The Demise of Guys

I feel like I’ve been walking this thin line, a tightrope, trying to decipher exactly what I’ve been trying to address when it comes to entitlement, to adulthood.. I’ve been called out on making it a gender issue, and at first I defended that it wasn’t so, because I was afraid of how it might sound to stand up for being male, as if just taking a stand for being male would in some fashion make me anti-female… Yet that’s part of the problem itself. Sure, the majority of the world might be pretty male-centric, and I wish there was a bit more equality in general.. yet I feel like the very fight for balance in the western world, North America in particular, might be a bit exaggerated. So sure, I’ll be confident and say that I believe that it might indeed be gender related in some fashion.

The above Ted talk from 2011 speaks to that and sort of bolsters my own questions as to exactly what I’m trying to address. It’s not that men have lost their way because women have found theirs, something I am very passionate about stating.. It by no means takes any power away from the progress females have made. Instead there is a lack of confidence, guidance, or inherent path that men once followed that they no longer have access to. Maybe males need to be reared differently, or given alternative techniques to guidance versus women?

I’m enjoying getting into this. It intrigues me greatly, and I’m glad I’m starting to get into what the core concern might be.

Again, a healthy discussion in the comments below is welcome and appreciated.

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Disconnection

A word that causes panic within the digital world. We always want to ensure the connection is there, solid, almost tangible, so that whenever we need it, we can call on it.Searching for the name and directions to a restaurant, how many milliliters in a cup, how old is Scarlett Johansson?

We take this ability for granted, and when the connection is down, we  are lost without it, scraping our hands down the backs of cabinets, scrabbling with our fingers to power cycle the modem, our connection to the digital world.

What about our connection to our physical bodies, to others, to our planet and our surroundings?

As society moves forwards, our experience with the tangible world around is compartmentalized, economized, minimized, optimized.. Our vacations are boxed into hedonistic “all-you-can-consume, all-services-included” 10 day excursions where we are shown what we are meant to see. The clean, sterile innards of a walled, gated, camera-ed resort.

Outside those walls, there is danger, squalor, choice, and … life.

I’m not suggesting you leave your resort in Jamaica to start consorting with the locals. Many areas of the world are unsafe. But this was merely an allegory to compare how our view of the world we live in is customized to create a sense of artificial happiness and relaxation.

I haven’t taken many vacations in my life, especially not on my own. As a child I was lucky to visit a number of countries with my parents, and I feel that I enjoyed them all.. as an adult, perhaps less so. My most recent trip abroad was to Spain a couple years ago. My inability to speak the language, coupled with my severe lack of money, made it really difficult to spend my time there following the conventional vacation rules I had grown up with. I spent my nights sleeping in a small room with no windows that led outside (mine led into the stairwell of the building) My days were spent searching for the cheapest sustenance, and simply walking around the various towns I had decided to visit. I was inherently uncomfortable in my own skin, as everything I was familiar with was stripped away, leaving me feeling vulnerable and insignificant.

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It was exhilarating, and the beginning of my journey towards who I am today. I returned from that trip sick with a viral infection, broken, exhausted, and severely over stimulated. Was I disconnected? Absolutely, but I was only severed from every comfort I had ever known. I was alone with myself, and it terrified me.

Today I make it my utmost priority to be mindful. Do be present. To connect with myself, with my dreams, aspirations, fears.. Yet it still remains hard work. It feels like the progress I make is so difficult. Perhaps it’s because the world around me, or the slice of it that I live in, is formatted in a way that places value in absolutely everything that simply doesn’t matter. A materialistic consumption of something, anything, because we fear having nothing and be alone with ourselves.

We are cultivated to disconnect from ourselves, to plug in, and to then reconnect with each other virtually. Second Life is a game that emulates a world that is only limited by our imagination.  Guess what. “First Life” is the same thing. Get out there, feel the air in your lungs, the weight of your body, the way your feet feel as they are pressed against the earth.

