In the End, it Doesn’t Even Matter

If you know someone with some form of mental illness, just check up on them. But do so honestly. Don’t let them tell you that everything is “fine”. Really and truly see how they are doing, because you just don’t know when we’re having a bad day, and we’ve gotten pretty good at hiding behind a mask.

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Yesterday was an incredibly emotional day as it were, and then it was made more so following the unexpected passing of Chester Bennington. In a time when it seems as if mental illness is on a warpath with major entertainers, it was a surprise that had stopped me cold.

I always assume that the first time I hear of a celebrity death off of Facebook that surely it must be a hoax. After all, for at least five years now I’ve been seeing the same RIP WILLIE NELSON meme, which I’m pretty sure that he’s going to outlive us all by now.

But after seeing another report, and another, and finally tabloid-with-eventual-news source TMZ had the story. And by then, I knew it was true.

At first, it seemed to be a random event; but as more details came in, it seemingly was planned for a while. Chester chose the day of Chris Cornell’s birthday, and he chose the same method that he had used.

This freaked me out for a few different reasons. But the one fear that always comes back is the realization that if it can happen to someone internationally beloved, someone who has used their talent to create a successful entertainment career, someone who is both a household name and has a family of their own, would it really be a surprise if someone, say, like me wound up doing it?

It’s been a really long time since I have considered it, and I don’t feel that I am in any way, shape, or form at risk. I really don’t; I feel like, at least at this point, it is not a potential cause for concern. But what they don’t tell you about suicide is that it doesn’t just become a good idea one time.

All it really takes is one bad day, and before you know it, you have a thought creep in out of nowhere. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to pursue it, it doesn’t mean that you’re choosing now to make your exit. It just means that somewhere, deep down, that contingency plan never went away. Whether you want it there or not, it is always going to be on the table.

And that is what people who don’t have the urge fail to understand. It’s rarely an impulse, at least, not from what I’ve seen. I’m also not an expert, so I could be totally off base there. I think to a degree everyone has it planned out; how it’s going to happen, when, how, even why.

People think that it’s enough to have a career or a family to hold you back. They become a consideration. In short, it becomes a tradeoff; do I follow through knowing that it is going to completely ruin the rest of their lives, or are they important enough that I continue on?

Luckily for me, it was enough. It was a hard battle, one that took up an entire month. But at the end of it, weighing the pros and the cons, I just couldn’t stick them with it. The idea of my mom or my sister finding me, knowing the unexpected expenses, the lasting emotional impact; I couldn’t do it.

Hurting myself was okay, but it stopped there for me. You find that when you become that desperate to relieve the pain, your body ceases to exist. It’s no longer your body so much as the thing that houses your pain. By that logic, in that current state of mind, the only way to stop hurting is to get beyond your body.

Although suicide is physical, it’s a mental battle. It’s all about your brain kind of reversing course. The self-preservation part shuts down, and in a way, it doesn’t. It’s almost as if your mind sees death as being the best course of action; when you get to that point, it stops holding you back. Your thoughts start becoming more akin to “Well, you know what? If you honestly think this is best, then sure, why the heck not?”

I don’t think we’re going to know too much more about what was going on with Chester. Obviously, Cornell‘s death was a large factor. My friend Allie and I discussed the past album his band, Linkin Park, put out; it was slammed by even long-term fans as being too different. Bennington, in an odd twist, starting fighting back.

Bennington was from that scrappy era of more emo-sided music. Bands that dug down and kept pushing until they had finally made it. They were not record label darlings, they didn’t come from famous musicians discovering them; they fought long and hard until they eventually got the recognition that they deserved. Many other bands from that era had similar tribulations, and almost always the frontman praised their fans regularly.

So to see him turn, that was a huge red flag that I don’t think anyone saw. When an average person speaks their mind combatively, it’s usually in the comment section of  a YouTube. When a celebrity does it, however, they’re just being “jerks” and “out of touch”.

