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Real Recognize Real: Black People and Kung Fu Cinema

I remember the first time I caught glimpses of Rumble in the Bronx, sitting in front of a TV older than I was, at my home in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I was entranced by the images of Jackie Chan and his fight scenes, not truly knowing why. For the years to follow, my love for martial arts cinema only grew. I’d get weird glances telling people how I would rather watch Five Deadly Venoms than Martin or the NBA playoffs.

In recent years, though, I’ve noticed I am not alone. There is a high rate of consumption of Asian media culture by African Americans here in the United States. It’s as if we’ve become sponges for this vein of entertainment from the other side of the world. Thanks to the themes, characters, portrayals of culture, and function of plots in martial arts action cinema from Asia, I believe a path was paved for a spiritual connection between Black American and Asian cultures. Because of this open path, there is a greater opportunity for intercultural collaboration on more diverse, inclusive feats of storytelling and filmmaking, forging a new media paradigm for the ages to come.

For the most part, I’m making assertions based on the many kung fu action films that flooded theaters starting in the 1970’s, which were often imported from Hong Kong. Many of my references reflect a relation between Black American culture and the Chinese martial arts culture projected in these films. Though I pull from specific historical contexts and reflect on the ways media from China in particular resonates with Black Americans, these reflections by no means are meant to be generalizations–other Asian nations have rich media cultures with their own slew of significance not examined herein.

 

Lil History on the Mic

To open such pathways for intercultural resonance, timing was imperative. The connections started in the late 60’s/early 70’s with the breakthrough of Hong Kong Martial Arts films. At the same time, another revolution was happening in America. Black people finally had the momentum to significantly shift paradigms. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. While Dr. King and his dominion waged war through non-violent civil disobedience, another segment called for a different protest. There was another movement to empower the people promoting self-love as one of its’ key pillars.

The Black Panther Movement.

Of the core tenets implemented by Huey P. Newton and his organization, there was a call to underscore pride in one’s self, pride in being Black. This idea was fundamentally counter-cultural because from America’s inception, Black people have continually been treated as and taught they were (are) secondary citizens to be considered less than human.

The Black Panthers led the charge in promoting and encouraging Black people to stand up for themselves against the physical and psychological assault on Black culture. Aided by the non-violent movement already underway in the South, there rose a chorus that grew into a crescendo across the nation.

“Say it loud–I’m Black and I’m proud.”

The idea of “Blackness” was being turned on it’s head.  Our skin color wasn’t to be looked at as a visible shame, but as a cape of pride, of glory; a beacon glowing bright and intensely, illuminating a flat, pale world with our illustrious glow. Civil Rights organizations were becoming vanguards of Black culture, not only fighting back against oppression, but also reclaiming and defining what it meant to be Black. Their actions planted the seeds for cultural growth to continue. They also furthered the ideals of protecting our progress from being undermined by outside forces–the U.S. government, ideals of White supremacy, those threatened by a strong, unified Black citizenry. That’s where kung fu comes into play as a liberating projection of what could be for this increasingly energized community of Black folk.

Unlike the American media portrayals of White men as saviors and prince-charmings, kung fu films are not shy about naming Western European intruders with ill intent as villains. The “white devils” or “foreign devils” moniker is a recurring phrase. In many martial arts films, these foreign devils are hard at work invading, taking land, furthering their business ventures, and often times blatantly undermining and disrespecting Chinese culture. Does this sort of story sound familiar? It should.

Over the course of these movies, the protagonist(s) must use their martial training to defeat the powers that be–sometimes the black market, sometimes foreign fighters defeating less skillful martial artists–who may be stealing, or otherwise assaulting Chinese people and their culture. These themes may seem the makings of good fiction in a cinematic context, however there is quite a bit of historical context from which to pull inspiration for these stories.

China’s size and vastness of culture rivals, if not surpasses, any nation today, reaching farther and deeper than those of Western Europe. It is awe inspiring to the point of being legendary. But, China has an experience in common with  much of the world that brings it back down to reality–colonialism.

