Archive for the ‘Tao of Teo’ Category

Why #BlackLivesMatter Doesn’t Resonate with Me

Firstly, I will start with making a few simple statements, with no qualifiers or addenda:

Racism exists within the United States today (“today” is 29 September, 2016).
Racism is bad.
Police need to be held accountable for their actions, even when those actions save lives or those actions are abuses of power.
Nothing is wrong with being angry.
I need a frickin’ beer.

These statements can be taken as is, and do not need to be understood within the context of this article. You can hold me to these statements, and I will not deny that I have made them. I hope this clarifies what I hold to be true, and that I will not be misunderstood or misrepresented.

Now with all of that said, I’ll explain why the #BlackLivesMatter movements have been bothering me for a while. This started with the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman. I admit that I knew next to nothing about that incident when it first came out. I do know that the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag started as a reaction to that incident, but because I tend to live under a rock, I knew little else.

Later, when #BlackLivesMatter became too big to ignore, I decided to look into the incident myself. A quick Internet search led me to several places where I could read up on the shooting and trial. I’ll try to summarize everything that I have learned and understand from this incident:

On 26 February, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old mixed-race Hispanic, shot and killled Travyon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American minor. Zimmerman claimed it was self-defense. He was later charged, tried, and acquitted of second-degree murder, supporting his self-defense claims. Various public reactions voiced concerns that the shooting was racially motivated, and insinuated that either Zimmerman or the Sanford PD were racists.

Now this is where I start seeing problems. So far, Zimmerman’s self-defense claims have been made legit. Zimmerman himself has not been proven racist. However, what was originally an unfortunate self-defense incident without racial profiling has now become a media-fueled angry backlash over perceived racism. Zimmerman had received death threats to the point where he had to relocate himself. Protests have started across the nation. The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag started to appear, and now it has become a rallying cry against discrimination of African-Americans.

Don’t get me wrong, the lives of Black African-American Negro citizens do matter, and should be protected under the same laws as any other citizen in our country. However, this BLM movement was based on a false premise, that Trayvon Martin was killed because he was Black, and that George Zimmerman was acquitted because he was white and had colluded with a racist police department. Did Martin deserve to be shot and killed? Hell no, but he really didn’t do himself any favors when he confronted the “creepy ass cracker” either.

Because #BlackLivesMatter was a reactionary, knee-jerk, emotional, race card-pulling response to a tragedy than had no racist origins, I was inclined to believe that these protestors were just “a bunch of stupid-ass niggas’ making a bad situation worse, and were also dragging the otherwise respectable African-American community down with them.” I was further inclined when some of these protests turned violent and actually brought harm to other, uninvolved people, regardless of epidermal phenotype.

When the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, went public, that tragedy turned into another BlackLivesMatter debacle. Again, the victim was a young Black man. In this incident, the shooting was performed by a police officer, Darren Wilson, responding to a robbery. This also started the “Hands up, don’t shoot” protests, which claimed that Michael Brown had his hands up before he was shot to death. This claim proved to be erroneous; multiple credible witnesses, including those of Black ethnicity, have stated that Brown was the aggressor in the confrontation, failed to comply with police, and even charged at Wilson, who then shot Brown in self-defense. Of course, pitchforking masses are quick to judge and slow to listen, so there were more protests, more civil unrest, and now even rioting in the streets. Again, a young Black man is shot and killed because he was doing something that he wasn’t supposed to do. And now, a bunch of stupid-ass niggas are fuckin’ things up for everyone because they don’t believe that Michael Brown was not accountable for robbery, assault, and non-compliance with a police officer. This further supports my opinion that many of these BLM protestors are just using race to excuse themselves from criminal wrongdoing.

By then, the BLM looks like it’s just been crying wolf all this time. Now if a guy like me calls bovine feces on #BlackLivesMatter,
then it’s not surprising that other people would think the same way. Unfortunately, many of these people are not proficient in critical thinking, nor are they willing to accept that racism is a bad thing. But I’ll get to them a little later.

So now when an incident such as the death of Eric Garner gets covered by the media, an incident which is not as unambiguous as the Martin and Brown deaths, divisions caused by the BlackLiveMatters protests become even more hostile, and accusations of racism and race-carding become more pronounced, regardless if racism was an actual issue or not. Over time, BLM started to lose its original focus on the shooting death of Trayvon Marvin, and became associated with any and all incidents where Black citizens would perceive injustice, legitimate or otherwise, to themselves, especially in incidents that involved clashes with the police. I won’t lie when I say that I saw the BLM movement(s) as a joke. They had no credibility when they started, and caused more problems than justice by taking retributive actions against those who did not deserve them.

Still, even a broken clock correctly tells the time twice a day. Just because BLM started out as a farce doesn’t mean that its message was any less important or true. And yes, there have been several examples of police allegedly abusing their power and disproportionately using excessive force upon Black people. Law enforcement officials are given a great deal of authority in order to combat crime. And with this authority comes responsibility and accountability. Cops shouldn’t start kicking a Black man’s ass for no reason. Those cops need to be brought to justice, if they haven’t already. And that is one of the positive and constructive messages that the BLM movement is trying to get out.

