Tag Archives: BlairPatrickSchuyler

Tiny Victories

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Waiting with fingers crossed for some giant sweeping, exhilarating event to alter the trajectory of your path is the emotional equivalent of tossing dimes in a fountain and banking on fortuitous returns. Life’s most satisfying moments come less from a sky illuminated by grand finales and more from the snappy pop of firecrackers on a spark-strewn  piece of lawn. We gain the most momentum from measured achievement on a carefully plotted timeline, not random rocket rides promising shortcuts to success.

Of course, there are always exceptions. But rolling the dice on a long shot can leave you questioning how all those eggs landed in the same basket. Options have to be more than backup plans and worst-case scenarios. The parachute should be a part of the preparation, as opposed to a quick-grab lifesaving impulse, or you’ll be left standing at the cargo doors, holding the ripcord, and wondering how it all went wrong.

I have been lucky enough lately to celebrate a series of small wins. While no individual event or achievement promises the attainment of endgame goals, the building blocks are finally stacking to form a tower. With better perspective and a less impeded view, I can plot the actions necessary for extended travel down this often rocky road. Small steps, not giant strides. But without a certain degree of fight, the finish line will continue to blend into the distant horizon. Even the best intentions can get lost on a treadmill to nowhere.

So a healthy heap of focus is on the menu, and eliminating distractions is a crucial piece of that winning formula. I’ll suck in the sweet oxygen of life’s little gifts while keeping diligent attention on the next chapter of a constantly unfolding story. Variables are responsible for the biggest letdowns and the biggest rewards.

But it pains me to admit that sometimes it feels like the finish line is also running the race.

Adolescence Interrupted

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Fatherless, Childless

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I recently realized I am in a fairly unique position. There is no paternal bond left in my life. Both of my grandfathers are gone, my father is deceased, and I have no children. I’m sure this is not a wildly rare situation, but it’s one that lends itself to some introspective examination.

I wasn’t raised with a father, so I can’t speak to the notion of men needing other men to cultivate a fully-formed human. There wasn’t a bigger, harrier version of me handing over a playbook with keys to the testosteronic kingdom.

I’m sure I may have missed a few lessons along the way. I probably can’t throw a solid jab. There is no desire to attend strip clubs, kill animals for sport, or sit at a poker table, and I’d rather intentionally collapse my trachea than sleep outdoors in a tent.

But from a macroscopic level, there may be a fundamental disconnect when the bloodline comes untethered.

The long-lasting psychological implications germinating in a mind left alone to wander the world are above my pay grade, but there is certainly something absent. Finding a sense of peace as the calendar pages are torn becomes more of a priority than second-guessing specific decisions made along the journey. The “what ifs” are heartbreakers, but “what’s next” is fuel.

This stage will be tackled like all the rest, and I’ll find my footing on an icy staircase leading to some version of actualization, however faded that picture appears when I finally (hopefully) arrive.

We are driven by our core instincts and the only job we have is to listen. The answers come from the quiet voices in the shadowy recesses of our mind.

We simply need to remember that those whispers are screams.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Inoperable Pause

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Recently, there was a study done proposing that most people tend to live in the moment, with little worry about past trouble or the future consequences from present actions. Even when shown a timeline of past difficulties, unanticipated bumps that lined the road, or undeniable proof that life was anything but smooth, it was human nature for participants to project positivity. They couldn’t anticipate the pitfalls, only the victories.

We want to believe that there is always a better version of the world waiting for us. We want to trust that the work we do to improve ourselves and our surroundings will lay the foundation for some distant attainment of self-satisfaction, comfort, or achievement. The energy put into the process should be directly related to the spoils gained at the finish line. Well, it’s not.

As we sprint after rabbits like greyhounds in the ring, life is disappearing with each passing lap. Eyes stubbornly fixed on the horizon, we’re stumbling over the sidewalk at our feet. We are forsaking today for tomorrow, while the planet—and its need for speed around the sun—is ignoring our desire for a reduced pace to accomplish these goals.

Life is constantly in flux. The moments we want to hold forever last for flashes. By the time we’re fully appreciating the significance of the situation, it disappears. Single friends start to marry. Sweatpants are replaced by suits. Freedom is limited by families and responsibilities. Stasis is a concept, not a reality.