Britain, clamoring for an ever expanding empire, found its way to China and exploited the popularity of opium (the key ingredient in heroin) to trade and grow its business influence in China, legally and illegally. Even while the Qing Empire prohibited the sale of opiates, British trading ships continued to smuggle and push the drug, inspiring a retaliation by the Emperor.

These efforts resulted in what is known as the Opium Wars. Many of the typical Western suspects were involved in support of the British; Spain, France–and even Russia and Japan. Eventually, shortly after the Civil War concluded, with limited yet notable support, the US joined with its own contributions.

I ask again, does this sound familiar? It should.

These tactics have been used time and again to colonize then exploit other nations throughout history. This is no different from the sale of guns and goods to African nations in exchange for human lives who would become the enslaved foundation of the Western hemisphere. These events were coupled with Western Europe’s concurrent invasion and colonization of Africa, draining it of its’ resources, oppressing and exploiting its peoples, shackling natives in their own homeland.

Furthermore, echoes of the Opium Wars can be found in the more contemporary American “War on Drugs“; posited as a benevolent and ethical solution for crime in “urban communities” while, in practice, targeting and disempowering already oppressed groups of Black and poor. These days, with gentrification on the rise, supposedly brave and well meaning White folk move into these neighborhoods, staging their own neo-colonization.

 

Victory…Complete, Unmistakable Victory

With this historical context in mind, kung fu cinema provides powerful visual statements from one colonized people to another. A key image brought forth in these films is the actualization of victory against the oppressive overlords. Especially when it comes to fighting “the Man,” seeing the triumph of people of color against a force larger and more powerful–politically, socially, or otherwise–is riveting, especially to an audience of people fighting insidious oppression in their daily life.

Although the writers and readers of books like The New Jim Crow and Slavery By Another Name might disagree with these figures, It took 250 years (roughly) of fighting and rebelling for Black people to be legally freed from physical chattle slavery in the United states. Then, it took nearly another 100 years to legally dismantle Jim Crow segregation laws. Bruce Lee can save his family’s business, restore honor to his name and his culture all the while undermining the oppressive structure disrespecting his people in about an hour and 45 minutes (Way Of The Dragon).

The kung fu film genre is one where a person of color is regularly depicted as 1) the good guy, and 2) the one with the unwavering power to defeat “the Man.”

Without much access to the necessary power and financial leverage to systematically dismantle the true life larceny and exploitation of Black people, the image of a person of color taking their culture back is invigorating. Black Americans can live vicariously through them and achieve a sense of victory, and maybe even visualize victory in our own circumstances.

For a people who have been in the Americas as long as we have, suffering through continued disenfranchisement and cultural sabotage, it may be no surprise that these kung fu heroes are often seen as intersectional heroes, inspiring generations long after their silver screen debut. These works of cinematic art show us images of empowered individuals reclaiming their identities, normalizing acts to defend and empower their people.

 

Not Time for Uncle Tom

Another aspect of kung fu cinema that I think resonates with Black Americans is the Uncle Tom character(s). In the films featuring foreign colonizers, there are usually a handful of Chinese men looking to make themselves rich by cooperating with the colonizers, aiding their intrusion into homeland communities. What happens to these Uncle Toms for taking the side of the antagonist is interesting as well.

The Uncle Toms of kung fu movies often meet the same end as the antagonists, a crippling defeat at the hands of the very culture they turned their backs on. Sometimes they’re killed along with their owners. Other times, if they don’t die, they’re seldom welcomed back to the community they betrayed. On the off-chance they are allowed to come back, it isn’t with ease and their reputation is permanently tarnished.

I feel that, within the Black Community, these sorts of betrayals are treated similarly (minus the violence). Were Clarence Thomas to renounce the entirety of his political stances and campaign HEAVY for the Black Lives Matter movement ‘til the end of his days, he would get the permanent side-eye for every single second of those days.

