Unclog the Drain

“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.”    —Dalai Lama

A country cowering in the corner of a storm drain and hiding from the impending hurricane by practicing almost unfathomable acts of social irresponsibility and shortsighted selfishness is a nation ripe for ridicule and condemnation by its global neighbors.

Sadly, the current pandemic is merely the pinpoint tip of an iceberg with titanic frozen roots, sitting at a depth scraping the seabed. Placing every pressing issue in the back seat of a brakeless car fueled by a narrow focus on some imaginary, concocted finish line—solely to benefit personal desires or ambitions—is beyond dangerous. It’s deadly.

We are reluctantly reaping what we’ve sown, regretting our batch and wishing we buried a different seed. But this toxic crop is precisely what we deserve, and the consequences of our actions have taken the shape of daily force-fed attrition.

Diseased, tortured Frankensteinian animals mass-produced as sustenance and left alone to rot in cages. Stock market manipulation to pack the pockets of people least deserving of the spoils. Blatant refusal to don masks at the expense of vulnerable elderly lungs desperately trying to survive a cloud of venomous vapor.

Every individual act of toe-shooting defiance is just a bullet in the head of the greater good.

Maybe you’ll be rescued by a vaccine. Maybe you won’t.

But patterns played out over time eventually lead to concrete, unchangeable results. If we continue to walk a path of least resistance—protecting our self-interests above those of the collective—and stunt the organic flow of nature’s blueprint, we will be met with far fiercer foes than coronaviruses.

We are not left without choice or free will, so selecting selfishness above selflessness is an insensitive slap in the face of humanity.

There will be debts to pay tomorrow for what is spent today.

Adolescence Interrupted

Life and Loss

A terrifying concept of personal psychological hell states, “On your last day on Earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.”  —Anonymous

This could be read as a simple warning to keep carpe diem on the top of the list, or a friendly injunction not to squander talents or time.

But in this moment of global uncertainty and personal panic, perhaps the message is much simpler at its base. The clock on the wall that seemed to run on solar power is really just a parasitic imposter, suckling at the teat of a couple of old Duracells.

The days, weeks, and months are disappearing at an alarmingly unsettling rate. We are relinquishing the reins precisely when the horse needs our help to find his footing. But this is not a roller coaster that ends when our eyes finally open, and there is no waiting on the sidelines until things return to “normal.”

People are going to continue to die, and we need to prepare for the weight of that loss. There is an emotional heft in the acknowledgment that so much could have been prevented and so many lives could have been saved.

We are a selfish, shortsighted, and dangerously myopic society. Unwilling to sacrifice our petty personal “freedoms” for the greater good of our most vulnerable citizens will ceaselessly drive these infection rates and further delay any notion of achieving even a remotely flattened curve.

We’ll keep striding into crowded restaurants and bars without masks, and pretend this is all some overblown hoax designed by imaginary foreign foes (or local liberals) to keep us incarcerated in some oppressive fairytale prison of our own creation.

Wake up. Mask up. Shut up.

You’re ridiculous and ignorant to believe your life has any more value than another’s. Putting your foot down in refusal is merely flattening the gravesite soil.

Adolescence Interrupted

Tracking the Footprints

As a white American male, perhaps I am the least likely disseminator of racially sensitive information. But we are all sick of the suffering, tired of the mistreatment, and finished with forgiveness.

Enough is beyond enough.

Destruction of property, acts of violence, arson, or vigilante intimidation tactics should never take the place of peaceful protests. But there are moments in history when lasting change was not brought about by signs and songs.

It was demanded with muskets and malice.

We are watching the very first steps of a revolution waiting in the wings, primed for a spark. The tea kettle has long been whispering for attention, and now it’s boiling over.

But I am merely an ally and proponent for justice. The final word rightly belongs to the innocent men whose lives were disgustingly, vindictively extinguished without reason, justification, or rationale by heartless, racist cowards.

“Why do you have your guns out?”  —Kenneth Chamberlain, 66

“What are you following me for?”  —Trayvon Martin, 16

“I didn’t even do nothing.”  —Samuel DuBose, 43

“Shoot me now. Kill me now.”  —Kajieme Powell, 25

“I love you too.”  —Sean Bell, 23

“It’s not real.”  —John Crawford, 22

“Why did you shoot me?”  —Kendrec McDade, 19

“Mom, I’m going to college.”  —Amadou Diallo, 23

“I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.”  —Michael Brown, 18

“Please don’t let me die.”  —Kimani Gray, 16

“You shot me. You shot me!”  —Oscar Grant, 22

“I can’t breathe.”  —Eric Garner, 43

“Mama!”  —George Floyd, 46

Adolescence Interrupted

A Generation Modified

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”    —Jiddu Krishnamurti

Life locked behind windows and doors.

A new reality. A new planet. A new challenge.

An opportunity to do it right this time.