The situation also shows why it’s important to reconsider going through with it, because you never know who it’s going to push to follow you. Suicide is a selfish action, but what people don’t get is in that moment, no one else matters. You’re hurting to the point that you can’t look past yourself. The world doesn’t exist; just the pain.

I’m hoping that, like most tragedies, some good comes of this. I’m hoping it finally opens up the floor for real suicide prevention and discussion. Not “this celebrity did it so here’s a hotline number”. Not social media posts of “lol just talk to me!”. That’s not going to happen; those who are at this point already feel alone. They are not going to reach out. They feel that there is no one to reach out to, and by seeing an offer like that, it honestly has the opposite effect.

So what can you do? If you know someone with some form of mental illness, just check up on them. But do so honestly. Don’t let them tell you that everything is “fine”. Really and truly see how they are doing, because you just don’t know when we’re having a bad day, and we’ve gotten pretty good at hiding behind a mask.

Freelance Isn’t Free.

This all brings us to the underlying message: you cannot expect top tier work from a native English speaker and pay them the same low wage you would if you were to outsource. Freelance marketplaces with workers from Pakistan, India, and other poorer countries have rock-bottom pricing.

From Merriam-Webster:

Free (\ˈfrē\):

: not costing or charging anything

Lance (\ˈlan(t)s\):

:  a steel-tipped spear carried by mounted knights or light cavalry

…okay, so maybe it doesn’t do the whole artsy Tarantino thing, but you get the picture. Ask any freelancer what their biggest pet peeve is, and they will more than likely all respond with clients wanting you to work for free.

This in and of itself is not altogether shocking; people with money and in a position of some degree of authority, i.e. some form of manager, is going to price shop. If they spend too much, they get yelled out by their superiors for going over budget.

The other factor at play is turnaround; most people who hire freelance workers seem to wait until the 11th hour, needing their project completed yesterday.

One of the few ways I have managed to carve a niche for myself is being able to meet tight deadlines. Not to sound haughty, but on more than one occasions I have been able to exceed expectations by providing at least a rough draft within a 24 hour window. Time is money, and when you can save them time, they perceive you as being of a higher value over other freelance options.

Unfortunately, short windows are becoming standard. Okay, not so bad, right? Just hunker down and bang out projects. No big deal; not a huge change from any other Monday morning.

Until you consider what they are willing to pay, and that becomes the bane of your professional existence. Case in point, a main client of mine who I partner with on a frequent basis had to turn down a job recently that would have included me, and it had to do with the perfect storm of what would have led us to hating life.

A company inquired about using us to craft entire packets of copy. Each order would be in bulk, nearing the 5,000 word mark. This would steady work, too; the company was growing and was actively seeking solid workers.

Sounds good so far. The best jobs are big jobs; yes, it usually requires me to work two weeks solid without a day off, but then you get downtime afterwards and a decent paycheck at the end.

Another requirement was native English speakers, which believe it or not, is a strong selling point for anyone looking to enter into freelance employment. The reason for this is everyone east of the UK claims to be fluent in conversational English, only to have an entire article written using Google Translate.

So what’s the deal? We have the skills, the have the work. Should be a done deal. But whenever things seem too good to be true, they always are. The company was netting $300 for these website packages. The writers, as can be assumed, would be getting fairly compensated, right?

One of the hardest things for me to communicate to potential clients is payment. Everyone wants me to charge by the page, but that simply does not work. A single page that is written in size 12 Times New Roman font and double spaced will have fewer words than a single space, font 11 Calibri page.

Simply put, I cannot compare apples to oranges on your project when you want me to complete it by the page. This is especially true if your instructions read “You’re the creative one; I’ll let you decide what’s best.

Another problem is that the Average Joe can’t picture how long a certain number of words is going to be. That is fair, and I get it. For reference, when I’m working on content pages for service trades, home pages generally take 1,000 words, and that gives a rundown of available services, their summaries, short histories about the company, and what sets them apart. You would actually be surprised just how hefty a 1,000 word home page is.