I won’t propose a conclusion on how to deal with cultural traitors, or those who denigrate their own people for hollow praise and cheap rewards. However, I think it does draw forth some important questions about Black people who chastise their community to a White audience. Particularly those who do so in a public forum and receive rewards–praise, airtime, money–for doing so. Should we welcome them back if they are willing to reform, or should they remain ostracized with the masters for whom they so comfortably sing the tune of Black condemnation? Should we take them down too, or are they even worth the time? Whatever the answer, I think we can all agree no one likes an Uncle Tom.

 

Square Up, Dog, I Swear…

What may be the strongest parallel between this film genre and the Black experience is that of resistance. Many of these films depict a person or group of people marginalized and depressed like a coiled spring. At some point, the spring pushes back–this is inevitable and inescapable. In kung fu films, there is always a person that rises to challenge the oppression. They then put their body and life on the line to stand up for their ideals.

Wrapped up in this outward, physical resistance is an inward look into the protagonist’s fundamental attributes and/or their culture as a source of limitless strength. If the character does not have the skills to fight, they go through intense, traditional martial arts training, detaching from their past self to develop a new personhood. During their training, they deconstruct themselves down to the fundamentals, both sharpening their character just as they sharpen their body. Now, with both their new physical skills and re-centered character steeped in cultural martial arts traditions, they’re properly equipped to take on the antagonist and anyone thereafter (The 36 Chambers Of Shaolin).

If the character is a master of a fighting style or highly skilled already, they must rely on their training and sense of self acquired prior. In these cases, the protagonist pursues the villain, and while on the journey is led astray or distracted–by the villain’s plot, by another character, by themselves, etc.  After the “all is lost” moment, where the protagonist is in danger of not succeeding, the character doubles down on their values, reaches deep within themselves using the purity of their skills to save and redeem their culture (Legend of Drunken Master).

With or without fighting skills, the end result is the same: the intrinsic values of one’s culture are a limitless source of strength and knowledge. These tools become invaluable when fighting those oppressing you. Latent within each person is the power to rise up against those who antagonize and terrorize you and your people. Some have uncovered that power already, while others need some training, eventually able to join the fight, regardless.

Looking inward for the latent beauty, the latent ability, the latent power of the those descended from enslaved Africans, then exerting that energy outward to revolt against silencing and oppression is the hallmark of the social movements of Black Americans, particularly the ones of the 60’s and 70’s. What better time could there be for kung fu action cinema to break through to the urban areas of the United States?

What’s more, is that the fight of an individual extends beyond that singular life. The fight of the protagonist is a fight for something greater than themselves. It is a physical rebellion against the ideals of the oppressor. To die in pursuit of justice for all the people the protagonist represents would be an honor.

The resilience and strength of soul required to risk your life for the sake of change you may never experience are trademark attributes for the perfect Civil Rights activist. Like the martial arts hero, an activist must make peace with dying in service of their cause, detaching from interests of self. The survival of the movement, the chance for others to thrive in an era of peace ushered in after victory is a cause worthy of the ultimate sacrifice.

 

So What, Bruh?

What does this all mean? What does it have to do with the price of tea in China? What does it have to do with Melvin sittin’ at home without a job?

I’m writing this in the interest of cultural solidarity and reciprocal empowerment. Two cultures that seem worlds apart may have more in common than meets the eye (or more than some would like to recognize). I also believe that finding common ground can become the foundation for greater understanding and cooperation between two peoples. It nurtures new allies against oppression in general, which we know has a universal function, regardless of the time or target.

I am aware of the racial discrimination Black people face in many Asian nations, China included. In terms of media portrayals abroad, Black people get characterized much like we do at home in the United States–goons, thugs, coons, killers. (THIS IS NOT A COINCIDENCE)

Here, Asian Americans are often stereotyped, too–the men emasculated, one-dimensional nerds and servants, and women silent, exotic objects (just to name a few). So, in the interest of creating conversation, I write this, in part, to build a space to commune and exchange on how we can relate beyond the stereotypes and deceptive cinematic portrayals. We have the power to change the narrative, creating new stories that portray our cultures with all the boundless complexity they contain.

