Zero To Hero Day 21: Building Upon A Post

Hey, folks. Day 21’s assignment was all about building upon and/or explaining the post from Day 19. I chose to use quotes because…well, I’ve tried pretty much all the other formats. Rather than sticking with a specific quote, I chose a group of them that not only reflected my thoughts on this blog, but arranged them in a way that would form something resembling narrative. I’ll just give them a brief run-down:

  • Jorge Luis Borges blew my mind when I first read his work, and the quote I used seemed to capture the feeling all too well. Causality is fascinating, be it in a philosophical or religious context. Borges wasn’t sure about what his storytelling was going to do, only that there were stories. It’s the same thing when I post something here; I find it cool and interesting, but I can’t account for others’ biases or beliefs. All I can do is tell it the way I can, and hope it’s good enough.
  • The dedication page for House of Leaves always stood out for me. That book is several mind-screws all bundled up into one, and “This is not for you” is just one of the earliest ways it messes with your expectations. I want to do the same with my blog; I want to get you to wonder, to think. And much like that quote, I don’t just blog for everyone else; I blog for myself, too.
  • The third quote comes from my favorite fighting game ever. If you want a great example of video game role models, Ryu would probably be high on the list. He doesn’t just want to fight for the sake of violence; he wants to experience and learn new things. His quote is kind of my unofficial mantra.
  • The fourth one is that infamous reveal from The Shining. It serves as a counter to the previous quote; if you spend so much time focusing on objectives and improvement, you can lose sight of who you are, and the life around you. There has to be a balance somewhere, and it’s good to have a reminder of that. On an unrelated note, The Shining is one of my all-time favorite movies.
  • Solid Snake’s rant is the capstone to the infamously mind-screwy Metal Gear Solid 2 ending. The entire game is essentially one long lesson on postmodernism, and this little speech is probably the most straightforward moment you’ll ever get. Snake basically argues that we as individuals are more than just producers of the next generation. We can show them – and each other – what is important to us. We are survived by what we pass on. That’s a sentiment I want my blog to reflect.
  • Blood Meridian is one of my favorite novels. Not because of the setting or the brutality – Judge Holden is such an amazing character – but how the story is told. The imagery is so vivid, and…I better stop now before I start ranting. The quote I used reinforces my curiosity; I want to be the one who pulls the tapestry and takes life on his own terms. And I want you to try, too; you can’t fully live if you don’t ask questions.
  • Moving The River by Prefab Sprout is one of many, many one-hit wonders I have on my playlist. I prefer the acoustic to the regular version, though. It’s about a guy who’s disappointed with life, and must comes to terms with his parents – and his own – expectations. I’m very much the same. As the title implies, living takes Herculean strength; the song even ends with “but it takes such an effort/to stay where I am…” The lyrics I chose reflect my doubt over the subject matter I choose to post. A few of my interests and hobbies aren’t exactly…mainstream, and I worry about alienation and abandonment over them.
  • …Like depression, for example. Out Of My Head is a late 90’s hit about personal reflection, regret, and doubt. Despite its simplicity, the song manages to be tear-jerking and introspective. I quoted it to reflect my issues with depression (and mental health in general) and how it’s one of those taboo subjects. How are we as a society supposed to combat such illnesses if we don’t talk about them?
  • The next quote is just a continuation of same idea. It’s worth noting that Gotta Knock A Little Harder is all about someone overcoming their fears and doubts, even if they have to bust through their own emotional barriers to do it. I’m working on that part. This song is part of Cowboy Bebop’s tremendous soundtrack, and I highly recommend that you give it all a listen sometime.
  • Stardust Melody is an old, amazing song. It’s not about love, but idealizing love. After time and lives have past, all you have are the memories. I worry about that; maybe I’m doing this all in vain, but I still do it. It’s an incredibly lonely, but peaceful song. I listen to it sometimes before going to bed. I wanted to link to my favorite version – Mel Torme with just a piano – but I couldn’t find a video for it.
  • The Late Lament is a poem that comes after the ending of the Moody Blues’ Nights In White Satin. It depicts a somber, lonely evening in which people settle in for the night. The part at the end struck me because of its defiant tone. Despite all the sadness and doubt, we are the ones who decide how to live. It’s a reminder to never give up.
  • The last quote is actually a quote of a quote. “You’re gonna carry that weight” comes from the Beatles song, but the line is also featured at the final screen of Cowboy Bebop. There’s a very good reason why it shows up, and I’m not going to spoil it for you. Basically, you have to live with the decisions and actions you take. Be it guilt, sadness, desire, pleasure…you carry those moments and memories around for the rest of your life. I want my blog to not only share such things, but to help me going into the future.