Back to the new client. As they receive $300 for doing little more than getting a new assignment into the To Do Stack, their writers are paid less than one cent per word. Multiply that times the amount of words, which I believe was around the 4,750 mark, and it is literally pennies on the dollar.

Now, it may seem like it’s still a good idea, but that amount would be for labor only. The amount of research that a freelance writer such as myself has to do can be borderline overwhelming at times. To go from knowing next to nothing about, say, poured concrete, and then to create a series of pages that sounds like I’ve been installing it for 20 years, takes a certain degree of Google skills and pure, and tapping into my natural B.S. creating glands.

Depending on how specific of a niche the job is, I may spend hours just researching a topic. This is time that can’t really be billed, either; freelance work is often for the completed project, and I can only really charge by the word.

Another client that recently had to be shot down was someone looking for a package that would essentially require advanced SEO techniques; the kind that one would hone via an advanced marketing degree. Again, the offer was for peanuts, and the niche was too specific. It was more adult-themed in nature; this isn’t immediately a deal breaker, but as is the case with many things in life, attitude is everything.

Another red flag is when they come off having read an article about master-level SEO and now think that this is what they should be shopping for. Once they were asking for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Marketing, I was out. Not only do I not know how to do this, but 1) this isn’t even proven to be effective and 2) this dips into David Blaine’s territory of misdirection. Basically, it’s using words that most people like to trick them into being super into what you’re putting down.

I am always happy to offer a free revisions for free. After all, without developing the ability to read people’s minds, there is going to be some room for adjustment. However, it was obvious that they had a specific idea in mind. Whenever this happens, nothing produced by my side is going to be completely satisfactory.

Picture it like this; rather than having a physical model or picture of a home, you merely tell the blueprint guy what you’re looking for. They may get close, but it will never be the true dream home that you had envisioned, and it’s because two different people are trying to imagine an abstract concept.

This all brings us to the underlying message: you cannot expect top-tier work from a native English speaker and pay them the same low wage you would if you were to outsource. Freelance marketplaces with workers from Pakistan, India, and other poorer countries have rock-bottom pricing, and then still charge a cut from the worker; unfortunately, due to technological and language barriers, most of the work then has to be paid to be corrected by a true English speaker.

Because they have the knowledge of the English language, they will be charging more, and you have not only paid for the same project twice, but now you have wound up paying more than had you simply gone with them in the first place.

If your project is so complex that it requires advanced metrics and techniques, you may be better off finding a salaried marketing manager to take the reins. The average freelance worker is only going to offer copy and copy-related services.

Finally, if your project is important, don’t cheap out. I’m not saying that you have to spend a fortune; just don’t expect someone to work for free. I charge $0.05 per word; that’s five bucks for 100 words, which is probably somewhere in the ballpark of two to three paragraphs for a website. With that, I include a free revision, two if I’m completely off base.

That also includes the time that I have to spend researching the topic, editing my own work (which is surprisingly difficult because we are all blind to many of our mistakes), and ensuring that it is returned within your specified deadline window.

Even at that price, and what it entails, most would look to drop that number down. Some even argue that larger projects should come with a bulk discount; while that would make sense in the manufacturing word, giving me more work to complete faster should not be billed less as it puts me on the expressway to losing the rest of my mind.

Freelance is a great gig, and if you haven’t contracted out some of your tasks to a freelance laborer, I would highly recommend it. To contact me to discuss your project, use the field below or visit me at my website or Facebook page.

 

 

365 Days Later

All I can say is how amazed I am that the people in the community responded the way that they did. The way that they still are. It gives me hope that we don’t have to put our masks back on. That we’re going to continue in spite of this, and just maybe come out a little stronger. I think people seem a little kinder, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

Anyone who knows me knows that one of the things that I struggle with is never really having been from anywhere in particular. I was moved about all my life, usually halfway through the current school year. As a result, when people ask where I’m from, I have to prepare for a short 5 minute geography lesson and then try and come up with an explanation as to why, if I’m not an Army Brat, and if my parents didn’t work for a huge corporation, did I move so frequently?

