One Year of Being a Published Author

June 27th, 2016 was a monumental day for me. It was the day that my first book, An Epilogue to Innocence, went on sale. It was available at that time via direct purchase on Kindle, as well as available for pre-order via CreateSpace and Amazon[1]. I’ve shared quite a bit about the publishing process, as well as the twist and turns things took both before publishing and after. If you care about reading those stories, click on the links in the previous sentence. What I’d rather do today is to have a bit of reflection on my book, on being an author, and on what I could have done well/did do well in the process.

When a fellow author found out I was going the self-publishing route, they gave me a bit of advice regarding sales. They told me not to expect to turn a profit, rather I should expect to lose money — potentially a significant amount — if I took my book to market. While their statement was technically wrong, the spirit of needing to temper my expectations for my book’s sales was correct. My book broke even last December, as sales related to a charity drive I did were just enough to edge into profit territory.

That said, even with a handful of sales this year, the amount of money I’ve pocketed is minimal. I went from first draft to published product with minimal financial cost on my end. I’ve run zero advertising campaigns anywhere that I had to pay for. Every review that’s been written for my book either falls into the category of pre-release readers who wrote reviews or people who have submitted their own reviews out of their own kindness. My costs were the cost to have the book edited, the cost to get a ISBN from CreateSpace, and the cost to have a handful of copies shipped to me that I in turn mailed out to people I had promised copies of the book to. With all that said, I think the amount of money I’ve personally made off the book is enough to buy a Chipotle burrito for my wife and I. No guac or drinks though[2].

Speaking of that charity drive, it was definitely both the most rewarding and most disappointing part of my first year as a published author. On one hand, I got to donate a bit of money to a cause I care a lot about — the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. On the other hand, the amount of money raised through the charity drive fell short of one-quarter of my mental goal for the drive itself. Limited advertising was definitely a reason for that, however I also think that other deserving causes got far more attention than suicide prevention in the wake of the 2016 US election. Had I hitched my wagon to a different cause, I think it would have done better. But suicide prevention is a cause I care a lot about, so I have no regrets about choosing the AFSP for the donation.

As for my book itself, shortly after I published, I saw a video from someone (I think John Green?) talking about how the most stressful part of being an author is seeing people misinterpret work you’ve written, and since it’s already published, you can’t change it. That idea, combined with the fact that I re-read my book so many times as part of the publishing process and wished I had changed some things, made me go back and think about each of the short stories in the book.

  • Ljepota Oni Izlučivati – This story ended up being one of the few in the book that I didn’t have any strong opinion changes about even after a year after the book went to market. If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I wouldn’t have led off the book with this story, however it definitely would have stayed. A year on, no one has found the hidden storyline within this story, so I feel like it was written really well for what it was meant to be.
  • Phosphor and Fear – This was the original story that was supposed to start the book, however I was convinced not to lead the book with it when someone told me that no one’s going to want to keep reading the book if I lead off with depression art. Unnecessary mental illness jokes aside, I think this story would have benefited from being a bit longer, particularly after the story’s time skip. The fact that I’d go back and change this one to make it longer has impacted some of the work I’ve done over the last year, particularly the first two chapters of the AI Project series that I posted this spring.
  • A Delayed First Date – Meh. It was a good premise. I took a risk trying to write from a point-of-view I didn’t understand. Even with research and interviews to try to write it better, this story hasn’t aged well to me. I mean, it’s fine. It’s not boring. I still love the concept. But I don’t like this specific story as much as I used to.
  • Soma – It was my favorite story before I decided to compile the book into a published entity. It’s still one of my favorites I’ve written a year on from publishing the book (though not my favorite anymore). I really need to keep focusing on adding heavy amounts of emotion to my writing. When it works, it really works. This is one of the stories in the book that I’ve received almost unanimous positive feedback about. Nothing I’d change here.
  • Elk Ridge – I’m so confused by this story and the reader reaction to it. Both me and my editor thought this was the weakest story in the book, even after adding quite a bit of length to it. Yet most people who have given feedback thought it was one of the better stories in the book. The ending is what seems to be divisive. I personally hate the ending and would re-write it if I had the chance. The whole ghostly spirit being released from a demolished building angle is kind of cliche and the longer it’s been since I published[3], the less I like it. Readers liked it though. I have no idea what people want.
  • The Strongest Feelings Are On the Inside – The reaction to this story was by far the most surprising of any story that went into the book. I received ZERO negative feedback on this story prior to publishing. Considering it was one of the few stories that had been on the blog prior to going in the book, this was doubly confusing. People were split down the middle as to what they thought was the biggest issue with this story — either it was too long compared to the rest of the book’s stories[4] or they were upset that the story’s main villain was bisexual. Remember what I said about stuff getting taken out of context? In context, it’s a story about a woman who loves someone of her same sex who doesn’t love her back and she doesn’t feel totally comfortable with it because of her religious background. She then tries to repress it with a deeper dive into cult-like religious practices to try to “fix” herself. Then, when her love dies, she has a mental break, using her warped religious views to exact revenge on those who hurt her beloved, going so far as to kidnap a lookalike and treat that lookalike as if she were the departed woman. Then the villain chooses to die once she finally has closure through that surrogate. That wasn’t the takeaway by some readers though. It’s a learning experience on a lot of levels.
  • Awkward? – The other story in the book that I didn’t particularly like but people loved. It was the closest thing to a light-hearted story in the book, and it was only included to serve as a change of pace following the previous story. Most people thought it was funny. I found it corny. If I did it all over again, this and A Delayed First Date would be cut in favor of making other stories longer.
  • Use As Directed – Along with Awkward First Date, this is the story I did the most research for prior to writing it. I’m really happy with how it turned out. Feedback was largely good, it had a neutral ending that I liked, and apparently I did a decent job at representing a perspective of someone with a mental illness fairly and objectively. This story makes me happy.
  • Laments of a Disillusioned Twenty Something – Oh my fucking god I was so whiny in this story. I’d re-write this story to be something more like what happens in one of the two storylines of Janus if I had it to do again.
  • Tia – This has become my favorite story in the book over time, however as one reviewer said, they really wished it was longer. I agree. It’s a very powerful story, but I could have done so much more with it. Definitely my biggest disappointment story-wise for that reason.

