The Nerds Are Driving the Bus

In recent years, a troubling trend has been developing that feels worthy of exploration. With the exponential rise in the rate of computer development, we are given the opportunity for some groundbreaking advancements in medicine, science, communication, learning, etc. But those presents often come with a caveat and the tradeoff may not be worth the sticker price.

The leading “tech gurus” seem to share a similar, disconcerting vision of our future, and it requires bending the planet to the whims of the insulated and isolated. Society is being influenced by and molded to the preferences and impulses of introverts unable to express themselves or make human connections in the real world. So the creation of alternate, virtual realities to hide those inadequacies behind cartoonish avatars or absolute anonymity feels like a warm safety blanket of protection. They can cower beneath a cloak of invisibility, never forced to reveal their authentic selves.  

Innovation directed toward helping hermits spend more and more time detached from reality to compensate for a total lack of social skills should not be the ultimate goal for humanity. If anything, we should be looking for ways to walk away from our desks, engage with our environment, and embrace the living, breathing ecosystem…while the air still passes as tolerable.

As someone who regularly stares at a screen, processing hundreds of pages of text every day, I see technology’s value as a powerful learning tool. But I also recognize the perilous nature of its quicksand construction. Our mental health and physical well-being are suffering under the crippling weight of split-second attention spans and an incessant pull to constantly redirect focus.

We’re spinning in place and dizzy from the effort.

Finding a balance between the body and the machine before the electronic puppeteer pulls the last remaining strings should be the primary objective.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Tragic Reality of a Broken Rewind Button

Carpe diem. Swing for the fences. Close your eyes and leap. Dive into the deep end. Roll the dice. Put it on the line. Take a shot in the dark.

Be brave. Be bold.

These romantic notions evoke images of successful risks taken in the face of mounting odds. But what about the missteps? The airballs? The stumbles and falls? The shaky landings? The face plants? The skid outs? The crashes?

We routinely go for broke without considering the possibility of being broken.

In this instant gratification snapshot of human history, we rely on the convenience of continual personally catered satisfaction, equipped with an easy undo keystroke, always ready and waiting. But not every sentence can be erased, and not every step can be walked back.

The unfortunate realization that some decisions are set in stone, no matter how much we chisel and sculpt, adds an even greater gravity to the soles of our shoes when we take that leap into the unrevealed abyss.

We need to accept that many of our unfinished chapters will be written in ink, without the benefit of easily erased edits. Although that concept can be a terrifying prospect to process, perhaps the additional heft could serve more as a gentle reminder than a shouldered burden.

Anything worth the risk is worth the rumination.

Don’t necessarily forgo the dive…but check the water depth before you commit to the cause.

Adolescence Interrupted

Square Peg in a Sea of Circles

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears however measured or far away.”  —Henry David Thoreau

Feeling like life never quite fits correctly, regardless of setting or circumstance, can be an exhausting existence. Navigating near misses for fear that fleeting targets offer only temporary comfort is a stamina test that turns a neighborhood dog walk into the Iditarod.

Wool sweaters don’t belong on naked summer skin, regardless of how much they’re adjusted.

The impermanence of satisfaction may be the most slippery section of the obstacle course, so we dance along the stable edges of the path, trusting the mud won’t slide beneath our feet. But it always does.

We trip and fall and stand up and clean our clothes and get back on the bike. We aren’t aware of another way, and we don’t generally have a surplus of alternative options. The hamster doesn’t abandon the wheel every time it can’t keep pace with the spin.

But the monotony of the routine realization that rainbows don’t always follow the rain can make even the sunniest skies seem heavy with projected impending clouds. The mind’s eye is 20/20, even when blinded by the truth.

If discomfort comes from the core, chasing a moving target is a circular dance where the starting and finish lines share an eerie similarity. External factors only color the periphery. The internal engine is the one that needs regular maintenance.

If you also walk through the world feeling like an alien dropped on a foreign planet without a translator, don’t despair. You are not alone.

When enough square pegs are stacked in a row, they eventually form a bridge.

Adolescence Interrupted

All the Broken Brains

We are spiraling. We are drowning. We are blinded by the harsh light of reluctance. We choose complacency over change and comfort over the scratchy-sweater need for action. We scream and shout. We seethe and shoot. The pressure release valves are clogged with the muck of a million excuses. The desire to heal is buried beneath a sea of social media distractions and disconnections.

We are mentally ill.

It’s time to admit that no thoughts or prayers or patience or compassion or tears or sympathy or best wishes will fix this collective broken bicycle.

We can blame it on genetics, parenting, toxicity, education, or bad luck. But it’s blatantly obvious to anyone still awake enough to see through the fog of this modern zombie society. We are walking around this planet with faulty wiring and a gross inability to solder the severed connections.

The glue is all gone and the pieces of our sanity are strewn across the floor like the remnants of a shattered cookie jar at the slippery hands of an overeager toddler. Yet we continue to think that the cracks will magically mend if we just cross our fingers tightly and pray for better days.