Six years ago we literally had nowhere to live. My parents and I wound up in a motel room for the better part of a month, followed by living in a crappy apartment which wasn’t even safe for renting. I worked for the Mouse after failing to find a job for three months, and was quickly thrown in with a bunch of other weirdos and misfits.

Now that I’m halfway through my 30th year on this planet, I’m feeling old. I was born in ’86, I’ve lived through, at least in part, four different decades. I’ve seen countless atrocities on the news, begged for my mother to turn off the 5th day of coverage of 9/11, to which I was greeted with being “insensitive”. Of course, no one realized how prevalent anxiety and depression are in both sides of the family, and the constant footage of smoldering buildings was becoming too much for someone who had just recently began high school.

Even then, that awful attack was surreal, as if it had happened not just to a different country, but a different planet. The day of, typical high school children made jokes about the pilot being drunk, or  it was the Canadian Mafia or something stupid. Mind you, we didn’t know it was a true act of terror until later, to which everyone collectively felt as rotten as they should.

As a young child I watched coverage of the Oklahoma City Bombing, but I was far too young to understand. I just remember pictures of men being flashed on screen, juxtaposed with burning buildings and crying mothers.

Columbine left me numb. Being in school and seeing what is possible by your school mates, the bad kids, the ones always blasting angry music and kicking puppies. It felt more like a nightmare. To see something similar happen at Sandy Hook, and then to hear that it was all a conspiracy, it didn’t happen, while grieving mothers and fathers trembled with pictures of their lost children; it didn’t feel real.

But the one tragedy that felt all too real happened a little more than a year ago. I tried formulating some feeling, some reaction yesterday on its anniversary proper. And yet, the words would not come. The thoughts would not form beyond a general feeling of malaise. I tried distracting myself with Facebook, which was all too eager to remind me of what had happened in the same feature that shows me dumb photos I posted ages ago.

My sister lived just a few miles away at the time. And I was reminded how easily it could have been her. I have many people who identify as having several different sexualities, friends of friends being active in the community, former coworkers, etc. And I was one of the lucky ones, having to sit back and see the posts wash in about how no one had heard from X and guys, I have just been told that I lost another.

And I found myself feeling just as numb as I did that day. The same feelings of hopelessness, of still not belonging anywhere. John Stewart had once said during the Bush/Gore election that the nation’s stupidity drains down into Florida, and a quick follow of the #FloridaMan tag all but proves this true. Orlando is more or less the Island of Misfit Toys, and to think that if you can’t be yourself here, where can you?

Then the quote kept rolling in. “Love is love is love,” a beautiful sentiment that I just can’t adopt because of an abusive ex who wore it long before as a battle cry, a way to earn carte blanc to do as she pleased. It was at this point it became obvious to me that as people, we are always quick to balance Love and Hate as polar opposites, when in actuality, they are more like twins. Two sides to the same coin, a different ends to a mean. The road to a happy ending, or a living hell. Just as many people do horrendous things in the name of Love, as they do in the name of Hate.

I refuse to remember the name of the man who felt enough hatred towards himself that he felt the need to lash out and end the lives of so many. But that’s exactly where the driving force came from; a feeling of not only being unable to be himself, but a deep seated loathing of his true self. I am not justifying this travesty at all, and my only regret is he was not able to stand trial for his crimes, to look the survivors and their families in their eyes and try and come up with a reason as to why this was okay.

Things didn’t go better as I had found an old photo booklet she had given me, to which I deposited directly into the trash (“Where she belongs,” I muttered). I had hoped going to my favorite class at the gym would cheer me up, but Ty, my instructor, was struggling as well. He had told us just a week ago that he had lost a few friends, and another member of our very gym. He had frequented the place himself, and the pain was still raw.

Despite all of the terrible things that I have seen, Pulse hit the hardest. It truly felt close to home, not just because it was in my own backyard, but that it could happen somewhere that, at least on the surface, feels a bit more accepting. Far enough away from the Deep South, and enough of an old hippie influence from the constant influx of old New Englanders, Orlando felt safe. Sure, you still had homeless addicts eating people and alligators living in swimming pools. But you could at least not worry about what others thought because if they live here, chances are they’re as weird as you are.