As for me and how being a published author has impacted me…it really hasn’t. As I mentioned, there hasn’t been a financial impact of any kind. It’s not like my social media life has taken off[5]. Even though I still a see a copy or two of my book purchased every now and again, the book sits largely dormant now. I definitely haven’t been able to make a career change to be a full-time author…not that I’d be able to if currently proposed healthcare plans pass anyway.

I’m still writing though. I’m working on a couple of different projects as a writer, as well as trying to get some work together as a copy editor. If anything my real job prevents me from writing as much as I want or need to due to mental fatigue. That said, it’s largely been a positive experience, in spite of my gripes. I’ve learned you can’t please everyone, even if you have the best intentions. I’ve learned that I can produce quality work. And I’ve learned above all else that I love writing — even if my family still doesn’t know I’m a published author, even a year on.


My Dental Journey

One night in late November of 2015, just after Thanksgiving, I couldn’t get to sleep. My mouth, my jaw, and my head as a whole were all in severe pain. You know how if you go to the hospital because of pain the doctors/nurses/other staff will ask you to rank your pain on a scale of one to ten? A score of one is a barely noticeable pain, while a score of ten causes you to be unable to move. I’d rank this specific pain about a 21[1].

I’ve had my share of dental problems in my life. I chipped a tooth for the first time in 8th grade during academic challenge practice[2]. I bit into an apple and suddenly one of my canine teeth[3] had a bit flake off. It didn’t hurt and it hadn’t happened before, so I really didn’t think too much of it. Those little chips continued to happen numerous times over the course of high school. Mostly they occurred from eating, though I did chip a tooth twice in wrestling matches, so at least I got to be a walking trope occasionally[4].

My first trip to the dentist came sometime around when I was five. I couldn’t tell you much about it other than my first trip to the dentist came on the same day as my first trip to the eye doctor. That was also my last visit to the dentist until I was 21, when received a root canal on a tooth that had split. Hooray for the American healthcare system and parents not having insurance during my childhood.

Though there was a definitely lack of being taken to the dentist in my childhood, to say I had poor dental hygiene would be an understatement. Though we had toothbrushes at my dad’s house[5], I could count on one hand the number of times a year I actually saw my dad/stepmom/a step sibling brush their teeth in a given month. On the bright side, at least we had toothpaste. Brushing my teeth was a requirement at my mom’s, though there were quite a few times we used straight baking soda, table salt, or diluted hydrogen peroxide rather than actual toothpaste[6].

In my twenties, I was better about brushing my teeth than I was as a kid, though that’s an extremely low bar to pass…and I didn’t pass it by much. A typical week when I lived on my own featured me brushing my teeth once or twice. Total. For the whole week. After moving in with my wife, that number went up to (generally) once per day, though there were some days that didn’t happen still due to being tired, being lazy, or just not caring.

That brings us to November of 2015. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this occurred over Thanksgiving weekend, so it’s not like many places — dentists or otherwise — were open. So I hopped myself up on Aleve and Orajel, then went on about my weekend until we could get me a dentist appointment early the next week.

The dentist’s news wasn’t good. My wisdom teeth were what was causing my current pain and they definitely needed to come out. But the decay in my mouth was severe. In addition to needing numerous fillings, root canals, teeth pulled, and either bridges or implants. Said simply, my mouth was in bad shape. Below is a picture of what it looked like in December 2015 following wisdom tooth removal, pulling three other teeth, and a cleaning. Warning: it’s ugly.

