All posts by blairpatrickschuyler

Writer, Editor, Proofreader, Memoirist, Actor, Poet

24-Hour Snooze Cycle

The very real danger that comes with access to a constant barrage of manipulative, anger-stoking news is a perennial sense of dread, despair, and hopelessness. A ceaseless ticker that continuously prophesies the end of the world as we know it fosters a population inundated with misinformation and stuck inside an oxygen-deprived sustained sense of angst. Frozen in fear, waiting for the other shoe to fall, or boiling with rage, ready to wage war on the other side, are equally detrimental emotional states.

When ratings rely on glued eyeballs to support inflated ad budgets, there is a hefty premium and a priority placed on one thing: force-feeding content until our stomachs explode and then convincing us we’re still starving.

The worst abusers of that revenue model are FOX, CNN, and MSNBC. This is not vetted, hard-hitting journalism. It’s entertainment. It’s pro wrestling masquerading as essential information. But when fingers full of advertising dollars are pushing the buttons and pulling the levers, nothing is fair. Nothing is balanced. Everything is not breaking news.

The most detrimental, divisive force in the history of this country has been the advent and adoption of the 24-hour news cycle.

A society that leaned on the nightly news for an unbiased, agenda-free presentation of the day’s events now happily suckles at the teat of major multibillion-dollar monsters intent on keeping us just outraged enough to continue watching.

Luckily, real news still exists. But it’s getting increasingly difficult to find. There is an abundance of deep-dive, well-researched investigative pieces waiting for open ears in the podcast world, but not everyone spends the majority of their time streaming endless hours of audio content the way I tend to do, so sometimes that’s a tough ask.

Reading posted online articles is another way of filtering out blatant advertising exploitation by adopting a simple subscription model. But again, heavy lifting is not the default setting for most Americans…and reading, unfortunately, takes an even more distant backseat.

So we’re left with sloping, albatross-laden necks, twisted and bent from our own poor planning and lack of foresight. Unfortunately, easy, accessible, and unremittingly present cable news is a dirty dragon that seems to continue finding new ways to escape the slay.

The best we can do is keep our swords sharp and wait for a window.

Adolescence Interrupted

Normalized Desensitization

Squinting through sensationalistic headlines that land on lazy, apathetic eyes. Digging out from beneath a mountain of misinformation to find just enough oxygen to breathe a molecule of truth. Untying knots of strategic manipulation to stretch a straight line from catalyst to result. Differentiating sarcasm from sincerity to avoid misconstrued intention. Offering the benefit of the doubt before blatant dismissal. Reaching out with an open hand instead of a closed fist.

These would all seem like logical, sensible modes of operation in our modern society.

But when was the last time you witnessed any of this regularly practiced?

In our knee-jerk, zero-tolerance culture, fingers are rarely pulled from triggers before shots are fired. We have normalized fury, ignorance, outrage, laziness, and intolerance.

News that would have felt impossibly fictitious only a decade ago now holds the intellectual weight of a weather report. Disposable, dismissible sound bites float almost silently in one ear and then quickly exit the other. We half-focus on everything before instantly abandoning even the notion of comprehension, let alone action.

The big bad news is that none of this behavior is abating. With each passing year, the seeds of our future discontent are being sown with the rapidity of a hyperactive nut-gathering squirrel.

So, do we bend under the weight of stacked distractions, or do we force our heads out of the sand and stand accountable? Passivity and avoidance aren’t what medals are made of…but courage and clarity are the ingredients of greatness.

Adolescence Interrupted 

Move Outside

Move outside of conventional thinking, blind acceptance of information, rigid adherence to societal standards, pressure to compete with unattainable goals, shortsighted global views, pigeonholed careers, clock watching, orchestrated self-sabotage, doomsday scenarios, rat races, hamster wheels, bear markets, likes, followers, the perfect angle, the perfect light, sound bites, idolatry, jealousy, greener grass, greener envy, antagonistic self-reflection, competitive denigration, punching down, anonymous opinions, recycled rage, or falsely directed fear.

But most importantly…Move. Outside.

We are zombies and addicts. Glued to the incessant blue light glow of media, entertainment, propaganda, and mind control, we find ourselves forced against our will to continue swimming in a toxic stream. As our brains and bodies become more and more compromised, we defiantly keep our palms hovering just above the flame, even when the skin starts to blister. We lose days, weeks, and months in a ceaseless, cultish haze of ritualistic participation.

Thankfully, there is a panacea to stop our unconscious suffering. It couldn’t be easier to access and it’s entirely without cost. At a cellular level, science designed us to slay this dragon, and there is no more perfectly constructed solution to this troubling global affliction.

Stand up. Move.

Walk, run, jog, jump, slide, spin, sprint, hang, climb, swim, swing, dance, stretch, and twist.

The immediate effects are shocking. The long-term benefits are indisputable. What starts as a slog will soon become a necessity. Our minds and moods mimic this change in positive action and the chemicals that foster those feelings respond in kind.

We don’t need pills or distractions or more ways to numb ourselves.

We just need to move.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Power of No

For the last decade or so, I’ve been steadily subtracting.

As an experiment in reduction and elimination, I’ve taken the long list of life’s accepted “essentials” and pared them down to the most minimal survivable items.

Many would see these choices as psychotic rigidity without real purpose. But I have always lived on a narrow spectrum of black and white, so floating in the gray never held much appeal.

Some decisions are grounded in practices of optimizing health. Others are stubborn refusals to double back once I’ve started down a particular course. Either way, the list is constantly expanding, and there is a real risk that, given enough time, I may ultimately be left with nothing.