To see someone not being able to accept themselves to the point where they felt the need to do what they did hurt. It hurt the community, it hurt everyone who lost someone, and it hurt those just trying to find their place in the world. So yeah, it was difficult to form my thoughts. It still is, as is evident by my rambling. I guess I’m just shaken that this truly could have happened to anyone in the area.

All I can say is how amazed I am that the people in the community responded the way that they did. The way that they still are. It gives me hope that we don’t have to put our masks back on. That we’re going to continue in spite of this, and just maybe come out a little stronger. I think people seem a little kinder, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

Ghandi has always been falsely attributed to saying “Be the change you want to see in the world”. And although he didn’t actually say this, it’s still something I try to abide by. What I do know is that when you don’t seem to fit in anywhere else, Central Florida is the closest thing to home. If it’s your home, just try to keep it that way; lend a hand, lend a smile, lend a hug. Just try to leave it a little better place than how you found it.

War Never Changes: What Bethesda Taught Me About Writing

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

As a 30 single dude with no kids and/or love interest, I get to enjoy playing video games sans nagging. And as much as I gripe about being single, it’s pretty great to just be able to kick back and play as much as I want at night, which is how I like to unwind. And honestly, I’ve been playing video games since I was two, so it’s something I’ve long enjoyed doing and it’s something I plan to do at least for the foreseeable future.

Any writer worth their salt will tell you that in addition to practicing writing, it’s just as important to read as it will help guide you towards techniques and styles you may have not thought of before; sort of a passive learning by doing scenario.

Unfortunately, it’s 2017 and it’s harder than ever to split your attention between things that you love doing that are engaging versus taking the chance on something that may be interesting, or maybe it’ll leave you going “man, I wish I spent this past hour completing that level”.

As a result, it’s pretty frustrating to get involved in a game, only to be let down by repetitive action, bland story lines, and worse yet, technical bugs. So when I bought Fallout 4, I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it was, as well as all of the subtle details that are easily missed.

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

World Building

One of the obvious strengths of Bethesda is their ability to craft a world. The game rarely feels like playing a game, but truly assuming the role of someone wandering a post apocalyptic wasteland, or a lone wizard traversing the countryside on their own hunting dragons. And this is reinforced through subtle nods and background stories that pop up everywhere.

Skyrim had in-game books your character (and you) could leaf through that described the history and lore of the land, while in Fallout you can find computer entries and scribbled notes that describe the rise and fall of civilization. It’s the extra effort that truly makes you feel like you’re living the story rather than just playing through a level.

Details Make or Break It

As is the case with anything, too much world building can be a curse. Back to the world of Skyrim, some of the books you find are just a few paragraphs in length and offer a welcome reprieve from the constant random battles. On the other hand, there are some that feel as long as real books, and I find myself bogged down with too many details that don’t impact my life in the slightest.

However, in Fallout 4, there are tiny little stories of a world gone by; you just have to know where to look. For instance, the nuclear bomb that decimated the country happened in the month of October. As you start making your way through the ruins of Boston, you can find small phone booth-like safe spaces, like public safe rooms.

In one I found the other night, there was a small plastic jack-o-lantern with candy at the bottom. Within two seconds this went from a novel discovery to my mind running wild with the heartbreaking story of a child’s last trick-or-treating.

Make the Scary Parts Scary

Neither Skyrim nor Fallout are horror survival games. That said, there are plenty of spooky parts, and a plethora of monsters, demons, zombies, and other creatures you’d rather not tangle with. However, tangle you must, and usually in a setting that is just plain unsettling.

Despite the games not falling into the horror genre, and in fact, finding plenty of lush naturally beautiful areas, they don’t shy away from ratcheting the suspense. And it works – it forces you to be on your guard, and it makes you appreciate the safe areas all the more. And it’s something that I’ve tried incorporating as well. After all, life isn’t always roses and sunshine; sometimes it’s being in a dark sewer full of flesh eating zombies.