Over the course of the next 18 months, I had a lot of dental work done. I had two more teeth pulled from the point where the picture above was taken. There was at least one (though I think two) gum resection surgeries. I had four implant posts put in. There were numerous fillings, temporary crowns, permanent crowns, and root canals done. In early May of this year, one of the first completion steps finally happened. I had five permanent crowns and an implant put in as part of a three-hour appointment[7]. Needless to say, the difference from where I was at in December 2015 is noticeable.

Granted, I still don’t know how to look at a camera, especially when taking a selfie. And despite the numerous appointments over a year and a half, I’m not done yet. I’ve still got one more implant post that needs put in, as well as four more implants that need to go into my mouth. But it’s progress. For the first time since I was 13 or 14, I can smile without chipped teeth showing out of my mouth. Seems like a good thing to me.

On Repeat

About eight years ago, shortly after I graduated college[1], I worked together with a group of friends from college to form a sports blog intended to parody writing seen at places like Sports Illustrated and ESPN. It seemed like a good idea at the time. There weren’t a ton of people writing comedic posts with sports as a topic on the internet. Sure, Sports Pickle and Down Goes Brown were out there…but that was about it. With a group of seven of us writing, we could each do one post a week, yet still have enough content to have something going up daily.

Our project didn’t even make it through a full week before someone missed their deadline. Within six weeks, I was the only one left writing. I wrote three times a week for just short of six months before giving up on the project.

I’m more of a social person than I’d like to admit. While I enjoy being away from the world — and believe me, I’d much rather be by myself than near most any human being — I do still crave feedback. Not just any feedback, mind you. Telling me that my work was terrible or that it was perfect would be equally poor pieces of feedback. It tells me that you think they’re bad, but not why.

Over the years, I’ve learned to parse out what feedback is constructive and what is not. Even if I don’t agree with a piece of feedback, it can still help me to make my work better. This is particularly true on my creative work, as having feedback that pushes me to be better generally does make me better. As such, I love working collaboratively on creative projects. This is particularly true when trying to do things like satire, comedy, or fiction writing.

In from early 2012 through mid 2013, I was very fortunate to have three exceptional individuals to bounce ideas off of to create fiction writing. While I didn’t rely on any one of them in particular, I found that presenting the same idea to each of them allowed me to have three uniquely creative perspectives to help transform my story ideas into actual stories. Some of my best work in terms of plot and characters came out of that time frame. By the end of 2013, two of the three people were gone. I’ll still hear from the third on occasion, but the collaborative writing we used to do together has all but stopped.

I am one of the few millennials who really doesn’t like social media. I had my fill of it very early on. The best social media experience I’ve had was through Twenty Something Bloggers, but that site has been defunct for years now[2]. I still use Twitter a good bit, but I’ve found its turned into an echo chamber where you’ll only hear what you want to hear[3]. Facebook is worse, and I’ve been gone from it for years as a result. Meanwhile, other social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat have never caught my attention. I’m not much for pictures. The written word has a power to it that is hard to describe.

Despite that, I know that if I want to grow as an author — to reach out with my written works and reach others — I need to branch out in other ways. I’ve tried vlogging. I’ve tried podcasting. The former project died six months in. The latter lasted eight months, but seems destined to a similar fate.

On one hand, I know none of these things are anyone’s fault. People’s interests change. People’s time commitments change. On the other hand, I can’t help but think there must be something I’m doing wrong for this to keep happening. Sure, the circumstances are different every time, but to circle back a few months after being so enthusiastic about a project only to find myself having failed again is so disheartening.

Maybe it’s time for a new project. Maybe it’s time to reinvest my time in an old project. I’m not really sure at this point. I just want something I do to be successful.

In Lettero 3: Reminisce With a Vengeance

I was dumb once. Well, not just once. Mostly I was dumb in my past. I’m also dumb at times now, but hopefully less so.

A while back, I wrote a pair of blog posts with a series of letters to myself (you can find them here and here, respectively…all inspired by a post from Samantha at Comic Wisdom). The basic premise of those posts was to give my past self advice, as I’ve done some stupid things before. If time travel ever happens, I’d love to be able to give my younger self advice to help me avoid stupid decisions that make my life more difficult[1].

To Tim, Age 7

This is going to sound really weird, but in early April of this year, you’re going to see something on television that’s going to be your first long-term memory. Some idiots with a truck are going to blow up a building in Oklahoma City, killing a lot of people. You won’t know or have any connection to anyone in that bombing. But your parents are going to get divorced starting later that year, and pretty much every memory prior to the divorce starting will get wiped out. Except seeing the Murrah building in shambles on TV. Memory is weird. Focus on trying to remember as much as you can growing up. You won’t have a lot of artifacts around to help you.


Future Tim

To Tim, Age 12ish

For about a year, you’re going to live in a two bedroom house with ten other people[2]. You’re going to hear and see A LOT of things that are going to shape the way you form your political/societal opinions from now until you get to college. Let me clarify a few things to help you out.

