On Truly Changing Your Ways

On my old blog1One of the old blogs. I’ve had 4 now, with this one being the second longest running of them., I used to make these attempts at really deep posts as my first post for the new year. I’ve only done one such post to start a year on this blog — mostly because I try to do those posts a little more frequently than once a year now. That said, there’s a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while now that I felt would be perfect for a start of the year introspection2Shout out to said old blog. post.

When I was younger, I was not a good person. While I tried to do what was right, or at least what I perceived to be right, my instincts as to what was right and what was wrong weren’t particularly well-tuned. One particularly vivid example of this comes from relatively early childhood. From the time when I was in third grade through fifth grade3Roughly ages 9-11., I went to a babysitter before school. My brother and I would get dropped off by my dad at around 530 in the morning, then stay at the babysitter’s until around 745, when we’d start our walk to school. At the peak during the three years I went to the babysitter’s, there eleven kids there each morning, all but one between the ages of 7 and 13. The babysitter wasn’t good at managing our behavior in retrospect, though that doesn’t excuse some of what happened at her house.

One of the kids being babysat at that house was a boy named Ross4As is almost always the case with personal stories, names have been changed to protect the innocent.. Ross had a fairly severe developmental disorder, though I couldn’t tell you what it was. Because of this, Ross was one of the most common targets of bullying at the babysitter’s. Ten-year-old me was a fan of this, because it meant that I wasn’t the kid being bullied anymore, as I had been for the first year I went to the babysitter.

It was a nearly daily occurrence that someone called Ross names or tried to anger him. The babysitter’s solution to fixing problems to was to spank whichever kid she saw causing the “problem” that happened to be occurring. Since Ross couldn’t talk well, this meant that Ross regularly found himself getting spanked. This happened in spite of the fact that Ross was bigger than most anyone at the babysitter’s. There were times where Ross got in a fight with another one of the kids and kicked the crap out of them, not just because he was bigger and stronger than them, but also because he didn’t know when to stop. A few times, the babysitter pulled Ross off of one of the kids during a fight, only for him to keep right on swinging his fists and biting in the air.

I never got into any sort of physical altercation with Ross. I think ten-year-old me knew full well that Ross would have kicked the shit out of me had I done anything violent towards him. But I was one of the people who called him names. I didn’t treat Ross with respect. If anything, I was so worried about making sure I wasn’t the one being bullied any longer that I encouraged those who had bullied me to act poorly toward Ross. Self-preservation was my goal. It was also the wrong thing to do.

I haven’t seen Ross in over twelve years. Though he was the same age as me, he didn’t graduate at the same time as my graduating class5If memory serves, my school’s MRDD program (as they called it) schooled those with developmental disabilities until age 21.. I tried my best to act nice towards him on the rare occasion I did see him in high school, however such interactions were few and far between. I can say for certain that I never made amends for the way I, or anyone else, treated him at the babysitter’s.

In the first paragraph of this post, I mentioned that there’s an idea that’s been going around in my head for a while now that I wanted to talk about. That idea is, at its core, nothing more than a simple question.

How do you make amends for past mistakes when you can’t directly make things better for the person you wronged?

I don’t think there’s a simple answer to this question. While there are certainly no perfect people in this world, there’s also a lot of people who have been really shitty people at some point in their past. Cracked did a pretty good post about people who have made mistakes in the past and have done their best to make amends for those mistakes. The one that sticks out to me from that post is #7 — Eddie Murphy’s change from performing an anti-gay, AIDS panic-filled comedy routine in the 1980s to donating a lot of time and money to AIDS research (amongst other charities).

While I don’t believe that donating money to charity makes past wrongs right, I do believe it is a step to help show change toward becoming a better person who has learned from their mistakes6Especially if the charity in question does work to help prevent wrongs, raise awareness for something you were ignorant about, or something along those lines.. Equally, if not more, important than giving money to charity is to make changes to our actions so as not to repeat the same mistakes we’ve made in the past. If you’re insensitive with your words, learn to speak with more thought and care in your words. If you’ve treated someone with disrespect, make sure that future similar interactions (be that with the same person or not) are ones that convey respect and empathy.

