Brandon's Journal

Old Writings

I used to save everything I wrote. In fact, I have a Word document with around 70% of what I blogged between 2005-2014 which is 803 pages and over 275,000 words.

Once I put all of those blogs/journals into one large document, I got pretty lazy about archiving my written word. I opened and closed various blogs and journals and not much of it has survived the past five years.

Recently, a friend of mine is undergoing the process of turning some of his best blog posts into a book. It reminded me of a book project I had back in 2015. I was attempting to compile a series of articles I wrote about working at a video store that I never completed. I had gotten busy and just uploaded my work to the Cloud where its remained ever since.

I decided to pull the zip file off my OneDrive and take a look at what was inside. Not only was there my partially put together book, but several documents of finished and unfinished scripts, short stories, fan fiction, and blogs.

I decided to read through some of the blogs and journals. What I found was very much a mixed bag. I decided that it would make things a lot easier if I compiled them into a single document.

So, I spent some time pulling anything I could off post-2014 and putting it into individual .txt documents. I figured it would be a good way to preserve some of that writing and it gave me sometime to see where my mind was specifically in 2015. Wow was I ever in a different place.

I noticed my writing was less focus. Topics were even more diverse and I had no problem showing my full range of emotions online. Some topics were controversial while most were just me talking about entertainment I liked and was looking forward to.

I’d say 85% of what I found was pretty useless. However, that 15% that remained was good. I had a series of blog categories entitled Life and Stuff which chronicled the ins and outs of my life on a weekly basis for about six months. These provided a nice snapshot of what was going on in a very turbulent time in my life. I had lost my job and was scrambling. I also had begun college for the second time, and I chronicled my experience on a semi-weekly basis. It was also interesting to look back on.

Looking over my old blogs it got me thinking about how much my writing has changed and grown over the years. I gotta say, I am proud of myself for improving as much as I have.

I also thought about the quality of stuff I post. Is what I write today stuff I’ll want to read in five years? I’d like to say, mostly yes. I spend more time writing about things that interest me and the way they make me feel and less about announcements and reactions to news.

That’s not to say that fluff doesn’t serve any purpose. One post I ran across was simply a quote I liked from a Men’s Health interview with author Chuck Palahniuk. I must have liked it, but I had forgotten about it until I read it. It came in handy today and I hope this little tidbit of advice can serve me well in the future.

MH: Any words of wisdom for us? Anything that might make a contemporary man’s life a little less horrible?

Chuck Palahniuk: A friend of mine, Suzy—she’s in my writer’s workshop—said to me many years ago that she’s always conceived of herself as three people. There’s Suzy of three days ago. There’s Suzy of now. And there’s Suzy of three days from now.

So whenever she finds herself in crisis, she can choose to be the Suzy of three days ago before this crisis was even a possibility, or she can be the Suzy of three days from now when the current crisis is really mitigated.

It gives her perspective. She’s not just reacting to something that occurs in one point in time. She can be in movement with whatever’s going on. I don’t know. Is that useful?

Looking Back on 2020 So Far

On Monday, June begins and we are officially half way into 2020. What a strange and interesting year it has been so far.

I spent some time thinking about January, which seems like it was so long ago. I was working out the details of two trips to Tennessee in May, a trip to California in October, and possibly one or two more in between. I was trying to find the perfect date to attend another AEW show using our air line miles and I was following a few comic cons, concerts, and other fun outings to possibly do over the next few months. Plus there was some wedding planning going on.

Some family drama was spilling over from last year on my fiancée’s side, and my family was beginning some of their own. My work wasn’t going great and I was actively looking and planning an exit for spring/early summer.

Also, I was eagerly waiting for the new Bond film to come out in April.

I guess, like everyone else in the world, I had things I planned on doing that didn’t get done. Some disappointments were big, others were small, and in some ways things weren’t so bad. Staying at home more meant we saved more money, and thanks to the stimulus checks I was able to get out of debt quicker than expected.

As much as I was disappointed and annoyed with my job, I feel lucky that might job held out through the pandemic and I didn’t lose hours or forced to take a pay cut.

I’ve been writing since early January, almost on a daily basis. Its been my favorite year blogging yet and the move to Write.as was a blessing. I now have found a community that I enjoy participating in and its nice to find likeminded folks who appreciate a good personal blog.

I’m not exactly what to expect in the next six months, so I suppose I’m just not expecting anything. I’m trying to take things day-by-day and be as happy as I can possibly be. I anticipate more family drama, more work conflict, and more pandemic stress, but honestly, I can’t worry about that right now. I just need to breathe.