Developing minds are being asked to trade outside stimuli and ordinary social interactions for a brief glimpse at grandma on a small, shaking screen or distracted learning from remote educators saddled with unfair expectations and dwindling patience for throwing blindfolded darts at moving targets.

Still, the anti-quarantine protests and a deadly desire to dive back into “normal” life dominate the headlines. If we were all in mutual agreement with some widely accepted notion that the world we constructed was normal, I think it’s time for a better blueprint.

The growing chasm of wealth disparity is threatening to hobble established empires, the planet’s resources are irresponsibly plundered to fill the coffers of selfishly shortsighted puppet masters of profit, and we remain numb to the impending downfall by affixing our eyeballs to screens that constantly, cleverly administer just enough dope (and dopamine) to keep us begging for the chance to be repeat customers.

But there is hope. The next generation has a bullshit detector the likes of which we’ve never seen, and it won’t bow at the altar of blind acquiescence. It is deeply feeling the effects of this pandemic, and that code is being imprinted and branded on impressionable, malleable mental motherboards. Lessons for the future are being ingested in the present.

Those in power better seize this final opportunity to blatantly misallocate vital financial resources, sacrifice the sick who are too scared, too poor, or too alone to save themselves, and take one last lap around that privileged scotch circle. Your cigar-stained fingers are raising a glass in celebration of your own demise.

Adolescence Interrupted

My World Never Feels Safe…And Now I’m Right

The roads are all lined with eggshells. Tiptoes and feather steps, thinking back to a time when sidewalk cracks were the only items on a list of things to avoid.

Leaving a house full of physical walls to venture outside into a world of imaginary ones is a nasty little mind trick to navigate.

For many years I have maintained some semblance of sanity by following a specific series of patterns, habits, and concocted restrictive rules to live among the “normals,” and do my best to blend. Now, everyone else has systems, and there’s just too much competing static to cut clean s-curves without a face full of powder.

Monkey bar-swinging from one brain surgery to the next has saddled this lanky lad with a backpack full of trauma, and it’s a daily challenge to keep those shoulders back. But when that carefully calibrated balance is disrupted, and uncontrollable variables are added to the recipe, the already-crispy cookies in the oven tend to emerge blackened and burned.

If the personal side effects of this historic snapshot are nothing more than increased worry, discomfort, and agitation, I will consider myself incredibly lucky. Countless victims of this global tidal wave would gladly trade everything for a little increased anxiety.

Nervousness is temporary. Asphyxiation is not.

This is Chapter One. We are wading into dangerous waters, and we’re not even waist-deep. Stay vigilant. Stay clean. Stay supported.

Stay safe.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Heart Beneath the Hat

People are more than the jobs they perform.

As a society, we have an unfortunate tendency to categorize by cramming into prejudicially assigned boxes the core essence of a stranger based on the task, project, or career stream he or she happens to be swimming in at the moment.

We look past the person, and only see the uniform, hat, or badge. But a face full of green makeup doesn’t make you Frankenstein, and much to the chagrin of a nation full of six-year-old Halloween candy hunters, strapping a red cape to your collar won’t help you take flight.

This is not to say that we can’t or shouldn’t take pride in the duties that drive the majority of our days. Embracing an impetus to help make this planet a safer, kinder, cleaner, and more compassionate space meteor is noble work, and that grand goal can be accomplished in myriad ways.

But our hearts do not beat in militant metronomic rhythm to the clicks of an analog time clock. Our spirits soar when we leave a little space for syncopation.

The next time you stroll past the invisible clerk, avoid eye contact at the counter, or disregard a service rendered, take a second to see the soul beneath the suit.

We’re all just candy hunters, sliding on temporary masks and searching for the right fit.

Adolescence Interrupted

Goodbye, NY

After a post-LA six-month stint in the Empire State, it’s time again to gather the tape guns, construct the itinerary, and head for unfamiliar waters. It’s Groundhog Day, with an unpredictable finish.

Three cities in thirty weeks. Coast to coast and climate to climate. Another fresh start, with even fewer friends.

Multilayered introspection is crucial for any deep-dive system reset, and we are all lone conductors of our own orchestras.  The only constant in life is change, but I’m ready for a little consistency following the chaos.

Gleaning lessons from the past year’s pattern upheaval, the most eye-opening realization has been how capable humans are of acclimation. I consider myself fairly entrenched in the spongy, bouncy comfort foam of routine and ritual. But I have been thrown more than my fair share of curveballs in this game, and I’ve generally been able to hang in the batter’s box longer than the rest of the rookies.

Most of us are malleable and adaptable creatures, even those who think a rigid adherence to track-walking is the only thing that keeps their marbles from getting misplaced. When presented with a series of seemingly insurmountable challenges, flexibility is usually found somewhere in the fabric. We just need the courage and desire to search.

