All posts by blairpatrickschuyler

Writer, Editor, Proofreader, Memoirist, Actor, Poet

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

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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

A Macrocosmic Perspective

I started this blog five years ago on the foundation of a simple concept. I wanted to explore the minutiae of modern life and culture by boiling down broad ideas into digestible pieces of reflection. There was the hope of starting a dialogue among those who were interested in diving into the deep stuff. I wasn’t presumptuous enough to believe I could advance any permanent, sustained change or rewire the minds of the masses, but I hoped that I could simply set a table and people would find their way to the plate.

The feedback has been both affirming and motivating. Challenging preconceptions, reframing accepted ideologies, or simply questioning the status quo has given readers a moment of pause to take a second pass at some of their unconsciously accepted viewpoints. We often don’t look at something from another angle, especially when the edges seem to neatly align with our convictions. So it’s been a pleasure to open up this incessant sandstorm of contemplation that I call my daily existence and invite you all inside for a visit.

But as of late, I have realized that exploring what hits closest to home is just as important as obsessing about what affects us on a national or global level. The bonds we have built and the connections we have made are the iron stakes that prevent our circus tents from blowing away. When all the static and distractions are silenced, we’re left standing with what truly holds weight.

Perspective is everything. Time should certainly be spent analyzing the big picture, but please don’t forget the importance of a myopic focus…especially when it comes to those who mean the most.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year.

Adolescence Interrupted

Dropping a Rope Ladder into the Dark

Sometimes the loudest cries don’t make a sound.

Sometimes a helping hand gets slapped away.

Sometimes the reluctance to engage should be ignored.

Sometimes people just need to feel heard.

Sometimes it gets dark…very dark.

These days I have found myself at the base of a conundrum. There are a few vitally important individuals in my life who appear to be struggling with weighted shoulders and bleak prospects, whether concrete or concocted, and I’m not exactly sure how to be of service.

Everyone possesses a unique web of mental wiring, and this is certainly not a “one-size-fits-all” situation. Whatever has caused the drop—situational/lifestyle circumstances, chemical shifts, etc.—is something specific to the individual and should be approached with care, concern, and respect.

It is difficult to see the light when you’re drowning in the dark, and no amount of positivity or forced perspective about future prospects does much to impact the present. There’s no value in describing the colors of a sunset to someone wearing a blindfold. The goal must be to meet them where they’re stuck, grab some shovels, and start digging. Eventually, a few rays of sunlight will penetrate the cracks.

It hurts my heart to know that my friends are suffering. We live in a world where it’s easy to feel bombarded by expectations or to sink in the mud of unrealized aspirations. We are shown a picture-perfect, Photoshopped world of flawless smiling faces and successful peers knocking one feat or adventure after another off their carefully curated bucket lists while we look at old photos and wonder where the last decade disappeared. But when feeling bummed becomes feeling lost, it’s time to intervene.

There is not a manual for this sort of thing, and it may take stubbing some toes into bedposts before we find the clearest path. But our loved ones who have drawn the curtains and pulled the shades are not being subtle…even if they think they’re wearing a good disguise. We see through the slits on the side of that molded mask and we know it’s not your face.

I’ll bring the shovels. Please let me help you dig.

Adolescence Interrupted

I Believe in You

I’m a big fan…of everyone else.

For some reason, I can see limitless potential and promise in the work and dreams of others. It’s easy to be a support system, offering encouragement and positive feedback, without an ounce of back-scratching reciprocity in mind. I love to celebrate people’s successes and revel in their triumphs—giant wins or tiny victories.

Even though I have generally found myself in fairly competitive fields and dog-eat-dog cities, there was never jealousy, envy, or any desire to trade positions with those who seemed to be riding a golden chariot to bigger and brighter futures. I simply saluted them as they passed through the clouds.

It’s exciting to witness a friend or loved one harnessing some hidden potential or exploring a particular passion. A sense of admiration and pride fill the space where bitterness or resentment could easily reside. I’ve always thought it was just lucky wiring to be free of that kind of burden—comparing my station or level of self-actualization to my peers. But I think it’s a bit more complex.

First, an interesting dichotomy is at play since I’m wildly competitive in so many areas of my life (tennis, board games, etc.), but feel absolutely no need to find rivals or adversaries in the work world. I hold fervent beliefs and opinions about almost everything, and I have zero reservations engaging in heated debates about endless topics. I will go to ridiculous lengths to defend a stance or point of view, but when it comes to status, career, or social standing, I gladly and regularly relinquish my spot in line. Why?

By maintaining an “army of one” existence and basic life philosophy, there is plenty of satisfaction found from the simple act of meeting minimal core needs. A solid sense of security and a healthy inner circle are almost all that’s on my list. I’m sure a depleted self-esteem reserve and a backlog of darts that stuck just left of the bullseye haven’t helped my cause. But the core code was written long before the swings and misses, and I’m grateful for the ability to be a cheerleader for those around me.

Some shoot for the stars, and some look for the best soil to bury the stake. Comfortably in the camp of the latter, I prefer a foundation that remains right where I left it.

Adolescence Interrupted

Just Stop

Enough.

Enough whispered comments about her body.

Enough unwelcome invasions of physical space.

Enough condescension.

Enough leering between the blouse buttons.

Enough backhanded compliments.

Enough creepy shoulder massages.

Enough talk about sex.

Enough uninvited visits.

Enough intimidation.

Enough posturing.

Enough disrespect.

Enough taking advantage of a compromising position.

Enough lies.

Enough power plays.

Enough misinterpretations.

Enough boasting.

Enough heartache.

Enough trauma.

Enough fear.

Enough tears.

Enough abuse.

Enough bad decisions.

Enough excuses.

Enough threats.

Enough regrets.

Enough coercion.

Enough slander.

Enough character assassinations.

Enough bullying.

Enough mistreatment.

Enough assault.

Enough toxicity.

Enough is enough.

Wake up. Grow up. Just stop.

Adolescence Interrupted