Live in the Gray

What has become Bethesda’s bread and butter is their lack of forcing you to be a fully “good” character or a fully evil character. Each and every situation, conversation, and interaction has an option to be a hero, a villain, or someone in between. And this is refreshing; life isn’t always so black and white.

Having the ability to not only be in the gray, but stay there, is more human. And in today’s jaded society, it’s nice to have something that influences your own characters to strive to be more realistic.

Be the Person You Want to Be

Bethesda does a great job of giving you plenty of freedom to not only design your own character, but essentially have a virtual Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. You control their physical appearance, their name, and as you progress, you get to choose what their strengths, weaknesses, and aptitudes are. As a result, you can play almost any type of character you want.

If you want to make a psychotic villain that looks, and acts, like Negan, the main baddie in The Walking Dead, you can. If you want to make a goody two shoes quasi-super hero (like my affectionately nicknamed Trashcan America), you can. If you want to just make an Average Joe trying to complete his own personal quest, you can. There’s no right or wrong answer; there’s nothing the game really tries to force on you. And as a writer, I am constantly thinking of new characters I’d love to design and try on my next play through as a result.

 

Have you found any non-book entertainment offerings that influence your writing? I’d love to hear about them. And if you need any assistance with your next project, I’d love to help out!

WIP Update: Chapter 18 Rewritten!

So work has been absolutely insane lately, and it’s really cut into my work time. And because I live in Florida, this has been made worse by fighting off what feels like both winter and summer colds. BUT, the good news is I’m finally done with chapter 18 rewrites, and I am still progressing forward!

So work has been absolutely insane lately, and it’s really cut into my work time. And because I live in Florida, this has been made worse by fighting off what feels like both winter and summer colds. BUT, the good news is I’m finally done with chapter 18 rewrites, and I am still progressing forward!

The very rough draft can be read here, and I think the improvements that the final version will have will be night and day. Even if you read through all of it, and bless you if you do, you’ll still feel like you’re reading an entirely new story once it’s all said and done with.

As always, if you have any inquiries about having me write or edit for you, I can be reached at the email address chris@writenowfl.com or on Facebook.

Thank you as always for the support. I have a few more travel assignments due in less than a week, so I’ll have some of those to peruse. And I also just used a presumptuous word like “peruse”, so, pardon that.

Happy writing everyone!

 

No “Fun” in “Funeral”

First, comes being unable to distinguish whether or not this is merely part of my own personal grieving process, or if it’s depression. I’m finding myself unable to function; luckily, work is slow because of the holidays, but the few assignments I do still have, I can’t seem to find the energy to take care of. I’m staying tired and lethargic, and I just can’t find a way to care about anything. I’ve had a shirt on the table that I need to return, and that was days ago. It’s still there.

Here I am, almost a week later, and I’m still struggling to come back. In my three decades on this rock, I just attended my first funeral. And while I (for the most part) was able to keep my head in the game while in the area, being back at home has been a daily struggle.

First, comes being unable to distinguish whether or not this is merely part of my own personal grieving process, or if it’s depression. I’m finding myself unable to function; luckily, work is slow because of the holidays, but the few assignments I do still have, I can’t seem to find the energy to take care of. I’m staying tired and lethargic, and I just can’t find a way to care about anything. I’ve had a shirt on the table that I need to return, and that was days ago. It’s still there.

Then comes wanting to cry while cooking breakfast. And maybe that’s because I only teared up a little last week and my body needs that outlet, and maybe it’s just me. And when you couple this with my lack of Christmas cheer, I feel all the more like a downer.

I find myself just wanting to sleep all day, which is classic textbook depression symptoms. But I don’t necessarily *feel* depressed, which is odd for me; usually, I can pick up that I’m having a tough day almost immediately. I’ll go “man what’s your damage today? Ohhhhh.”