I realize I’m being a bit vague in my wording in that last paragraph. It’s because there’s so many mistakes that we make as people who addressing every single one in a blog post would turn this post into an 80,000 word epic. But I do think it’s possible to improve ourselves and chance ourselves so we don’t repeat the same mistakes we’ve made in our past. I know it’s something I try to do regularly — be that atoning for mistakes I’ve shared on this blog or those I have not. I want to continue to be a better person. I think we all do. And the best way to do that is not to ignore the mistakes we’ve made, but to use them to fuel us to improve ourselves. This is doubly true if there’s no way to atone for our mistake directly to the person who felt the results of our mistakes.

2017 Book Charity Drive – Wrap-Up Post

It’s been a few weeks since the charity drive I was running with my book finished up. You might have noticed I’ve been a little slow to write up a post about how the charity drive went. There’s a reason for that.

Before I get into this year’s drive, I want to provide a little context with how things went last year. During last year’s drive, those who purchased my book raised $24.28 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. While it wasn’t the number I wanted to hit — it fell just short of one-quarter of the goal I was aiming for — it was still something and it still went to a good cause. This year, I decided that instead of doing a 50+ day long charity drive that I’d do a one week long drive. Considering the fact that about one-third of the sales that happened during last year’s drive happened within the first seven days, combined with the fact that I had more people helping me out promoting the charity event this year in comparison to last year, I figured thing would go close to as well as last year1I didn’t set any charity drive goals, but I was honestly expecting a similar result in terms of money raised..

About that.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the Kindle sales. As a reminder, the drive lasted from November 12th through the 19th.

That’d be one copy purchased. Total. At least it was on my birthday? Well, no matter. Most of my sales historically have been from the paperback side, which is (currently) tracked through CreateSpace. How did that go?

Oh2Fuck..

As for final totals, I was able to pull that from the Kindle site.

Needless to say, I’m not making a donation of $2.06 to UNICEF. I’ll be donating more than that3I don’t feel a desire to divulge how much. Sorry.. That’s not the point though.

It took me the better part of two weeks to write this post because I found myself at a loss for words. I didn’t know how to say what I was feeling without sounding like an entitled prick. There’s a pair of thoughts in my mind that I can’t completely reconcile in a way that I can phrase them quite in the way I’m thinking them.

On one hand, I really want to see my work become successful. Whether that success is through acclaim, through the admiration of a small but devoted fan base, or through actual financial success is something I haven’t fully figured out my desire for. But I want to be successful with my work. Specifically, I want to be successful with my writing4Because frankly, my actual work isn’t particularly fulfilling..

On the other hand, I recognize that by raising money for charity with my work, the important person here is not me. It’s the people the money will be going to help. I’ll be fine. But there’s a lot of people who won’t be if they don’t receive the help that charitable organizations give. Hell, I likely wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the work of charity in my childhood. So to see this event fail when I’m not the recipient of the proceeds is disheartening.

I’m going to be taking a break from writing for a while. I don’t particularly want to stop writing, but I also don’t feel like my writing has a purpose at this point. Maybe I’ll change my mind at some point. There’s a handful of blog posts I’ve pre-written that’ll still go up on this blog each Monday (as per normal). In theory those will last until around the end of the year. I have a few ideas that will likely be content here early next year, though I haven’t gotten around to writing those yet. As for my long-form/story stuff, I think I need to reassess where I’m at there.

On Writing When You Lack Motivation

Hi. My name is Tim. I’m a bad blogger.((*Insert an Alcoholics Anonymous-like response of “Hi Tim” here*))

Like many bloggers, I lack motivation at times. Life gets busy, people need our attention, and fires come up that we didn’t expect. Unless you’re using your blog to make money((I’m not, even though it’s something I’ve considered in the past.)), when everything in the world is vying for your attention, blogging and writing will typically fall to the wayside. It’s not like I mean for things to be this way…it’s just what happens.

I have a bit of an added source to being a bad blogger that many other bloggers don’t have. I have a backlog of approximately 375 posts from a previous blog that I can leaf through at any time and post on this blog. Four of my last ten non-guest posts fall into this category. Occasionally, I’ll find that one of my old posts is particularly poignant with a current event or something in my life, and I’ll post it to share my point of view. More frequently, however, I find myself resharing those old posts because I don’t have time to write…or worse, that I’m not motivated to write.