  • Confederate flags don’t actually stand for someone being a good ol’ boy.
  • The majority of people do not consume tobacco, despite what you see on a daily basis.
  • 2Pac wasn’t rapping about white empowerment.
  • Just because you can hear multiple people having sex while you’re trying to sleep doesn’t mean that’s normal.
  • Not everyone who’s registered as a Democrat[3] is a bad person.

On the bright side, at least you quickly realize that someone having two kids with two separate moms less than a month apart generally isn’t a good thing.


Future Tim

To Tim, Age 19

Stop growing that mustache. You look like a fucking moron.


Future Tim

To Tim, Age 20

You’re going to meet a girl who you’re going to crush on. Hard. While this is not a new development for you at this stage in your life, this particular girl is going to get you heavily involved in a church. Said church has some positive points, but is full of extremely manipulative people. I’d love to tell you not to talk to this girl at all, but it’s unavoidable[4]. Instead, when she tells you she really doesn’t want a relationship with someone who doesn’t attend her church, just say okay. Drop it there. It’ll save you six months of religious confusion, people trying to control your lives, and a $600 deposit you won’t get back.


Future Tim

To Tim, Age 21

You managed to get tickets to see Paramore and Gwen Stefani just a few days before your 22nd birthday. You won’t go though. Your overwhelming infatuation with Hayley Williams aside, a friend tells you it’s a great show. You should go. Don’t cancel going to the concert and waste the $80 you spent buying the tickets. It’s not worth it. The date really doesn’t go well.


Future Tim

To Tim, Also Age 21

There’s a girl who is going to spend the better part of two and a half weeks trying to schedule a date with you. Don’t go on it. She used a false picture online, she’s not a nice person, and she literally punches you in the face for no reason other than “she wants to see a girl hit a guy for once”.

While this isn’t your dating low point[5], it’s damn close.


Future Tim

To Tim, Age 25

In a three month span, you’re going to write six of the ten stories that become part of the book you’re going to publish in a few years[6]. This is a period of creativity that is unprecedented before and since then (at least as of writing this post). Please take advantage of it the best that you can. The stories that come out of this time are going to be dark, they’re going to be passionate, and they’re (mostly) going to be very difficult for you to write. Do continue writing. Even though you’re not going to make a ton of money off of your book, it’s still an incredibly exciting experience.


Future Tim

The Child (Sort of) Without Television

Note: The following is a post that was originally written for the blog Pines and Palmettos. Check out Brittany’s blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

I’m not to the point where I’m having kids yet. I’m really okay with that. I have friends and family members who have kids and while I enjoy being around those kids (at least for the most part), there’s things I’m definitely not comfortable with as a potential parent yet. Whether it be the cost of raising a child, the prospect of losing the extremely little free time I do have, or just the simple annoyance of people saying your baby is cute when it’s really not, there’s a lot of aspects of raising a kid I’m just not ready for at this moment in my life.

One strange thing I’m not sure if I’m ready for as a potential parent is the explosion of television that would surely happen in my household if there were a child around. I have a niece who is a toddler that loves watching television. Which is fine. I mean, watching the same movies over and over gets annoying – The Land Before Time films weren’t that good when I was a child, let alone when you have to watch them repeatedly as an adult – but all in all at least the child has the potential to learn from television.

As a child, I really didn’t have much exposure to television at home. While we had a TV around, screen time was limited for most of my childhood. Both my mom and dad (my parents were divorced, so separate households) strongly preferred my brother and I played outside to being inside, and when we were watching television, they had control over what was on TV at all times. Watching TV with my dad wasn’t so bad, as he tended to mix content between cartoons, James Bond films, and history documentaries. Watching with my mom meant that a lot of biblical stories, ’60s Westerns, and old timey musicals were on, so I usually just went back outside to play more.

There was a gap though – roughly from the age of 7 to the age of 14 – that the TV was almost never on. At my dad’s, it was because we generally didn’t have cable or electricity at a given time (sometimes both), and at my mom’s it was because we were required to read the Bible for an hour a day before we did anything else (and even then, chores came next). At the peak age where most children watch television, I spent most of my time reading, playing outside, or practicing my trumpet. I can’t fully fathom a potential child not having at least some of that same experience.

On one hand, I recognize that the previous sentence makes me sound like an old person who is out of touch with the realities of a rapidly changing, technologically advancing world. After all, I’m typing this blog post out on my work computer while my iPad beside me auto-plays a game, my person computer plays Crash Course World History, and I occasionally check my phone for texts from my friends. It’s a bit hypocritical to not give children access to better technologies than you had access to as a child, particularly when you use those same technologies heavily in your day-to-day life.

On the other hand, I also recognize that one of the most responsible actions you can take as a parent is to diversify your child’s upbringing as much as you possibly can. Surrounding your child with people of different cultures, faiths, beliefs, and opinions allows them to not only learn that the world is a complex place with many different types of individuals, but it also allows them to avoid the narrow-minded opinions and belief systems that can hamstring their personal, social, and intellectual development as they grow.

