Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just "Like" Starting Over

Last Saturday night I was part of WRITE CLUB's show at the Fillet of Solo festival here in Chicago.  My topic was "Start", opposed by the hilarious Caitlin Bergh selling "Finish".   I wrote this piece with a memory of a guy I went to flight attendant training with twelve years ago stuck in my head.   Jim was a snarky homo who had already put his time in with seven other airlines who told me when he first learned how to evacuate an airplane in an emergency he was taught to swear at people....as in it was company policy/FAA approved to yell things like "MOVE YOUR ASSES, YOU FUCKERS!"  The reasoning was that people in airline accidents were sometimes found still buckled into their seats, dead of smoke inhalation, but no other obvious cause for their demise besides the fact that their brains just chose to seize up under the circumstances.  The prevailing philosophy to force people to snap out of it and get a move on was to shock them back into action, including yelling profanity at them.  Not sure when they changed the directive on that one, but I can assure you if I ever have a day where we lay it down unexpectedly in the cornfield, I am cussing out EVERYONE IN EARSHOT, regardless of current policy.  I talk to myself this way a good amount of the time, in fact, the "Start" piece is a personal post it note that whatever I did yesterday is great and all that, but a good whack to the brain to stay motivated and challenged under ever changing current conditions should forever remain on my agenda.

Briefly about the WRITE CLUB bout, I'd never done a timed reading or a competitive reading before, so the whole idea scared the shit out of me, which is precisely why I had to agree to do it.  It's a wildly entertaining show, if you're in Chicago, Atlanta, Athens, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Toronto, you should check it out.  I lost in a dream the night before, so when it happened in real life, it just seemed fated more than disappointing.  To be in a battle of wits with someone as talented as Caitlin made me appreciate once again that my days are made of magic far more often than not.

I woke up Sunday morning to my hungover roommate wandering around looking for Advil, still clad in her Green Bay Packers jersey from the night before.  We were pretty stoked to rename our humble abode "House of Losers" for the rest of the day, 'cuz that's how we roll.

More info: http://writeclubrules.com  
Go to the Hideout, you'll be glad you did.  


There is never a sunnier time than the beginning, when you’re brimming with hope and possibility.  Inevitably the clouds roll in.  The start is the first day at your new job, when you just can’t wait to unleash your freshly sharpened brain on every problem worth solving.  Fast forward, you’re coming in late, making tasks that should take an hour last three days, counting the seconds until the weekend.  The start is when you meet someone you think is amazing and he feels likewise and you kiss and talk until three in the morning.  Fast forward, you’re pissed off because he won’t stop talking, can’t he see you’re trying to read a book? The start is “’til death do us part.”  The end is either divorce lawyers dividing up your trinkets, or death, I guess.  Everything you attempt, despite your wide eyes and noble intentions, is a time bomb ticking towards despair and disappointment. Your life is a modernist novel: it’s Gatsby or Anna Karenina, or Mrs. Dalloway, at best.

Perhaps you’re comfortable with your job, even if some days it’s beneath you, and your significant other, even though the hottest thing you’ve shared recently is watching reruns of One Tree Hill, and you trust your dedication to your mundane routines will be rewarded in the end.  You’re smug in your belief that YOUR life is a novel of development, a Dickensian production in which the hero of the story starts out naive, but eventually learns through a series of tests that the society is not out to get him, cue ubiquitous feel good ending.  News flash, your story has grown tired.  So why are you still buying it?  Because it’s the path of least resistance, because you’re apprehensive about embracing the uncertainty of starting over.  You mindlessly cling to your job that provides no challenge, to your relationship that’s gone south, to your Rain Man inspired regimes. You want only to remain submerged in the tepid bath that is your apathy.  

Fifty Shades of Grey is quickly on its way to becoming one of the best-selling books of all time, a poorly written travesty where a virginal waif who’s never masturbated meets a rich, handsome bondage enthusiast who makes her pussy explode from the get go and she then finds her life’s purpose in attempting to heal his damaged psyche.  I’m all for escapism, but seriously?  The most awkward and unsatisfying sex in real time has got to be better for you than reading this crap with one hand. So why is everyone on the couch devouring the pages of this stinker instead of out seizing the day?  Why is today’s renaissance person the one with the most technology to do everything for them, leaving them more time to watch Honey Boo Boo?  It’s because we’ve lost our love of the start.

The start is where the sweetest nectar of your life is, my friends.  It’s the pure joy of potential, it’s autoerotic asphyxiation with your aspirations, it’s the dopamine hit we crave all swirled up inside that lovely, humble human being you are when you don’t have a clue as to what the hell it is you’re doing.  Think about the last time you embarked on something truly new and terrifying, the last time you mounted the great unknown and started humping it like there was no tomorrow, with no concern for the consequences.  Despite the perils of the modernist novel plot, you can choose to laugh off the inevitable and to not let your fear of unfamiliar territory stop the start before it begins.  You can embrace the knowledge that any new job or partner or attempts to take a chance and reimagine yourself might be a dead end street, an opportunity to crash and burn, an occasion to show your ass to the world.  But when you reach that confounded cul-de-sac, when you pull yourself out of the fiery wreckage, when you hike your pants back up, you must prepare to start again.  The next round you’ll burn a touch brighter, you’ll react slightly faster, your edge will be more finely honed.  There will be times when stars align and you’re not just randomly spinning the dial on the Master Lock of life hoping to get the numbers in the right order.  Celebrate those occasions when you know the combination and you feel the satisfaction of pulling that lock open.  And then what?  You must push yourself to start again with humility, because getting high on your minor achievements and stagnating in them for too long is the fast track to complacency.  And complacency puts you at your 20th high school reunion, where you’re a balding fuck on your fourth Dewars and water talking about your Hail Mary pass in the fourth quarter at the big game while your wife yammers on about how she is a far superior mother than that other so and so bitch because she makes her own baby food as everyone’s eyes glaze over as they are silently thanking God that they are not YOU.  Sure, there’s satisfaction to be derived from a job well done, from seeing a project to its completion.  But nobody really cares about your moments of past glory, your reheated recounts of the roads you’ve already travelled.  What’s imperative is your ability to spit in the face of failure and humiliation and your enthusiasm to be continually rebuilding yourself with superior materials.  Your reinvention as a bigger, better bad ass relies on you being hopelessly addicted to the rush you get from the start, a high you can ride all the way to the end, just to get back in line to do it over all again.

So start petting your spirit animal; don’t be discouraged if it’s a mange infested hate monkey.  Let it guide you to the start of something new, it’s perfectly fine to start small.  Start by offering that hot stranger you see on the El every morning a “hello” instead of your same tired, creepy stare.  Start writing the first chapter of your modernist novel or perhaps some bad escapist mommy porn.  Put some air in your bike tires and start peddling, you could be the next Lance Armstrong, the world could use one with more balls and less scandal.  Start wrapping your head around the notion that you are the architect of your future, so grab the blueprints out of that garbage can you stuck them in for safe keeping and start scribbling on them about how those who aren’t afraid to begin are rewarded with euphoria and how you’ll never again let your eyes drift away from the starting line.