I'm a writer from New Jersey, now living in Chicago. Journalist/production manager for a news site, aspiring to become an author of fantasy novels. In the meantime, I'm blogging.

I like nature, black metal, the occult, cats, and good wine.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Who are you? What are you? What do you do?

Look carefully at the three questions that make up the title of this blog entry. In an attempt to answer any one of them, you might reference your Facebook or Twitter page; that should tell us everything, right? Not quite. You see, I’m not asking for your name. I’m not asking how many “followers” you have, or what your most recent “status update” was. Nor am I asking about your ethnicity, gender, or religion (or lack thereof). I’m not even asking about your job.

Who are you as a person? If you were to write a short essay about yourself, what would you put in it? Would you describe your achievements? Your hopes and dreams? Your hobbies? What would you say are your character traits, or attributes? And what do you do in life? What do you aspire to do? These days, most people never bother to think about any of these things. Isn’t that strange?

But hang on. Let me play devil’s advocate and counter that for you: “I’m too busy trying to look for or keep a job, and going to school, and commuting, and dealing with friends and family.” In short, there’s no time to turn your thoughts inward. No time to catch your breath and confront the very purpose of your own existence. And to that, I respond with a most classic and earthy rejoinder: “Bullshit!”

Let me “trajectory” this thing for you: You spend all your time trying to get a better job and a better education - both worthy pursuits! - pausing only to deal with other responsibilities (bills, family issues, etc.), so that you can make a little money and build a better life for yourself. If you do make any pit stops along that road leading from Point A to Point B, you certainly see them as distractions, and you instantly course-correct and continue on your way. At the end of it, you acquire many of the material possessions and societal necessities you always wanted, but gain no deeper knowledge of yourself, nor any greater, more significant impression of this huge, amazing world in which you live. Congratulations! You’ve made it through the rat race! And resultantly been snared in a trap we like to call “the modern lifestyle.” Damn. And you didn’t even get any cheese. (Rats eat cheese too, right?) But I digress. Back to the questions, and why you should be asking them.

To me, asking those questions or not asking them is the difference between living life or just going through the motions. What do you want out of life that is not based around money or objects? Do you want to take up any pastimes? (Binge-watching Netflix doesn’t count.) Do you want to travel? Do you want to do anything besides what you’ve been told you must or should do? If not, then why? Aren’t you worth it? “I can’t find the time,” you say. Once again, bullshit. If people can spend hours on Facebook, if they can binge-watch an entire season of House of Cards in two or three sittings, if they can take selfies and play Playstation VR and whatever else the cool kids do these days, they can get out and do things that are a bit more consequential, too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking any of those activities. But we are social, explorative, and knowledge-seeking creatures by nature. Or at least, that’s what I like to think. Certainly, history has been made, documented, and written by those who all possessed one or more of those traits. And if you actually do a little reading or research - and I don’t mean ‘Google it,’ - I think you’ll find that those who populate the pages of history books were each doing something interesting. It may have involved work, or battle, or some other type of great struggle. To anyone reading this, I’m not asking you to do anything so laborious or heroic. I’m asking you to challenge yourself. Ask yourself the questions I mentioned, and come up with good answers for them. Do something unexpected. Put down the smartphone for twenty minutes and pick up a book written by Charles Dickens. Get out of the 24-hour fitness center and go mountain climbing. Or horseback riding. Or learn archery. Do something. Live for something. Be something. Be someone. And don’t abandon any of your responsibilities, but squeeze in something different wherever and whenever you can. You never know - you just might surprise yourself and enjoy it.

None of this is hard to do, especially these days. I can see, of course, how someone working at Walmart can’t afford to travel to Bora Bora. But you can take a walk in a park. Maybe do some photography. Or actually stop and look at the fucking sky, and the trees, and even the people. Being super extroverted isn’t for everyone - I myself am shy and often like to be alone - but if you’re like that, take advantage of that quality. Share stories with people. Face-to-face, not through a computer screen. You may think I’m anti-technology, or anti-social media, but I’m not. I’m anti-letting it control or take over your whole life.

So what about me? Who am I? What am I? What do I do?

I’m the person who has loved art, reading, writing, and nature since childhood. My teenage years also awakened a deep interest in music. I explored all of these avenues whenever I could, through the nature class I attended as a kid in Audubon, New Jersey, and the World Wildlife Fund binders full of fact sheets about different animals, which I collected and read. Through the books that inspired me to become a writer, and to try and become a published author. Through the music that carried me, emotionally, through the hardest years of my life - ones marked by poverty and uncertainty about my own future. Through the songs that captured great times with friends and living in different places; songs that forever established themselves as erstwhile homes for fond memories, together forming an orchestral scrapbook in my ever-imaginative head. I’m the person who came through the other side of those aforementioned struggles, got a good job, began to support myself, and built myself up no matter how many people tried to knock me down.

I am an artist, and a writer, and a deep thinker. I am a roaring lion (indeed, I’m a Leo), and though my pride (my friends) has scattered across the country in their own searches for happiness and a means of living, I maintain my status as king of this concrete jungle in which I now live and work. Though none but I would use such a title, I do, in fact, sit on a throne. It was built from self-confidence, heart, intelligence, and a little bit of stubbornness for good measure. All of the attributes which, used together for a purpose, are harder than the toughest steel.

And finally, what do I do? I explore; I go hiking and I intend to take up fishing soon as well. I create; I draw and, when I can afford to, will begin painting. I write; I work for an online news publication as a journalist focusing on environmental and conservation issues, as well as pop culture like film and music reviews. And I am working on the first in a series of fantasy novels that I hope to one day get published. I travel; to numerous places across the U.S. and also to Paris. If all works out as it should, my next stop will be Iceland, and then Paris again, and maybe Rome as well, and Slovakia - the place where my grandparents are from - as soon as I can.

I also ask myself a fourth question. What do you aspire to do? As it happens, I myself want to learn archery, just because. I want to learn other languages (I’m trying to learn French, but I’d also like to speak Slovak and Norwegian). I want to do something else with music - perhaps do some black metal recordings. I did vocals in the past for a band of sorts, though we never officially recorded anything and it was mostly me and a bassist. Speaking of music, I want to learn how to play the keyboard - I was starting to, and then things in life came up that made me drop it; I hope to pick it back up eventually. There are so many more things I’d like to do, but these are just a few off the top of my head.

Now you’ve heard a bit of my story. It’s time to write your own. And the great thing about it is, you don’t need a pen. You need only find inspiration - and you can do that as soon as you set foot outside your front door. So who are you? What are you? What do you do? You can decide now, or you can spend your whole life never knowing. The choice is yours, but the clock is ticking.

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