On top of all that, there has been an explosion of great educational content – both for children and adults – over the last 5-10 years. You’re no longer required as a parent to watch Frozen 45 times in a weekend because it’s the only thing safe for your child to watch. Though you might still…and I’m very, very sorry for you if that happens. But the technology and content is out there to raise our children to be more intelligent, compassionate, and accepting human beings, all well before they start school. We should take advantage of that whenever we have the opportunity. Even me, once I decide I’m at that stage of life.


*taps on microphone*

Hello? Anyone still reading?

So I’ve been gone for a while. Save for one (albeit very long) story post, I’ve been largely silent since the beginning of the year. While I’d like to say there’s a good reason for it, there really hasn’t been one. I’ve been working a lot — and I do mean a lot — though that’s been happening for nearly a year now. I have no new updates on my book, though I fully expected to by now. We’re no further along in that process than we were at the end of January.

Sure, there have been some things that I’ve done in the interim. I started learning French. I’ve beaten Fire Emblem: Birthright…three times now?[1] I’ve been running a YouTube vlog series with Cherie from Modern Yet Nostalgic. The fact that we’ve made it to 25 episodes is kind of impressive in its own right. I’ve shared a pair of my favorite videos that we’ve done to this point, one each from Cherie and I, below.

I’ve been working with one of my writing friends[2] to get back into writing creatively. The previously linked short story post was part of that project. I’m working with her on another project idea which may take a little bit longer to write and touches on a couple of topics that I’ve shied away from in the past. We’ll see how that goes.

In the interim though, how’s everyone doing? It feels like I haven’t talked to anyone who reads my blog at any level, be that casual, consistent, or otherwise, in quite a long time. Hopefully some of you are still out there to say hi.

Change, Time, and a Request

I interrupt the semi-regularly scheduled NaNoWriMo posts((I’ll hopefully have a new chapter up tomorrow. I think.)) to discuss something with all of you, my readers. Today is my birthday((I’m honestly a bit surprised I made it to 28. Stupid curse making me paranoid for the last three days.)).

I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to be born in a country where opportunity abounds. I was able to attend college and grad school, thanks in part to grants and student loans. I’ve been able to educate myself about topics of interest to me such as social psychology, web design, and jazz music. I’m young, I’m married, and I’m on a decent path to making something out of my life. I’ve turned a life that didn’t have much into a life where I can put my future kids/family/etc in a position to have far more than I ever did growing up.

The other day, I was driving to work when the news came on the radio. The announcer mentioned how Ohio Governor John Kasich is pushing to keep Syrian refugees out of the state of Ohio. Kasich’s announcement comes in part thanks to the recent deadly attacks on various sites in Paris by an extremist terrorist organization.

I remember getting frustrated at the news. How could someone reasonably turn away people who are being oppressed or killed in their homeland? It goes against the very concept of what we consider American. Hell, the Statue of Liberty has the following line on it.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

That quote comes from the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus”, which discusses the millions of immigrants coming to America to seek freedom. Those refugees leaving Syria certainly sound like they’re part of the tempest-tossed masses to me. Who would want to keep them out of America?

Later in that same ride, I was brought back to a moment in college. During my final year of college (2008), a rather notable political event occurred, as then-Senator Barack Obama defeated Senator John McCain for the presidency of the United States of America. In doing so, Obama became the first African-American man to become President of the United States.

I didn’t vote in the 2008 election. Neither McCain nor Obama particularly appealed to me as candidates, and I figured voting third party would be a waste of my vote. But I do remember getting upset when Obama won. I don’t particularly remember all of what made me upset, but I do remember that one of my main frustrations was the fact that Obama had promised to let the Bush-era tax cuts end. While some of his other promises had some appeal to me (particularly ending the Iraq War), most of what he had promised was a wild meh in my eyes. Beyond that, there was this nagging line that came from my family that had stuck in my mind for years that I just couldn’t shake. I was told the same thing by people on both sides of my family before I turned 18.

“Whatever you do, don’t vote Democrat and don’t vote for someone who’s not Christian.”

The line seems silly to me now. Religion, or lack there of, has little to no bearing on the quality of work that a political candidate can do in office. Likewise, while many of the ideas of the Democratic Party do resonate with me, I recognize that voting solely on political party does not show free thinking and informed voting. I’ve allowed myself to become more educated and more informed about my political and social views.

This certainly isn’t the only facet of my life where this has occurred. While I was in college, I ran a radio show with a pair of friends. While the show mostly discussed sports, we would occasionally delve into pop culture topics, typically choosing to focus on movies and music if we ventured down that path. During March Madness season of the first year of our show, we thought it would be a good idea to do a bracket of 64 female college athletes to determine who the hottest woman in college athletics was.

