Monday, January 2, 2017

2017: New Focus, New Energy


2016 is in the rear view and with it the general sense of dread and weariness. I know a new year only holds the power that you want it to hold and that change comes from within. That said, the symbolic fresh start has been accompanied with a laser-like focus and drive that I have not had in a number of years. Major things are going to happen this year. There is a lot that will be accomplished. I use “will” instead of “may” because, quite honestly, I do not see another way for it to go. I am excited to share some of the items on my 2017 To-Do List.

BODY
•Work out twice a day. Sometimes it is difficult to accomplish everything I want to accomplish from an exercise standpoint after work when I am worn out from a long day with my 110 rascals. I have purposed to wake up earlier four days during the week to take care of my cardio before work. It is my hope that accomplishing that will also revitalize me in the classroom
•Drastically reduce sugar intake. Goodbye, soft drinks (and yes, energy drinks. Farewell, Full Throttle). See ya, candy. Deuces, refined sugars, cookies, and other sweets. I don’t know that I will be able to cut out gummies completely, but I will greatly minimize them. This won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. After all, I will be 30 in a few months. Gotta start looking out for myself!
•Find an ab routine that works and stick to it. For years I’ve gotten into routines to varying amounts of success, only to get off of it after a while. I did pretty well in the first half of 2016, but various stressors and a general dislike for the routine caused me to lapse during the later portion of the year.

SOUL
•Get back into a regular writing routine and complete 30 posts by my 30th birthday. Over the years, writing has been an excellent outlet for me both communicatively and creatively. In 2015 and 2016, my writing was sporadic. There are any numbers of factors to blame for that, but that does not matter at this point. What does matter is that I get back into it. With a milestone birthday approaching, I really want to get my story out there to this point. April 4th starts a new story. It has the same character (me), but it is a new story. I want to finish my story and do my best to share who I am and why I am who I am. Some posts may be amusing. Some may be a little difficult to read for some, but I purpose to finish my story.
•Spend time with Myrna in person when/if it is the right time and situation for her. Self-explanatory.
•Tie up loose ends. Whether it’s a conflict left unresolved, a friendship floating around with no real progress, or anything in between, I have left some things unfinished in my life. I do not have the time or room to be burdened by anything from the past as I travel to where I plan on going with my life. Some people need to be forgiven. Some need to be confronted. In some cases, difficult conversations need to be had. It’s time.

SPIRIT
•Trust myself. In my past, I have been prone to fall into a couple traps during my decision-making process. At times, I did not trust myself at all, so I would not act at all because I could not live with the idea of making the wrong decision. I have also asked dozens of people for advice on simple situations that I could have and should have figured out on my own. It is great to have friends and their counsel, but in some cases, I need to figure things out for myself, by myself.
•Make decisions for the primary reason of giving myself peace. Though I may not always seem it, I do care about appearances and the ramifications of my decisions on others’ opinions and approval of me. That is no way to live. I will never stop caring about certain people and will make sacrifices for them until I am no longer able to do so, but in terms of decisions that primarily affect my life, I have to do the things that give me peace. Maybe that will lead to a change of scenery or vocation. Who knows? All I know is that it is time for make my best moves.

This year’s goals are heavier in nature. I know this. I also know how focused I am at this point in time. I am excited to see where my journey leads, and I look forward to reflecting on my triumphs at the end of the year.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Review

Even though my blog has spent the better part of the last two years in hibernation, some traditions are too important to me for me to just let fall by the wayside. I don’t know how much anyone else gets out of my “Year in Review” posts, but it has allowed me to both reflect on the year that was and eventually go back later for a reminder of how far I have come in my own personal journey. As usual, here’s a month by month rundown of my year with some thoughts at the end.

January: I made a concerted effort at the beginning of the year to be more social, and that is exactly what I did. From hanging out with Dan at the beginning of month to get me a working computer to finally meeting Shannon (from Florida) after knowing her for seven years, I succeeded in getting myself out there. The Seahawks were eliminated in the playoffs, but I wasn’t devastated.

February: I fought the winter doldrums by on a number of dates which ultimately went nowhere, which was fine by me. I went on these dates not because I necessarily had a great interest in any of the young ladies, but because I felt it was important for me to get out there and get to know people I wouldn’t necessarily come into contact with in my day-to-day life. The experiences gave me greater clarity as to what (and, more specifically, who) I want in my life.