Even as I write this post, I don’t particularly have a ton of motivation to blog. It’s been a long couple of weeks, preceded by a very busy couple of weeks, preceded by an extremely hectic first six months of the year. To my right sits an iPad and Nintendo 3DS with Brave Frontier and Fire Emblem: Awakening respectively calling my name. It’s dinner time and there’s a hamburger with my name figuratively written on it and a can of Pringles with my name literally written on it. My phone has beeped at least four times in the past ten minutes with text messages or emails. Writing is not my top priority at this very second.

I wasn't kidding. This is how my wife and I make sure we both get Pringles when they're purchased.
I wasn’t kidding. This is how my wife and I make sure we both get Pringles when they’re purchased.

Things are better than they were as recently as last week. I looked back over my blog posts, noticing that I’ve had a grand total of one post since my wedding((A span of five weeks.)) that had received a comment. It’s deflating. It’s discouraging. It’s disheartening. Instead of being down about it — which I admit was the case for a few days — I decided to go through my Feedly and catch up on the blog posts I’d missed while gone on the honeymoon. 117 posts later meant that I’d left comments on around 40 posts, but it also meant that I had gained a renewed motivation to write.

My motivation still isn’t where it once was. During NaNoWriMo in 2011, I churned out 60,000 words in 21 days. In 2011 itself, I wrote 407 posts on the blog I had at the time. But I don’t need to be at that motivation level now. Where I need to be is at a place where I have the motivation to continue to write and continue to grow my blog. Resources that once existed for growing my blog’s audience no longer exist, so now it’s up to me to succeed. That’s a pretty strong motivating factor on its own.

What motivates you to write? What do you do when you struggle with motivation? Sound off in the comments.

Friendship Is Still Witchcraft

My parents spent most of my second and third grade years of school in a lengthy custody battle over my brother and me. We switched schools three times in the span of three months at one point, five times in total((If you count homeschooling)) during that time frame. It wasn’t until the last six months of my parents’ divorce that we were able to get settled at a school and I could start making friends. It took two months for me to talk to anyone other than my teacher and the school counselor, and another two months before I could answer a question out loud in class((Thanks in large part to said counselor and a teacher’s aide helping me to create a salt flour map of the former Czechoslovakia to present to class. Why 9-year-old me was obsessed with Central European geography and history, I’m not quite sure on)).

It looked a lot like this, only of a central European nation, not Alabama. Image credit: jimmielanley.hubpages.com

As I’ve lamented before, it’s kind of hard to make friends in adulthood. It’s certainly not to say that we lack opportunities to do so. I’d make a fairly strong argument that I come into contact with just as many people on a daily basis now as I did when I was in college, if not potentially more. Working in a customer service setting within business can and will make that a reality. Those interactions though are strictly business in nearly all cases.

It’s definitely possible to make friends at your work place. That said, there’s a distinct difference between “work friends” and “friends from work”. In the case of “work friends”, they’re people you get along with and talk to while at work, maybe even going to lunch together here and there. You may exchange the occasional text message or email off hours bitching amount a common gripe or even giving them a heads up about road conditions. Overall though, your work friend is nothing more than a friend while you’re at work, and an acquaintance outside of that realm. A “friend from work”, on the other hand, is someone who you work with that you can also to consider to be your friend off of the clock. You may hang out on occasion, meet up for lunch on the weekends, play copious amounts of online gaming together…you know, the usual stuff friends do((Well, this is at least what I’d do…I’m not exciting)).

I’m really good at making work friends in most situations. I’ve become a more outgoing person as I’ve grown older, and my current position with my employer means that every new hire within my department interacts with me in some fashion (either in person or digitally) during their first few weeks with the company. Yet, if someone who falls into the category of work friends were to leave the company, I wouldn’t be terribly broken up about it. I certainly may be a bit sad that we lost someone’s skills or productivity, but at a personal level, I wouldn’t think much of it.

Losing someone who falls into that category of friend from work is exactly the same as losing a friend…because that’s what they are. Yes, that person may move on and work for a different company at some point, but that doesn’t kill your friendship. Losing friends is hard at any point in life, though I’d make the argument it’s particularly hard as a young adult. You’re at this awkwardly lonely((Relatively speaking)) stage where you haven’t started your own family yet to support you if someone leaves your life, yet you’re not surrounded by a friend making-friendly environment like what a university or high school could provide.

It’s a rather disheartening feeling to see a friend go away, regardless of how you met them. The problem only gets amplified when your environment is reminding you that it’s much harder to make new ones.

