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The Narcissist, God, and Me

I am not a believer. If you’ve come here to read an uplifting story about belief, this isn’t the story. This is the story of how my unbelief became concrete for me.

I don’t know exactly how old I was when I began questioning the existence of God. I grew up surrounded by those that believed, and I think there was an assumption at first that anything they told me to be true, was true.

I know that when my mom first told me the story of Jesus’s resurrection, I was disturbed. Even at the age of 4 or 5, I knew that people couldn’t come back from the dead. Still, nearly everyone in my life believed in the Christian God, and while I felt uncertain and agnostic, I didn’t want to believe that the adults in my life believed something untrue.

The church I grew up around was a Pentecostal one, southern Baptist maybe? People spoke in tongues and talked regularly about God intervening in their lives. Church made me uncomfortable, but the music was great. All around me were adults having a concrete, real relationship with this omnipotent being. Their lives were full of miracles.

I challenged God to prove His existence. I silently prayed constantly, claiming “if x happens, then I will believe.” I have a vivid memory of sitting in a bathtub, praying to God to cause the floating bubbles to drift to the left instead of the right. I wanted to believe, but I lacked proof.

I searched for real physical, tangible evidence everywhere. I obsessed over the Shroud of Turin because it felt like something concrete that my budding scientific mind could wield against doubt. I had a framed holographic picture of the face on the shroud. I took it to Show and Tell.

My interest in the paranormal was an offshoot of this quest. I sought evidence of the existence of the supernatural and thus, evidence for the existence of God, even if I didn’t know it then. It wasn’t so much that I personally felt like I needed God, not at first. I wanted it to be true for the sake of my family, for them. Because I didn’t like what it said about them, or myself, to question like this.

My parents divorced when I was in the first grade, and soon after, my mother met and married her second husband, a man I will only refer here to as B. This man was good at first. He knew about rocks and fossils and had gone to college, unlike most adults I knew. He seemed to have a bit of a temper, but I wasn’t worried, not yet.

Over time, B. was abusive to both my mother and us kids. He would scream and shout and call us kids names, and he hit my mom. Sometimes he would shake us or spank us. I don’t remember being hit “inappropriately” like my mother, but I don’t remember B.’s time very clearly. I’ve buried some memories over the years, but there’s one memory of him that stands out as an important moment in my life and my relationship to religion. I have been thinking about it since becoming a father.

B. came home from work and he was angry. Raging angry, shouting angry. I don’t remember what about, only that I ran to my room and hid in my closet. In there, I prayed to a God I didn’t believe in. Protect me, keep him away. I’ll believe in you if you do.

He found me easily. It wasn’t a large apartment. He drug me out, pinned me against the wall, and shouted in my face. I don’t remember the words, but I do remember the spittle against my face. I don’t remember if he hit me. I don’t think he did.

The next thing I remember is that I’m laying on my bed, face down, sobbing into my pillow. I’m. So. Angry. Not at myself. Not at B. I’m angry at the God I don’t believe in. I find myself saying it then, outloud, into my pillow, between sobs: ‘You’re not real, God. You’re not real. I don’t believe in you.”

I wasn’t alone. B. was standing outside, listening, only he didn’t hear me clearly. He somehow thought in that narcissistic, rage-filled brain of his that I was declaring that I thought B. was God, and that I no longer believed in him. He stormed in again, forced me up, and shouted again, this time to the effect that he wasn’t God, that was a terrible thing to suggest, etc.

I was baffled at the time. Why would he think that I thought of him as anything but the Devil Incarnate? I knew I couldn’t tell him the truth. I said nothing and eventually he left. I let him go on believing that somehow I thought he was God, instead of the truth, which was that I had begged his God–the one he believed in–to protect me from him, and nothing had happened. No miracles for little Jeremy Tolbert.

I don’t know if that was truly the moment that I became a non-believer, but it was one of the last times I ever asked God for anything with any seriousness. It was probably years before I was willing to admit it.

My life wasn’t all that bad, in retrospect. I couldn’t put it into words then like I can now, but my opinion on gods is simple, and yes, informed by those days.

No god that lets children suffer is worth a single iota of belief or worship.