It’s imperative we travel upstream to see what’s been constantly poisoning the river instead of simply building dams to keep it from seeping into our pipes.

Soon no spaces will be safe. The mundane will turn murderous, the banal brutal. The seemingly innocuous daily activities will be weighed down with a constant head-on-a-swivel sense of mistrust and nervous agitation.

Each subsequent generation will be forced to live under the heft of unbearable levels of sustained insecurity. The already spiked national stress numbers will become incalculable. Drug abuse will numb the sounds of incessant mental static and we will retreat into caves of isolation simply to survive.

Or we can stop the cycle. Rediscover our common sense. Recognize the patterns. Remove the blinders. Wipe the blood from the money. Treat the roots to save the tree. Prioritize effort over promises. Engage the brakes to slow the train.

Admit that we were very very wrong.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Compounding Effects of Failure

Brick by brick, inch by inch, and year by year…the weight of missteps buried beneath a wall of wrong turns becomes unsustainable and impossible to maintain. Cracks begin to crumble under the stress of compounded, mislaid materials. Weeds grow in the moisture pits of poorly sealed perpends. Stained stretchers and broken beds tell the tale of what transpires when marks are missed and goals are gone.

But the best bricklayers know that no wall is impossible to correct. Viewed from even a slightly different perspective, the crooked can straighten and the slanted can slide back to center. No mortar is impermeable with enough gusto behind the grip. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the tools needed for the task are hanging at the hip, armed and ready.

Defeat is found in the repetition of bad decisions written on the lines of poor planning. Every blueprint needs an editor and a second set of eyes. Misjudgments often come from a place of sincerity and hope. It’s not blame-worthy to feel your feet find an uneven edge of the sidewalk. It’s simply a matter of summoning the confidence to pretend you intentionally tripped.

If your wall is disproportionately weighted with a seemingly static past, muster the courage to start again, brick by brick, level by level…until you can be proud of the clean lines and fresh overlay you’ve created.

Walls should be built for safety, not suffocation.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Beauty of Black and White

Those slippery, spiky spaces between the protective pillars of definitive views and steadfast opinions have always been frozen front steps without the salt, bumperless bowling lanes, and unmanned manholes. Like recklessly careening around a roller rink free of sidewalls, the notion of warmly welcoming “floating maybes” has routinely felt equally bizarre and dangerous.

Yes or no. Right or wrong. A or B. Greater good. There is no gray. There is no doubt. Stack the facts, introduce the variables, and make the calculation. Why waiver? Why wonder?

Although we arguably have little control over our individual brain circuitry, I am immensely grateful for this robotic programming. Blowing in the breeze of endless conjecture can be a time-sucking, fruitless endeavor. Scratching at stone walls, feeling stuck in a bottomless chasm of emotional self-flagellation, endlessly weighing potential outcomes, and ceaselessly questioning past choices only help to construct locked cages around a torture chamber of regret. It seems like most of that discouragement and frustration could be avoided by simply picking a path and getting those figurative feet walking.

That is not to say there is a dearth of creative currency in collaboration, brainstorming, or the sharing of ideas. I think there’s a unique vitality to the energy produced in a room full of spinning frontal cortices. But much of life is lived outside of those spaces, and a quickdraw ability to choose among the proposed options without protracted rumination could help keep society’s trains running more swiftly on the rails.

Look at the presented choices. Listen to your gut. Decide.

The time and toil saved from avoiding another trudge through the mental mud pit will pay dividends down the road.

Adolescence Interrupted

Regimens, Rituals, Routines, and Repetitions

There is an inherent beauty in the spotless design of unbroken uniformity. A placid pond without ripples. Endless assembly line loops. Dominoes sitting stacked like obedient soldiers, primed for the fall. We marvel at the meticulousness and take comfort in the reassuring sense that we can anticipate what’s approaching, whether secretly emerging from the shadows or blatantly barreling around blind corners.

Many of the highest output producers have established deliberate methodologies to maximize efficiency and minimize waste. Even in artistic pursuits, there is normally a series of steps taken before the comfort of creativity has a chance to blossom.

History’s most revered thinkers, philosophers, and intellectuals instituted various structured systems and behaviors that allowed them the unencumbered freedom to simply ponder. When we are buried beneath the oxygen-depriving load of checklists, appointments, strain, stress, responsibilities, and distractions, our mental hard drives are too busy spinning plates to thoroughly question, dissect, or explore.

Time management and prioritization are elusive little devils that keep their pitchforks purposely pointed in my direction with far more regularity than I’d like to publicly accept. Staying lost in thoughts that do nothing but add to the tally of uncontrollable variables—drowning in a sea of projection and conjecture—exemplifies the dizzying, dehydrating hamster wheel sprinting that stands in direct opposition to productivity or a legitimate sense of accomplishment.

Find a habit, build a plan, schedule a working window, wait until inspiration strikes, and then let your mind wander free. That seemingly baffling juxtaposition is exactly the recipe required for baking the bread of ideas.