March: This month was filled with some of my highest highs and lowest lows of 2016. In the middle of the month, I was unexpectedly informed by Prairie-Hills that my position was being terminated and subsequently that I would have to seek out new employment in the fall. I had thought I would be entering my first summer in 7 years where I did not have the burden of a job search hanging over my head, but that unfortunately was not the case. On the bright side, I was able to spend much of the month making special memories with people. I visited my friend Shannon (Peachy) in Minnesota, spent the end of the month with my sister, brother in law, and niece in Maryland, and finally met Kim in Pittsburgh (something that many thought would never happen).

April: When I got home from my Maryland trip, the reality hit me that I was fighting yet another uphill battle with my life. While I was able to distract myself with the annual WrestleMania party at my uncle and aunt’s house, a pleasant birthday and birthday Skype with Myrna, and a Cubs game with Dan and Merrill, I started to feel the pressure building up inside me. I began to work out differently in hopes that the change in exercise and the change in my body would combat the internal battles I was fighting.

May: For the first time in 1999, I took a sick day from school/teaching. I had what I thought was strep but what the doctor said was a very severe non-strep throat infection. All I know is that it was so bad that I voluntarily drank hot tea for the first time in my life. I ended the month by ending my tenure at Prairie-Hills and by taking a trip to California, where I finally met Tiffany after knowing her for 4 years and Ken after knowing him for 12(!)

June: Back to the job hunt. I finally met another Stickam friend for the first time after knowing her for 5 years. My great aunt Bernice passed away this month as well. While I was blessed to have had a number of job interviews, the pressure of not knowing my next step was really weighing on me.

July: I finally had two interviews that brought promise of the immediate future with them. While I was still waiting on word from one of the schools, I received a job offer from the other school and a 24 hour deadline to accept or decline the offer. I felt that I had to go with the sure thing and accepted a social studies teaching position at a relatively nearby school district. I went back to Maryland (with a stop in Pittsburgh once again), and while it was a pleasant time, it wasn’t quite the same experience as it was in March. Even though my immediate future was settled, there was still a great sense of unease that took over my entire being.

August: Honestly, I’m surprised this month didn’t break me. It started with a 5 hour argument with one of the most important people in my life. I thought I was going to lose that connection. Fortunately I didn’t. I also felt compelled to see the whole thing with Kim reach its logical conclusion. I knew how it was going to end (and honestly, I probably knew for years how it was going to end), but I needed it to reach that point for my own sanity as I was falling into a lot of old traps and bad habits. I started the new job and was very quickly overwhelmed, as things were not quite as I expected that they would be. There were all sorts of challenges that I had not anticipated. I had what would be the last conversation I would ever have with my grandmother, as her cancer worsened quickly.

September: Ahmah (my grandmother) passed away, which was tough for so many reasons that I honestly don’t want to go into (if I did, this post would probably span 20 pages). That was my first loss of a grandparent, and it hit all of us particularly hard. Work didn’t make things any easier, and I felt more tense than ever.

October: Things got marginally less stressful, but fortunately I had distractions to take my mind and thoughts off the challenges and loss. The Cubs’ postseason run and eventual World Series win gave me an outlet to lose myself in for hours at a time. I was able to go to Indiana to celebrate Whitney’s wedding.

November: By this point of the year, I don’t know that things got demonstrably better or that I simply became more tolerant of them because I could see the finish line in sight. I drove my parents to Maryland to spend Thanksgiving there, and we had a very relaxing holiday (without some of the stresses that holidays can bring…take that as you will).

December: I ended the year in one piece… maybe a little wearier than I started but still in one piece. The Christmas holiday, quite frankly, was unpleasant. It happens. I got to spend a good amount of time with my niece, however, and that is what I will take from this month. I also changed my hairstyle for the first time in two decades. It was time for a change.

2016 was not a good year. It seems as though that was the case for many. It felt as if every time I made any sort of progress, some sort of piercing loss or failure set me back a number of steps. However, unlike 2014, the year didn’t cause me to feel depression or despair. Eventually a sort of numbness or emptiness washed over. When I look back on 2016, I’m sure I will laugh at the absurdist comedy as it was. For now, I will choose to look at the good (the people I finally got to meet, the times I spent with those I love, the late night phone conversations, etc.) and focus on that which lies ahead. We survived 2016. Here’s to thriving in 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 in List Form

So we’re nearing the end of another year, and while 2016 was awful in many ways for most of us (and something that I will discuss in greater detail in my “Year in Review” post tomorrow), there were some bright spots, particularly in the world of entertainment.