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Recent Interesting Reads

Happy Monday, dear readers. I’ve got a lot of topics I’m contemplating for upcoming posts, but I’m thinking that Mondays might start easy with an accumulation of links that I have from the previous week – things that caught my attention or interest, and might be of interest to you too. So here we go:

How To Make Mtn Dew Cheesecake (YouTube)

The reactions from most people I know this was universal dismay. I may have referred to it as tasting like “giving up on life.” In reality, this, like most garbage food, intrigues me and I would try it at least once.

Bells ring out Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ at 17th-century Amsterdam church

My favorite Bowie song sounds strangely sad and beautiful when played on church bells.

Billie Jean But Every Instrument Is A Spring Door Stopper (YouTube)

People are so inventive and creative!

“Shit-Life Syndrome,” Trump Voters, and Clueless Dems

“So in 2020, this leaves realistic Dems with one strategy. While the Dems cannot provide a candidate who can viscerally connect with shit-life syndrome sufferers, the Dems can show these victims that they have been used and betrayed by Trump.”

Not sure if I agree with the conclusion above, but I agree with the cluelessness of my own political side in recognizing the problems facing these people. It’s an interesting read, worth thinking about.

That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It

The IRA generated more social media content in the year following the 2016 election than the year before it. They also moved their office into a bigger building with room to expand. Their work was never just about elections. Rather, the IRA encourages us to vilify our neighbor and amplify our differences because, if we grow incapable of compromising, there can be no meaningful democracy. Russia has dug in for a long campaign. So far, we’re helping them win.

Frightening stuff to consider.

My Semester With the Snowflakes

After that class a couple of the students approached me and explained that their dads were cabbies when they first came to the United States, and that their fathers had told them that the things they sometimes heard from people in their cabs were amazing.

Think about that for a second. These students are first generation Americans. Their fathers immigrated to this country and started out by being taxi drivers. Now, their children are attending Yale University. I’m a patriotic man and those are the stories that help me understand how, in spite of the seemingly endless stream of negativity surrounding it, the American Dream is still alive and kicking. It makes my heart sing every time I see those kids.

I can always get behind this kind of ideological bridge-building.

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An Update Regarding my War With the Squirrels

The squirrels of my little neighborhood are no joke. I hate them and I consider them my mortal enemies. In my defense, they initiated hostilities.

Shortly after moving in, a squirrel threw a walnut at me not once, but three times. Once or twice, I could forgive as an acidence. But three times? Malice. Each time they missed, because I am better than them at literally everything except climbing trees, and I always remain vigilant in my own yard.

The next summer, one climbed up directly outside my office window and sat on the porch railing. No big deal, right? Wrong. It ate a live cicada from the tail up to the head, insect screeching until the final bite, and all the while, the squirrel never broke eye contact with me. I am not exaggerating. Once it finished the cicada, it hopped down and ran away. Message received, you furry little bastards!

We try to grow fruits and veggies, but they strip our garden of anything that appears edible, especially the tomatoes and strawberries. Sometimes, they even try chewing on my 3D printed stuff that I have curing out there. In the fall, the sound of their teeth scraping against walnuts and pecans from neighboring trees is a symphony I can only escape by playing loud music at all hours. Their gnawing is a taunting that agonizes my very soul.

Recently, we put up a bird feeder to draw more songbirds to the yard. It’s one of the fancy kinds that slide shut if a squirrel climbs on it. I’m not about to feed these freeloading pests for free, or so I thought. First, they chewed a HOLE in the bottom corner and dumped it out that way. Sarah patched that, so the next thing they did was chew through the rope hanging it from a tree. They dropped it to the ground and cleaned up, literally and figuratively. They did this twice to two different ropes before we finally used a chain and thus far, they haven’t found a way to defeat that, but I won’t be surprised when I hear a squirrel sparking up a blowtorch outside my window.

They are voracious tree rats, good for nothing, barely hunted at all by local predators. It was one of the happiest days of my life when I witnessed a local hawk eating a nice fat squirrel in a neighbor’s yard. You see, squirrels are good at avoiding avian predators –it’s tough to fly and hunt between the tree branches they infest. We have a pair of owls that regularly roost in our yard, but they never seem to eat the squirrels. No matter how many times I beseech them for an alliance.

