The Imperfect Side of Perfectionism

If you asked most people that know me – both casually and perhaps more intimately – if I were a perfectionist, I’m sure the answer would be a resounding ‘NO’, probably prefaced with a snort and followed by a laugh and a “Are you serious?”. My home is a mess, I don’t follow a steady routine, in school I was a staunch believer in the ‘C’s get degrees’ mantra so I rarely tried to do well because it was hard.
But, internally, I know that I am this way not because I don’t care, but because I care too much. I’m a perfectionist – and that, mixed with my intense anxiety, causes me to chose to simply not do things or not try to do things because I know that it’s not going to be the way I want it. It won’t sound the way I want it to, the words won’t flow like I want, I won’t feel the way I want to feel so I assume all the effort will be negated – but on the outside, I’m sure it just comes across like a lack of effort.

I don’t like failing. As an anxious person that has a fear of being perceived as anything less than a successful, talented, adult man that unfortunately has a side of internalized narcissism right beside him at all times, I ultimately chose to just not try. I feel, whether rightly or not, that if I just come across as someone that doesn’t try and does so knowingly, then people’s expectations of me won’t go below where I want them. If no one expects me to be a certain way, and they see me as someone who just doesn’t try because I’m just that cool and laid-back, then I won’t be expected to try to do things and therefore I won’t be able to try to do things and thus fail at those things.

Am I making sense yet?

But then comes the second factor – my gosh darn fucking anxiety.
My thesis is that if I come across as someone that doesn’t want to try, I won’t be able to come across as a failure because I’m too cool to even do things. If I don’t go above and beyond at work, I won’t have the opportunity to fail at going above and beyond. If I never try to learn to play the guitar, I’ll never suck at it. If I never complete my damn novel that I’ve been working on for almost ten years, then no one will be able to reject it and no one will be able to dislike it. I can’t tell you how many incomplete posts sit inside my drafts folder because the thought of the two people that might read it thinking it’s stupid was too overwhelming.
But when you’re anxious the way I am, it doesn’t matter whether or not people dislike it or not. It doesn’t matter if I put something out there and people don’t respond to it, or if it doesn’t click with people, or if the quality isn’t satisfactory. I will automatically think the worst. At the end of the day, regardless of what I do, I will always think that the baseline impression that people have of me or anything I do is a negative one. I constantly think my coworkers dislike me and think my work is unsatisfactory. I constantly think my boss is ready to fire me. I constantly think that people who read my work think it’s stupid or if they do say something positive, they’re only doing it to humor me. Any friends I do have or people that I associate with merely tolerate me, and I don’t try to make any new friends because the idea of being rejected is so fucking overwhelming that I pull myself down into a spiral of anxiety.

So where does that leave me?

I refuse to try because I don’t want to be seen as a failure in anything I do, yet I automatically think people see me as a failure to begin with. All the while, my perfectionist brain is itching to do things perfectly and to excel and to show people how great I think I am, and my anxiety forces me not to.
There is no easy answer. I am 22 years old – and while I think I’m too old to ever turn things around, I know deep down that I still have time. But there’s so much work to be done and I don’t have the time or mental health capacity to do anything right now.

I may not be able to make new friends, or get my writing out there, or push myself to audition for theater shows or learn to play the guitar or join a poetry slam or go to local band shows and mosh or anything that might put myself out there.
But – what I can do, as small as it might be – is personal improvements. Channel my perfectionism in things that may only affect me, so the only person I can disappoint is myself.
Write more – for myself. Be comfortable with writing terribly for the sake of actually writing. Clean my room. Perfect my routine. Be a perfect (or simply better) person for myself first, and once I’m able to do that, reach out and try to change the way I am on the outside. Perfect myself for other people. Get out there and be myself instead of a watered down demo version of myself that I feel is more tolerable.
There is a lot to be done and it is not easy in the slightest. Trying to juggle my internalized perfectionism with my constant anxiety and fear of failure. But – at the very least – I can see the road I need to take. It’s miles long but the road is clear. And I know I’m not alone – I know, as much as I might think otherwise, that there are other people that are suffering through the same things I am and are trudging along that same winding highway with the hopes of getting better and being a better person for themselves and those around them.

Perfectionism is imperfect. Being a human is imperfect. But at least I have time to get it right.

Much love.