Now remember those non-critical thinking people who don’t think racism is really a bad thing? They see a bunch of stupid-ass niggas’ trying to make the whole affair about race. And to a certain extent, they are correct. The deaths of Martin and Brown were not about racial profiling, but more about really bad decision making. And because the BLM movement made it about race, these people felt obliged that they would stand by their race as well. But the problem with non-critical thinking people is that they don’t thinking critically. So when an incident like Eric Garner’s death comes up, they automatically assume that it’s the same thing, that BLM is making unjustified claims of racial profiling and discrimination, and so they will try to undermine the BLM movements again, and have their fears, rooted in racism, validated in the process.

But it’s not the same thing. In regards to Eric Garner’s death, yes, he was talking smack, but he didn’t demonstrate himself to be an immediate threat to the officers or anyone else. It’s unclear if he was participating in illicit activity, or if the law enforcement officials were looking for a convenient target. Did he die due to poor health, or did the police actually use excessive force? I’m still uncertain on the details, but this is a situation where protesting that #BlackLivesMatter could be appropriate.

But now it might be too late to actually get any real and constructive dialogue started. The dividing lines have been drawn, and people are drawing more upon emotion than upon reason. Too many people are busy posting videos or making new slogans or finding the next Black martyr-of-the-month or blaming victims for their own victimization or anything else that wouldn’t actually help solve the problem. Mind you, there are people who are legitimately trying to make things better and not making things worse. That Free Hugs Guy in Charlotte during the recent riots was trying to humanize the riot police despite resistance from Black protestors. Some protestors and counter-protestors confront each other peacefully, and even get together for a quick prayer circle. Those people should be applauded for their efforts. Unfortunately, those people seem to be few and far between. It’s much easier to rant and rave and yell out, “Burn all the babies!” than to do damage control, to put out these emotional firestorms despite getting burned in the process.

You know what, it’s probably not too late. The fact that I’m writing this implies that a dialogue can be started, that something constructive can be accomplished. But it’ll need change. And when I mean change, I mean change on all sides. We need to look at not just the “other side” but at ourselves as well. Yeah, it’ll be uncomfortable, and it’ll probably get us angry. But %$#@! it, isn’t a slightly bruised ego worth making the world a better place?

First off, communication is key. If you can’t express yourself adequately, then you can’t expect others to understand what the hell you are saying. The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag carries too much baggage, and it implicitly promotes exclusiveness. How about changing it to #BlackLivesMatterToo? By adding just one word, it can dramatically change the perceived meaning. All life is precious, but lest we forget, #BlackLivesMatterToo. And not #BlackLivesMatter2; it’s not a damn sequal and we should try promoting proper language skills instead of sounding like uneducated fools.

Or, we can take the Morgan Freeman approach, and not even try to bring race into it, and use #JusticeForAll. The original intent of these protests was a demand for justice. And by saying #JusticeForAll, we are not excluding anyone, and, in fact, makes us also accountable for upholding justice. Police brutality and abuse of power are not solely issues of racism. At its core, those problems demonstrate a need for justice, a need to hold those perpetrators accountable for their actions. Hey, maybe they did bad stuff because of racism. Racism is an extension of injustice. If these racists see things in terms of justice instead of race, then maybe they too could learn that racism is a bad thing and to readjust their way of thinking. It would certainly be more encouraging than callin them “evil white cracka’-ass bitches.”

Secondly, if we want the police accountable for their actions, then we got to be accountable for our actions, too. Sure, we get angry and frustrated, and that’s fine and perfectly normal. However, we should not allow emotion to override our sense of reason. There’s that adage, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” “Turn the other cheek” is another way to put it. It worked for Gandhi and it worked for Martin Luther King Jr. If we want to be taken seriously, then we need to be serious in our actions. If a bunch of stupid-ass niggas are seen doing stupid-ass shit, racist white people will use their actions to validate their opinions on all Black Africna-American Negro people. So if you see a stupid-ass nigga about to do something stupid, then stop that fool, and tell him, “Knock that shit off!”

As for white people who don’t like racism and do think it’s a bad thing, you guys can help out too. In fact, your help may be necessary to protect the rights and dignity of minority people. I’m sure some of you have heard about “white privilege.” If you haven’t, then look it up because there are other people who can describe it in much more detail. This site (http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/told-white-friend-black-opinion/) is a good place as any to start. By understanding how white privilege is perceived, one can start to see the thought processes that could be running around in a minority’s head. If people are angry or upset over perceived discrimination, then allow them to be angry and upset. Don’t undermine a person’s feelings. If you can, be angry as well. If you get angry enough, then you can start to see what needs to change. And with your “white privilege,” you can help facilitate that change that would otherwise be much more difficult to achieve. But again, don’t allow emotions to cloud judgment. If you see one of your minority friends about to do something stupid, call him on it. Don’t give racists more “proof” to justify their claims. Everyone needs to look after each other so we don’t have any more of these senseless riots.

Damn, I need another beer…

The Morning After, or the Next Year

A year ago, I had high hopes for the coming year. After some soul searching, I thought that I would be able to find the pieces to be able to put my life back together again. I would be able to find a new job, start a new career, develop some new relationships, strengthen old ones, become stronger and healthier, control my asthma, find my creative streak, and very possibly find some happiness again.