I spend a not insignificant part of my day in the summer banging on windows to scare them away from plants and vegetables. I’ve thrown my fair share of walnuts back at them, too, I must admit, never hitting once. The squirrels know to keep their distance from me. None of them had murdered anything or thrown anything at me for a year or two.

I thought we’d come to an understanding. I was wrong.

Imagine my surprise when twice in the past few days, I have stepped out in my yard to be straight up charged by squirrels. Twice, I’ve now had a squirrel dash up to me, skid to a stop about a foot away and wait a moment, staring, before finally retreating. I have been so stunned each time that I’ve been frozen, speechless.

At first I thought maybe they were expecting me to feed them, and I wondered if a neighbor has been doing that. But now, after recounting the above stories here on this blog, I’m not so sure. I am starting to wonder if they’re testing boundaries and defenses; if they’re trying to bluff me with charges, like some bull elephant did in Kenya 20 years ago. I’m going to have to start carrying a broom with me every time I go out into the yard now, just in case.

If I am found dead in my yard with no obvious wounds, do not suspect suicide. Do not accuse humans of murder. Know with certainty that the squirrels have finally become victorious. Until then, the war continues. And you can be sure, if they manage to take me out, I’m taking as many of them as I can with me.

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Controlling Anxiety in a Complex World

I was talking with a friend today about the strategies I’ve developed to help control my anxiety when the world feels too large and scary. Here, I’ve boiled down what I was trying to describe to him in a few bullet points that might prove useful if you too find life in this era anxiety-inducing at times.

  • Limit information input. I do this by unfollowing and muting sources on social media that are key to increasing my anxiety. I may love you personally, but if your tweets are constantly gloomy and scary, I’ve probably had to mute you in my daily reads. It’s not personal.
  • Focus on what I can do. Anxiety is my brain’s way of feeling like it is contributing to a problem, real or not, and sometimes I can dispell it by doing something concrete, or acknowledging that there’s literally nothing I can do about the problem. So if I’m worried about something political, it helps to recognize maybe all I can do is send a letter to my congresspeople and make a donation to an organization. I can then put that anxiety to bed, sometimes.
  • Limit my time on websites that drive anxiety. Because so much of my day is spent at a keyboard working, I find myself drifting toward news sites and social media even when I know they’re bad for my heightened state of anxiety. I use Stay Focusd, a Chrome extension, to limit my ability to do this, especially during work hours.
  • Give my brain some work. I have in the past found myself worrying about things simply because my brain was bored. Even something as simple as doing powers of two or counting in my head can be effective in reducing extreme anxiety.
  • Take my meds. I’m a proud user of Prozac these days. My brain malfunctions and produces the wrong chemicals. There’s nothing wrong with my mind. It’s a problem with my meat brain.

Taking my medicine helps me a lot, and possibly even the most, but it’s not a 100% solution. The above tricks are also helpful in giving me some control over how my body produces stress chemicals and will hopefully help me live a longer life. The general approach that has worked for me makes my world smaller and more concrete. Anxiety brain wants to deal in what-ifs and outlandish scenarios. Forcing myself to focus on the concrete is good for soothing it.

How about you? Got any tips? Let’s hear them.

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The Irishman Odyssey

The Irishman, a film by Martin Scorsese released in 2019, is three hours and thirty minutes long. Somehow, against all odds, I found the time to watch it last night after my son went to bed.

Despite my joke on Twitter, I found the movie compelling and sadder than I expected. The movie is about a lot of things, but the theme that really stood out to me in my first watch was the futility of a criminal life.

Scorsese drives this message home by freezing the action each time a new mobster is introduced and putting up a caption that explains the awful way that person was murdered (apparently the end of the 70s and start of the 80s were a really bad time for the mob). Additionally, and I’m not really spoiling anything to say this because the movie starts with this, our protagonist, Frank Sheeran is alone in a shabby retirement home, slowly dying, completely alienated from everyone.

Scorsese does not glamorize the life of a mobster; nor does he valorize people like Jimmy Hoffa. Everyone here is flawed in sad, interesting ways. He depicts them with warmth, with empathy, showing them as good people as well as brutal ones. It’s interesting sometimes to sit down and watch movies by a director who is so responsible for the public consciousness of an idea, and to think about how much the public’s remembered idea compares to the reality. Nobody has a good ending in Scorsese’s film here. You and the protagonist are left wondering if any of it was really worth it. At stake wasn’t so much the money, although there was lots of it. It was the egos of flawed men.