Furthermore, I write this for my people who feel their eclectic media tastes alienate them rather than bring them closer to others. These days, being a martial arts cinema fan can often translate into being a nerd, or geek, or dork, or whatever term people use to codify and denigrate us fans. Multiply that by Blackness and you have an invisible community of people who don’t feel connected by the intersection of both of these worlds. For my Black community, for my nerd, and for my Black nerd community, I do this to bear witness to our love for the genre, and maybe add to the conversation, demystifying our all too logical love for the martial arts and the movies that personify their glory.

 

For more thoughts on these matters, take a look at these sources:

The Black Kungfu Experience – Martha Burr, Mei-Juin Chen

Black Audiences, Blaxploitation and Kung Fu Films, and Challenges to White Celluloid Masculinity – Sundiata K. Cha-Jua

Why Bruce Lee and kung fu films hit home with black audiences  – Phil Hoad

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Not Just Another Noob

 

“Oh my God, he’s such a noob!” We’ve all heard this moniker before. I know I use it excessively towards the poor saps who suffer under my pwnage. These bumbling idiots are the type to pan downwards to watch a grenade roll to their toes. Noobs are the ones who fire a rocket in a dense hallway packed with enemy soldiers and find a way to be the only one to commit suicide. Thanks to your local noob, with a kill/death spread of -17, you’ve dropped a rank. And, oh lord, don’t let yourself be stuck on a team with the first-time gamers, the I’m-just-renting-to-try-it-outers, or the I-haven’t-learned-to-color-inside-the-liners. You’ll have no impulse other than to take subtle revenge on them by turning off your console mid-game (personally my favorite tactic for inflicting petty lagging). Nothing can match the intense, ravenous rage I feel when I become the one victim, the one kill, the 10 points that a noob has on his scorecard or the recipient of a button masher’s frenzy! These guys, in not so many words, aren’t good. How much greater would the gaming world be with a sudden and swift noob exodus from the promise-LAN on a massive scale of Hebrew proportions?

Well, it wouldn’t exist, actually. Accept or deny it if you want, but noobs fuel the gaming realm. We need these victims, because these are the guys who buy games, playing and practicing to elevate from their noobious level. Were it not for the nation of noobthinians, there would be no new gamers to poor hours of their life into learn the entire moves list; all that would be left would be aging, increasingly casual gamers who can’t remember the last time they’ve logged into their account. If there were no noobs, there would be no us. The reason that you all can relate to the experiences above goes deeper than sitting on the other side of the modem luring players inside the iron walls of your pwndom. You can relate to these symptoms of a noob because you too were a noob.

I remember the times where I would respawn and instantly see my virtual body tumble to the ground after absorbing a sniper’s bullet with my forehead—8 times in a row. I’ve played some games of Smash where I don’t even know which character I am because I thought I was the second player. I’ve been the guy to have killed -1 persons after a match of Halo. I’ve gotten hand cramps from button mashing so vigorously. I’ve been there, and I know you have too. So, next time you find yourself seriously kicking some noob ass, pause for a moment and thank them…then continue to kick their ass and rub their noobhood in their faces.

Inspiration

It’s funny, when I want to write, nothing comes from within.

As soon as I’m tied up, an idea brainstorm  begins.

Inspiration is a troubling condition, hard to understand.

Never knowing when it’ll strike, when it does you must hold on if you can.

With words in my brain, ideas weighing a ton,

I jump up to grab them, trying to hold on.

C’mon, just give me a drip, a drop,

a slow leak, a creek, ideas flowing like a river.

Brain, let’s work together, cooperate for the moment.

Combine just like old times; let’s not remain dormant.

I need you really bad, like a lion needs a mane,

Like a bakery needs bread, like a bike needs a chain.

Let’s shake it all around, like a snow globe nice and round.

Send these idea flakes up, bringing a new story back down.

Lines and Rhymes

Lines and rhymes,

Like water,

Flowing through my mind.

Aged like whiskey

In an old oak barrel.

Words whirl around

Convoluting ’til feral.

They leak through the ink

The stains dry just to shine.