Woman of Water

Speak to me,
O’ Woman of Water
Give me your rolling tides
I dream of your angry ocean
To wash away the blood of the vines
Not of earth
Not of life
Gaia herself could not match your light
Speak to me,
O’ Woman of Water
And breathe into me
Your drowning night

O’ Woman of Water
Heart cold but arms wide
An embrace so vengeful
There’s no place on earth one could hide
I can feel your tangling hair flow over me
And your voice of thunder
Pulls me down deep

Skin of silent skies
And your touch of gentle waves
I’m drunk in your embrace
Of that like the Queen Maeve
O’ Woman of Water
Salt water coughs and bloated lungs
Have never felt more sweet
And as I lie still in the rocking of your stormy arms
I’ve never felt more complete

To Gaslight What is Already Burning

There is an order to this chaos
The thorns that grow from the vine
There is a path laid from the rubble of destruction
And your breath tastes of cheap red wine
All I’d like is to guide you along
To the work that is both yours and mine
Yet there’s a gnawing sense that as I move ahead
All of you is left behind

I could wait until the very end
To see if you’d crawl back to me
Thinking about the pain we shared
All my words you didn’t believe
You wait content in anguish
With the target you placed upon your head
Pointing the finger of blame at anyone else for what you lack
Because they couldn’t guess what you left unsaid

There is a sense that comes from this disorder
A realization that I had come to know
An acknowledgement of my personal failures
Reaping the consequences of what would never grow
You sit alone in fear
Of moving forward
I refuse to admit
I was walking backwards

Yet there is an order to this chaos
And a lesson from the thorns that pricked our skin
You and I still won’t admit our failures
But we know that what we had 
is quickly wearing thin.

Are you happy? – 2020

I’ll be honest – I’ve been thinking about this post nearly since I wrote the last one a year ago. None of these had been particularly positive, but last year felt especially hopeless. I wasn’t doing very well and it showed – my depression and anxiety were kicking my ass and I wasn’t really fighting back. I had been dealing with a lot of stuff in my personal life, and it felt like it was all narrowing down to a ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’ kinda scenario.
Last year was both exciting and terrible. My now wife and I were in the midst of planning our wedding which was stressful and time consuming and that I recommend no one go through with – (the actual wedding process, not getting married. Being married is pretty nice but weddings are almost a complete waste.) – and I was dealing with a job that wasn’t helping my mental health either. Mixed with health anxiety and weight issues and the feeling that I was wasting my life at the ripe old age of 21, going into 2019 was not a great time.

But, after it’s all said and done, I’m through the other side and into 2020. The holidays are through and for a short while the world slows down a little bit and I’m able to reflect on last year and how I relate to the version of me a year ago. I mean, really, how I relate to the person that’s been doing this for the past three years – I was nineteen when I first wrote one of these. I just graduated high school and moved out of my parent’s home. Life has been passing by and I don’t really get a chance to realize it.
And that’s the thing – as I enter 2020, I walk in unsure. And perhaps that’s a good thing? Every year I’ve known that I was depressed and exhausted and on the brink of giving up, but this year I find myself unable to tell how I feel for certain.

My anxiety is at an all time high. At this point, I’ve realized that I’m a hypochondriac – I have intense health anxiety that makes me able to take any bodily feeling I have and assume the worst. Every headache, every twitch, every shake – I find myself fearing the worst and preparing for my imminent death. But it comes in waves – I’ll have weeks where I’m able to keep it in check and then others I’m a mess and I have no clue how I’m supposed to function like this. I take one anxiety med but I know it’s not enough and I have no clue how to get the help I want, because the last time I went to a therapist they told me that they weren’t able to diagnose just anxiety, and it had to be in conjunction with something else.
And that’s the bright side, perhaps – is that my depression is almost nonexistent anymore. I will every so often get hit with a fast ball that has me down for the count for a day or so, but it’s no longer my lingering companion. It doesn’t hang over my head leaving me struggling to find the strength to keep myself up.

I’ve dealt with anxiety much of my life, but the vast majority of it was on a social level. I figured that it just went hand-in-hand with my depression and naturally introverted nature, so I never thought on it much. But now that my depression has taken a leave of absence and left anxiety as the main antagonist in my life, it feels like it’s always been there and I was a fool not to realize that it was always pulling my strings. Every time I thought people were talking about me behind my back even when they didn’t even know me – every time I refused to take an opportunity because I thought I’d be immediately rejected – every time I thought that people were out to get me, wanted to hurt me or poison me or get me fired… it was always anxiety playing the game. And now, when I do get depressed, I’m able to realize that it’s just because of my anxiety acting up.