The run time really only caught up with me at about two and a half hours, when the end was clear and slowly spooling out. When Hoffa begins to go off the rails after his jail stint, the writing is on the wall for the audience and even most of the characters. This is the one place in the film where you wish Scorcese would get to the point. Otherwise, it’s the kind of enchanting filmmaking that just doesn’t happen anymore.

If you can spare the time, it’s well worth the watch. The movie is still bouncing around in my head the next day, and will stick with me for a good while.

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Is This the New Normal?

My friend Stacey asked on Facebook, with little context, “Is this the new normal?” By which I assume she means, gestures vaguely at everything.

Dear Stacey–the good news is, no. This is not the new normal.

The bad news is, there is no such thing as normal anymore, at least not for a while. Normalcy is predicated on some generally accepted norms and the truth is, our entire lives have been a series of norm-destroying moments (for good and bad). Accelerated social change has been the hallmark of our generation. This acceleration, or at least my perception of it, feels like it has been building since the 1960s, but we’re really reaping the effects now, thanks to accelerated information exchange brought about by the internet.

This is good and bad, I think. For a geeky kid like me, norms regarding what it’s okay to like were oppressive and resulted in a lot of bullying. But norms also contribute to a sense of societal cohesion.

Do you feel like things are holding together very well lately? I sure as hell do not. In fact, everything feels likes like it is constantly tumbling to pieces now. And this feeling didn’t really start with our current president, although his actions are another accelerant in the mix.

The new normal is– no wait, sorry, it changed again. The new normal is–oh shit, really? He said what? I guess that’s just what our country– oh, he walked it back already? Fuck it, I give up.

Science fiction writers talk about something called the singularity, where technological change happens faster and faster, and it’s impossible to predict what comes next. I feel like the internet has brought about a kind of societal singularity, where norms are breaking down faster than we can build new ones, contributing overall to a sense of unease and declining feelings of cohesion.

Again — this is not all bad. It’s not all good. Nuance is the key word on my blog. Blogs are better to discuss this sort of thing than social media. Norms are both a sense of security and also oppressive.

Right now I think we could all use a sense of things calming down, or slowing down, though.

There’s some thinking that this isn’t the new non-normal, which is to say, this period of accelerated change may not last forever. Our society is undergoing a change not unlike the one from agrarian to industrial, and these periods to tend to be accompanied by major upheaval. Not even to mention the upheaval that we’re starting to experience from global warming!

So maybe not having a new normal is a temporary thing. If we wait long enough, turbulence will settle down and we’ll have a new, new normal. Assuming we all live long enough to see that day come, anyway.

Another possibility for Stacey and I is that we could simply be getting older; change is happening faster; it’s that our abilities to keep up are declining. We know this will happen at some point, but I’d like to think the early 40s are a bit too soon for society to leave me in its dust.

I keep circling back to this global information network that allows the spread of ideas (good or bad) at unprecedented speeds. We blundered into this society without a plan. Maybe our kids, who have lived in it their entire lives, will find a better way forward. They do seem quite a bit more empathic. The survival traits that seem to dominate in a world with such interconnectedness and collapsing societal norms are either heightened empathy or zero empathy. Let’s hope the former trait wins out in the ever-shifting societal norms, or we’ll be ground up into dog food in our retirement, eh?

So the new normal is that there is a new normal every ninety seconds, and we better adjust to that and ride it out, or, alternatively, die. Much like Midwestern weather, if you don’t like the new normal, wait a little bit and it’ll change. And if you want an old normal back? Tough shit. Happy Monday!

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Tips for Conquering RPG Scheduling

One of the biggest challenges every game master faces in getting a recurring role-playing game going is scheduling. Adults have busy lives, and it can be tough to get people on the same page for when to play. Often time games collapse entirely due to scheduling conflicts and never get off the ground, but one of the core ingredients to successful campaign play is consistent scheduling and sustained play time. Below are some tips that have helped me run campaigns to the finish line.