Songs
1. This Wild Life – Pull Me Out
2. The Summer Set – Figure Me Out
3. The Lumineers – Sleep on the Floor
4. Jimmy Eat World – Through
5. Simple Plan – Perfectly Perfect
6. Emarosa – Sure
7. A Day to Remember – Same About You
8. Thrice – Black Honey
9. Weezer – California Kids
10. Good Charlotte – Life Can’t Get Much Better
11. Blink-182 – No Future
12. Sum 41 –Breaking the Chain
13. Bayside – The Ghost
14. Sherwood – Closer to You
15. Modern Baseball – Wedding Singer

Albums
1. Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
2. This Wild Life – Low Tides
3. The Lumineers – Cleopatra
4. A Day to Remember – Bad Vibrations
5. Gregory Alan Isakov – Gregory Alan Isakov and the Colorado Symphony
6. Blink-182 – California
7. Weezer – The White Album
8. Emarosa – 131
9. Yellowcard – Yellowcard
10. Bayside – Vacancy

TV Shows
1. Mr. Robot
2. NCIS
3. Suits
4. NCIS: Los Angeles
5. WWE SmackDown Live (judge me all you want)

Sports Moments
1. Cubs win World Series (!!!)
2. Seahawks defeat Patriots on Sunday Night Football
3. Cubs defeat Dodgers to advance to World Series
4. Seeing the Cubs beat the Brewers in person
5. Dolph Ziggler vs The Miz, No Mercy 2016

Personal Moments

I don’t feel like ranking these this year. It doesn’t feel right, so I’m going to bullet point all the things that happened this year that made me feel alive inside in no particular order.
•Meeting Shannon (Shanwow) in January
•Meeting Kim in Pittsburgh
•Visiting Maryland in March, July, and November
•Visiting Shannon (Peachy) in Minnesota
•Going to Six Flags with Tiffany
•Hanging with Ken on the beach in California
•Getting to see the Cubs win a World Series
•Going to Wrigley to see a game with Merrill and Dan
•Going to Indiana for Whitney’s wedding
•Finally being offered a full time teaching position in social studies
•Every moment with Hadley
•Phone calls, texts, and FaceTime with Myrna to end our nights by hearing each other's voice
•Dinners with Aunt Dianna
•Meeting a fellow wrestling fan from Twitter at a hot dog place in Chicago
•A Friday night dinner at the Cheesecake Factory on Michigan Avenue

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Note for the Faint of Heart

If you’re reading this right now, there’s a strong probability that you’re struggling through something. After all, like quite often feels like an endless continuum of gain and loss. We work so hard to accumulate as much as we can, to build our stock up, to build ourselves up, in the vain hopes that we won’t be completely destroyed when the struggles inevitably come. Life’s victories often feel as if they are but temporary reprieves from the innumerable losses.

I’m not going to attempt to argue that life doesn’t seem bleak quite often. It does. Most of the time I feel as if I’ve reached the top of the hill, like Sisyphus, I somehow find my way back at the bottom. In this year alone, I lost a job for reasons that were out of my control. I found another job that in many ways has not been a great fit. I lost two relatives, including a grandparent. I lost a friendship simply by trying to pursue a relationship with her. I lost confidence. I nearly lost myself.

Despite every storm I have had to weather this year, there was one thing I did not lose: hope (not that I didn’t want to lose hope, though. It was only by grace and the watchful eyes of family and friends that I did not lose that part of myself). I have learned that having hope does not mean that you have an unrealistic fantasy that everything will miraculously get better immediately. Hope can be much more grounded than that. My hope is the cautious optimism that I’ll be able to make it through my day with just enough to get to the next one and that every now and then, things will come along to make the storms seem worthwhile. When I try to take a step back and look at things, I realize that I have been blessed with those respites from the storm. I’ve gotten the opportunity to watch people I love get back on their feet and succeed. I’ve gotten to watch my niece grow into not only an adorable youngster, but a sweet one as well. I have spent time in person with people I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to meet. The Cubs are even in the World Series!