Friendship Is Witchcraft

Note: This post is a particularly old post from one of my previous blogs. I share it not because it’s completely relevant to my current state of mind, but to give context to a separate post that will be going up later in the week.

Did you know that people apparently don’t care about the sportsball? I was a bit surprised too, especially considering that two of the largest sports websites in the world, ESPN.com and Bleacher Report, are ranked #114 and #336 globally by Alexa respectively. Furthermore, of worldwide sports leagues, the National Football League trails only the English Premier league in terms of popularity, and I’m not even sure that’s a definitive statement.

Sportsball. Likely not coming back to a blog near you anytime soon. Click for source pic.

As a result, you can imagine my confusion and dismay when I watch my blog traffic drop by 70% just by writing a week’s worth of sports posts. Furthermore, comment traffic dropped 85% from where it had been over the course of the last month. To say this was shocking wouldn’t be an understatement, as even if my readership basis was skewed to a below average number of the general population who were sports fans, that shouldn’t cause a 70% drop in traffic. On Saturday afternoon, however, I may have received a deeper answer to the traffic drop than I would have initially thought of, all from an unexpected conversation.

On Saturday afternoon, my girlfriend and I drove down to visit my grandparents and my dad for a few hours. My dad worked until 4pm, so much of the first hour of our visit was spent talking with my grandma as she readied her kitchen for making dinner. I mentioned to my grandma that I now have a chair in my living room to sit in, though I was considering getting another one in case I have friends come over to visit. Her response, while not totally surprising, did catch me a bit off guard.

“I think you’ll be fine. I didn’t know you even had friends.”

As the statement was made in jest, my girlfriend quickly agreed. The two of them shared a laugh before going back to talking about whatever else was on their minds at that time. I laughed a little bit too, as I did realize they were joking. That said, for every joke that’s made, there’s at least a little bit of truth in it.

It’s highly likely that adding a second chair to my living room wouldn’t have any impact at all to how I live my day-to-day life. Other than my girlfriend and my apartment complex’s maintenance crew, the last time someone other than myself was in my apartment was when my dad last came up to visit — March of 2012. I don’t care about the fact that my bed resides in my living room because I know no one will see it (this is also largely due to the fact that my air conditioner lives in the living room and isn’t powerful enough to reach the bedroom, but still).

On the plus side, my apartment looks nothing like this. Click for source.

I’m not exactly the type of person who’s good at making friends in person. I have lots of people I talk to online that I consider my online friends, but with one exception, I’ve never met any of them in person. I get along great with people at work, often times playing the role of peacemaker when there are internal quarrels in my department at various jobs I’ve held. That said, it’s very rare that one of those work friends becomes someone I talk to outside of work.

There was recently a discussion on 20SB regarding how easy it is to make friends outside of the context of a college environment. The feedback was largely the same across the board — sure, it’s harder to make friends outside of college, but it’s still a fairly simple task if you try. I’d disagree with this statement in part. I definitely agree that it is harder to make friends outside of a university setting, but I don’t think that for many people it’s for a lack of trying.

As most humans grow into adulthood, we find ourselves learning the harsh realities of the world. The vast majority of people are out to get what works best for them and nothing more. Sure, an exception may be made for a spouse, family member, or particularly close friend, but unless an interpersonal exchange results in either short or long term benefits for at least one of the two parties involved, you can be damn sure it’s not happening.

This isn’t to say I’ve completely abandoned my existing “in real life” friends. I do still have a few people I still talk to on a regular basis that I’ve had long friendships with. However, while they reside in Arizona, Boston, Wisconsin, rural Southern Ohio, and Northwest Ohio, I’m in none of those places. I don’t have the luxury of being able to meet a friend for a drink if I want to on the spur of the moment. Outside of occasional emails/texts I’ll get from one of the aforementioned friends, my life largely revolves around exposure to one other person. I miss having friends.

Of course, the counter argument to all of this rambling is “well go make new friends”. Life isn’t that easy. While it may be easier to be cynical in stating that the world is a place where good people are few and far between, it’s also a relevant and truthful statement. Even those in the world who aren’t great people have the capacity to look out for those they care about. The trick is finding them. Everything else in the world is smoke and mirrors — a witchcraft that we all practice in an attempt to isolate ourselves from the cruelty that is real life.