Through time they wind

On beyond zebra

Remaining undefined.

 

What I’m Not Gon’ Do

Let me tell you what I’m not gon’ do.

I’m not gon’ pretend like my heart isn’t heavy.

I’m not gon’ cover up my emotions like they aren’t there.

I’m not gon’ act like I’m not furious.

I’m not.

I’m not gon’ forget those slain by the police, named or unnamed by the media.

I’m not gon’ hold back my tears, because the water that flows is the only thing holding back my fists.

I’m not gon’ be overwhelmed by my grief.

I’m not gon’ hold onto my rage, but let it blow over me like a reed in the wind.

I’m not gon’ dishonor the fallen by living like I’m afraid.

I’m not gon’ start hating myself, wishing I didn’t have to be this way, this shade.

I’m not.

I’m not gon’ stop loving every sliver of melanin in my skin.

I’m not gon’ stop loving my Black brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews and cousins.

I’m not gon’ stop loving my white mother, either.

I’m not gon’ stop.

I’m not gon’ do it.

And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Log Out

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling

Time and lines , they keep on rolling

Whatever’s on their minds extolling

Through the mindfield I keep scrolling.

 

Feeling, feeling, feeling

Lack thereof begets much reeling

Endless scores with none appealing

Swapping love for surreptitious feelings.

 

Falling, falling, falling

Waste  more time it keeps on calling

Share until your brain is slow and crawling

How can anyone keep from falling…

 

Log out.

 

Drawing A Blank

Drawing a blank

Stare if you’d like

The image blurs

Perspectives fade.

 

Form follows function

Until function is form

With hands it molds

Growing in the dark.

 

Fold up and store

Closing all the windows

Broken pieces on the floor

Sweeping away the past.

New Year, New Me

What is it about New Year’s resolutions that makes them so attractive? En mass, people across the United States (maybe the world) scrape together particular goals they want to accomplish, or lifestyle changes they want to institute in order to improve themselves. New year, new me—a phrase so often invoked that it’s now more of a joke, a mockery of those who believe that at the top of the year they’ll learn how to commit to something. For some reason, the beginning of the new year becomes internalized as one’s own new beginning. A yearly renewal. A fresh start! I can’t help but wonder, though, what is it about January 1st that makes it the time to start something new?

Before exploring the further, I think there’s something to be said about the collective energy drawn forth by the occasion, when it comes to the New Year’s resolution tradition. Also known as collective effervescence (coined by Emile Durkheim), I am referring to the idea that in a large group, there can be a single thought, or set of thoughts or feelings, shared within the group, simultaneously, without communicating it directly to the members of said group. These thoughts or feelings, can spread through a group like wildfire and inspire a movement throughout. Think about the collective madness that rages through the home crowd when a touchdown is scored, or the fervor felt while standing in certain churches watching members dance, praise, and sing. There is something to say about the collective energy that is drawn from the depths of humanity’s well time and again—from the souls of millions around you and I all thinking and feeling the same way.

Despite if we actually carry out the resolutions or fail miserably, collectively, optimism is at an all time high once the new year is upon us. Hope for a better life erupts from coast to coast. How can one shy away from participating in the jubilee? I know I set goals for the new year, whether I truly intend to accomplish them, or use them as farcical conversation starters. As that time of year approaches again, I find myself thinking, contemplating, analyzing my ideas, my goals, my lifestyle; overturning all the rocks to see if there’s something that needs to be achieved, to be developed, to be cleaned up. But, still, what is it about the top of the year, about being at the front of the line, being at the top of the pile that makes people resolute to get things done?

Maybe it’s the result of the decompression encouraged by the holiday season. During the holidays, many take refuge with family and/or friends to eat massive amounts of food and maybe exchange gifts. We catch up with people we might not have seen since the last year. We converse, exchanging ideas and theories, expounding on the mysteries of the universe or those of the opposite sex (boy, I tell ya, women be shoppin’, women be shoppin’…). Before the holidays are over, we join in a great venting away of the hate and lament we amassed over the course of 300-some-odd-days while we talk to friends and family. After all the fun is had and the bullshit is out of our systems, maybe then we’re ready to renew our resolve to get things done, to get back to doing the things we’ve wanted to do or got sidetracked from doing.