A year later, I find myself hardly any better than I was before. In fact, outside of a few successes, I’m probably slightly worse off than I was before. Still no job and still no money. I’ve had my heart broken, and lost a number of “friends” in the process. My debts are still unpaid and racking up interest. Over two grand was spent on medical expenses alone just to keep me breathing every day, and that still hasn’t been resolved. I’ve done more crying this year than I have in the past three years combined. And the last week and a half of the year was spent in pain because I threw out my back again.

I’ve had a few successes in this year, despite everything else. I had my first art show this past year, where I displayed three of my works along side other artists whom I’ve also recently met. I even sold one of the pieces. I guess you can say I’m now pro as an artist. I’ve met some new people, to help make up for the loss of losing other people I had counted as friends. I even decided to take a drawing class, just to help me get out of the funk of where I was. I even ended the year with one more art piece done and another personally designed Christmas card sent out to family and friends.

But still, in the end, I still don’t feel good about it all. It doesn’t help when I didn’t have much to feel good about anything I’ve done. Of course, this is all subjective. I KNOW that I’ve been kicking ass all this year as I have before, but I just don’t believe it. I’ve felt like a failure for stagnating where I have been, while I see others progressing and moving on from where they were before. I try to give it my all at times, but sometimes it ends in futility, and sometimes it goes unnoticed. Even though I have completed a few creative projects this year, I still feel unaccomplished because some projects took much longer than I thought they would, or because some projects are still unfinished. Even when some people compliment on whatever artwork I’ve been working on, I would just stare at the canvas, and use all the self-control I can muster to avoid punching through my artwork, ripping up the paper, and throwing the easel across the room.

I’ve had my heart broken this past year. After a few years since my last relationship, I decide to take a risk to love. And love I did. However, I also lost. And when I needed help getting over it, the people I thought who could help me just blew me off, insinuating that I should just brush it off and move on, as though nothing happened. Well, something happened. And I couldn’t brush it off. And my feelings were real, and I couldn’t ignore them either, even though everyone else would.

My grandfather, my Lolo, also died this past year. Though I’ve come to terms over the death myself, I’m still pissed off how very few of my “friends” actually came out to help me out. Sure, I’m a tough guy, and I don’t let emotional breakdowns cripple me for long, but damn! I lost the closest thing I had to a father figure, but not a damn peep from the people that I’ve spent most of my time with over the past year. So fuck them. I wasted too much time on people who didn’t give a damn, rather than on people who really mattered. I can understand forgetting a birthday or two, but to forget about me altogether when I didn’t want to be forgotten… well, I’ve had better years than this.

But despite all the setbacks and failures and losses, there were a few people who were still there for me. If it weren’t for those people, I might have done something really stupid and/or violent this year. In particular, an old friend, Adrienne, always helped me out during the most trying of times, even before she knew what the hell was going on. Three times this year, she would send me something from out of the blue, right after some depressing event I was experiencing. And three times this year, I was feeling better because of a friend who lived two time zones away. Another friend, Aileen, also helped me out when I had no one else to call, and also helped play the role of a mentor for me when I was still looking for some sort of direction both in my career and my art.

Now these two friends are embarking on their own new directions in life, and I wish them the best of luck in whatever they do and wherever they go. But they also serve as inspirations for me to pick up the pieces and to keep going as well. I know it won’t be overnight, and things might get worse before they get better, but even if I do lose hope, I won’t lose my honor and my integrity, and that what keeps me going day in and day out.

To all those who are still listening, to those that still consider me a friend, I’m probably going into this next year a bit messed up. I’m still angry, anxious, and depressed, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped trying to fix that. I don’t intend to mess up anyone’s good times, but I do need a little patience and understanding as I get through all of this. And I am grateful for everyone who’s still been hanging with me through all this. In the end, I’m still good to go to be a wingman, should anyone ever need it.

So good luck and best wishes to this new year. Keep your spirits up and keep kickin’ ass. And as for the past year… Fuck 2010.

As promised, one last toast…

One last toast to you, Lolo. And Happy Birthday.

One last toast…

Two months ago, my grandfather died just before I was going to visit him in the hospital. Since then, our family has had the funeral, gathered for the 40th day Rosary, and have done our best to cope with our loss. His birthday would have been in nine days, and I had hoped to present a portrait I did of him as a gift for his birthday, or maybe even Christmas. Unfortunately, the portrait ended up being a memorial piece in his memory. It was shown in a local art gallery recently, and I have since taken it down, possibly to hang in my room or someplace here.

However, I do want to share it with you guys. It was really the only thing left I can do at that point. So in nine days, I’ll have one more toast in his honor. Peace out, Lolo. You still kick ass.

To My Lolo, the Most Interesting Man in the World

I usually don’t talk about my family, mostly out of privacy concerns. However, there is someone that I do want to talk about. And that is my grandfather, or my “Lolo.”

Now my Lolo Fortunato is a pretty bad-ass dude. Born in the Philippines in 1923, he fought in WW2 as part of the Allied Forces, taking part in guerrilla warfare there. Though I never imagined him as much as a soldier, he was still a war hero, and even recognized as one up to this day. But he wasn’t just known as a Filipino Warrior. He was always a great family man, and a hard-working citizen.