TLDR

The Good

-I’ve stayed employed and paid off my debt.

-I’ve hit a grove with my blogging that I’m happy with.

The Bad

-The relationship with my family has deteriorated.

-Mentally I’m not where I want to be.

Struggling With Shades of Grey

My parents weren’t around much when I was a kid. Divorce, alcoholism, and running around kept them from being present in my life a good portion of those formative years. I’ve been known to say (and they’ll agree) television and books raised me. I learned right and wrong from the entertainment I consumed and not my actual parents. Which probably wasn’t the best but it seemingly worked out for me.

Luckily, I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and television was a bit more balanced at the time. A good portion of entertainment produced during this time frame came with morals and simplified messages of right and wrong embedded and I picked up on that. I took inspiration from superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Spiderman to guide me on what was morally correct and how to handle myself. I was taught messages of peace, self-sacrifice, doing what is right no matter who notices, and to intentionally be a good person.

These, along with The Golden Rule, are messages we try to embed in all children. Sadly, these messages meet a lot of resistance once we grow older.

The black and white world I thought existed, does not in fact exist. And judging from what I’ve learned, I don’t think it ever truly existed. All that really exists are various shades of gray and that can hurt someone like me, who grew up only knowing the black and white.

I knew the things my parents did was black. I knew the things that Superman did were white. I knew that I didn’t want to be like my parents, but I did want to be like Superman, so I modified my behavior accordingly. I grew up a bit of a prude, because I didn’t drink, smoke, or party. I concerned myself with principles and ethics at a young age, which is sad. I robbed myself of years that I should have been naïve, but instead I was studying the truth about life and how to navigate it.

Recently, I’ve had some flareups with my mental health. I try not to spend a lot of time talking about it, because everyone seems to have a mental health problem and no one will shut up about it anymore. It was once taboo and shameful and now people flash it around like a badge of honor. I’m not saying either way’s correct, but my mental health is my issue and something I have to deal with, its not something to flaunt for internet sympathy.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what is causing this my drop in my mood. No doubt, the state of the world is playing a huge part. I’m upset about the ravaging effects of the coronavirus and my concern for my job and my fiancées job in the upcoming months. I’m upset about the way people are treating other people and the seething hate that seems to boiling up everywhere. I’m angry with my job for taking advantage of me and treating me poorly for several months. I was hoping to change jobs this spring but obviously that didn’t work out with the massive layoffs happening.

I’m mad at the media, the politicians, and the rude people at the grocery store. I’m mad at my family for self-destructing over the past six months, after finally offering me a little bit of peace and stability over the past couple of years.

I’m angry, disappointed, and frustrated at the world around me. I’ve been struggling to find a little hope in these bleak times and I realize my ideal world is crashing with the real world and that is what is causing me such suffering. The world does not look like the world that the entertainment that raised me told me it was, and now I’m suffering because I’m struggling to accept that.

The solution is easy. I must reframe my expectations. I remember reading a long time ago the simple solution for happiness:

Reality – Expectations = Happiness

While I think its difficult to encompass everything that goes into being happy or content, I do think that formula is a good place to start. Buddhism teaches you something similar in that the world is full of suffering because we are attached to the ideas and expectations we have of it.

Life would be so much easier if everything was black and white, but its not. I guess, I’ll just continue to learn how to adapt in these shades of grey.

Personal Site Spotlight: Jack Spratt’s Vietnam Experience

Back in the 90’s, finding websites wasn’t all that easy. Most of the time you utilized link pages or webrings to find other sites of similar interest. There wasn’t much to internet marketing and I loved the whole word of mouth approach to recommending websites.

Recently, I’ve been enjoying my time on the internet more after finding some likeminded users who have great blogrolls and lists of links that have guided me to some of my new favorite sites. I also spent some time digging through the directory of Neocities looking for more “personal sites” that create the type of content I like to consume online.

 

One of the sites I ran across on Neocities is called Jack Spratt’s Vietnam Experience. At first look, I thought it was an old website that someone had just re-uploaded on Neocities, but it turns out this is a website that is still active and updated.

Jack Spratt’s Vietnam Experience is a list of stories about author Jack Spratt’s time in Vietnam. These aren’t the gruesome war stories one might expect, but more or less a series of memories of lighter moments and just mundane daily experienced while in Vietnam.

Mr. Spratt has a photo gallery on his site that shows you what life was like on a swiftboat and he also sprinkles in photos on occasion throughout his stories. The stories are told in a casual remembrance type of way and it’s exactly the way I love to read personal recollections.