If you’re struggling right now, you’re not alone. Our fights are quite often our own, but we are surrounded by soldiers who are fighting similar (or in some cases, identical) battles. Every day you survive is a major victory, and you should take pride in that. I’ve weathered my storms thus far, but it hasn’t been easy. I am no better nor am I any stronger than anyone else, so if I can make it, I have the utmost confidence that you can as well. Don’t give up. I believe in you. I can’t promise that your storms will go away permanently (that continuum of fleeting gain and chronic loss appears to be legit), but I can promise you don’t have to do it alone. Talk it out. Express yourself. Teach and learn from others who are fighting or have fought similar battles. You are strong. You are resilient. You are amazing. You are enough.

You’ve got this. I’ve got this. We’ve got this.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The 10 Pop Punk Albums That Most Need a Vinyl Pressing

As I promised in an earlier post, I intend to use this blog to speak about my passions as much as I use it to write about the heavier things (e.g. last post). If you’ve known me at any point in the past 15 years, you know that I never grew out of being a pop punk enthusiast. If you’ve known me at any point in the past three years, you also know that I have become an avid collector of vinyl records, with a collection that spans nearly 200 records as of this post. As much as I can appreciate the convenience of having my music digitally, I love vinyl. I like having something tangible to hold onto, and I have made it a point to try to collect all of my favorite albums in that format. That said, there are a number of albums that I absolutely adore that have not yet been pressed to vinyl. If any bands or execs are somehow reading this, get on it! Here are (in my opinion) the ten pop punk albums that most need a vinyl pressing.

10. Go:Audio – Made Up Stories (2009)
The Argument For:
Admittedly I do not have much of a leg to stand on here, as this album was the band’s lone output and was not received to critical acclaim. However, it has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. The British pop punk boom of the 2000s that started with Busted and McFly and carried on to Eliot Minor and You Me At Six reached a poppier destination with bands such as Go:Audio and Twenty Twenty. Made Up Stories features a steaming bowl of melodrama and heartbreak (“She Left Me”, “Made Up Stories”… well, if I’m being honest, pretty much everything), complete with British accents. It might not be the best, but this is my list and I’m keeping it on here!


9. New Found Glory – Catalyst (2004)
The Argument For:
Recently I read an article that referred to New Found Glory as a “Wal-Mart version of Blink-182”. I hate that assessment. The difference between NFG and Blink is that NFG didn’t need to resort to snot-nosed immaturity to get noticed. While their self-titled output and its successor, Sticks and Stones, put the band on the map (and let’s face it, what teen *wasn’t* singing the chorus to “My Friends Over You last decade), Catalyst is the album that took NFG to its greatest heights. While I am a bigger fan of its successor (SPOILER: it will also be on this list), this is both a fantastic and important pop punk album.


8. Hawk Nelson – Letters to the President (2004)
The Argument For:
As pop punk was finding its place on the mainstream market in the early to mid-2000s, there was also a boom for the genre within the Christian market as well. One band that benefited from this boom was Canadian pop punk outfit Hawk Nelson. Their debut studio album, Letters to the President, was everything my high school self wanted in a pop punk album. It was catchy, positive, and relatable. As other primarily (or even nebulously) Christian albums are starting to receive the vinyl treatment, it’s time this album gets noticed as well.


7. Forever the Sickest Kids – Underdog Alma Mater (2008)
The Argument For:
Having actually met these guys, they’re fantastic and genuine people, and people want to hear songs that are not only relatable but come from a place of sincerity as well. FTSK’s following two albums are pressed to vinyl, and neither of those albums put them on the map in quite the same way that Underdog Alma Mater did. It’s got a brighter sound than many of its contemporaries from the same time period (Set Your Goals, A Day to Remember, Four Year Strong), and while the sound of those other bands is probably what will be remembered from that time period, it would be a shame if FTSK didn’t get the love they deserve as well.


6. FM Static – What Are You Waiting For? (2003)
The Argument For:
A side gig for members of Thousand Foot Krutch, FM Static was another band that rose to prominence on the Christian airwaves during the pop punk boom of the middle of last decade. I cannot begin to tell you how much I played this album my senior year of high school. If you want adolescent heartache and heartbreak (here’s to you, “Definitely Maybe”, and hey, isn’t that what pop punk is all about?), few albums do it better.


5. Simple Plan – Still Not Getting Any (2004)
The Argument For:
Simple Plan is everything about the genre that people outside the genre hate and people inside the genre love. They’re a bit overly dramatic. They want to remain young. They will take everything they’re feeling and hit you in the mouth with it. For those reasons, they didn’t explode into the mainstream like contemporaries Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco did because they were much more reticent to evolve. This band, this sound, and this album represent a specific time period for the genre, and it would be a shame if that were to be forgotten.