  1. Pick a date, time, and frequency ahead of asking for players. I’ve run and played a lot of games where we spent countless hours trying to negotiate schedules and establish a good time to play. This is burdensome to everyone, but especially the GM. When you first want to get started, establish your frequency and schedule and basically write that down in stone, before you attempt to recruit players. For my games, I run an every-other-Friday game, an every-other-Saturday game that alternates weeks against the Friday one, and a every-other-Thursday game that happens the same week as the Saturday game. This makes sure I don’t have to run two game nights back to back and keeps my per-week load reasonable. I set these schedules up front and sought players that would commit to that schedule. This also means that you don’t try to reschedule- you just cancel when the circumstances are necessary. Juggling six schedules every time is just too much for anybody to bear, and life is too short for that.
  2. Include enough players that things don’t grind to a halt if one or two players miss a session. I play five player groups for Dungeons and Dragons, although the game is built around a party size of four. I will run a session with as few as three players assuming one of the absent members isn’t the center of a story arc at the time. If you cancel every time just one or two players can’t make it, you’re kind of punishing your regulars!
  3. Set an attendance example. You’re going to have a lot of responsibilities as the game master, but I think your biggest one is setting the example of commitment. If you’re the one calling off the game all the time, your players won’t become attached to it and they’ll take your lead on how seriously to take it. I try to only cancel if I’m simply too sick to play.

By doing the above, you make it easier for your adult players to organize their own lives to make space for the game. If you’re always changing your game night to try to avoid schedule conflicts, this creates more conflicts. By being consistent, you let people know that they should try to avoid scheduling things against the game and they can reliably schedule their life around it. By going forward even if you have a few absences, you let them know that they’re not really indispensable.

Admittedly, these suggestions aren’t as helpful if you have only a small number of people to play with, but they may still be somewhat helpful.

Also, you can do all of the above and still have schedule conflicts and cancellations. It can’t be avoided completely, as adult life is unpredictable. You can mitigate the chances of a schedule collages, and by following these tips, you may create a situation more conducive to consistent gaming.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Let me know in the comments!

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Role-playing Games and Me in 2019

One major aspect of my life that I neglected to mention in my round-up for the last year/decade was how much time I now spend playing role-playing games with my friends.

Since my neighbor taught me to play basic Dungeons & Dragons in first grade, I’ve been hooked on RPGs. Here and there in my life, I’ve gone long stretches without playing, and truthfully, I never felt completely myself in those periods. I got a lot of writing done, but writing fiction never quite satisfied me like Dungeon Mastering a great game with great people. It’s like writing, but with immediate feedback! It’s impossible to beat telling thrilling stories with great friends, and recently, I found my way back into the hobby in a big way.

(Quick aside – I’m not mentioning the names of my fifteen players to protect their privacy, but they should all know that I love them very much and enjoy torturing them monthly).

Two years ago, I launched my first online D&D game via the Roll20 service and video conferencing software (we currently use Whereby.com for that and it works mostly well). I recruited fellow fathers who I thought would understand the trials and tribulations of having kids muck up your schedule. I figured scheduling would be difficult, as it’s always been the biggest challenge with in-person tabletop games. As it turns out, if you start your games in the evenings and nobody has to leave their home, scheduling is much easier! Our “Tomb of Dads” group (so called because we started with the Tomb of Annihilation adventure) is well into our second campaign now. This new campaign is based on ideas I developed from our trip to France in 2018, and involves a fallen, forgotten empire in ruins and a new, strong Catholic-like church/empire.

With that group going so well, I thought hey, I want to get another group going, and it’d be a good idea if it wasn’t a total sausage fest. For that one, I pulled together a group of friends from college, including my wife and another female classmate. We recently wrapped up that first campaign about stopping a planes-eating giant machine and have been playing some one-shots in Tales From the Loop while we think about what campaign we want to play next. We’re absolutely adoring Tales as a great 80s-themed “kids on bikes” style game with weird high tech mysteries, all based on and inspired by the fantastic artwork of Simon Stålenhag. Simon is one of my favorite artists working today.

In 2019, I started a third group, with this one made up mostly of friends from the writing community. We decided to play the Dragon Heist module, and it has provided the ongoing framework for an campaign now that we’ve completed it. That crew takes owning the Trollskull Tavern very seriously and so far, all of their adventures seem to revolve around the tavern and tavern-related activities.

