All posts by blairpatrickschuyler

Writer, Editor, Proofreader, Memoirist, Actor, Poet

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

Open Ears, Open Hearts

The capacity to trade passive hearing for active genuine listening is a wildly underrated and undervalued ability.

With phones, pods, or buds permanently glued to our auditory entryways, blocking out the world in favor of a steady stream of specifically curated inputs has become much more the rule than the exception.

As a raging podcast addict, I’m as guilty as the next inmate. Any finger-wagging admonition might feel loaded coming from someone constantly and currently plugged into the matrix. Like a junkie peddling his own product, there is blatant hypocrisy in the message. That irony is not lost on me.

But when we take the time to hit pause on the endless barrage of information or static distractions being shoveled into our temporal lobes, we free up available space for someone desperately in need of an open ear and an open heart.

I can’t downplay the importance of answering when that person is calling. As merely a metaphor, it is sage advice. As emphatic instruction, a small simple gesture can prevent a misaligned balance of labored breathing from spiraling into desperate gasps at the waterline. Our actions can quite literally lift the stones from the shoes of the sinking.

Without bias or judgment, those in our lives who sit at the top of our respective totem poles deserve the best we can offer, even (and especially) when our packs are already weighty with worry or their own miscellaneous rock collection.

Patience. Purpose. Compassion. Consideration. Empathy. Encouragement.

The best-fitting pieces of the puzzle should eventually paint a picture of balance…as long as we arrange them accordingly.

Adolescence Interrupted

Make Your Mark…Then Move It

“I think that the power is the principle. The principle of moving forward, as though you have the confidence to move forward, eventually gives you confidence when you look back and see what you’ve done.”– Robert Downey Jr.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”– Joseph Campbell

Neat stacks and tidy rows. Organized uniformity. Controlled outcomes and throttled variables. Just the sound of the phrases evokes a soothing sense of inner peace.

Unfortunately, that’s not the game, and those aren’t the rules.

We live in a perpetual Indiana Jones boulder chase world, and the only constant is a complete lack of command over where and when those pitfalls break free from their hiding places to surprise us with a spiky slip into an unlucky situation.

Instead of a laser-locked focus on permanence, maybe the best we can hope for is a clear footprint, created from a confident plant of our boots in the mud, ready to be washed away with the next day’s rain. We don’t necessarily need ownership of a name remembered for generations, but making a mark is an important pursuit, even if it’s a daily one.

Navigating social media scoreboards and spinning inside a constant comparison culture can diminish individual victories and discount incremental gains by shining a brighter light on the checkered flag than the gravel on the ground. But reaching any finish line is accomplished by first taking one step, and then another.

Humans exist inside the center of a dynamic tornado. We spend the majority of our waking moments dodging the debris. There is only here and there is only now.

Celebrate your wins. Recognize the effort required. Take stock. Plant your flag…and then move it.

Adolescence Interrupted

Permission to Fail

Be patient. Be kind. Fall down. Get up again. Forgive yourself.

As we all blindly sprint toward some imaginary, concocted finish line, we hold onto the hope that a solid grip on the brass ring will somehow bring a permanent sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

But even the most clever moves on the chessboard are often met with an equal or greater riposte.

A difficult lesson to learn is that a lack of adversity is not necessarily a good thing. Getting knocked to the ground can hurt the body (along with the ego), but the strength it takes to stand and fight another day is worth the bruised knees and battered self-esteem.

We are not perfect. But we are perfectionists stuck in the shoes of fallible creatures. Making peace with that incongruity is the first step toward shedding the skin of self-criticism and personal disparagement.

This is exponentially easier said than done. Beating ourselves up over every misstep and mistake we make is a national pastime.  Our society reserves praise only for the best of the best, and shuns second place losers like a colony of lepers holding silver medals, plastering on fake smiles of faux enthusiasm for disinterested press lines.

But without defeat, there is no success. If we don’t give ourselves permission to fail, we never learn. If we never learn, we never grow.

Reframe your personal narrative. Relish the wins, but embrace the losses with a modified focus on what can be gained from coming up short or missing the mark.

Failure might finally have a different feel when it’s wearing fuzzy slippers instead of spiked heels.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Feeling of Familiar

Walking around the world as creatures of contentment and relishers of routine, it’s easy to assume that breaking a pattern to add some spice to the monotonous mix means upsetting the setup by tossing a pot of pasta against the wall to see what sticks and what falls.

However, having recently upended my entire life to return to the place where the building blocks of those comfort zones were first stacked, I’m learning that revisiting the starting line can serve as a thoroughly unexpected chance to refresh and reload. There is a certain novelty to presumption, and jack has been waiting to pounce from his hiding place boxes at even the slightest turn of his crank.