4. We the Kings – We the Kings (2007)
The Argument For:
While not groundbreaking in the slightest, this album is perfectly pleasant. People may have tired of “Check Yes, Juliet” by now, but back in 2008 it was a banger. As catchy as that song was, there are probably three or four other songs on the album that are even catchier. As Boys Like Girls’ self-titled and Hey Monday’s Hold On Tight have been pressed, We the Kings’ debut effort deserves that same treatment as well.


3. Mayday Parade – Anywhere But Here (2009)
The Argument For:
For some inexplicable reason, this is the only album in Mayday Parade’s discography that has not received the vinyl treatment, which should be reason alone to put it to wax. If that is not reason enough for you, let me also state that this is my favorite album in the band’s catalog. It certainly differs from its predecessor as it was the first album to not feature Jason Lancaster, but this album showcases Mayday Parade doing what Mayday Parade does best: alternating between breaking your heart and breaking your neck with its energy. One of these songs was even featured in a commercial for Frozen.


2. Sum 41 – Underclass Hero (2007)
The Argument For:
Concept albums when done well are some of my favorite things in the world. The flow and clarity of a concept album truly enables the listener to focus and be immersed. This album is a concept album that covers Deryck Whibley’s views on life and relationships, and while I cannot say that he and I share the same views on everything, I have to say that this album is masterfully done. While more hardcore fans of Sum 41 don’t necessarily appreciate this album in comparison to the band’s earlier catalog, the reality is that bands as well as people grow and mature. If I were to recommend a pop punk concept album, I would look no further than this album.


1. New Found Glory – Coming Home (2006)
The Argument For:
New Found Glory decided to grow up for this album, and what resulted was what I believe to be the band’s finest work, an album that took everything we knew about the band and turned it on its head. To me, this album represents growing up and making things work whilst not losing the very essence of what made you special to begin with. The grouping of songs is magnificent as well, as “Love and Pain”, “Familiar Landscapes”, and “When I Die” take the listener on an emotional journey that must be listened to be understood. New Found Glory has never quite reached the heights to which they ascended on this album ever again. It’s time this album gets immortalized the way it deserves.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Dismantling the Bomb That Is My Life

One aspect of being Jakob Duehr that is a two-edged sword is the constant introspection. My mind is never shut off. I am always trying to figure out what isn’t working and subsequently attempting (admittedly, not always succeeding) to fix it. This summer I have had the opportunity to do a great deal of introspection, and I have to confess that there is a lot I do not like.

I live my life within the confines of timeframes and deadlines. My life feels as if it is a constant race against the clock, that if I do not accomplish this specific thing by this specific time, the clock will run out. As a result, I often feel as if living my life is akin to attempting to dismantle a bomb. If I do not succeed within the timeframe to which I have allotted myself, I fear that everything will blow up in my face and that those things will never happen.

This particular struggle has been stronger this year than ever as I stare down the end of my 20s and prepare to enter my 30s. Put bluntly, I am not where I thought I would be at this point. Perhaps I didn’t view things from a realistic lens, but adulthood has presented greater and more numerous challenges than I was prepared to encounter. I have felt a much stronger sense of urgency this year, as I try to knock out so many things that I felt I should have accomplished by now.

The problem with this line of thinking is that dismantling a bomb, though it must be done within a certain timeframe, takes a great deal of patience. Those who know how to dismantle bombs recognize that certain actions must be done in a specific sequence, and one small mistake can cause the entire situation to quite literally blow up in their face. I would be awful at dismantling bombs. In fact, I believe it would be safe to say that attempting to dismantle a bomb would be the death of me. When I feel that I am up against the wall, I start to press, to push harder and more quickly. I initially act impulsively and without much thought. I spend more thought time kicking myself for acting impulsively and erring than I do in actually thinking out the best course of action to make things happen. My fear of time has been one of the greatest factors in many of my failures.