New year, new me. What was wrong with the old me? I mean, I know the mistakes I’ve made in the past year—shit, in the past five years. Maybe the approach of January 1st allows us to think back upon all that has happened in the past 12 months. In that lull between Christmas and the New Year’s Day, after you’ve eaten as many leftover ham sandwiches as you can stomach and hung out at home long enough to remember why you left in the first place, maybe we finally have time to think. Now there’s a chance to breath and gather ourselves. We can create a space to honestly reflect on what the fuck just happened over the last year. We can figure out what we liked and strategize how to repeat that activity. We could decide there was an experience we didn’t like and work to figure out how we can avoid that experience. We could confront a particular issue, righting the wrong we’ve done to someone, or forgive and forget what was done to us. Further yet, we can decide that things were OK, mediocre at best, and we’re totally cool with that; we resolve to “keep on keepin’ on”, so to speak.

Whatever our reason, there is a former shell of ourselves we’d like to shuck and show  a to the world (and more importantly, to ourselves) a new self. After a year of whatever we just went through, there’s a desire to prove we can still surprise ourselves with who we can become. We are invigorated with enough self confidence to daringly step out and change ourself for the better! So, why is the phrase new year, new me such a joke? Maybe because, by the time February 1st comes around, the paper on which we wrote our resolutions has been sat on, crumpled up, and “misplaced.”

New year, new me—the phrase is almost haunting. It seems like the new-year fervor fueling the fire of resolve has a shelf life, and it expires pretty quickly. Why? Maybe the cause is, after a month, we snap back into our old habits, being the ritual creatures we are. No longer do we have this laser-guided focus—as individuals, as families, as a nation, as a planet—on being resolute. We’ve come out of the time-warp that is the holiday season. The world hasn’t stopped spinning. So, we jump back on our hamster wheels, back to the environment that we’re so used to, trying to carry our resolutions while simultaneously running our lives.

While trying to carry our resolutions, the mental pressure starts to mound. The fear of looking like a failure circles our fledgling dreams like a vulture waiting patiently for them to die by the roadside. The disappointment we could feel if we give up on our resolutions (again) perches on your shoulder. With this added pressure, plus trying to hold to our resolutions, plus motherfucking life, in general, it’s no wonder the new us doesn’t last long. Maybe it’s that collective energy thing is coming back into play. We’ve collectively begun the quitting process. So, what do we do? Give up on our resolutions?

No. Don’t give up. Or, at least don’t give up without a fight! Even though it might have taken the collective effervescence of the planet to get our butts in gear, every day is a new opportunity waiting to be seized. Every single day is a new year, in a sense. Today marks one year from its 364-day-old self (plus or minus, depending on leap year). Every day that we draw breath, we have the opportunity to renew our resolve and pick up wherever we left off. Yeah, the mental pressure to succeed is daunting (haunting), but know that, collectively, we are but one of millions feeling that same pressure, trying to free ourselves from the old us. We are not alone. We never have been, nor will we ever be in this struggle to improve ourselves. So, let’s collectively decide not to give up on ourselves, the old us or the new us. Let’s shred the pressure and strengthen our resolve. If anything, let’s all make a resolution to be resolute, to not give up, this year and every year.

The Grotto Trail

I sit in the shade watching the sun set on the rocks

Trunks merge with the stone as if they are one

Water ebbs and flows creasing the earth as it goes

On and beyond, the valley stretches as far as I do

The sense of adventure pumps through my veins pushing me

Daring to venture further and further into the cool, deep wood

Sounds of modernity waft in the air reminding me of home

The idea pulls me back begging me to belay my quest

For what’s next, no one knows, yet my sense of adventure ever grows

To leave a peak unmarked by my footprint nudges regret

How far I’ve come is the furthest yet, and still I push for more

To climb pas my best, to see what can’t be unseen

For now I shall lay down my quest, only to return and claim my dreams

25

Spoiler Alert: The work below is more of a thought dump than an essay with a particular point. However, read on anyway!