He studied law sometime after the war, and settled down with a family until the 1970’s, when he moved his family to the United States from his native land, so that he could make a better life for them. He accomplished this goal, raising his five children with his wife, as well as being a warm patriarchal figure for his nine grandkids and one great-grandkid. My earliest memories of him are inspired with awe and wonder from a child’s perspective. There was a magic trick he always showed us, where he would make a coin disappear and reappear on the other side of his hand. I never could figure it out as a kid, until years later when I realized that he needed his special “magic cloth” for that trick. Another old memory was when he used to show me how he rolled up his own cigarettes with loose tobacco and papers. Though he would now condemn any use of tobacco products (a habit he regretted), that habit was what made me as a kid think he was a really big grown-up compared to all the other adults in the family.

Despite now being a family man, Lolo was never one to keep idle. He served his faith, family, and his community. He was a president and founding member of SAPIVETS, Samahang Pilipino Veterans, which serves as a fraternity for his fellow veterans. He was also a Fourth Degree Knight with the Knights of Columbus. He volunteered at a local special needs school within the Garden Grove Unified School District. Even more recently, he also served as one of the Grand Jury for the County of Orange.

Even with all of his accomplishments, my Lolo was always willing to continue to learn and grow. My first thoughts of him was as a gardener with the old stereotypical “Filipino Jungle” in the backyard, complete with several plants or crops, a bird house (no, when I mean bird house, I mean a real structure, a small shack really, that housed birds!), a couple ducks walking around, and even a rabbit or two. Now, I know him as that totally chill old dude mastering the latest office software on his computer. He would call me several times to help him with fixing his computer, or to help him with some of the applications he needed to use. There was more than one occasion that the family got him a computer, or a new all-in-one printer/scanner, or even the latest laptop, as a birthday or Christmas gift.

But he wasn’t all-work and no-play. He enjoyed many things, from fishing on the lake to (much to his wife’s chagrin) partaking in a little gambling here or there. He was not a compulsive gambler, but he enjoyed the action, from the small Bingo games with relatives to some of the trips out to the casino. Hell, it was this spirit of his that sometimes kept us guessing. Even at a family pool party, when it was just the kids making waves in the water, he was not to be outdone by these young ones, and so he made a few waves of his own. Even at over 80 years, he was still one of the “cool kids.”

Unfortunately, he has been feeling ill as of late. He has been going to the hospital more often over this past year, but he always kept strong through it all. Just last week, some of the family visited him at a senior home. I recall that he looked pretty weak and fragile. His breathing was labored, but his spirit was still strong. Still, I noticed several details: the sunken cheeks, the emancipated body, the curves of his rib cage under this gown, his gray bed-head. Some of you might have seen zombies in the movies or players in make-up, but that didn’t compare to what I saw. He really looked like he was close to death, but he was still moving. There was life to him yet, even if his body didn’t look like it. Even though I suspected the worse for most of the past year, everyone still thought he had some time left.

Earlier this week, he was taken back to the hospital. He had some complications again. Recalling how he looked on that Saturday night, I decided to make plans to visit him on one of my days off. Yesterday, I had planned to go to Westminster to pick up some art supplies, and then continue east to visit him at the Veterans Affair Medical Center in Long Beach. I know I would be busy so I wanted to take advantage to see him again, and possibly even do a couple sketches of him live. I woke up that morning, and took my time to eat breakfast, shower, and get on the road. I stopped by Orange Coast College to check out the job placement boards and possible work-study. After not finding much promise there, I continued to the Art Supply Warehouse to get some scratchboard tools. It was still early in the afternoon, so I thought I had a lot of time to visit my Lolo. I made it to the 8th floor where he was staying. After talking with someone at the nurses’ station (and having a chance meeting with an old high school classmate) to find which bed he was lying in, I made my way to his room just around the corner. I was hoping to surprise him with my visit.

But it was I who was surprised. When I got to the room with his bed, I unexpectedly saw my Mom come from behind one of curtains, and said that I “just missed him.”

Apparently, my Mom, along with my Lola (my grandmother) and my Aunt, were already here to visit. The staff tried to revive him, but he apparently died about thirty minutes to an hour before I arrived. When my Mom, my Lola, and my Aunt were taken to see the body, I was literally three steps behind, totally unaware they were even there, totally clueless of the attempt to revive him, and still optimistic to see and chat with my Lolo.

I missed him. I fuckin’ missed him. I was hoping to do a live sketch of him that afternoon, even just a quick one. Now, the only way I could make a drawing of him is through the old photographs we still have.

Yeah, this post ended up being longer than I thought, unlike the time I thought I would have to see my Lolo just one more time. Still, he lived a full life. I doubt he had many regrets, other than his smoking. And he did much with his time on earth. War Hero. Law Student. Family Man. Faithful Catholic. Caring Volunteer. Honorable Citizen. Swimsuit Model. Bad Mutha’Fucka’. Hell, if you ask me, Lolo Fortunato was definitely the Most Interesting Man in the World.

I Did It All For The Cookie

Now earlier today, class was cancelled so I had the whole afternoon to figure out what to do. Now with nothing to do, my mind wandered to getting something to eat. And what I really wanted was a cookie. Now this was not just a regular craving. This was very much a madd fiending for some of that cookie-cookie crunch action. Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts aren’t selling any of their wares locally at this time of year, so I can’t just steal their stash. And because I’m a cheap-ass bastard, I don’t have the cash to buy some cookies for myself. I really didn’t want to bother any of my friends and mooch off their cookies, particularly since I haven’t hooked them up from the last time I mooched off their beer.