Live your life. You only have one, but every day you can start again.

Adulthood

After my past post on entitlement, where I discussed my childhood, and where I am at on my life path, I mentioned seeing my parents as cohesive, “easy” adults.

I always sort of expected that this sort of inner and outer respect would magically manifest itself as surely as my voice would drop.

tumblr_llzi52p66g1qd8gl4Yet here I am in my thirties, and it’s still a struggle.

I think a core issue rests in not having a clearly defined sense of self, and trying to exist within social norms. Now, further problems can be found within these norms, as not only do they shift, but rarely do they provide enough flexibility and space for alternative unique and individual roles.

What I’m referring to is the social cliques or stereotypes.. Whether it’s the hipster or the nerd, the business man or the athlete.. There’s a certain collection of brands that each is expected to embrace, and by doing so, fit in with similar groups.

Gone seems to be the nuclear man.. as in the center of the 50’s nuclear family. While I’m happy to see a departure from this chauvinistic, emotionally barren, strong jawed husband and father, I do somewhat wistfully appreciate the structure that he was born into. The sort of “entitlement and hierarchy” he was given the proverbial keys to once he became 18 years of age  ( not to mention the amazing jazz he has access to – but I digress)

While I have no problems seeing the immediate sort of responsibilities and burdens this immediately transferred (the bad with the good), this did do an excellent job of teaching through hardship. There’s so little structure in today’s western society that it forces us to create our own boundaries, guidelines within which we operate.

That’s not intrinsically bad so long as we have been instilled with the tools in order to do so. Those who have grown up lost have so many avenues of support to lean on that it can become difficult to know not only how to stand on ones own two feet, but whether we even possess a set of legs to begin with!

I get that there’s plenty of argument on the other side, that flexibility and support give us “room to breathe” to “find out what our true passion is in life” I actually hope this this post generates a bit of discussion, because it’s an issue I plan on spending a few entries discussing..

I have decided to record a few guest discussions from men I respect, to get their perspectives on how they perceived adulthood versus what they experienced as they actually reached an age and were thrust into it. I might also include some women as well, but at the moment I am focusing on men because I find it more directly applicable to my own identity.

Here’s the accompanying vlog that inspired the interviews.

Routine is your armor

When samurai would head into battle, they would partake in a lengthy process of donning their armor.

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Layers of meticulously folded cloth, covered with intricately adjusted sheets of finely collected lacquer sheets of protection.

While we may not be fighting a battle, as we go about our daily lives in a society that offers so much choice and temptation, maintaining a “cement” of a fairly regular routine will ensure that we approach every day in an optimal mental, physical, and psychological state.

Rushing out the door unprepared will set a precedent for the rest of the day.. Chugging mugs of coffee to “cheat” ourselves into mental alacrity sets up crash after crash, buoyed by further consumption of more caffeine,  sugars, all the whole making poor decisions. The net result leaves us falling asleep the moment we get home, disappointed with today, and looking forwards to tomorrow.

Yet without prioritizing our routine, it’s never the today we want.

Stay mindful. Live today. Tomorrow never comes.

Entitlement

When I was growing up, I always saw my parents as the ideal goal. Not super wealthy, but not poor, a nice small cozy house in a kid-friendly neighborhood that wasn’t too far away from the downtown core.

I never really saw my dad do much work, even when I went to visit him at his office, it was filled with crazy powerful computers and projectors that ran super advanced helicopter simulators, and it just seemed like he played all day.

I always assumed that as you grew up, you got a sportscar, fell in love in your twenties, got married, had kids, and life fit itself together so long as you were willing to let it sweep you along.

However, as my life as a young adult got started, I fell off the rails. I dropped out of university, discovered drugs, and started partying. I lost my first love by being foolish and selfish, and chased my happiness away by avoiding work, responsibilities, and life in general.