It didn’t have to be this way, and it doesn’t have to stay this way. Too often I find myself asking “Well if not now, then when?” Urgency in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, there is a time and a place for urgency. A football team that runs the two-minute drill for an entire game is going to be worn out by the time that the actual two-minute drill would be needed. Likewise, I wear myself out so much by pressing about anything and everything, that when it actually *is* crunch time in my life, I don’t have the energy or the clarity of mind to attack it appropriately. I have to remind myself that it is good to be driven, to have dreams, and to wish for more. But things do not always happen within my own arbitrary limits. Even though I have not accomplished everything I thought I would by the age of 30, I still have accomplished many things. 30 does not signal that the game is over. I still have time to accomplish the rest. With greater focus and patience, I will probably have an even greater chance of ascending to the heights to which I aspire. I just cannot continue to get in my own way and be the cause of things blowing up in my face.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Redesign. Rebuild. Reclaim.

As I emerge from what has to be the lengthiest writing hiatus I have taken in my adult years, I find myself in the unique position of having a lot to say but a hard time expressing it. That said, I find it important to my own well-being to challenge myself and channel creativity through this outlet, so I guess I will work out the kinks as I go along.

By this point, I am sure the vast majority of you are well aware that I am a man of many interests and a few passions. One of them is pro wrestling. Before you exit this post and run for cover, rest assured that this post will not be about the WWE or any other form of wrestling. That said, the inspiration for the title did come from there. Back in the fall, the champion at the time, Seth Rollins (a guy with whom I share many interests and a similar Midwestern background) incurred a freak injury in the ring and was pronounced out for an extended period of time. Soon after, he took to social media with the phrase “Redesign. Rebuild. Reclaim.” I found that title the perfect place to start my writing again. Each of the words in that phrase has particular meaning to me and my personal journey, and now is probably as good a time as any to share where I have been and where I am going.

REDESIGN
A year ago, I was teetering on the edge. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I really could have gone either way. I could either recapture the reins of my life, or I could be lost for good. Fortunately I was able to find inspiration from my failures and use them to refine me into a better man. I learned that it was okay to fail, that I had to face the reality in front of me, and that if I wanted better, I had to be better. I consider it a miracle that I came out of things a better man than I was. As things in my life began to fall into place (the job, the car, the busier social calendar), I realized that the changes I had undergone were just the beginning.

“If I dare open my month, it’ll just be to bite my tongue…”

One of the most humbling things in the era of social media is the “On This Day” feature on Facebook. For those of you unfamiliar with the application, “On This Day” shows you the posts you have made on that date over the duration of your time on the site. I would love to be able to say that I’ve been an awesome guy for a long time, but that quite honestly is not the case. I have been humbled to see that I have been needy at best and completely obnoxious and borderline abrasive at worst. I am too old to act that way. I’m going to be 30(!) next year. To become a man is to leave childish things in the past.

I have always taken pride in being an honest person. If someone asks me a direct question, I am going to give them a direct answer. It is how I was raised. That said, there is a difference between being a man of integrity and being an opinionated blowhard. Unfortunately my history of honesty is accompanied by a history of social media rants and meltdowns that occurred as a direct result of some disappointment or perceived slight in my life. I have burned bridges, damaged friendships, and hurt people I legitimately care about. I took a take me or leave me attitude with people. In hindsight, I don’t blame those who did leave me one bit.

Social media can be a great thing. It allows friendships to continue in the face of time and distance. It also allows new friendships to bloom. This year alone, I have gotten the opportunity to spend time with Shannon, Ken, Tiffany, and Kim in person. I met each of them through various social media and likely would not have met them otherwise. I had no desire to give up social media. However, I had to reinvent or redesign my approach to it.

A lot of people have made comments to me about my diminished presence on Facebook. That has been by design. The world has little use for my opinions. If I have to make the choice of “maintaining a presence” whilst simultaneously sucking as a person or turning off the microphone so to speak, I am going to choose the latter. For that very reason, my blog has been dormant for a while as well. I have learned that the weight of your words is inversely proportionate to the quantity of them. When there is something to say, then say it. Use discretion and discernment to determine what is indeed worth saying. It’s okay to have opinions, feelings, and passions. However, it is not always appropriate to share these things. I have probably learned this lesson later than most, but I am a better person for it.

REBUILD

We built this blog on words and words.
I never had any intention of giving up writing completely, but the longer I went without writing, the harder it was to get back into the routine. In the past, it was commonplace for me to sit down at my computer with little more than a title and a basic idea and emerge 20 minutes later with 2000 words and a piece of writing of which I was fairly proud.