But then, I had an epiphany, a revelation of sorts. I knew where I could score some cookies. Free cookies, in fact! However, there was a risk involved. There was a chance that I might get hurt, but damn, I wanted that %$#@! cookie! And I was ready to spill blood to get my cookie fix!

I walked right into the local American Red Cross. I demanded that they relinquish control of those tasty circular bits of sweet dough. They told me to read this handout first. That I did. They then told me to wait. So I did. Then they called me into a small room, where they interrogated me for minutes on end, demanding personal information, such as my name, birthdate, address, weight and height. They even subjected me to these most heinous torture devices, innocently called a sphygmomanometer and stethoscope, respectively. I could feel the pressure build up within my arm, but I resisted these torments. They even drew blood from the tip of one of my extremities, to test my worthiness. But my blood had run hot throughout my body. My desire for the cookie will not be denied!

After this preliminary session, they had then finished their preparations for the next demanding test. They would suck the very life force from my body. But I remained steadfast. I recalled all my training as a martial artist for that one tense moment. Unfortunately, none of that really mattered, because the sharp pointy steel still pierced my vulnerable skin. So instead, I just relied on my training as an illustration artist instead. That was a smart countermove; I draw as they draw blood. It was a superior tactic to alleviate the crushing boredom that held me bound in my seat.

Drawing blood

But my patience has proved to be the key to victory. After they had exhausted their attempts to remove the very blood from my veins which allowed me to live to this very day, the Red Cross volunteers deferred to my awesome stamina and righteous spirit. Unable to keep me bound, they took back their instruments of doom and cut their losses for the day. I remained, and so was my constant desire for the cookie.

Even after this harrowing ordeal, no hard feelings were kept. The lady at the front desk was impressed, not only with my madd artist skillz, yo, but also with my willingness to give up a piece of myself, so that others may live. She asked me why I did this, why did I come to donate blood. I simply gave her one reason:

“I did it all for the cookie.”

I did it all for the cookie!

Shake ‘n Bake baby! Shake ‘n Bake!

Check it. I just felt an earthquake here, and was telling my homeboy Justin about it. Well, apparently the news got to him before the waves did, as he did feel them minutes after I told him!

Dude, this is straight outta xkcd!

Am I Emo if I Intentionally Make Myself Bleed?

I’ll be honest here. God hasn’t really been hooking me up lately. The numerous setbacks and incidental bad luck I have had over the recent years have probably made me out to be more cynical than I originally thought I had become. I do get angry. I do get envious. I try to understand what the hell is wrong with me, and why do I keep failing or screwing up. And sometimes, I get to be that little whiny-ass emo bitch. Yeah, it’s not pretty. But at least I haven’t cut myself yet. I haven’t tried to make myself bleed out intentionally.

Until today.

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind or roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes I feel right as rain, and other times I feel like the little whiny-ass emo bitch I can be. Well, I was feeling like a little whiny-ass emo bitch recently, so I decided to do something about it. I was going to cut myself. I was going to stick needles into myself. I was going to bleed it all out while listening to Nine Inch Nails on my mp3 player.

Fortunately, the local Red Cross Donation Center had walk-in appointments. I entered through the front door, signed in, and took a seat. Minutes later, the staff were asking me questions about my health and taking a small sample of my blood. And then after that, I was taken to a nice comfy chair, where I sat as I had a nice pointy metal hollow stick penetrating the skin of my hot and sexy arm. Did it hurt? Nah, man. I was a tough guy! I’ve done this before, and I’ll do it again!. Ehhhh… Okay, it stung a little, but once the needle was adjusted, I felt fine.

Now I didn’t actually listen to any NIN, but I might have been listening to Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out” while I actually was bleeding out. Or was it Lisa Loeb? Damn, I love me some Lisa mutha’ %$#@! Loeb…

So there you got it. Even if you feel that you are totally pathetic and utterly useless, like a little whiny-ass emo bitch, then consider using whatever blood you got left to make the world a better place. If you feel like cutting yourself, then why not do it so it can help another person? I know that in my neighborhood of Southern California, the American Red Cross must collect 1,500 units of blood each day to meet daily patient needs. Hey, if your emo-bitch ass isn’t going to use your blood, I’m sure there are plenty of other people who might need it. So if you can, please donate.

Plus, they give you cookies.

Putting that Metaphorical Gun to your Head

A couple weeks ago, I had written that sometimes we got to put that metaphorical gun to our heads in order to wake up to reality without forsaking our dreams. But even if the drive is there, even if the desire to reach and grasp our dreams is present, many of us don’t really know how to get there. Sure, some of us might want to be a better dancer, or a better runner, or a better writer, or a better artist, or a better baller, or a better whatever. Some of us might know what to do, but other times we are not all geniuses who can pick out inspiration and insight from out of nowhere. We all need a little direction with where we are going, and pursing our dreams is no different.

So here is a list of things that I propose to help us in our journey of reaching our dreams. Some of this might not apply to everyone, but hey, a little reminder to help keep us on track is never a bad idea.

