How to Trick Yourself into Being More Social

Just like with New Year’s resolutions, it’s easy to come up with a plan of action in your head or on paper, but harder to actually accomplish the goals you set for yourself. Diligence, practice, time, and constant focus are the only ways to make your aspirations into achievements.

Many people struggle with the idea of being social. You could be an introvert, lazy, insecure, unmotivated, depressed, anxious, or a combination of all of the above, but the first step is knowing that you want to change and admitting that it’s a shortcoming.

Like any journey to self-improvement, you can’t climb the mountain in a day. Every effort you put into surrounding yourself with more positive people who will uplift you and round out portions of your personality or call you out on your blind spots is a worthy pursuit. Lay a single brick toward this end every single day.

Below you’ll find 5 easy ways to trick yourself into being more social and push you down the path to a sense of community and out of the isolation of this digitally connected, but emotionally disconnected world that we live in.

Buy Tickets Ahead of Time

Sometimes, I’ll see an event online or hear about it from friends and I’m really on-board to go. It sounds interesting, I like the group of people I’d be going with, and I have ambitions of showing up.

Then, the day arrives and I have a sudden need to be introverted, to bail. I have an extreme history of day-of bailing and it’s not something I’m particularly proud of.

One of the methods I’ve found works best in ensuring that I don’t miss out on things I actually want to do because of sudden changes of heart or a day of particular depression or anxiety is to buy the tickets ahead of time.

By committing money to social obligations instead of just delivering my intentions as lip service, I’m far more likely to actually show up to the event that I was planning on attending.

While it’s not 100% effective because I’ve still resorted to selling my tickets to friends or on StubHub if I’m really feeling a strong bail vibe, it has certainly improved the odds.

The only time I’m 100% committed is when it’s an event that someone else is paying for. I would never leave someone hanging with a bill on my account and it’s another solid way to ensure that I actually show up.

Listen to Music that Pumps You Up

Music has an incredible effect on a person’s life. When I’m in a bad mood, I tend to listen to very somber or very angry music. When I’m happy, I want something upbeat. In that way, it seems that your own current mood dictates your music choices.

Luckily, it works the other way too.

It’s a Friday or Saturday night and I’m laying on my couch calculating every possible excuse I can come up with to get out of going to something I’ve verbally committed to. I haven’t even started getting dressed yet and I’m sucked into some kind of mind numbing YouTube video about building a custom arcade cabinet.

I turn to my Alexa and beg her for some music. Suddenly, 90s dance hit “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJs comes on. The next thing I know, I’m throwing on a pair of jeans and a Hawaiian shirt, taking a few sips of bourbon and getting ready to leave.

Music has a positive effect on my mood and also motivates me. It’s the soundtrack to your life and allows your mind to picture scenarios that you may be ignoring. It takes you on a nostalgic journey to previous nights out on the town where you were glad you didn’t hole yourself up inside playing Super Nintendo.

Watch Instagram Stories

While social media can often be an incredible gaslighter in terms of instilling jealousy, insecurity, and depression about your own situation versus that of others, it can also be a motivating force.

Sometimes, on nights where I’m feeling particularly anti-social when I know I shouldn’t be, I’ll pull up some Instagram stories of my friends or acquaintances to see what they’re up to.

Often times, the simple experience of watching other people have a good time at a bar, club, party, traveling, or on any other myriad of fun adventures is enough to push me over the edge.

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, can be a powerful motivating force for people who need to get over the hump of their social anxiety and standoffish tendencies.

Take a moment to step back and think in your head if you’d be more mentally satisfied being alone at home wallowing or out meeting people, seeing friends, or experiencing new things that will push you to grow and have fun.

Commit to Talk to Strangers More Often

As scary as it is to spark up conversations with people you don’t know at all, it’s a really nice exercise in gaining self-confidence and feeling comfortable approaching someone new.

Even if it’s just a cashier, a waitress, someone next you on the train, make the effort to comment on something, smile, or say hello if it looks like it might be welcomed.

Judge their body language and receptiveness and if the opportunity comes up to comment on something or ask a question, do so. Compliment them, ask them something specific, or just make a funny comment. Just don’t comment on the weather because that is the most cliche and asinine topic of conversation in human history.

Part of the confidence of conversation is looking approachable yourself as well. Smile or at least look neutral and somewhat friendly, speak clearly and with conviction, and have an opinion. There’s nothing more boring than someone who agrees with everything you say.