Still, I plod along, desperate for some modicum of control or a sense of peace in an increasingly uncontrollable, chaotically unsettling world.

Mental illness, in any of its various constructions, is a constant wire walk. The best we can do is build blocks of balance from whatever tools are readily available…and these are mine, for now.

Diet: No meat. No dairy. No nuts. No soy. No bananas. No avocados. No tomatoes. No peppers. No onions. No caffeine. No soda. No fast food.

Lifestyle: No sex. No drugs. No alcohol. No smoke. No prescription medication. No gambling. No hedonism.

Personality: No jealousy. No envy. No greed. No fear. No lust. No easy acquiescence. No easy sleep. No vanity. No addiction. No laziness. No breaks. No brakes. No self-indulgence. No self-forgiveness. No self-esteem. No sustained sense of hope. No hysteria. No indolence. No cowardice. No egotism. No profligacy. No pomposity. No inanity. No misinformation. No wastefulness. No tolerance for animal cruelty, of any kind.

This may all be madness…or just a dangerous form of mad science.

Time will tell.

Just say no.

Adolescence Interrupted

Next Lap/Last Lap

Every day is a borrowed bet that it’s not the final one.

As we walk the familiar path of looking back at yesterday to plan for tomorrow, it’s important to realize that no minutes or months are guaranteed. We assume the ritualistic rising sun affords us a constant opportunity to embrace a clean slate and start anew. Regardless of the mistakes and indiscretions that spurred our insomniac nights, a fresh morning canvas stands motionless in the middle of the room, floating in the nebulous space between inspiration and regret.

But what if that sun doesn’t surface?  What if tomorrow never arrives? What if yesterday was the end of the song?

The tired, clichéd advice to “live each day like it’s your last” is a hackneyed platitude…until it’s true. But the irony remains. We couldn’t embrace that lap because we never knew it would be the last. Now the hourglass is empty and we don’t have time to sweep up the sand.

Whether due to erratic geopolitics, super viruses, tragic happenstance, or our own free will, this past year may have been our curtain call…even if we were prematurely pushed out in front of the audience, unprepared for the bow.

There is an incredibly fragile balance constantly at play between nature and society, and we ride this edge of an eggshell crack existence desperately hoping the precarious shaking of the scales doesn’t suddenly shift and forever knock us off our trajectory.

We are fools to believe a ship’s sails will only be propelled by favorable winds, but it might be wise to recognize a perfect line when it presents itself. There isn’t always a patient second opportunity waiting in the wings, so cross your fingers and carpe diem.

Adolescence Interrupted

My Dog Is the Reason I Keep Going

Life is a treadmill run. A hamster wheel sprint. Boxes to check. Items to cross out. Duties to finish. Obligations to fulfill. Appointments to schedule. Tasks to accomplish. Habits to maintain.

Commitments. Responsibilities. Itineraries. Pointless repetition without real purpose. Ceaseless pressure to be productive. A self-generated tinnitus-causing crack of a constantly snapping whip refusing to rest.

For someone with that rare combination of being both tetherless and rudderless, this modern world is an impossibly burdensome weight to manage.

Shoulders can only struggle and labor under a load of stacked resistance for so long before they start shaking.

Until you get a dog.

The realization that things were indeed darkest before the dawn feels too poetic to be fact and not fiction. But the arrival of a truly selfless soul with the primary imperative to simply love and be loved is authentic and grounded.

All the clichés, memes, and T-shirts were right all along. Who knew?

Vastly superior to humans in myriad ways, these canine companions are here to teach us more than we thought we needed to know…and to allow personal growth to take shape, regardless of how much we resist against the grain.

They are the world’s best listeners and perfect partners, armed with a finely tuned radar for our pain…and bottomless patience for our delays. They’re watching us when we think they’re asleep and waiting for every opportunity to connect. They are honest, forgiving, tolerant, loyal, hopeful, eager, dependable, and genuine.

Always up for an adventure, they jump at the chance to hop in the car and drive all day without a destination…and find delight in even the most mundane things. A simple walk is a constant cause for celebration. A special biscuit is an impossibly precious reward.

Any time together is time well spent.

You are their leader, protector, and very best friend.

Sometimes there isn’t much of a reason to keep grinding along.

Until you get a dog.

Adolescence Interrupted

F for Effort

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  ―Thomas Edison

It’s more comfortable to gather your chips and walk away from the table than to risk everything, especially when everything is at stake.

But those are the moments that test our resolve and willingness to step to the precipice of ruination, armed only with a gut instinct to stay in the box, waiting for that one last swing. 

Maybe we make contact. Maybe we don’t. But both results carve two very distinct paths. How we navigate the walk is more important than the shape of the route that was forced upon us.

It’s easy to get lost in the twists and turns and missteps and regrets and hindsight and remorse and blunders and miscalculations. But the gate is closed behind us, so the only option is to move forward.

That might mean celebrating success or revisiting the drawing board. But there is no time or room for stagnation, and the clock isn’t waiting for us to reach a definitive conclusion before our feet get going.

Perspective is something much more easily seen in the rearview mirror, so it’s not always simple to plot a plan in the present moment. But the only way to avoid failure is to continue rolling the dice and hoping for favorable combinations. 

What we do to manage the reality of the results after all the bets have been placed says more about our character and resolve than any ephemeral “luck” doled out by the universe.    

Each day is an opportunity for improvement, regardless of the possible obstacles. Some steps might need to be taken more gently than others, but the pivotal moment comes when you decide to lift that heel and begin.

Adolescence Interrupted

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