One hour a day
If you want to get good at something, then you need to practice. That’s a given, and there’s no exception. Even prodigies still need to practice to hone and perfect their given talents and skills. Otherwise, they would just simply end up with mediocre achievements.

Now I know many of us live busy lives with our day jobs, our family lives, and other tedious chores just so we can get by every day. So finding a little time to work toward our dreams might seem difficult to do. But I’m sure we can find at least an hour a day to devote to our dreams, to our goals. Cut out the television. Turn off the video games. Put down that newspaper or magazine. Spend that one hour practicing. It can be running, going over your dance steps, drawing or sketching, or even studying up on the latest technologies. Whatever it is, take one hour a day toward your goals. Consider it as a form of reward for all the work you have done elsewhere.

Hey, one hour is really not that long, after all. It really isn’t, especially if you got a gun pointed to your head to convince you.

Find people with the similar interests
Okay, so practicing for an hour a day doesn’t seem that difficult to do, but it can still be a pain to motivate ourselves to get off our big fat asses and do something. We feel tired, or we’ll do it later or tomorrow. We get too complacent with the present that it is difficult to change. That’s where having others for support comes in.

Sure, it’s not easy to take that metaphorical gun to our heads, but I’m sure we know someone who’s willing to hold that gun to our heads for us. Let’s say, if your goal is to run a marathon, finding a running partner can be more appealing than running alone. You want to practice taking photographs to be a better photographer? Get a buddy who will take pictures with you, and then you can share and compare your shots. Group activities add a new dynamic to motivation because now we are not just considering our own affairs, but also how our actions (and inaction) would impact others. We don’t want to let them down, so we try to keep up with them. In turn, they don’t want to hold us down as well, so they also try to keep up with us. And soon, all of us are wanting to keeping doing this so we both get better and better.

There might be a little competition when dealing with others, so it’s important to deal with people who will enable your good habits, people who will hold up that metaphorical gun to your head, but not people who will pistol-whip you across the face, which leads to…

Cut out the poison
I’m sure most of us know of people who just really won’t make a situation better. It could be that coworker who doesn’t do enough work but still has enough energy to bitch and complain. It could be that overly-competitive type-A alpha male (or alpha bitch) that’s willing to cut down others just to get a leg up. Or it could just be someone relatively close to you who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, who might not necessarily knock you down but still doesn’t do a damn thing to help pick you up as well.

It should be noted that some of these poisons are not intentional. In some cases, they are very subtle, and we don’t notice them because they have become a part of our everyday life. One such example could be our day jobs. Even though this job is necessary to make money and pay bills and otherwise survive in a dog-eat-dog world, it could also be part of what is holding us back. Now this isn’t to say to quit your job and go follow your dreams, but it is a recommendation to see if your current lifestyle is holding you back in some way. And if it is, then make adjustments. Change something. Don’t get too complacent but find out how to make things better for yourself. In the case of an uninspiring job, then try not to work overtime, or start looking for another job elsewhere, or maybe even changing something at work to make things feel better, such as a change in schedule or even adjusting your workspace.

In the case of people who might be poison, then try to stay away from them, or at least limit yourself to their presence. I know some of us have those relatives who act like this poison, so keeping away might not be an option unless you can move to another state (which might not be a bad idea either). If that’s the case, then you got to stick up for yourself. If they care about you in any way, then they would put down their egos and see what the two of you can do to make things better, to avoid a poisonous relationship. In the cases when compromise is not possible, then just cut the dead weight off. Sure, it might hurt and might cause some bad feelings, but don’t think you should put yourself at risk just for the sake of another person’s ego when that person isn’t even trying to consider yours. In the end, those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.

Never stop learning
As kids, we were looking forward to that day when we don’t have to go to school anymore. Hell, some of us adults feel the same way with college classes and supplemental training. But for the things that really interest us, we can’t stop learning more about it. If you want to be a better writer, you read about other writers, and see how they write. If you want to be a better martial artist, you don’t just stick with the basics but also try to expand your knowledge, not just of different fighting techniques, but also training techniques. If you want to be a better artist, you also got to read up on what other people are doing, and see what you have been missing out on. If you want to be a better chess player, then you read up on all the different strategies over the years.

There’s always room for improvement. The best of us don’t settle for any less, and they always look for ways to improve. We grow out of our teen years and realize that we really don’t know everything after all, that what we do know is just a mere scratch on the surface. So never stop learning, because it will only make you better.

But how can we learn more? Taking a class is one idea, for example. Even after some of us finish up our final classes for a college degree, some of us might still take the occasional class at the local junior college just to help us improve. For others, there are seminars and conferences which hold a plethora of information to be soaked up. And with the advent of the Internet, information is just at our finger tips. Sure, we can find something on Wikipedia in 10 seconds, but then that might also lead to more jumping points to increase knowledge. A simple search about a particular painting might lead to the artist who created it, which then leads to an entire art movement, and then to other artists of similar style. These new artists might also inspire searches for their respective cultures, and then how those cultural styles compare and contrast with what we already know. Well, we might also learn about new technical techniques and styles that we would not even be aware of if we simply stayed in out narrow small corner of the universe.