If you’re out at a bar or club or live event alone and there are other people standing around alone, talk to them. You never know where this kind of interaction could lead. I’ve made some really good friends just inserting myself in a non-threatening, non-overbearing way into random conversations out in the world.

The feedback and validation you get from making an active effort to put yourself out there can be a motivating force in making you want to be social more often. Even bad attention or negative experiences are something to learn from and you can find a way to cope with rejection and keep trying until you find groups of people you jive with or have mutual interests with.

Find a Community-Based Hobby

If you’re looking for either friends or romantic partners, the bar isn’t always the best place to start. The quality of individuals you meet there can vary widely and there’s no guarantee that you’ll have anything in common. Sparking a conversation while inebriated is easier, but you both may forget important tidbits of conversation the next day.

A better place to start is definitely finding a hobby that is based on a community. There are things like local sports leagues, trivia nights, crafts clubs, hiking clubs, book clubs, or basically anything where a common interest leads to a group of people hanging out.

Your interests may range from Super Nintendo to BDSM (or maybe that’s just me), but it’s guaranteed there’s a group out there who wants to talk about it and do things together.

I find it easier to want to do something if you know that everyone there has a similar frame of mind to your own. You won’t feel like an outcast. Alienation is alleviated when surrounded by folks who you preemptively know share at least some of your interests.

What is the Curse of Competence?

Do you feel as if you’re always the one doing your work properly, accurately, and efficiently?

Are you constantly bugged by the people around you weighing you down with their laziness, apathy, deceit, or ignorance?

You may be suffering from the workplace ailment known as the curse of competence.

It’s like the smart kid in high school who is always getting amazing grades on papers and tests. Once your peers are aware of your skillset, the favors come piling in.

Sure, it doesn’t hurt you personally if they copy your homework or cheat off of your test as you dangle the scantron over the side of your desk as nonchalantly as you can muster, but it feels dirty.

When you’re good at what you do, there is always someone itching to glean from your successes and pass them off as their own.

In the workplace, this is even more apparent. If, during your first three months (the requisite probation period for any job), you’re someone who keeps their head down, keeps quiet, and gets all of your work done to some level of excellence, you will be noticed.

The greedy, managerial overlords will take notice of your achievements and the fact that you never have to be told what to do next. Instead of asking your superiors for direction, you dig in with a shovel and get to figuring out the issues, causes, and solutions all on your own. You are the model employee.

The problem with this recognition is now you’re seen as the workhorse. Whatever job you do and do well is the job that you’ll always be expected to complete with increasing speed and decreasing errors. If an opportunity arises for a new role in your current department or a change of scenery in another department, you’ll be told that you need to stay put.

How could anyone else do your job as well as you’re doing it? What would they do without you?

The unfairness of the situation makes you seethe. You’re angry, and rightfully so, and if you’re anything like me you adopt a teenage sense of pride that turns up the volume on the little voice in your head telling you “they can go fuck themselves, so let’s just phone it in and see how they deal with it.” You start pushing limits. You get resentful.

The curse of competence has taken hold of you fully now and your work and attitude will suffer because of it.

If you’re a person who completes tasks and doesn’t shy away from them and you get them done in a reasonable amount of time with some degree of quality, then you will become that go-to person.

If someone else fucks something up, they know you’ll be there to fix it. If another department can’t learn anything new, you’ll be expected to spoon feed the information around every turn.

You can handle 4 accounts while your other teammates can only handle 1 or 2? How about 5? 6? The sky’s the limit when you’re seen as someone who can get shit done and not complain about it. They know they have a mighty strong cog in the wheel and no amount of pressure is going to make you crack.

Work continuously lands at your feet not because it challenges you, interests you, or helps you grow as a person or within your career, but because you’re trusted to handle everything without fucking it up.

There’s no reason for managers, directors, and higher ups to trust anyone else and risk disaster when they know that throwing more on your plate doesn’t decrease their output.

While you may be drowning, working long hours, and planning an escape route, your bosses are thrilled that they can pay a single salary to get the work of 3 or more people.

The first thing to note, however, is that competence is definitely not a bad thing, especially at the surface. It means you’re intelligent and adept and people can rely on you without questioning their decisions. This is invaluable as an employee.

However, do not let this situation get the best of you. Tactfully find a way to escape your situation in the most professional way possible. As clichéd as this idiom has become, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The best way to find solutions in the workplace is to communicate with your manager instead of boiling in silent rage.