At the time, it seemed like a good decision. Our show’s blog had its traffic explode overnight. This was thanks in large part to a three line blurb on Sports Illustrated’s Extra Mustard feature((I tried to find the link to the SI feature since the blog has long since been deleted, however after a half hour of searching, I couldn’t find it.)). We even managed to get the writer who featured us — former SI and Grantland writer Mallory Rubin — to come on our show and do an interview about the bracket and on working in sports media. In retrospect, it was a horrible decision. If I were Rubin, I would have been annoyed out of my mind((To put it mildly.)) that three early twenties college kids had asked that I come on their show to talk about an item that was nothing more than a contest that promoted the sexualization of talented female student-athletes. It’s a contest that I’d never think of doing now. I was young, dumb, and learned.

I’ve made mistakes throughout life. At one point in time, I viewed homosexuality as an inherently wrong, perverse, sinful, and deviant behavior. Who was I to know better at the time? That’s how I was taught. But I learned. I became more cultured. I made efforts to understand people who were different for myself. I became a better person for it. Over the last seven or so years((I use seven years as my arbitrary cutoff due to the aforementioned 2008 election story.)), my views have changed on many topics including, but certainly not limited to, healthcare, immigration, taxes, education, drug usage, human sexuality, marriage rights, abortion, feminism, mental health, gun control, and many other topics I’m sure I’m forgetting at this time.

I’ve grown, adapted, and evolved as a person. I’d like to think that not only has this made me a drastically different person from the person I was five, ten, or fifteen years ago, but that these changes have also improved me as a person. I’m certain there are people who I’ve come across in life while I had views that I now see as antiquated who I’ve offended or wronged in some way with those opinions. To anyone who happens to read this piece that fits in that category, my sincerest and most heart felt apologies.

To everyone — regardless of if I’ve known you my entire life or a few days, regardless of if I’ve spent days and weeks with you in person or if I’ve only talked to you online — I have a request for you. As I mentioned before, today is my birthday. I’m not a fan of my birthday, however I recognize that it is generally a tradition to give someone gifts for their birthday. If you are so inclined to give me a gift for my birthday, let it be this((And even if you don’t want to give a gift to me, please consider the following for yourself.)).

Treat everyone with compassion. No matter who is around you, no matter their situation, no matter their religion, their race, their sexual orientation, no matter what the circumstances may be — have compassion. Treat others better than you would expect them to treat you. There are going to be people who treat you like shit. Those people will try to make your life a living hell for various reasons. Be compassionate. Be the bigger person. Sometimes that’s through direct kindness. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is to leave someone alone. But always act with compassion.

And to those around you who already treat you great, act with compassion around them too. It’s often those who we are the closest to who we take for granted. Find a way to show kindness and compassion to them too. They may not be those who need it the most, but they are the people who deserve it the most. And in the wake of the outpouring of compassion that we can bring to others, we leave behind true change, if only for those few happy moments where someone treated us better than we felt we deserved.

On Hold

Tuesday, October 20th will mark the one year anniversary of TTW. January of 2016 marks the 11((!)) year anniversary of me blogging. I should really be excited.

I’m not.

I’ve debated shutting down this blog — not to mention completely quitting blogging — for a couple of months now. It’s for a confluence of reasons really.

Readership of my blog has plummeted, both when considering this blog in comparison to my old one and just when considering this blog by itself. Since March of this year, my blog has averaged decreasing in visitors by 5% each month with a similar drop in traffic. This is in spite of a slight (3%) growth traffic from random Google search hits over that same time. People just aren’t caring what I have to say anymore.

To be fair, I’m not sure that I have anything to say anymore. I enjoy my job((At times.)), but it is the most emotionally and psychologically draining company I’ve been at since I was in grad school. The current position I’m in amplifies those feelings even more, especially when considering that I’ve gone 18 months as the only person in my department. I haven’t cared to write consistently since the end of February of this year, or cared at all since mid-July.

I write best in silence…sort of. I can be around other people when I write((I always wrote my grad school papers while at Panera at 7 in the morning.)), but they can’t be people I know. Human interaction is a severe distraction for me when writing, regardless of who it’s from. Throw in the fact that I’ve had a grand total of one weekend since the wedding where I’ve had absolutely nothing to do((My wife has had zero such weekends.)) — a fact that is driving me insane — and I just don’t care to write anymore.

I’ve tried using prompt posts to help me think of ideas. They help sometimes. It’s never for long. I’ve tried reaching out to those who were my best writerly muses in the past, but they’ve all become distant, inconsistent at communication, or both. I’ll ask people on Twitter for ideas, but that rarely nets inspiration. I’m constantly stressed and my head feels cloudy. It’s a saddening reality.

You’d think the prospect of my book coming out would keep me motivated, but I haven’t had a meaningful update from my publisher in months. You’d think reading bloggers I love would help, but many of them have either stopped blogging, changed to topics I don’t care to read about, or become so radical on their opinions that it’s hard to take them seriously. You’d think I could find inspiration in the news, but that’s just as depressing, if not more so, than my very cloudy and tired head.

I’ll keep this blog up for a while. After all, I paid for the year of hosting and I’d still like some platform to market my book on when it does release. That said, I may go quiet for a while. It’s all I can really think of to do at this point.