Each group is very different from the others in terms of personalities and play styles, so I really get to stretch my planning and plotting skills for them. Some take the “game” part more seriously, and some take the “role-play” part more seriously. I’m always looking forward to each session, and having so many means I can experiment with various ideas about how I can improve my GMing skills.

In between games, I experiment with new characters voices, new narrative techniques, and I’ve started tinkering with the rules to try to get the game more the way I want it to play. One change for me is that I’ve learned to let go of worrying about “game balance” and to feel comfortable in my own ability to work around whatever weird thing the players want to play. If the PCs want powerful characters, they have powerful enemies. No big deal, really. I used to worry about throwing off game balance all the time, but I’ve grown a lot more confident with so many opportunities to play. I used to be a “No” DM, but now I see myself more of a “Yes, and” DM.

Finally, late in the year, this Forever-DM got the opportunity to play in a regular game of Invisible Sun with a bunch of the Monte Cook Games folks in Kansas City. It’s refreshing to get to play again, and I love observing other GMs so I can steal their ideas for how to run a great game. I should probably look for more opportunities to play so I can continue to get more ideas for growth!

As far as feelings of contentment go, I think all this game time has contributed to my feelings of a full, rich life. I look forward to a lot more of it in 2020, and I’ll probably be blogging regularly as I work out my thoughts about how to keep improving my skills in this area. It’s a hobby, but one that I really enjoy being somewhat good at. Later, I will also blog about all my 3D printing efforts aimed at building a really lush tabletop experience.

So what about you? Are you getting to roll those bones regularly? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

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Ending a Decade with Gratitude

I end the 2010s in my early 40s with a newfound gratitude and contentment for my life. Sometimes that gratitude slips, yes. I learned recently that gratitude and contentment isn’t something you feel passively as a result of doing other things; it’s something that you must actively pursue. That was an important lesson for me. I wasn’t going to be satisfied with my life and what I had unless I wanted to be satisfied, and my twenties and thirties, I did not want to be satisfied. I was hungry for recognition, to be seen. By who? For what? Who the hell knows. It was an emptiness that only grew as I achieved some of what I thought I wanted, and found that it wasn’t fulfilling in the way that I had hoped.

Getting what I wanted didn’t bring contentment! What the hell? At first I thought maybe that meant I just didn’t know what I really wanted, so I spent some time trying to figure out what it was that I wanted, changed things up. Still I didn’t feel satisfied.

Feeling truly satisfied only came when I learned to feel a deeper appreciation for that which I already had. Acquiring new possessions and accomplishments weren’t the things that gave me that feeling I was craving; it was just actively practicing appreciation for my friends, family, and place in life. Looking at things with clear eyes, and realizing how wonderfully I had it–that did the trick. I wish I could have come to this realization earlier in my life, because feeling contentment like this would have saved me a lot of anxiety and stress earlier. But I just wasn’t ready.

The other thing that happened in the past decade is that I became a father. For most of my life, it wasn’t ever something I seriously considered. I think that overpopulation is a big threat to the ecosystems of the planet, and so since I was a teenager, I believed I would not have kids so as not to contribute to the problem. It was only through considering how great of a mother Sarah would be that I started to see how much I would miss out on if we didn’t have a child. We talked and talked about it and finally decided that we were likely ready for it, and our whole worlds changed. I honestly can hardly remember what my day-to-day life was like without the kid. And having Matty in my life has brought no small amount of contentment, love, and joy. So much joy, I never even expected!

I think my favorite thing about being a Dad is experiencing his joy through him. Watching him encounter and fall in love with things makes my heart ache with love for him and the world.

All that said, I know I’m not the best Dad. I have too much of a disciplinarian streak that comes from my own upbringing (I hear my own father’s words coming out of my mouth more than I would like), but I try to have patience and provide him everything he needs. I don’t work hard enough to be a role model for him, and I want to do better. I’m confident that I will learn to do better with time. He’s our first kid, and we’re his first parents. Nobody has a road map in this situation, really.

Next, I turn to the appreciation I have in my professional life. I’ve spent a decade building Clockpunk Studios out of thin air, but I didn’t do it alone–not even close. So many friends lended me their work and their recommendations even when I probably didn’t deserve it. My early clients are like extended family to me. When J.A. Pitts passed away unexpectedly this year, it was like losing a sibling. He and Jay Lake were two of the first writers to hire me to build them sites. Over the decade, I’ve welcomed nearly a hundred different clients into the fold at Clockpunk, and I hope to welcome a few hundred more. A decade in, and I feel like I’m just getting started, and finally comfortable in what I do.