So the quest continues…

Chasing the sun, I’m headed for the land of tennis fanatics and retirement enthusiasts. It was an interesting last lap in a hometown that feels very little like home. But it was necessary to put a bow on the gift of growing up and to capture those mental snapshots for a future nostalgic slideshow.

Time to turn another page in a book that remains to be written.

Adolescence Interrupted

Looking Back through Boxes

When you’re the owner of a cloudy, unreliable childhood memory database, digging through boxes from the past is like meeting a younger version of yourself for the first time. Each class photo, laughably short journal entry, or overly detailed paper on the state bird of Delaware is a peek into the world of a focused, curious kid who now walks around in today’s lanky-limbed adult skin.

Taking attic inventory (literally) is a perfect way to chart the course of a life spent wondering and processing. The raw mental materials that would ultimately comprise the cement mix poured into the foundation of an often rigid structure were once still malleable enough to allow room for flexible movement of thought and action.

Hope. Promise. Excitement. Strategy. When we’re young, we overflow with anticipation for what still lies ahead and the pages waiting to be written. There is a hidden naivety beneath that level of optimism, but it’s pretty nice to visit a time before disappointment, disenchantment, regret, or rejection….even if it’s only a temporary trip.

Transporting to the past offers not only a nostalgic walk down memory lane but also a stark reminder of the brevity of that stroll. We spend so much of our developing years watching an hourglass filled with limitless sand empty at an almost imperceptible pace. At some point, we pick up this decorative clock for a closer look at the levels, and we’re shocked by the shifted weight.

It’s easy to take these modern monotonous days for granted, but they are all little limited editions just waiting to be maximized. The tedium of today can be the reminiscence of tomorrow. It’s all in the framing…or reframing.

A marathon is not run on a loop, and there’s a reason we crave scenic variety. But it’s better to fall from trying to outrun the vanishing sand than to be buried beneath it. At least there’s more padding on top of the pile.

Carpe diem. Have a healthy, wonderful, and wholly original 2020.

Adolescence Interrupted

When the Music Matters

It’s no coincidence. We feel a stronger allegiance to the music that provided the soundtrack to our teenage lives than to any period of melodic exposure arriving before or after the very specific ages of 13-15. Firsts are firsts, and there’s nothing quite like the initial unwrapping. Memories are locked, markers are stamped, and we will summon those songs for the rest of our days.

As an audiophile, these neuro-fireworks may have exploded with a bit more impact for me than the average bear. But when those headphones hit my ears, wholly unfamiliar pathways opened, and a burst of color detonated behind my eyes when that perfect marriage of lyrics and harmonies flooded my brain. It was an indescribable introduction to a lifelong romance and endless quest to rediscover that unlit fuse. To feel all your senses simultaneously awakened with the abrupt urgency of a shotgun blast in a hibernating bear cave is both overwhelming and invigorating.

Why does everyone wax poetic about the bands and artists that shaped their developing years? It’s not nostalgia. It’s chemical. These songs occupy a very special spot in the psyche, and we will be left defending their merits for the rest of our lives. The music is inextricably attached to adolescence, and the weight of the world sits on teenage shoulders.

Coming of age in the 90s provided a limitless roster of musicians who planted their flags in the hearts and minds of a generation stuck between two very disparate worlds in the pre- and post-technological revolution. But talk to anyone who drops their eggs in baskets of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc., and you’ll most likely hear a similar story. We know what we know and we love what we love.

No single experience will ever equal the rush of adrenaline that shot through my bloodstream the first time the first line of “August and Everything After” sent its perfectly crafted message down my ear canal…and night drives spent listening to a complete catalog Counting Crows shuffle still hits me in the soft stuff.

If that’s not chemical, what is it?

Adolescence Interrupted

Gut Versus Logic

“Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free.” ―Paul Tillich

On the precipice of a monumental life shift, I stand at the crossroads of familiar and foreign, watching the cargo bay doors slide open. Squinting in the sun, I think back to everything that’s led me to this particular moment, place, and time.

Like the resulting ripple from a stone’s journey into the pond, small single actions can rewrite the rules and codes branded into a stubborn psyche, resulting in a wholly altered destination.

Probably more than most, I’m hyper-nostalgic for the way a precise snapshot in time felt in my bones. That particular variety of “firsts” is forever lost to experience and the passing of time. But most major decisions are still weighted with the understanding that each step forward is also a step away. Making peace with that form of travel can bring blisters, and dry boots can only work so many wonders. So it’s either lace up or leave.

Any new frontier first presents itself as shadowed woods and crooked trails. Then the routes and roads become routine, the air smells the same, and a notion of home is born from repetition. To make that first push onto any path with an invisible destination is equal parts intimidating and exhilarating. Upending a fairly entrenched life for the distant promise of a more defined, aligned blueprint is a dive into the dark without a sense of the depth.

Trust is king.

Believe in yourself and your intentions. Close your eyes and leap.

Let the safety net reveal itself during the descent.

Adolescence Interrupted