I’m trying to make it work. Every time I get concerned on my future or health, I just realize that things are going in the right direction. I’m heading the way I wanted to be going a couple years back. I’m married and in a good job, and not taking outside factors into account, my future seems bright. At this rate it’s a matter of self development. Trying to fight back against what’s firing off in my head and just taking control of it myself, because I’m pointed the right way. It just all comes down to me.

I’ll be 23 this year. I’ve heard no one likes you when you’re 23, so I’m a little concerned about that, but still – my life is flashing back. Every year I write about the future and how old I’ll be and the person I might be and no matter how many times I write that sentence down it never feels real. I never thought I’d be 20, 21, 22 – but the old adage is true, I suppose – the years start coming and they don’t stop coming.

I’m entering 2020 with a new set of issues and some old ones that have strengthened, but I’m also entering with a new sense of hope. Something I certainly didn’t have last year. I don’t know if things are actually all that better than they were back then, but it sure seems like it.
I see a path, I see the arrows, I see where I need to go. I have what I need to move forward and get to where I need to go, and that’s what this year is going to be about. Hell, that’s what this decade is going to be about. If I wrote about the ’10s being the decade I grew up in, the ’20s is going to be where I get my chance to fully shape myself into the person I want to and need to be. I don’t know where I’m going to be this time next January, or in 2027 when I turn 30, or by this time 2030. I have no clue how I’m going to feel or the person I will be, but I know where I want to be and I have what I need to get there.

And this time, I feel like I have the strength to keep going.

Are you happy? Am I happy? Has the past year, the past ten years been good to you? I know time is a man-made illusion and doesn’t mean anything but the moving into a new decade feels like a new chance to do things right, it feels like a new slate.
Are you happy? I don’t know if I’m happy, but I feel content that I know how I might get there. I feel hopeful. I feel like I have a chance, and that’s really all I’ve wanted these past few years.

Are you happy?
I sure hope so. This world is too fucking cruel. It can be tough to find happiness. There are too many of us – people my age, people younger than me, people older than me – who aren’t able to find happiness and it doesn’t help when the world is run by people who could care less about the lives of the average. I want you to be happy. If only we could all come together to try and make it better for all of us, perhaps we’d find it.
But no matter the form it takes or how it shows up, I wish you happiness. Happiness today, tomorrow, the next year, and as your life continues.

We’ll get there someday.

Have a great year.

– Brandon, 10:17am.

The State of the ’10s.

Saying good-bye to the decade that made me, me – The Internet Generation.

I’ve always been interested in generations.
The idea that we can take a collective group of people within our country and gather them into segments based on shared experiences and emotions and cultural events is fascinating. Of course, the system isn’t perfect – people that might have been located in certain places might not have gotten to experience the same sort of cultural shifts that those in more populous places got to, class and race barriers certainly shift the tone of certain generations, children that were born on the cusp of generational divides find themselves in a sort of limbo as where they’d categorize themselves, and especially before the rise of the Internet, the collective agreement that these set of standards form a generation is strange and perhaps incorrect, but nonetheless a fascinating concept. With the Internet being more prevalent then ever, though, we’ve come to really be able to solidify what might have once been a vague catchall of experiences into something a little more specific now that more and more people have a voice.

Same goes for the difference in decades. I have no clue when the phenomenon first took hold in our culture, but the idea that I could tell a handful of different people to picture, say, the 80s and that they’d all probably share some key characteristics is crazy. We can think of a ten year gap and immediately associate a theme with it. Whether that theme is accurate or a sensation created by the media and those with enough power to influence our perspective, who knows – but it still remains interesting to me that we have these little capsules of individual styles and ideas and imagery and sounds that are all divided by ten year increments that we’ve just all agreed upon and is accepted as truth.

I was born in 1997. I was four years old when 9/11 happened, and I remember how I felt – which was confusion as my parents huddled around the television in the early hours of the morning. I have fond memories of a time before internet was wide spread, where there was a single family computer that everyone shared and the internet was still mysterious and cool and surprising. I remember my friends showing me viral videos and would one day be regarded by my generation as classics, I remember the excitement of having a phone with a full keyboard, I remember taking my CD player to school with a couple CDs and how difficult it was to get it to fit in my jacket pocket.
I was, of course, a little bit behind the times – that’s where some of the discrepancies between generational experiences start to build up – as I was probably a generation behind in technology growing up from the rest.
If you look online at the classification for generations, I am technically the beginning of Gen. Z – and missed out on being a Millenial by about 9 months. As I got older and became more aware of this generational divide, the more that that idea bugged me – especially as we got deep into the 2010s.