Time is impatient. While I was off chasing adventures, the town that imprinted itself onto my core code grew its own legs and learned to run…and with a heavy hunk of my heart still stuck in another city, it’s been taxing trying to keep pace.

But the breeze that blew me back to basics and the rationale to bunt and steal home remain front and center. I’m constantly reminded of the clock and its speedy sand.

Without the arms to control anything outside my direct reach, I’ll focus on what matters most, strap on those running shoes, and continue to track that elusive feeling of familiar.

Adolescence Interrupted

Goodnight, L.A.

“‘Cause I could break like a bird.
Or I could swallow the sea.
It seems like the daylight is coming,
and no one is watching but me.”    —Counting Crows

With a weighty heart, I’m walking away from the city I’ve called home for the last 15 years. The only other time I was ushered toward the exit was at the completion of my college internship with the Beastie Boys in ‘99. I knew I still had so much left to accomplish, so much to explore. But I was dragged back east by the cuffs of my jeans, fingernails scraping the sidewalk. The most electrifying and enlightening period of growth I’d had in my young life was stamped with a finite expiration, and it was time to turn in the keys and retreat to the familiar. But I vowed I’d return to plant my flag.

I fell in love with this town from the minute my toes touched the smog-laden sidewalks. The energy. The hope. The constant buzz of brains consumed by a solitary pursuit. The land of dreams and dreamers, populated by an army of idealists and artists, is precisely where I found the welcoming, open arms I’d been waiting to fall into. It’s been almost 20 years since I was first smitten with a seductress disguised as Southern California, and it all zipped by in a hazy blink.

People talk about the nice weather and the constant traffic, but it’s so much more than that. The pound of the pavement and the cycles of the Pacific are inspiring, fueling, energizing, and driving us to be more fully engaged versions of ourselves. It’s less about the artificial sheen of glitz and glamour and more about the grounded grind. “Making it” doesn’t make us better, and most of the memories we’ll carry are collected during the pursuit.

This time, I’m leaving with a lot more knowledge about how the pistons move inside the grand Hollywood machine, but I remain just as enamored with the progressive perspective and overwhelming sense of hope that lives in this coastal town. I’ve seen the man behind the curtain, and I still believe he’s a wizard.

Over the last 14 months, I took a deep dive into this battered psyche on an exploration to find a meaningful justification and a greater sense of purpose for the next chapter. I slid a series of scenarios in and out of vacant brain spaces like a manic game of Tetris, and the only feasible fix for the constant trepidation about the impending tidal wave cresting above my head was a severe shift in my course trajectory.

Taking time to take stock of the reality that dwindling days disappear at a greater rate with every passing year is an important practice. Routines and rituals serve to speed our clocks, and if we don’t come up for air to check in with ourselves, we’ll drown in the monotony.

So, I watched another year slide off the calendar, spent some minutes trying to remember more than five truly significant moments from the last decade, and then made the decision to not allow ten more rotations around the sun to vanish by simply ignoring their pace.

We have very limited screen time on this show. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see how the shoes fit when we’re 80 or 90. Only a select few will push much beyond that.  Some of us get half as many chances to wipe the slate clean and start again.

Splitting the people I care about most into two groups on opposite sides of the country has never been a comfortable arrangement to accept. But I refuse to live with the regret of inaction. If I don’t spin the wheel to move the rudder, the scenery never changes. I’ll wake up an old man, wishing I’d better preserved the bonds that built me, and I’ll think of all the sunsets I took for granted, arrogantly expecting the following day to dawn.

I’m so grateful to have spent the majority of my prime years in this uniquely special city. To have been surrounded by an ironclad support circle as I navigated the wildly unpredictable waves that routinely accompany a creative life was the sole reason I was able to swim for so long.

But it’s time to switch tracks and replace stations. Let’s see where some of the other trains travel.

Adolescence Interrupted

Take Both Hands off the Wheel

Control has been my best friend and my worst enemy.

The notion, even when manufactured, that there is some way to walk in the puppeteer’s shoes and make the marionette dance is a great relief and an overwhelming burden.

A sense of control in an uncontrollable world has been the fresh carrot in front of this horse’s face for longer than I can remember.

When certain coding is imprinted onto a brain during development, the trajectory of a person is almost preordained. If the notion of safety and security is permanently removed, the eyes never stop scanning. The head is always on a swivel. Like stealing a chipset from a motherboard, this individual is left spinning in place, wary of what’s waiting in the shadows.

For those of us who have seen the dangerous and deadly aspects of this human experiment, there is little fun, excitement, or joy wrapped inside the concept of spontaneity. Reliable patterns, routines, and habits are the weighted wheels that keep the roller coaster cart from careening off the tracks.