Embracing each event and living in the present are notions as old as time itself, but when we carefully examine the particular context of that advice, the picture comes into sharper focus. This is more than the normal evolutionary process of aging. A specific feeling and mood are lost with each clock’s round trip. There’s a palpable shift in the dynamic, and that shift can bring about feelings of loss and regret that far outweigh the joy.

So hold tightly to the good stuff when it surfaces. Chances are it will be long gone before you realize it was even there.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Fight

fight1Life is a brawl, but some of us have the innate ability to pull ourselves up from the mat, even when every cell in our bodies is screaming at us to stay down. Why do some people reach for that rope while others accept defeat?

This has been a central question throughout my writing, research, and life. I’m endlessly fascinated by survivors and the wiring required to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles with the mentality that failure is an unacceptable option. It’s more than willpower and a strong constitution. The defiance to fall is born from a fire raging deep within the recesses of our memories. It’s fueled by history and circumstance.

I can only speak from personal experience, but low self-esteem and an unrelenting drive to prove myself worthy have combined to transform fragile guts to concrete. My reluctance to bow is propelled by an incessant need to demonstrate inner strength. Spitting in the face of slim odds and disheartening diagnoses became my religion. Of course, there were times when that resolve faltered, but the mentality endured. I credit the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” mantra for my health and sense of purpose today.

Is this level of fight something learned? Can people be trained to be survivors or are they only built on the battlefield? Will someone without a difficult past still find the determination needed to break down walls of fear, despair, or hopelessness?

These are questions I will continue to ask in my pursuit of clarity. The human condition and the psychological puppet master pulling the strings are fascinating areas of study. Plus, what’s a day without some wildly complicated topic to obsess about?!

Adolescence Interrupted

The Necessity of Art

art1Without creative expression, we are nothing more than automatons, robotically plodding through each day under the command and watchful eye of moneymakers dropping us on hamster wheels to sprint for our supper.

It is the liberation born from artistic endeavors that enables human beings to break the chains of conformity to stand as wholly unique individuals. Whether it’s a song, film, painting, or book, the idea that something can occupy space in the world where there was previously only a lone notion is a beautiful and mysterious thing.

Inspiration born from the deep recesses of the mind is an inexplicable phenomenon. Lightning strikes come without warning, and suddenly the picture begins to find focus. Since my primary arena is words, I can only speak from that perspective. But there have been countless situations when my fingers were writing something without assistance from any earthly grounded force. I stop typing after 15 minutes and wonder who filled the page with these phrases and metaphors. I liken it to composers who listen back to a piece of music as if they’re hearing it for the first time.

We are simply conduits for creativity, and the results are generally more succinct and better developed than the head-spinning process of trying to generate poetry by pounding two pieces of clay together, struggling to form a shape.

Everyone has a place and a purpose. Scientific minds are here to answer the world’s most complex questions. Educators instill the next generation with the necessary building blocks of knowledge. The woodworkers and craftsmen are indispensable pieces of the equation. Farmers literally keep us alive. But without art, the very core of what makes us human would be lost.

So the next time you hear a perfectly-constructed melody or read words that seem to dance off the page, remember that it takes a very specific energy and talent to generate something that stirs the soul.

Adolescence Interrupted

Seeing the Sometimes Rainbow

rainbow2There are moments when it seems like each puzzle piece has fallen perfectly into place. No square pegs are trying desperately to squeeze into position, and no rogue idea or action is fighting against the flow of the grain.

These instances are incredibly uncommon and this realization is best evidenced by almost every entry on this blog since the beginning of 2014. Existence is often an uphill climb with little thrill in the arms-in-the-air relief from the drop on the other side. We plot and plan, toil and till with some hope that the efforts made will cultivate a crop worth preserving. But uncontrollable variables generally have ideas of their own.

So, I’m overjoyed to report that this summer has offered a respite from the incessant slingshot. For the first time in a long time, positive energy met positive momentum and that dynamic duo has paved a rare golden road of hope, confidence, promise, and self-satisfaction. This was years in the making, but I’m finally able to harvest the fruits of my labor.

Possibilities have taken the place of pigeonholes and the vulnerability is something I can embrace, as opposed to shelter. The key is to maximize the momentum and fuel the fire. I’m far too familiar with the frosty chill that accompanies a stalled trajectory.

So, with steady eyes and a helpful boost from the universal puppet master, I’m walking down a self-generated path. Head high. Focus set. A road of my own creation. A purpose born from pain.

This smog-laden air never smelled so sweet.