Daily Prompt: I Have Confidence in Me, Or: The Paradox Of The Shy, Adventurous Writer

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is about confidence. Specifically, what you’re good at, and what you’d like to be better at. This one’s actually hard for me to explain. I understand that I’m good at writing; it comes naturally to me. I’ve only improved over time and effort. My standards are much higher than they were a decade ago. The words flow from my fingers like a river, and the ideas therein are the rocks and rapids. You know how most students loathe writing essays? I thrived on that in college. A good piece of writing is like a puzzle; each word is an individual (but essential) component of a more complex structure. It’s just a matter of examining each piece and arranging it correctly to convey your message. Oh, and the key to developing a writer’s voice? Just read what you’ve written out loud. If it sounds weird, then you know you need to change something. It’s that simple. Unless you want to sound like a space alien pretending to be human or blatantly show off your thesaurus-perusing skills, but that’s an entirely different issue…

Going on a tangent. Sorry.

From an objective standpoint, I know I’m good at this. Getting the words together on paper (though it’s more on-screen these days) is really easy. Dealing with my internal critic, however, is a struggle of epic proportions. You probably know what I’m talking about. It’s that little voice in your head that just loves to sow doubt and undermine everything good you believe about yourself. Typing again, huh? It’s not even worth your time. Who’s going to read it? You think anyone will actually care, let alone notice? Where’s the money? Writing is your greatest skill? What a joke. Why can’t you get a real job, and be like everyone else? Failure! You don’t have a future. You’re never going to make it. You’re going to starve, man.

…Yeah, I need to work on the confidence thing.

For the longest time, I bought into all of that. On my really bad nights, I still do. But if you get me motivated and focused, I will be on fire. It’s all about the situations and objectives. The last time I did NaNoWriMo, I burned through 20,000 words in a single sitting. When I found out that that I might miss the deadline for my college graduation, I buckled down and scheduled more than a full course load, aced every single class, and got my degree on time. You give me a goal I’m interested in, and I’ll show you what tenacity and willpower can accomplish. Resolve is one of the greatest and most terrifying qualities a person can have.

My skills aren’t limited to writing, though. I’ve got a critical eye with regards to pretty much everything, so I’m good at picking up details. You know how kids are capable of absorbing tons of information? It’s kind of like that. Facial expressions, vocal tones, languages, accents, structural designs, philosophical concepts, colors, anything. It’s pretty handy when you’re tasked with reviewing something; I can take a game/story/whatever apart quickly. I can read and predict others easily. People think I’m insightful, but my observations seem really obvious. Anyone who’s ever played against me in fighting or strategy games knows what an utterly ruthless tactician I can be. It’s not about thinking outside the box; it’s about thinking outside the room the box is stored in. I’m capable of memorizing lengthy procedures and scheduling around them; I used to have my college commutes calculated down to individual steps. I’d like to think it was practicality over OCPD, but I know better.

I’m also a really good traveling companion. Whenever I travel in a group, I’m usually the one with the map or an idea of where to go. Give me a little time to figure out the layout of a new place, and I’ll quickly adjust to it. I explored Paris on Le M√©tropolitain, and I didn’t speak a word of French. Someone even asked me for directions! The pigmentation of my skin is ambiguously olive enough that I can pass for a local most of the time. Since I’m good at reading facial expressions, I don’t always need to verbalize to communicate. I’ve also got a cast-iron stomach; I’ve eaten local cuisine that have left others bedridden for days.