So, when an unanticipated universal hand surprises me by ruffling my neatly combed metaphorical hair, a severely defective fight-or-flight response system gets quickly and easily overloaded.

Find flow and go with the grain. Learn to release, and accept the unexpected as variables are presented, even when bombshells detonate. Resist the need to dictate every part of the process.

Breathe.

This is a prescription more easily written than filled. But setting an intention is always the first step, and right now I’ve got some serious stairs to climb. Hopefully, the view is what I’d hoped. See you when I get to the top.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Upsides of Downsides

I suppose it’s emblematic of the human condition that challenges and obstacles suddenly dropped on our path normally elicit the full range of reactions. As creatures of habit and ritual, we prefer to wrap ourselves in a blanket of familiarity and tend to avoid any variables that pose a threat to our safety or survival. I’m sure it’s somehow wired into our DNA, so we have Homo habilis to thank for the butterflies in our belfries.

But maybe there’s a hidden benefit to that knee-jerk panic response that sends the heart rate racing. Our bodies are being primed for evaluation, either internally or externally. We’re forced to take a moment of pause to assess and decide. So it might be wise to embrace those sweaty palms and shaky hands.

Zooming out, this can apply to individual situations or the “life map” as a whole. Rarely do we have the luxury of smooth sailing, and deviations from the game plan are more often a burden to bear and a maze to navigate. Change is a wool sweater on bare skin, and any progress takes some itching. There’s no such thing as painless growth, only growing pains.

Closing a chapter feels much different than writing it. I’m sprinting toward a checkered flag that was years in the making, and some big-picture evaluation has been monopolizing my sleepless nights.

Only time guards the answers. But right now, it’s hard to see if that rapidly approaching line is labeled “start” or “finish.”

Adolescence Interrupted

Mr. Oscar’s Last Stand

“I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about. I have even heard on good authority that I was dead…. The report of my death was an exaggeration.”  —Mark Twain

The lead-up to this year’s Oscars ceremony was plagued with absent hosts, plummeting ratings expectations, and a general sense that this seemingly unshakable institution was standing on wobbly legs. Most eyes were glued to the road, the onlookers poised for an inevitable crash.

In a time of rampant on-demand instant gratification, the notion of a live event that can both captivate the wider viewing audience and secure that coveted advertising demographic is starting to feel like a relic from a bygone era. Sports seems to be the only modern diversion still titillating enough to draw a crowd not willing to wait for the delay of the DVR.

So the Academy’s producers had their hands full. Grasping at straws by thrusting a pitchfork into the hay bale, there were recommendations to limit certain awards to commercial breaks, cut some of the musical performances, or reduce the number of montages that seem to exist solely to convince those sitting in the Dolby that they’re part of history’s most exceptional institution.

Most of these suggestions were almost instantly rolled back, and it looked as if that dreaded 4-hour running time was a very real possibility. But then something truly magical happened…all the puzzle pieces fell perfectly into place.

This was, by far, one of the smoothest and most engaging ceremonies in recent memory. Discounting the awkward, abrupt farewell by America’s favorite 90s sweetheart after the controversial Green Book win, the show never suffered from the lack of a host, the musical performances easily filled the spaces left by a lack of endless montages, and the show crossed the finish line in a trim and tidy 3.25 hours.

Maybe projections and suppositions are better left to elections and investments. When it comes to Hollywood’s biggest night, focusing on the achievements of those honored by reducing the static and filler surrounding the proceedings proved to be a savvy strategy.

Let’s just hope 2020 doesn’t take two steps back.

Adolescence Interrupted

Health Is Wealth

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”                      —Buddha

Balancing our mental, physical, and emotional well-being is a lot like Rocky chasing the chicken. As soon as we think we’ve grabbed it, we get pecked in the hand and feel like fools for ever believing we could master the untrainable. It often feels like an exercise in futility, and the spoils never seem to match the energy output. But we return to the coop, again and again, hoping this time will be different than the last.

But the “fowl” in pursuit may look less like a tangible target and more like an albatross necklace.

We are regularly trying to outrun, track down, and redraft our inherent nature, hardwired DNA, or natural predisposition. It’s tough to ditch an adversary attached at the cellular level. But we do our very best to challenge Mother Nature at every turn, confident that determination can trump reality.

This elusive attempt at leveling the mogul-strewn mountain is as comfortable as a marathon run in quicksand or climbing a rungless ladder. Being picked up and dragged back to the starting line after every failed attempt to finish is deflating and disheartening.

However, there are steps that can be taken and chessboard strategies that can be implemented to put us in the most favorable possible position. Compromise and a sense of grounded realism are comfortable bedfellows, especially when our knuckles are beaten and bruised from a constant battle with the beak.

Adolescence Interrupted