I spent this morning reading through all of the stories and I really enjoyed myself. Jack Spratt’s Vietnam Experience is an excellent look into the life of a sailor during the Vietnam War and I look forward to any new stories he may add.

A Phone Free Weekend

I wouldn’t consider myself addicted to my smart phone, but I definitely use it more than I’d like. One of the main contributors to my usage is my job, which can have a lot of downtime and so I like to find internet rabbit holes to explore or I mindlessly browse reddit. I realize that neither of these are very productive ways to spend my time, nor are they ways I would like to spend my time. I feel like the amount of negativity I pick up from the internet far outweighs the benefits (or distraction) that it offers and that bothers me.

On my days off, I tend not to spend all that much time on my phone. Many days I leave it in the bedroom until I go out or need it and its very rarely ever off of silent. I don’t have many notifications enacted so I don’t usually find a phone full of alerts but I still habitually check the various apps and websites looking for new updates on my own terms. I still waste just as much time as I would if I had notifications, I’m just less annoyed by being alerted to updates.

While my relationship with my phone isn’t a major concern for me, I still see room for improvement. I recently read a comment that discussed how the age of anxiety seems to co-exist with the age of technology and the author stated he thought this was because we now feel so much extra stress in our lives.

…to summarize my ideas on the topic, I believe that through social media, electronics, and a growing need to be accepted, young adults are constantly being exposed to the harsh opinions, realities, and ideas that come when a world is shrunk down to fit inside a cellular phone. Not only is our personal life stressful, but now we take on the stress of others and the world around us.

I had hoped to discuss this with the author more, but he seems to have posted a one-time anonymous post on Medium several years ago.

After reading that comment, I felt like his assessment was true. It was a great explanation for why there seems to be so much additional stress in the world and I think some of it comes across casually. It’s kinda like watching commercials. We may zone out and miss the majority of them, but some of that stuff resonates or finds it way into the cracks of your consciousness. I feel like seeing all the negativity online does the same, it just finds its way into your brain.

My mental health has taken a major dip the past week or so, and I’ve fallen back on old coping mechanisms to help me combat it. I have to be a bit more conscious of the entertainment I consume and what information passes through my head, and so I’m making a decision this weekend to turn off my phone. Well… I’m going to turn it to airplane mode that way if I want to read I can still read, but otherwise it’s going to be off.

I need to redefine my relationship with the internet and hopefully I can take some of that free time I’ll have this weekend to figure out exactly how I’d like to proceed.

Baseball Spring Fever

The first sport I ever loved was baseball. It was the early 90’s, and being from the South, I was drawn to root for the Atlanta Braves. Luckily for me, they had a pretty damn good team at the time.

My story was your cliched story. I loved baseball so I collected cards, watched games on TV, played t-ball, watched every movie I could get my hands on and every book I could read. I was obsessed with baseball and sometimes I wonder how my life would have turned out had that passion remained.

But when I was ten year old, the players decided to strike, baseball stopped, and I got my first real taste of how greed rules the world. My love of baseball never recovered and this probably laid the foundation for my feelings towards moneys, athletes, celebrities, and corporations that remain today. I didn’t realize that until I started typing this, but damn, that probably was the root of all my mistrust and irritation with rich people.

 

I don’t think I’ve watched a full major league game since the World Series of 1993. It blows my mind to think it’s been over twenty-six years.

 

Anyway, despite my frustration with Major League Baseball, I’ve always admired the sport. I love baseball movies and enjoy reading baseball books. I’m also a fan of attending minor league baseball games. There is just something about the sounds, cheap food, and architecture that makes me feel good. Maybe it’s a conditioned response from all the “America’s pastime” propaganda and feel good movies, but I just enjoy the atmosphere for what its worth.

 

Living in the South means that I have a limited window to see minor league games without being sunburned or suffocating in the heat. Usually its the first two months of the season and if I don’t make a game by then I’m done. Sadly, I haven’t attended a game since July 4th, 2018 and I kind of miss it. It’s not something I do regularly, but it just seems like something nice to do in 2020, of course, when I can’t.

 

 

I had a goal to visit all of the ballparks in North Carolina in one season, but I’ve since given up on that dream. Instead, I think I’ll just enjoy the games as I can and maybe check out a couple of the stadiums that I’ve been wanting to such as Winston-Salem and Fayetteville, should those teams survive the pandemic.

 

This post was inspired by looking through my old pictures and seeing several shots from various games I’ve attended. I’ve sprinkled them in throughout this post as a reminder of those fun days at the ballpark.