I should mention that I don’t think I would have survived the decade at Clockpunk without the assistance of several people who have worked for me or with me in some capacity. Molly Tanzer stuck it out with me even after her writing career started to take off, and put up with my constant fears and anxieties in the early days. Orrin Grey came on board next and did a fantastic job writing some of the best blog content we’ve posted and I hope to get him back soon for that. Now I have Jenn Reese working as a regular designer, and she is saving my life, you guys. Her work is so beautiful and warm and I never get tired of seeing what she’s going to do next for our clients.

These people all mean the world to me, and I’m so grateful that they are my friends. Also, heading into 2020, Sarah will be doing more and more work for Clockpunk as an admin assistant. We are concocting all sorts of interesting ideas on what she can do to help our clients.

In its first decade, Clockpunk has grown so much. I am starting 2020 with projects booked all the way until May, which is the farthest I believe I’ve ever been booked out in a January. Again? Nothing but gratitude for this. I can’t even express how much.

As a writer, well, not to end on a sour note, but the break continues. That said, I started the decade only just beginning to make sales and end it having sold stories to nearly every major market I had set my eyes upon. I will admit that I put a single little writing goal on my goals for 2020. Maybe to write just one little story, just to grease the wheels and see what happens. Who knows! I’m excited to discover what happens in 2020 for me in that regard.

I still have a lot of personal growth to do, but it is very satisfying to look back on a decade’s worth of growth, and yes even a few accomplishments. I don’t feel like I’m done; in fact, I feel like I’ve just about finished stretching and am now ready for the real jogging to begin. The only thing I can be certain of right now is that no matter what happens, I will continue doing my best to practice gratitude for what I have. I am not a religious person, but I stand here, looking out at 2020 stretching ahead, and I feel so very blessed.

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It’s a new year! Time to bring back blogging.

Do you remember what the internet was like before Facebook and Twitter ruined changed it? I’ve been thinking a lot about it; I’ve distilled my thoughts into the following generalizations:

  • Longer form. Blogs and journals were our primary means of sharing our thoughts prior to social media, so people often took more time to develop those thoughts and opinions. Facebook and Twitter are engineered to make you post in shorter length with higher frequency. Blogging has always resembled more like the blank page in the typewriter and less like a tiny texting screen on your phone.
  • Meaningful interactions. Prior to the like button, the only way you could interact with someone else’s ideas was to post a comment. Interactions were more rare, but generally more meaningful and contributed to the discourse. Comments aren’t perfect; anyone who has ever scrolled too far on a YouTube video knows that. But comments are more meaningful than likes and reacts generally speaking.
  • More intimate. This one seems a bit paradoxical to me, but I felt like the era of blogging was more intimate that the era of social media. My thinking goes like this: before we developed a way to “live” performatively online, blogs only had journaling and diaries to draw on for a format, so the writing was more personal and raw. There was less of an emphasis on performing your life and more of an act of interrogating it. It was far riskier, but it’s almost like we didn’t know any better.
  • Less groupthink. Blogs weren’t connected to a vast network that made sharing its content 100x more rapid, so it was easier to find corner thinkers, people who came at ideas a little differently. Social media like Twitter especially moves very fast and outlier ideas very quickly are “corrected” by the mainstream through dragging and canceling. I’m not saying I want to read a bunch of racist bullshit, but the lack of nuance means some interesting ideas get strangled before they have time to be explored.

This is not exhaustive. There are definitely ways in which social media is superior to blogging (immediacy is good sometimes). You won’t see me abandoning my social media platforms despite the incessant bitching about them I’ve been known to engage in. They have their uses! But blogging has its uses too. I want to reconnect with my own ideas and my own words in my own space. I want to slow down. This is where I think I can do that best.

In 2020, I expect to blog often professionally and personally. I have some general ideas about how often that will be, but I don’t want to set up myself up for public failure. “Often” is all I will say. As always, feel free to comment below with your own thoughts. Happy New Year!

May we all get the change we deserve.

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