I was twelve entering the decade. I had just started middle school. My friends were right on the cusp of the generation that grew up without technology and the generation that grew up with it. As a kid, I didn’t have a lot of technology – like I said, a family computer was it, the Internet was a treat, I didn’t have a phone and most of my time was spent reading or playing outside. But as a middle-schooler into my teenage years, my life became steeped in technology as much as anyone else – social media boomed and I signed up for profiles behind my parent’s backs, most of my entertainment came from YouTube, I played flash games and talked to friends over MSN, and more and more communication started to occur between screens.
I was deeply invested in the rise of the Internet in the early 2010s. Before this decade, the internet was still mostly a tool and kind of an oddity – the idea of anyone becoming famous off of it was still a foreign concept, the idea of streaming wasn’t even a concept, and even smartphones were drastically different than they are as we exit the decade. But as the Internet grew, so did I, and my friends – I grew up with the birth of viral memes, I saw YouTube grow into a juggernaut to compete with television itself, I saw Facebook grow from a social media company to a technology company that could influence elections and saw Google grow from a search engine into quite possible the technology company of the decade. I saw Blockbuster die and Netflix rise, I saw phones grow from a voice communications device into a device capable of connecting you with the world, instant communication with those from other countries, and ordering Taco Bell at 10pm. I grew up and developed as a person at the same time as the Internet grew and developed and became an integral part of society as a whole.

As the decade entered its second half and I became a slightly jaded young adult and my younger siblings and their peers began making their presence known, I started to see a divide. These were kids who never knew a life before the internet – the Internet was already established as a part of life as they grew up. I found myself annoyed at their memes. Frustrated by their influencers and tired of their YouTube stars. Exhausted of the social media trends and their constant, screaming, nagging need for attention. I did not consider myself a ’10s kid’ – I had to tell myself that I was a ‘2000s kid’, whatever that meant, as someway to make myself different. I couldn’t tell the true difference between the two decades, and if the 2010s was going to be defined by this insane, egotistical, social media obsessed generation, then I would have no part in it. How could you tell me that I was a part of the same generation as my twelve year old brother who as never known a world away from smart phones and streaming and YouTube celebrities?

It was only as this year started to speed by that I finally started to realize what this decade meant. I couldn’t judge these kids – I wouldn’t allow myself to be the equivalent of the adults that judged us because they didn’t understand rising trends. I couldn’t let the past four years cloud what this decade was to me. I was not a ‘2000s kid’ – I was a child then, and have fond memories of that time – but that’s not the generation I grew and grew up in. That’s not the generation that shaped me and defined who I am.
This generation was my generation. Whenever my father talked fondly about the 80s, the decade that he became who he was – that would be what the 2010s is to me.
I entered this decade twelve years old, depressed and nerdy and unable to imagine my future. I loved talking to my Canadian friends over email and MSN and embracing the era of ‘randomness’ – which anyone my age will understand. I loved watching YouTube videos with gruff talking unicorns and two guys making skits and food battles. I loved the days of ‘bacon everything’ and endless mustaches and rage comics. I loved being a part of something that was growing and strange and created viral moments and sensations that older companies and people had no clue how to react to and so they’ve always been about three years behind the curve.
As I exit this decade, I’m twenty-two years old, married to my wife for over a year, working in an office job, overly anxious and everyday I have a mini mid-life crisis on who I am. I worry that I’m different than who I once was – I worry that I would’ve let my younger self down.

But then I realize that the music I have streaming in my car is the same music I brought with me on my CD player years ago. I realize that I still giggle at the old memes I used to share. I still think old-school Smosh is funny.
I think back to 2012 – who I was, how I felt, how I wanted my future when I was a Freshman in high school.
I think back to 2015 – how scared I was as an 18 year old forced to face the world.
I think back to 2017 – living on my own with the woman I’d later make my life.

I realize that I wouldn’t have let my younger self down. I realize that I probably would really like this new me – and I’ve realized that at no matter how many years pass by, how the times will change, what new viral sensations are created behind me that I may not understand – as we exit this decade, I realize that I was a 2010s kid, and this was my decade.