The week was harder than I thought, and even more than I let on. I try explaining it, but even my own family merely brushes it off as me just being tired from almost a week of traveling. And I’m sure that is part of it, but there’s more at work here.

The people attending the wake and the funeral are Georgia native types, strong, tough, survivalists. And after seeing each and everyone break down, after seeing my mother, one of the strongest people I know completely crumble, it’s hard remaining strong.

I’ve never seen a body in person before. And being that I’m this age and wasn’t properly prepared for the services, I had the additional stress and panic of not acting correctly. For instance, I had no idea how long being at the casket was “appropriate”. I didn’t want to just Clark Griswold it; I wanted to be respectful. This man is, after all, the closest thing my mother had to a father.

The funeral especially was tough. The backwoods southern Baptist pastor decided that rather than give his dearly departed friend a personalized message that the same tried-and-true one that he’s used for decades, one that was a recruitment tool for the church, would suffice. It didn’t.

It was an especially cold, gloomy day. We all became chilled to the bone, and there was no official ending. They never lowered it into the grave like they do in the movies, and we were all left to simply look from it to each other and shrug.

A week of keeping it together, of impatient family members wanting to just skate through as fast as possible, avoiding the ensuing drama. It was hard. And it still is, and I’m left wondering how much longer do I feel like this? Does it get better, and what am I going to do when it’s someone closer to me that passes?

 

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

For some people, a Trump presidency felt like actual life and death. And with a full Republican sweep of the House, Senate, and Oval Office, that is a valid concern. A glowing endorsement from the KKK in the year 2016 makes this a valid concern. Allegations of rape make this a valid concern.

Please, by all means, be scared. I am scared with you. I don’t know what is going to happen. I have friends, family, and others that I love and care about that are going to be directly affected by this turn of events. I am scared for them. I am scared that I am going to be unable to protect them.

I try not to be political. I have a diverse group of family and friends with wildly differing opinions and ideas and beliefs. It’s helped who I’ve become today. I celebrate that, and how lucky I am to have met so many different people. It’s helped bring a degree of clarity to my worldview that you just cannot get from only associating with people in your immediate sphere of influence. However, I felt compelled to offer my two sense on what can only be considered the craziest night America has had in a very long time.

Like many Americans, I had a difficult time sleeping. I watched the results slowly pour in until a little after one, awoke around four having missed an anxious text message from a friend. People are scared, people are angry, and all in all, with good reason. People who aren’t even apart of our country are scared. This is the most frightening election we’ve had in some time.

It’s okay to be scared.

However, there’s a big difference between being scared and allowing fear to control you. And look, I get it. I’m not here being like “why is everyone afraid of the racist womanizing demon Cheeto”? I didn’t want him anymore than you did.

For some people, a Trump presidency felt like actual life and death. And with a full Republican sweep of the House, Senate, and Oval Office, that is a valid concern. A glowing endorsement from the KKK in the year 2016 makes this a valid concern. Allegations of rape make this a valid concern.

Please, by all means, be scared. I am scared with you. I don’t know what is going to happen. I have friends, family, and others that I love and care about that are going to be directly affected by this turn of events. I am scared for them. I am scared that I am going to be unable to protect them.

BUT. There’s being afraid, and letting fear dictate you. I’ve seen many different forms of fear in the past 12 hours. And I know I’m only going to see more. And the problem that lies with so much fear is the actions that people feel the need to take with that fear.

At first, it was the blame. Again, this is expected. When people are hurt and angry and scared, they need to know why a certain turn of events happened. However, throwing darts and hoping they hit their intended target is not the way to go about it. I saw every reason why Trump “must” have been elected, and I felt very few of those reasons were actually valid.

IF 3RD PARTY VOTERS HADN’T VOTED FOR 3RD PARTY, *MY* PARTY WOULD HAVE WON!

The problem with democracy, is that everyone gets a choice in who they think is the best candidate, for better or worse. For me, I knew Johnson wasn’t going to win. And yet, I literally could not stomach the thought of voting for Criminal #1 or Criminal #2. This does not mean I didn’t care. This did mean that I used my vote the same way everyone else did.