It is my sincerest intention that my writings have never read as overly opinionated or preachy. My sincere intent is to provide an honest look at my life as well as the lessons I have learned. The teacher in me desires for no one to have to make the same mistakes I have made. I see myself as a 29 year old who still has some potential left in him, but as someone who better get moving to reach that potential before that potential vanishes into the night. Because I am hypersensitive to not trying to preach at you, I do intend to change the scope of this blog a bit. The lessons will be there, but the heavy stuff won’t be the bulk of what I say, at least not for this season. I am a man of many interests and passions, and I intend to write about them. For the longest time, I was hesitant to do so because I feared that nobody would read them because nobody cared about the things I care about. I’m going to do it anyway. If I can share my passions with you, I can hopefully give you a better glimpse of the complete Jakob.

Some things we rebuild are more abstract.
We are all shaped to some extent by disappointment, but I personally have allowed disappointment to shape me into something that is not good. People have a prerogative to do what works for them. Sometimes, whether they intend it or not, it will have a negative effect on me. That’s a side effect of living on this planet. I do not have to like every bitter pill that is handed to me. Some of them I do not even have to accept. That said, it is not my right to lash out. I have had to rebuild many relationships over time because of my inability to recognize this. I’m learning.

Another cruel reality of living is that figurative storms will come and destroy what you have built with little warning or little you can do to prevent the destruction. In March, one of those hit my life. I hate being coy, but it’s not the right time to go into detail Someday, I will. It blindsided me and was very damaging to the confidence I had built in both life in general and in myself. It would be extremely easy to simply tap out, and I would be lying if I said the thought did not linger in my mind.

Rebuilding is not an easy process. It means that you built something and for one reason or another have to build again. But remember this (and I have to remind myself this constantly), to be in a rebuilding stage means that you were able to build something once. If you were able to do something once, you can do it again!

RECLAIM
You may want to sit down for this part (if you are not already sitting), because there is going to be some harsh reality coming. I find that with each passing day, I am completely sickened to be a part of this world and a part of this society. Some days I do not even know where to start. I feel like Elliot in the pilot episode of Mr. Robot in which he goes on an intense diatribe (within his head) to his therapist about the things that bother him about the world.

I am embarrassed to live in a country that can’t get along about anything. Every day seemingly presents a new issue to divide the masses. Part of the reason I post infrequently on Facebook is because I have no desire to add to the mindless drivel I see on both sides of the line. I see the Religious Right acting less like the hands and feet of Jesus and more like the mouth of the Pharisees. I see the Social Justice Warriors of the left taking umbrage at every perceived slight. There is no love anymore, just love buttons on social media. It is okay to have opinions. It is okay to disagree. But it is imperative that love stays a part of the equation, or these wars of words and ideologies will create irreparable damages. Can people at least TRY to understand one another?

I hate that I live in a world where it is increasingly impossible to live out of desire but instead there is an indentured servitude to the daily grind. We do things out of survival. We work our 9 to 5 jobs just to have enough to do it again for another two week turn. It bothers me to no end that the rug is constantly pulled out from under those who seem to actually succeed and build momentum, whether in the workplace or in our joke of an electoral process. I loathe the media and the role it plays in creating a hivemind that is not rooted in reality but rather a warped “reality” backed by whatever group decides to line that network’s pocket.

In this vast network of sharks and minnows, where the minnows outnumber the sharks a million to one, why is it that we have yet to converge, to take on the upper hand? Why have we been so scared? Well, not today, not anymore! This is us, growing up, still young but no longer impressionable.
The worst thing I could do is take all of the things I said above and passively resign myself to the notion that things are what they are and that is all they will ever be. Yes, it bothers me that this is the world that Hadley (my niece) and my future children will enter. For lack of a better term, things suck. But I am not about to take it lying down! There are enough of us out there, the intelligent, the young, the hungry. We can do something to reclaim this world and make it a better place not only for us but for the younger ones who do not deserve to enter a game that is rigged for them to fail. We don’t have to agree, but we must work together!

Now is the time for us to get our act together. We are at a point in history like I was last summer where we can go either way. Be smart. Be informed. Inform others without being preachy or judgmental. Find your cause, but only fight about the things worth fighting for. If it doesn’t affect you negatively, why fight against it? Have real conversations. Work together. Whether it’s your house, your school, your neighborhood, your workplace, or something on a larger scale, work to make it better. It is ours to reclaim, and I for one will not go down without a fight.