Adolescence Interrupted

A Writer’s World

AI2“The more closely the author thinks of why he wrote, the more he comes to regard his imagination as a kind of self-generating cement which glued his facts together, and his emotions as a kind of dark and obscure designer of those facts. Reluctantly, he comes to the conclusion that to account for his book is to account for his life.”           -Richard Wright

I am beyond happy to report that my book, Adolescence Interrupted, is officially available. To be able to write those words after a seemingly endless publishing period is still surreal, but I’m doing my best to allow the significance of the moment to register. I’m aware this is an event that will only happen once, so I better savor a few smiles before I leap to the next undertaking.

Anyone who was even remotely aware of the mysterious endeavor that took years of secluded labor and emotional excavation understands the weight behind this statement.

A writer’s world is plagued with worry, wonder, and self-doubt. We pound away on these keys in isolation, with little knowledge of road maps or finish lines, and hope for some modicum of coherence or readability. Then, with blurry eyes and bruised fingertips, we swipe the sweat from the screen to inspect our creation. There are sentences or sections that often feel otherworldly, authored by some apparition to help push us down the path. Other times, phrases are buried beneath the marble, and no amount of persuasion or coaxing can bring them to the surface.

It is inside this push-and-pull exercise that we find flashes of clarity and bursts of inspiration. We learn to ride that seesaw up and down until a notion or objective stands, fully formed.

There is no satisfaction in the result without some frustration in the practice. Work worth its salt takes bumps and bruises as it’s built. The writer’s job is to embrace the bout, duck the critical jabs, and stand to fight another day.

Adolescence Interrupted

New Chapter

beginning1Whenever it feels like a fresh start is on the horizon, I can’t help but be reminded of my friend Diane’s email signature. Each message concludes with “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Most people probably only remember this as a line in Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” But its origins are a little older. Roman philosopher Seneca was first credited with the quote in the mid-1st century. Still, the timelessness of the sentiment rings just as true today.

I’ve spent the last decade flying high, scraping the bottom, or generally anticipating what grand inspiration is waiting to send lightning bolts to a barren mental field. It’s an odd life and not one that I would readily recommend, but each time the door handles lock and the gates slam shut, a tiny string attached to a rising balloon seems to find my fingers. I’m set back to start with renewed energy and open eyes.

Once again, I stand at the precipice. Looking out at a vast expanse of maybes, I’m invigorated by potential and promise, hope and heartbreak. I never thought I would spend so much time on the tightrope, but I’m learning to love walking on the wire. My dough doesn’t fit inside the cookie-cutter mold and dancing to a different drum was inevitable, no matter how much I tried to conform.

So, with some unique fuel sources and a universal pinch on the cheeks for good luck, I’m strapped in for the rocket ride. The stationary bike is off its trainers and there’s finally some rubber on the road. Whether or not I put any miles on the odometer is left to be determined. But I’m confident the sun will still shine on planted seeds, regardless of the rain.

The Self-Esteem/Self-Confidence Paradox

paradox1“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.”  -Carl Jung

There are no lies more damaging than the ones we tell ourselves. Living in a city of surface judgments and split-second perceptions, I have felt the weight of my cloak getting increasingly burdensome. The assertiveness of my projections is being tested against the veracity of my core, and that dizzying dance is beginning to take its toll.

Honoring the guts of the gadget is loving the machine. We’re not only luster and smiles, but rusted gears and loosened bolts. Parading ourselves as showroom-ready when we’re barely rental-lot level overtaxes the battery and burns out the engine.

This fight is a daily push-and-pull of expectations and introspective criticism, while strapping on specific masks most suitable for the occasion. I’m a born pugilist, but I’ve taken some critical blows. The dormant ego has long been jockeying for position and there’s significant stress on the dam. Cracks are inevitable.

Stockpiling worry and wonder has done some irreparable physical damage, and my neck, shoulders, and spine are paying the price for a lifetime of carrying baggage beyond my frame’s tolerance. But I will continue to drag those stones up the mountain because my brain has prescribed the pain, and this parading false exterior dutifully follows doctor’s orders.

My hope for all of us is that the road begins to level and the load learns to lighten. Some of that is circumstantial, but the bulk of the work hinges on our willingness to solve a puzzle by compartmentalizing the good and the grime.

The value we place on our stressors is imaginary and fleeting, but the trick is explaining that concept to biological circuitry specifically programmed to tie knots in the rope.