This was the decade that made me who I am.
And I’m pretty happy about that.

Happy New Year’s, Happy New Decade, and may the new year bring you peace, prosperity, and love.

The American Dream

Neo-Nazi rallies and social unrest
Children in school with a bullet-proof vest
The lobbyists all say we don’t need to change a thing
Here is a taste of the American Dream.

Children in cages and anti-vax sages
Xenophobe rages and burned science book pages
No one can tell that we’re tearing at the seams.
This is the face of the American Dream.

While the rich thrives
The poor dies
The sick and needy pays
The silenced minorities don’t get a say
When the bombs drop I wonder if they’ll feel bad
Dreaming of the country that we could’ve had.

Sunday Christians with their pharisee hate
Believing that’s what made this country great
Fat pocketed politicians
Signing away our planet for profit
Wannabe theocrats with their wannabe prophets
I’m just tired of seeing the world crumble around me
Standing in the rubble of the American Dream.

Oh, Florence

(Siren Song)

Oh, Florence – the wind seems to know your name
But whenever I call it out
It never seems to sound the same
Your breath fills my lungs
With every breeze I inhale
And I seek out your embrace
Like a mad man set to sail
Oh Florence, the forest echoes with your voice
The Wilds are alive with worship
The trees all seem to dance and rejoice
Yet no matter how much I dream of joining your choir
I’m never even given the choice
Oh Florence, I see your face in every pass of the sea
Though the waves don’t seem to want to speak to me
And although I’d rather like to find a place to dock
In the distance I hear you call out my name
Oh, Florence for you I’d gladly crash into the rocks
Death by any other measure could never be as sweet
As it is to be a sacrifice lain at your feet
Oh, Florence, the wind seems to find you familiar
The Will O’ Wisps seem to think you a friend
The moonlight is modeled after your eyes
The fae dream of the day they’ll see you again
But Florence – though I’ll search for a thousand years
And a millennia more
I don’t think I’ll ever have the luxury
Of washing up on your shore
Oh, Florence I hear your song reach out to me
Throughout the Wilds I will walk
I chase the lilt of your call
And Florence for you, I’d gladly crash upon the rocks

I Am Not in Love With You

I am not in love with you
I am in love with an image in my head
Attached to a feeling that I craved
In a time that no longer exists
But I am not in love with you
For I do not know you.

I am not in love with you
With the person whose life I catch occasional glimpses of
The person who probably doesn’t remember who I am
Who has forgotten my touch
Like droplets of water becoming vapor against a hot pan
Whose shared memories meant as little to them
As it seems to have meant so much to me
For I am not in love with you.

I am not in love with you
I was in love with your bright eyes
That looked at me as if I was someone special
When I always felt like my life wasn’t even my own
I was in love with the indie music you played in your car
And how you drove down the wrong side of the highway
Yet the only thing we could do was laugh
I was in love with your cold skin
And the warmth of your kiss
That felt alien to me
Because I was no longer myself –
Now a part of another
But I am not in love with you.

I was in love with the way you made me feel
With the dreams that came when I thought of you
At that moment in time
As the person I once was.
But I am no longer that person
Those feelings are no longer my own
For I am not in love with you –
I am just in love with the memory I have of you.

Me, Myself, and I

It is clear that I am not the same person I was last week
Let alone last year
Facing different hurdles
Yet carrying the same fears
I don’t want to let go of the people
That once lent their voice to my head
For it seems I’m just stuck with myself instead

I don’t care much for my company
As I try to ignore my own thoughts
All the time spent trying to leave myself alone
It seems all of it was for nought
But it is clear to me that I won’t be the same person in a week
Let alone next year
Trying to be something more
Than just another rotating gear
There will be a time when there is a me
That is no longer me
And he will look back in introspection
On the person I wanted to be
And with any luck, it will offer a new perspective
He might miss what once was
Or hopefully love what he became
Because however many times I change
I never want to be the same

There are days where I get jealous of me, myself, and I
That I don’t get to experience the good yet to come
Or relieve the good that has already gone by
But I would rather be someone different
Every single day of the week
Then forever be someone
Who was too afraid to speak up
And only saw a world that was cold and bleak 

It is clear to me that I am not the same person I was last week
Let alone last year
But that is what it means to learn and to grow
No matter the person that was once in your mirror
Through the hurdles, the hardships, the fear –
Knowing that on the other side, there will always be a better version of you to appear.