I’m seeing the argument over and over that “this wasn’t the time” to vote 3rd party. Unfortunately, this is the argument every four years. It actually was the perfect time to vote 3rd party, because the two parties have reached their absolute furthest points. A 3rd party vote didn’t mean I wanted to somehow damn the very people I loved; it was a vote to who I felt had the best chance of not driving the nail further into the country’s coffin. Blame those disenfranchised with the very two party system that failed you all you want, but individuals are not the problem here.

ONLY RACISTS VOTED FOR TRUMP, AND NOW AMERICA IS 100% RACIST!

Arguably, yes, I would say it’s a safe bet that many Americans did vote based on race. However, it does need to be taken with a grain of salt. After all, neither candidate was a real great choice. And we can point fingers all day long, but when it comes down to it, it’s about the American people’s insistence on keeping the two party system and the committees choosing the absolute worst representatives possible.

Yes, Clinton had the experience. However, you can’t look past the fact that her entire career has been dodging one scandal or another. And I don’t just mean the past month. I don’t mean this past election cycle. I don’t even mean within the past decade. It has been her entire career. Many people simply could not vote for her. That is a valid option; again, voting comes down to who each individual, for better or worse, thinks the best person for the job is.

It also comes down to the normal cycle of the two party system. For decades one party controls the White House for two terms, and then the keys are tossed across the aisle. This honestly was to be expected to a certain point. While I didn’t expect a full sweep, the presidency at least was an expected outcome as it is every eight years.

HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?!?

Party politics. If you remember, many, if not most, Democrats had preferred Bernie Sanders. Bernie more than likely would have destroyed Trump. However, the DNC sent up Hillary anyways. If anyone is looking to cast blame, it should be at the DNC and RNC heads. They are the ones who chose the worst candidates to represent the country. And I know everyone has their reasons why that statement is incorrect, but it’s true. Those two represented the far edges of both sides; if you want to represent the most citizens, you need someone who is closer to the center. But for years, each side has been systematically pushing further and further away until we hit the point where the Oompa Loompa Overlord took on the Illuminati Lizard Woman.

So What Now?

Be afraid. Be very afraid. But don’t let that fear dictate your life. I’m already seeing people purging people from their lives over this. And again, they have a point; if you truly cared about me, how could you vote for that?

You can’t fight fear with fear. You can’t fight hate with hate. You can’t fight xenophobia by separating yourself from others with differing opinions and ideas, no matter how wrong they may be.

You fight fear and hate and bigotry not by shouting. Not by yelling. Not by name calling. You fight this not by separating and diving yourself and your community further. You fight this by changing hearts. You change the heart, you can change the mind.

This nation has been, and always will be, a beacon of hope. And that is because of the people who live here. But that’s only going to happen when we keep celebrating our differences instead of trying to argue who’s wrong all the time. Now, more than ever, we need to come together rather than push others away. And I know that’s a tough pill to swallow; I know many are afraid for their safety. I know many are hurt, many are actually crying right now because they feel they are going to be sent back to being a second, if not third, class citizen.

We need to come together. Don’t push people away right now. Grieve if you need to, but don’t shy away. Let those who don’t understand you see you for the human being that you are. All they may see is someone with a different religion or sexuality or ethnic background. People see a reason to be afraid, and they need to see that you and I are just people. We are just Americans.

We can get through this. But only if we don’t allow fear to tear us apart. Many attribute Ghandi saying “be the change you wish to see in the world”. This is sound advice; however, like many wonderful quotes, it isn’t accurate. What he *did* say was:

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

I believe no other country mirrors the world better than the USA. And we need to continue doing that. It might be harder now than ever to do so, but nothing in life worth doing is easy. Now is not the time to continue dividing ourselves but to try our best to love one another. Then, and only then, can we defeat hate, at home and abroad.

I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know where we go from here. But I do know that we get to choose the course of the ship. And you can’t do that without working together. You can’t jump into the ocean and hope to make it; please don’t let fear drive you away.