where safety lives…then the obstacle to happiness and fulfillment is you. Well, I am finally ready to raise my hand into the air and admit that I am the problem.

I am the metaphorical lawnmower, starting with a forceful pull, attacking the task at hand, and then sputtering out in a cloud of smoke and burned clippings. Loud and resolute, my job is unyielding. Opinions and criticism are casualties left in the wake of my obsessive focus, eyes fixed on the finish line. Optimistic for options, I am seduced by the notion of possibility. Then, the tower of cards inevitably crumbles. I curse the lack of horsepower and blame the grass for being damp. But I’m the one who decided to mow in the rain.

My preferences too rigid and my lifestyle too stubborn, I alienate to maintain a false notion of control. Then I expect an illusory support system to cradle my artistic ideals for the betterment of the big picture. But that’s not how people operate. It’s how robots are programmed.

Until I stare into that mirror long enough to see why the fly is flailing in the ointment, I will continue to ride that slingshot back to start.

But identifying the sharpness of the thorn is the first step in facilitating its removal.

Adolescence Interrupted