Getting a personal teacher or mentor is also another way to learn outside of the traditional school environment. The student-teacher relationship is always something special that should not be overlooked. Even if you are not close to your teachers in school (though you really should try if possible), there are plenty of other “teachers” and mentors available outside of the classroom. Sometimes, this mentor could just be someone who is more experienced than ourselves. If one were training to run a marathon, then finding someone who has already run a marathon to help you out is perfect for an easy kind of mentorship. This goes hand in hand with finding others who share the same interests. But instead of each of you trying to bolster each other, you find that you are learning more from an experienced mentor. This is where putting away your ego is paramount to success; if you are not willing to “unlearn” your old habits, then how can you learn new ones? And once you become more proficient and experienced yourself, then maybe you might end up being a new teacher or mentor for another young buck who would be in the same position that you are right now.

And if nothing else, go read a book. Books are good. Not only do they taste great and have lots of fiber, but they are also known to carry all sorts of information. Visit your local library or bookstore. I’m sure they got lots of books there.

Don’t be afraid to explore and learn more about your goals and dreams. It might be scary and difficult at times, but no one ever saw the beauty of a sunset over the Pacific without risking to step out onto the beach. Drop the ego and get your learn on.

Be in a better environment
This comes in part with finding people with the same interests and cutting out the poison. Both of these are environmental influences to help you out. However, it might not always be enough. In some cases, you need to find the right environment where you can perfect your skills.

I’ll go back to the running example. If we find ourselves running around the same places over and over again, we might not be challenging ourselves with new and exciting places. We might not be getting enough inclines or declines. We might even forget about enjoying ourselves as we train. That’s where being in a better environment might help out.

Now “better” does not always mean “ideal.” In fact, sometimes a less ideal environment can help us learn better than if we were in an idealized situation. See where that learning part is sneaking in here? The idea is that we need to judge if our surroundings are hurting or helping us. For some activities, we need a decent place to stretch out and practice. This allows us to perform better and more efficiently. Other times, we need a change in order to challenge our present skills so we can do better.

There is no single perfect environment for any single thing. That usually comes to the individual. However, we need to try to be perceptive enough to see how our environment impacts our skills and practice. Are you painting a picture? You might need more light to see what you are doing. You might need more space to set up your paints and easels and brushes. Could you get away with less? And if you do, would it be necessary?

Distractions also come into play here. There might be certain things that are seemingly unrelated to our goals, but they could still be a distraction from the task at hand. Do you have a couch in your studio? If so, do you find yourself crashing down and napping on it regularly? If you got rid of the couch, would you find yourself doing more work? What about that damn television in the workout room? Do you find yourself fumbling with the remote to get that new MTV program, or the most recent news reports, or the latest sports news? Is that taking away time from actually working out? And does it take away focus from your task at hand? Maybe you got your space setup so it’s next to that cute girl’s space. Sure, she’s pretty, and she might be flirting with you, but is she another distraction from your work? Talk to her after you are done, but not during. If you are legitimately talking about your respective tasks, then that’s fine, but not when you are asking her about her weekend. And yes, video games also fit into this as well. All too often they can be a real bane to our existence. Trust me on this.

We can all use a break now and then, but continual interruptions and distractions are obstacles for our goals. Sure, they might not be poison in the usual sense, but they do distract from keeping our eye on the prize.

The other side of the coin is finding things that help us focus on our goal. For some, it’s a sign above the doorway that says, “Play Like A Champion Today.” For others, it’s an entrance theme song that gets them pumped up for business. And still others, it could be a photo of a loved one near the place of work. Whatever it is, people have found different things to help them bring their best. It could be a silly superstitious practice or it could be a heart-felt reminder to something more important than ourselves.

As we get rid of distractions, we should also find something to help us focus when we practice or work toward our goals. You might be one who likes to crank up da’ noize, while another might prefer to enjoy the silence. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to make a few changes to get you in the mood, to make you operate better, and to help you reach your goals. Remember, our dreams shouldn’t be dull and boring. They are our dreams because they are exciting and interesting. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.

Do what you can, make do with what you have
Sometimes our efforts might be limited by constraints that are out of our control. We might not have the proper equipment, or the time of day is not right, or maybe we are just not finding the right people to help us. Yes, these are all discouraging circumstances that slowly chip away at our motivation until we lose the passion that we had before. But these should be obstacles to overcome, not excuses for our inaction.

One of the old excuses that I have heard is that old or subpar equipment might be a reason why we cannot compete or perform as well. Sure, we might hear how the newest shoes will help out with running longer and faster. Newly designed swimsuits made of the latest space-age materials allow for less friction in the water and can cut down on times. The release of this new software will make things all so easier, and is necessary for all business today! And if you don’t have any of this, then you can’t compete with the rest of us.

$#@! that.

Sure, equipment and tools are important for the job. You can’t go bike riding without a bike. You can’t swim without a swimsuit (er, well you could but only in a private pool or you risk public exposure violations). And you can’t make a computer do something without the proper software. Nonetheless, there are things that we can still do even if our tools suck. But one should not be dependent on the tools we use, but rather use the tools to benefit us, not limit us.

Remember your inherent skills. Sure, getting state-of-the-art gear is great, and could make things easier, but always doing things the easy way could make you complacent, and then neglect your core skills that will take you closer to your goals. Consider it a form of training. If you can do something well even with less than ideal tools, then you’ll just be that much better when you do get better tools.