But don’t let the wander turn into maze-making. Hunt for exits and solutions, not walls and hidden cheese.

Adolescence Interrupted

Heart of a Lion

What does it take to summon the strength to exceed and excel? Is the will to be great born from some deep-seated desire to prove ourselves wrong by pushing our own definitions of limits? Or is the pull to persevere in the face of adversity a hardwired, coded blueprint tattooed on our baby blank canvases before we even have the chance to decide?

If the shake and toss of those circumstantial dice fuels a fire to fight the gremlins guarding the gate, it stands to reason that those dealt the worst cards would be the first to spit in the face of misfortune. But we have seen countless examples of people who quickly succumb under the weight of far less. I guess a steady tolerance for intolerance might be perceived as noble when viewed in the light of some convenient kaleidoscopic colors.

However, convenience and comfort can’t generally breed champions.

Grit and gumption. Whether it is in our personal lives, friendships, relationships, careers, or private checklist achievements, a fire in the belly and a couple of nagging stones in the soles of our shoes can be wonderful kicks in our collective ass. But forcing someone’s hand into action as a better way to walk a particular path will most likely engender animosity, resistance, and ultimately, insufficient results.

Listen to that whispering gut instinct and follow it blindly. We have only been gifted one compass…and it’s internal.

Stoke your own fire. Blaze your own trail. Burn down the notion of boredom. Life’s too short for backseat lazing. 

Adolescence Interrupted

A Very Merry Variant

Turning calendar pages and looking forward to a future without daily reminders that humanity is on the verge of annihilation…a hopeful, tasty dish dashed when another one of Mother Nature’s tireless foot soldiers brought heavy artillery to our collective knife fight.

With each lap around that big, bright glowing ball spinning well outside our stratosphere, we meager humans are given the opportunity to take a momentary inventory of our most burning existential quandaries. Do we continue to plod along like obedient ants, resting in the rut of routine and ritual? Do we finally unsheathe the bats and clubs and take a swing for the fences drawing the border between our inclination toward convention and our dreams? Or do we burn the playbook altogether, eschewing any semblance of strategy, and watch those chips land however and wherever they please?

Regardless of the size of the soaring stacks sitting proudly at our opponent’s hands, there’s always the chance that an ace will show its face. We cannot predict the unpredictable, and crystal balls are often crying out for cleaning. History books aren’t written in the moment, so some distance, time, and perspective are prerequisites to fill the pages of this tome.

Any advice to sit back, relax, and watch the wolf blow your house apart is understandably met with resistance. But there’s no room for oxygen when your lungs are full of seawater. We simply have to wait out the wave.

May this year be an unreserved aversion to the new normalcy. May we travel upstream to investigate what’s intentionally being dumped at the top to kill us at the bottom. May we finally care enough to strike a balance on this planet before the scales are so tilted we all slide into the fire. May we hold tightly to what matters most and preserve those fleeting flickers of hope sparkling in the distant dark.

May tomorrow always be a little bit better than today.

Adolescence Interrupted

There Will Always Be Monsters under the Bed

They will continue to wait, whether we remember to check or forget to inspect. On bended knees, our eyes remain peeled for a glimpse of anything unusual sitting on the planks. But it’s pointless to pretend the floor is clear. They were hiding there last night and last year. They’ll be back again tomorrow…and forever.

The nagging knocking behind the eyes that keeps us awake. The sense that we are barreling toward the inevitable edge. The lists of boxes that remain unchecked. The threat of impending doom. The planet on the verge of collapse. The infighting. The declining educational system. The poor. The sick. The sad. The struggling. The confused. The hurting. The hurt. The loop stuck on a loop. The dubious distrust. The fear. The uncontrollable variables. The time. The schedule. The appointments. The wasted opportunities. The cost. The consequence. The imbalance. The chasm. The loss. The hammer. The nails. The virus. The variants. The worry. The wonder. The sense that any plan must be penned by our own hands. The inattention to intention. The lack of air. The lack of breath. The search for courage. The responsibilities. The falling hourglass sands. The questioning. The projecting. The diet. The disease. The swing. The strike. The call to action. The answer. The bruises. The blood. The tightrope walk. The guns. The drugs. The laws. The disconnections. The deleted lines. The money wearing masks. The trust split into pieces. The rankings. The rancor. The voices. The voiceless. The hardened. The heartless. The abusers. The abused. The race toward a constantly drifting finish line. The ridicule. The neglect. The bottom line. The ringing. The spinning. The tension. The waves. The shortened fuse. The easy ignition. The order. The angles. The criticism. The denigration. The obsessions. The compulsions. The rigid routines. The punishing patterns. The reaching. The rejection. The shooting star wishes for a second chance at another lap.

There will always be monsters under the bed.

Be a scarier monster.

Adolescence Interrupted

A collection of reflections from pedaling through life on a bicycle built for one