Minimalism: It’s Not Just For Bikinis Anymore

A while back, I read an article somewhere on the internet (I feel like it was Lifehacker, but don’t quote me on that) about how there are many different ideas behind what’s considered to be “essential” for living in this day and age. For some, essential life needs include television and social media, while others see furniture and fried chicken as key parts of their life. Myself? So long as I have a bed to sleep on and an internet connection (be that via wifi or smartphone), I’m content.

In a similar vein of thought, two Christmases ago, I had a rather lengthy vacation I took to use up the vacation days I would otherwise lose at the end of the year. During said break, I had someone call me a minimalist in reference to the amount of stuff I own. Admittedly, this confused me just a bit, as I feel like I own too much stuff. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 books on my shelf((I realize that’s not many, as I had over 250 when I lived with my grandma)), not to mention a table, chair, television, Xbox, and a couple of guitars. Granted, the only thing that lived in my bedroom is a Christmas tree (as I had no where else to store it) and my clothes, but that’s still something.

Look, three. Oooooh. Ahhhhh.
Look, three. Oooooh. Ahhhhh.

When I lived in Arizona, I could fit all of my belongings in my old car, Elliott. Said car was a 2001 Oldsmobile Intrigue, and had enough space to comfortably hold me, my cat and his kennel, along with everything I own without too much tetrising in my trunk. Literally the only thing I needed to buy when I moved cross-country was a mattress, which I got from my grandmother for the low price of free, and a table which cost me about $50.

Living with very few possessions is a liberating feeling. If I ever wanted to just pick up my stakes and move somewhere, all I’d really have to worry about is when my lease ends, and then I could just go. Granted, I wouldn’t do that, as I’m sure my wife would be quite upset if I just decided to move to Seattle, St. Paul, or some other locale just for the hell of it, but the fluidity is present when you don’t have much.

Minimalism allows you to take that dream job wherever you want without the major worry of how the hell you’re going to get a 50-inch TV , a bookshelf, and your mattress into the back of a Dodge Durango. Sure, you could use a moving service, or even rent your own U-Haul. Those things cost money though, which would be another defeating point of a minimalist lifestyle.

Take a moment to ponder the following thought. Would you rather have lots of stuff now or later (if you couldn’t choose both, obviously)? Personally, I’d rather sacrifice having anything now if it meant having a lot later. There’s a reason my bookshelf is 60 years old and made from worn sheet metal rather than smelling of rich mahogany. That reason is that when I’m all grown up (I really don’t consider 27 grown up…sorry 18 year old adults) with a family, I’d like to have said mahogany book case to store the many leather-bound books that I’ll have, along with my non-leather-bound books, my kids books, my wife’s books, and my future pet’s books, if it’s a cat, that is.

Sorry dog lovers. Your pets are illiterate.

Frankly, I’m looking to get rid of some of my stuff. I have plenty of clothes I never wear, so those could easily be donated to Goodwill. I have a DVD collection of about 30 movies, only 7-10 of which I’ve watched in the past six months. I don’t really need all these things. Yes, they’re nice to have, but they’re all things beyond what I consider the essentials. One one hand, that means I’m doing better than just having the basics. On the other hand, it means I’ve spent money in places where I could have been saving it.

What are your thoughts on minimalism? Is it good to have a lot of stuff around, or does all that stuff just get in the way of living life? Sound off in the comments.

I’m Sick, Not Suddenly Incompetent

Last week marked a first in my life. I’m the person who hardly ever gets sick. From the time I was in third grade through my senior year of high school, I missed one day of school. One. In ten years. I also heal quickly…or at least can get back to doing what I would otherwise be doing quickly. I broke my thumb playing flag football in college. That same night — after setting the bone myself((Admittedly, I thought it was just a dislocation at the time, and thought nothing of fixing that.)) — I wrote a seven page paper with relatively minimal pain. I don’t like things keeping me from going on about my day.

Last Monday night, I felt like I’d gotten hit by a train. While I’d had a pretty consistent headache throughout the day, by night time something felt different — and definitely worse. My headache had subsided a bit by bedtime, though I felt slightly warmer than I usually do((Considering I’m constantly complaining about how it’s hot, this wasn’t exactly shocking to either me or my wife.)). After trying to sleep for an hour or so, I went and took my temperature.

103.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Well damn. That’s not good. I drank a large glass of water, put a cool rag on my head for about 40 minutes, took an Advil for the fever, then went back to bed. I’m not the type that gets sick with fever, though after a particularly strong headache I’ll run a little warm((By a little, I mean my temperature will go up to 98.8, which is nearly a full degree higher than what I normally run.)). I was concerned but not alarmed.

Tuesday came with the fever still around 102. I called off work, consumed a figurative ton of water, grape juice, and Sprite, ate chicken soup, and rested. It’s rare that I would call off work, but this was my normal routine when doing so. Usually, by mid to late afternoon, I’d be feeling better, my fever would be gone (or almost gone), and then I’d go back into work the next day. And true to form, by mid afternoon, my fever was just under 100. Within a few hours, I figured I’d be feeling serviceable, with the following morning coming with me able to go back to work. I laid down on the couch with my iPad, a giant glass of water, and got ready to do a fantasy football draft.