Huh. It’s surreal reading the last few paragraphs. I know I’m good at all of that, but it clashes with my personality. I’ve mentioned before that I’m introverted. It’s not a flaw (no matter what social expectations say), but it’s completely the opposite of adventurous side. Wandering a foreign city? I’m fine. Stuck in a crowded room? I’m lost. I’m really shy and uncomfortable in social situations. It’s tiring and awkward, and it makes me look arrogant and aloof. I don’t want to talk about my interests, because I just end up confusing the other person. People are sometimes intimidated by my use of direct eye contact. It’s a tactical measure; people know I’m paying attention, which puts them more on edge and gives me the advantage. I’ve also been accused of being a charmer, which always seems bizarre to me. I’m not trying to be charismatic; I’m trying to survive the conversation without making a fool of myself. You’d be amazed how far a smile, a joke, and polite conversation can get you. I’m always taken aback when women (and men, with surprising frequency) try flirting with me. I never know what to say, and I just want to back away as quickly and gracefully as possible.

Ye gods, I’m actually blushing now.

I need to work on the social skills. I get that. I’m not good at connecting with people beyond a purely academic level. It’s just scary, awkward, and unnerving. I wish I had a stronger voice, too. It’s annoying when people can’t hear you because your indoor voice is apparently a whisper. I can hear myself just fine. I wish I was more physically coordinated, too. I can hike for hours at a time, but I’m not good at conventional sports. I did pretty well in jujitsu, though…There are so many other things I wish I could do better. When I have the time – I’m heading out to a party now, incidentally –¬† I’ll make a list. It’ll be a long one.

Daily Prompt: Perspective, Or: Worth Beyond Likes

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt focuses on perspective. More specifically, how our perception of something we hate can be altered by something we enjoy. One of my biggest problems is with self-absorption. I loathe it with a fiery, unbridled passion. People who are so utterly, ridiculously focused upon themselves that they completely dismiss others and the world around them. The level of narcissism, the blatant me me me! attitude…it’s beyond appalling. The fact that our society encourages such behavior makes it even worse. You ever see a grown adult stamp their feet because the complimentary coffee ran out? Oh, how I wish that was an exaggeration. Or how about people who can’t make it through the day without obsessively updating their Facebook status or Twitter feed? I bet you’ve seen it. Next time you’re on a train or eating lunch with coworkers, take a look around. Is anyone actually interacting with each other? Yeah, probably not. For many people, the appeal of social media isn’t necessarily connecting with others or conveying ideas, but the acknowledgement of their own existence. On a subconscious level, everyone is aware of their fallibility and mortality. Some profiles and pages practically scream “Yes, I am a human being with a life and memories and needs! Please notice me! I deserve to be remembered! I’m interesting, I promise!” Machinima summed it up in graphic detail. We as culture are being raised on this unabashed sense of self-entitlement while sacrificing self-worth in the process. It’s a profound paradox with some really nasty implications for our successors.

I’m not immune to it, either. I enjoy the acknowledgement I get from my readers. It feels good! Every time the little icon on my WordPress header lights up, so do my eyes. Yes, I managed to reach someone! You’d think I was stuck on a deserted island with a ham radio or something. For those of you unfamiliar with my gaming writing, I’m a prominent amateur game reviewer. I’d like to think I’m still good at it, and my readership seems to agree. But for years, I thought that was all I was. Never mind putting myself through college, being well-read, traveling, or any of that. I thought that all I could offer the world was that ever-lengthening list of game analyses. I’d monitor my hits (which are apparently near 1.7 million at the time of this writing) with an almost religious zeal. Winning writing contests and getting fan mail was just icing on the cake. And I still appreciate it. But there’s always a little voice in the back of my head mocking me; Gee, another video game? Writing? Oh, please. You’re supposed to be smart, and THIS is the best you can do? When are you going to do something worthwhile? How’s that going to change the world? Does any of this actually matter? Do YOU even matter?

Self-esteem issues, anyone?

That’s something that I’m still working to get past. While I enjoy what I do, the guilt and self-doubt drive me nuts sometimes. But after a while, I realized that I was more than just that list of articles. That my importance didn’t revolve around how many hits or likes I got. The point was that I created something – an idea, an argument, a voice – and conveyed it to others. Innovation (for better or worse) without the conveyance of the concepts already learned. It’s something a lot of people (and certainly not just my generation) have to realize. Reality does not exist just for you. If the universe were an ocean, we’d be too small to even be considered subatomic particles. For all our insignificance, all we can do is influence our tiny speck of the world. Do you want to just sit around waiting for someone to push a button to acknowledge you? I don’t. Not anymore.