I’m 25-years-old now. I don’t know what I thought I would be by 25. I don’t ever remember planning to be 25. No, it’s not like I thought I’d become a statistic and not make it past this age. But, I don’t really know what I expected myself to be by this age, 25. It carries some weight. It means that I’m a a quarter century old. It means I’m some time removed from adolescence, even farther yet from childhood. However, I don’t necessarily think of my self as an adult, or my self-perception doesn’t match that of the adult I hope to be. Yet.

Established. Nah, that isn’t me yet, but I feel a growing pressure to be that way. I feel a growing pressure to settle into who I’m “supposed to be,” whatever that is. A few years ago if you asked me what kind of person will I be, I’d tell you I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out, to be honest, but I feel I’m on the right track. Maybe. I guess. I got a job, at least. That’s an establishing move, though I don’t think I’ll stay here forever. It’s not what I think my dream job is, though I’m open to that changing as time rolls on. So, if being established means being stable, I got some shake roads ahead.

Successful. Meh…the jury is still out on that one. They don’t know how to call it, how to judge success, or if one has attained it (by “they,” I mean me). I thought that success meant graduating high school and getting into a great college. Check. I then thought graduating college and getting a good job meant success. Check. So what’s next, get another job; go for my dream job? Once I get that, what’s next? Family, house, car, kids, and/or other adult stuff that I need to check off my list of being successful? Are these the things that are to keep me excited and pushing forward? What if I don’t want any of these; then by what stick shall I measure my success? I guess I’ll just have to keep making things up and seeing if I can do them. It’s been working thus far. I made up the idea in my mind to go to Michigan. I made up the idea to movie to LA and chase being a writer. I’ve been in LA for more than a year, now, and still going strong. It looks like I’ll have to keep making things up to do and knocking them down as I go. If I keep going on this same trend, I don’t think there will be a stick by which I can be measured, but maybe that’s how it’s suppose to go.

Grown. Ha…ha ha ha! That’s a good one. To be “grown.” I can see a meme now, with Boromir saying “One does not simply ‘grow up.’” I hear from people at work to enjoy my youth while I can, but when I look at my peers, everyone is trying to pretend to be an adult. College was the worst, in the sense of young people being fake adults. You don’t realize it until you’re sitting in your bed at 7am, staring at the ceiling trying to calculate how many more minutes you can sleep in until you’re late late for work. Then you roll around a little bit, do a smell check to see if you need to shower. You do a second smell check to see if your first one was off a little bit, possibly opening a window to convert the time you would spend in the shower into hitting snooze again, but by the time the second alarm on your phone has gone off again so you get up and shower anyway and realize this is your life. This is adulthood: the mundane everydayness with not clear end in sight.

Sounds bad, right? Right. It gets monotonous, believe me. I imagine people more experienced in years than I are reading, chuckling, knowing how I feel—how they felt. Yet, under these awnings of everydayness spawns a desire to look for a way to spice things up, to get away, to explore everywhere else I’m not. Maybe it’s because I have a foundation where I can afford to explore (as long as it ain’t the first of the month). I feel like I can explore, so I do. I think that’s one of the benefits of getting older. Not so much having money to doing things, though that is comforting, but rather, having freedom. Having an increasing space to do what you will. Having the power to define yourself as you see fit at any moment in time. That concept is liberating; from what, I don’t know. The shackles of social constructs, maybe? The oppression of government and laws, possibly? Worried and insensate prodding by parents, trying to make sure their baby is on a good path and not heading back to live in their basement (no offense to anyone who’s currently living that life. It be like that sometimes). Maybe it’s one of these reasons. Maybe it’s none of them. Maybe it’s a healthy mix of all of them. Maybe it’s an unforeseen force acting upon me. Whatever it maybe, the idea of self-definition is liberating—almost encouraging—to see how free I can be. Oops, I think my millennial is showing…

 

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