Nothing happened on it’s own.. at least nothing good, or nothing with long term happiness.live-your-life-like-nobodys-watching

I was sick of being bitter and jaded. I wanted to open my eyes, but I didn’t know where to start.

So I took one step. I reached out. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, because I’d lost myself. Entirely.

I went to rehab. Cleaned myself up. Then I got a job, and stuck it out as best I could. I stumbled a few times, but I always got back up. Then I quit smoking. Life continued happening, but I wrote the undercurrent of what I wanted to happen. I discovered paleo, and lost 60 pounds over the next year. Quit drinking. Found Buddhism, Zen, sitting.. and then something I wasn’t even looking for.

I found myself.

I sit here, in my mid 30’s with tears welling in my eyes, reading what I’m typing, and absorbing my progress. I’m amazed at my inner strength and resolve.

I often forget where I came from, and what I’ve accomplished. This isn’t a sob story of anyone other than myself. This blog has always existed primarily for my own growth.. if anyone else gets anything from it, that’s always a great side effect, but still not as important as my own evolution.

I started this post to reflect back on what I thought life was going to be when I was young, to figure out where I might have lost my way..

But now I realize that I’m growing into feeling confident as to where I am right now. I’m where I’m supposed to be, and I’m OK with that.

Every morning my life begins again, every breath is a reminder that I’m alive, and that anything is possible.

Thanks for this post. Can I like and reblog my own stuff without being too pretentious?

Growing up OK

I usually share here when I’ve come through a hardship,  and learned a lesson.  Not this time.

Instead,  here,  now,  I’m struggling. This is the hardship,  and the lesson seems inherent;yet it disinterests me.

This time I search for a root cause,  to dig into why it’s difficult in general for me to feel anything more than disconnection,  especially when that very connection is what I strive to fertilize.

I really don’t feel comfortable as an adult. When I was a kid,  I always looked at my elders as having this structure,  this foundation that they’d built. It was emotionally sound,  and financially viable.

Yet here I am,  well stuck into my 30s, and I still feel like I’m barely getting started.

Sure,  I’ve quit drugs,  smoking,  and booze. Sure,  I’m healthier and feel stronger.

But I am still a frightened child at heart,  whose best friends are his parents,  as they are the only people who unconditionally love and understand him.

Maybe I feel like I was cut of a different cloth because I am a product of their generation. Maybe I yearn to live in a simpler time without laptops,  texting and the Internet.

It’s made to make our lives easier,  but it just makes the distances between us smaller. This might seem like a good thing,  and while it has that potential,  it also has the opposite effect.  It let’s us hold a measuring stick,  a mirror,  and any other comparison method to stack ourselves up against everyone else.

It’s easy to fall prey to that side of technology,  to crave a connection with everyone else while shirking the one with the most important person in our lives. Ourselves. 

Getting back to that relationship is increasingly difficult while still maintaining our social identity in an urban environment.  There’s a balance to be appreciated and to be cultivated.  It’s too easy to sit on one side of the fence or the other. The dark side is full of self depreciation,  depression,  and poor self worth. The light side is exhausting and impossible to maintain for any length of time.

The middle allows us to keep our own best interests at heart,  and to recognize when we are slipping into poor thought patterns. But instead of relying on our connections and friends,  we should come to rely on ourselves.

This is why working on your own self worth,  healthy coping mechanisms and general wellbeing is not in vain. The benefits aren’t instantly apparent,  but will become vital in times of darkness.

I keep being reminded to breathe. It’s something I’ve read again and again, but always forget in the times I’d benefit from it most. My most recent reminder came in a random blog I came across on Twitter, by Jordan Bates..
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To him I am grateful tonight, because he’s helped remind me of the easiest coping mechanism we have at our disposal. The most automatic process in our lives, when consciously practiced, is the most healing benevolence we have available. And it’s always accessible

Tonight I remind myself to breathe, and to not be so hard on myself. Humility and honesty with ourselves are the keys to healthy mindfulness