Take care of yourself
This might be understated, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, then who will? Balance and moderation in all things. That also applies when you are working toward your goal. Yes, our goals are important, but if you put yourself at risk, then you might end up losing everything that you have worked for.

There are a couple ways to look at this. One way is to not burn out. We sometimes see this with overbearing parents pushing their kids to be better, to always get ahead, while ignoring what the kids really want. Yes, working toward your dreams can be an exciting and rewarding process, but if we burn ourselves out before we get there, then we lose our drive, our motivation, and ultimately those same dreams. Learn to take a break. Get away from it once in a while so you don’t lose that same passion. No one can keep going 100% all the time. We do need the occasional rest so we don’t end up resenting our efforts in the long run.

The other way is to not get obsessive about our dreams either. It is important to recognize that our goals and dreams are not the only things to make us happy. Nor are they the only things in our lives. There are people, and our relationships with them. There are other experiences in life, outside of pursing our goals. Sure, these might be considered distractions, but going too far is also unbalancing. We lose perspective of everything else, and that puts us at risk. Sure, we want to keep working on our music, or on our art, or to be the next great athlete, or to be the next greatest whatever. But if you haven’t gone pro in it yet, then you also got to consider the other parts of life for our own survival. Sure, you might get friends and family to help support your dreams, but if you keep relying on them to take care of you, then they are supporting your addictions. Sometimes, sacrifices are necessary for the dream, but if our obsessive side makes us lose track of what’s important, then we might be sacrificing more than what we bargained for.

The key thing is to know what’s really important to you. Compromise when you need to, but never mess yourself up if you can help it.

So there you have it. Yeah, I talk way too much for my own good. It kinda makes you want to put a gun to your head, correct?

Giving Up on Your Dreams and Waking Up to Reality

“Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessle’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever had.”
– Tyler Durden, Fight Club

As kids, we all have dreams. Some of them are mildly fantastical (“I wanna be a princess!” “I wanna be a superhero!”). Some of them are more rooted in reality (“I wanna be president!” I wanna be a police man!” “I wanna be a dancer!”). But as we get older, we see that some of our dreams turn out to be just merely whims of our imaginations. Some of our dreams, however, stay with us into our adult lives until we recognize them as our personal passions.

But too often, given the pace of the modern American society, many of us tend to ignore our dreams in favor for more immediate concerns. We need to go to school. We need to get a job. We need to go to work. We need of take care of the kids, or the spouse, or anyone else who needs our help. In these cases, we slowing but surely give up on our dreams and wake up to the harsh reality of life.

Or is it?

That first line at the top was from one of my favorite movies, Fight Club. That line follows a scene where the character of Tyler pulls a shop clerk out of his shop at gunpoint, questions him about his dreams, and threatens him with his life if he doesn’t make good on pursuing his dreams. I reflect on that scene, and I think about how pursing our dreams is an act of desperation, a choice only to be made when our lives really depend on it. And I realize just how close that is to the truth.

Some of us are lucky to be doing what we enjoy, what we see as our dreams and passions. Others don’t always have that luck, and so they drudge through life, thinking they are living but all they really are doing is surviving; they aren’t dead, but they are not living either. There has to be something else to make life worth it, to make life have meaning of some sort, if you want to take an existentialist point of view. I don’t see myself as any kind of existentialist, but hey, they got some cool ideas nonetheless.

I was once in that drudgery of “living,” doing an 8-to-5 job, to pay bills and accumulate material gains. It was not bad, but it wasn’t really living either. That, combined with other factors in my life, it was slowing sucking the life out of me because I wasn’t doing what I enjoyed doing, which was to pursue a career for my creative talents. Yeah, I wanted to be an artist. Art doesn’t pay much, so I stayed in my little tech job for too long, until I got too complacent.

Well, fast-forward a few years, and I find myself in a position to pursue another career. I had this opportunity to start over, to do what I wanted to do, to pursue my dreams! But I was not prepared. I had the opportunity, but I messed up. I woke up to reality, and found that my dreams were just that: a dream. I all but had given up on my dreams. Needless to say, I was depressed at this turn of events.

But instead of resigning myself to being a little whiny-ass emo bitch, I decided to do something about this. Sure, I’m now playing catch-up with my dreams, trying to pick up from where I left off, but I just had a metaphorical gun pointed to my head, telling to get off my ass and get to work! So I did. It is slow but sure, but I’m doing the best that I can given where I’m at. One year later, I’m not as far as I want to be, but I have taken those first few steps in the right direction. There were times when I was crying with frustration, and there were times when I was laughing with intensity. Sometimes there’s a part of me that just wants to cry and say how life is so unfair. Then another part of me kicks that part in the ass, calls it a %$#@! pussy, then grabs life by the balls and starts shaking.

Never give up on your dreams, even when people think you’re crazy for doing so. Hey, because it’s usually the crazy ones who are crazy enough to think that they can do crazy things. Booya.

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Who is SpiderTeo?

An artist, illustrator, designer, Silly Little Flip, and overall one of those crazy creative types. Hey, I'm just trying to get by, and hopefully some of the stories and pictures I share here makes it worth it. Feel free to contact me at spiderteo@yahoo.com Enjoy!