By midway through the fourth round (about 35 minutes after we started), I felt like I was on fire. I ran a cold tub of water and sat down in it, taking my temperature roughly every ten minutes thereafter. In the span of a half hour, my fever climbed nearly two degrees, peaking at 103.8 Fahrenheit. A trip to Minute Clinic was overdue.

I’d like to take a moment to point out that going to the doctor in any capacity is an accomplishment for me. Neither side of my family had health insurance growing up. Since it wasn’t a mandatory deduction from your paycheck, my dad never opted to take it. Nor did my stepmom during the time when she was part of my dad’s life. My mom hasn’t worked since she was 19 and my stepdad once told me that he viewed insurance as a government scam((No idea if he still holds this point of view, but he sure told 12-year-old me said sentence.)). As such, medical doctor, dentist, and eye doctor visits were emergency only. When I had to get my MMR booster shot at age 12, I recall my family complaining about taking me to the doctor. My mom didn’t want to take me because she believed vaccines caused my brother’s ADD (seriously…) and my dad didn’t want to take me because shots cost too much money.

While I finally got health insurance with my first job post-college, that doesn’t mean I took advantage of using it. Doctors visits of any kind still cost money, even with insurance. If I wasn’t dying, why should I go? A cough isn’t dying. A fever isn’t dying. A broken thumb isn’t dying.((To be fair, I didn’t know my thumb was broken until after the fact.)) There was no reason to go. Why would I spend a $40 co-pay for a doctor visit when I had $400 per month in student loans due while trying to live on a job paying $7.75/hour? And people wonder why millennials take offense to being called lazy. But I digress.

For all the good CVS Minute Clinic and other similar programs run by US pharmacies do, there is one minor annoyance I have with them. They’re not exactly open the most convenient hours((This applies to most actual doctor’s offices for that matter.)). You either have to already be off work because you’re sick or use up time off that you may otherwise need in order to see a doctor. While Minute Clinic’s hours state they’re open 9am-8pm, there’s fine print that says they’ll stop accepting new patients whenever there are too many for their CNPs to see within the clinic’s operating hours. Since my fever spike happened around 630pm, by the time I got to either of the two Minute Clinics closest to me, both had closed for the night, despite their operating hours still going on for at least another 45 minutes (75 in the case of the first one) after I arrived.

I slept like hell that night. While the fever came down from its near-104 levels, it hovered around 102 for most of the night. Doom was impending, but not because of needing to visit the doctor…at least not directly because of that.

May 4th, 2006 was my senior skip day. I remember it for two reasons. First, a group of us were had decided to take our skip day a week before everyone else and go meet up at Steak and Shake for breakfast before having a Mario Kart tournament in my best friend’s basement. My then-girlfriend was the only one who didn’t get to be at Steak and Shake by 6am, since she had to take her sister to school. She then got in a wreck leaving the school parking lot, meaning she couldn’t come to our Mario Kart tournament((Which is likely for the best, as I fully believe she would have won an unfair proportion of the races.)).

The second reason I remember my senior skip day is because it was the only day of school I missed between third grade((I use third grade as my arbitrary start point because I was home schooled until 3/4 of the way through second grade. The horror-filled experience that was home school is better saved for another post, as I could write 1,500 words on that alone.)) and my senior year. In addition to not getting sick, my family wasn’t exactly keen to letting me come home from school when I didn’t feel good. My vice-principal made sure to call me out on it at senior awards night, though considering he was the head of National Honor Society and I was our NHS treasurer, we gave each other a hard time regularly.

Between a thirty minute visit at the Minute Clinic and a three and a half hour visit((Technically only about 20 minutes of that time was actually spent with a nurse, doctor, or x-ray technician. The rest of the time was spent sitting in a patient room playing Fire Emblem: Awakening.)) to Urgent Care, I finally found out that I had pneumonia. A container of oversized antibiotics later and I was right back where I started: laying on my couch trying to take a nap. And yet, I felt terribly annoyed.

By missing work on Wednesday, it marked the first time in my entire life I had ever missed consecutive days of work or school due to illness. I had pneumonia and yet all I could do was to feel bad that I wasn’t at work. I talked to a handful of people from work throughout the day and most of them spent their time telling me how they hoped I’d feel better soon and how they’d likely be seeing me next week. While I appreciated the sentiment, I didn’t need anyone to tell me to get better. I knew I was going to get better. That’s what antibiotics allow you to do. But it meant I got suggestion after suggestion of how to handle pneumonia to get better. It meant being told to lay, drink lots of fluids, and to rest. It meant being told to not do anything until I felt 100%.

I wasn’t having that. I was getting back healthy at my own pace. And I did. I was back at work by Thursday with no fever and no risk of being contagious. That’s how I work. I wasn’t having it any other way even if I was sick.