Explain how unfair it is that, although you have no problem helping out as much as humanly possible, you’d like to grow as an employee and utilize some of your other skills outside the confines of the ones you’ve mastered. If you’re a great worker, they’ll want to keep you and make you happy with growth and knowledge opportunities.

The trust your manager puts in you should go both ways and they should be happy to enact changes that make you feel better about your role and your acknowledgement. They will fear losing you. You’re not easily replaced.

Speak up, be flattered, and find a way to make your competence work for you without letting it dominate you.

Why I Don’t Want to Grow Up

“If submitting to the expectations of our surroundings means growing up, I’ll try wholeheartedly to refuse.”

– Satanic Surfers “What Ever”

As a 31-year-old man who has more toys in his office than Joey Gladstone on Full House, I know a thing or two about fighting the urge to grow up.

People make fun of me for my love of the Disney store, Ninja Turtles, my Super Nintendo collection, and my obsessively robust knowledge about 90s pop culture, but these frivolous things make me happy.

I’ve had so many people in my life tell me that I seem so laid back and content and that I bring a pretty positive aura with me wherever I go. I laugh often and I’m sentimental about people and things. I find so much to love about life and existence that I want to be a keystone of peaceful living where possible.

If that makes me a man-child or delusional or all of the psychological profiles of someone clinging to their childhood, then so be it.

Here are my reasons why it’s not such a bad thing to be in touch with your inner child.

Dreams are Precious

The moment your life ceases having ambition it also ceases having meaning.

You should always hang on to your goals and your dreams and your visions of an ideal future.

Growing up means favoring practicality over whimsy, and I don’t subscribe to that tired notion.

The Death of Imagination

Just like dreaming, creativity is a wholly human device. Part of the joy of living comes from inventing things that express your innermost personality.

Children have wild imaginations and adults tend to stay grounded. This is the burden of responsibility.

I insist that there should be no end to imagination. Progressive, obscure, and otherworldly thoughts should always be nurtured.

A Disdain For Convention

Convention is the death of individuality. Your life path should only parallel another’s if that’s what makes you feel whole and happy.

Too many of us judge our own happiness beside the roads most people travel, but this is an errant philosophy.

Don’t worry about the milestones you hit and when. They should occur naturally. It’s part of life whether you’re a child or an adult.

Most of my life is spent defying convention in the face of scrutiny. Fuck you if you impede someone else’s happiness.

I’m comforted in the fact that I’m free to do as I please.

Love me or hate me, I will always be me.

Maintaining Spontaneity

Like convention, routine harms humanity to its core. Children aren’t afraid of doing the wrong thing or trying something new.

It’s somewhat hypocritical to make this claim as a person who lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder. My comfort thrives with the simplicity of unwavering routine.

I’ve found that defying my safe routines, however, inspires confidence and builds growth from within.

Like my cross country living experiences and lone social adventures, escaping the ordinary gives you limitless opportunities to make yourself better.

A Reawakening of Fun

I marvel at how carefree and jovial a child can be in even the most mundane of scenarios. They never stop finding ways to stay occupied and have fun.

I’m envious of the days I could sit on the floor of my bedroom for hours, whiling the time away building out intricate story lines for all of my action figures.

It’s so wonderful to find time in your life to play.

These days, it comes in the form of drunken dancing or the few sweet hours a week I get to do goofy crafts with loved ones or play video games, but the need is fulfilled.

Staying Young at Heart

As I’ve experienced much death and deterioration in recent months with my 2 surviving grandparents either extremely frail or now having passed on, I have renewed interest in the idea of staying young at heart.

They both loved long, full lives and got the chance to raise successful children, travel, and be around people who loved them.

These joys are often forgotten in the adult world because of responsibilities, money trouble, and career stresses.

I choose to and implore you to choose to make a concerted effort to not let the woes of your life get you down. Find some time to be free of worry and full of life.

Take that road trip. Go grab a 3am pizza slice. Swing on the monkey bars. Do whatever it takes to feel young again.

There’s too many people I know in their 30s who act like their life is a cookie cutter record on repeat.

Your life is not over. It’s only just begun.

Don’t lose that zest for life that you once had. Don’t let the time slip away. You never know what could happen tomorrow.

Food Donations in Exchange for Overdue Library Book Fines

Library late fees have always been a reality of checking out books or other media. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in a book that you forget to return it, while other times it’s stuffed in a schoolbag or under a couch cushion and you don’t even know that you have it. Before, these fines could add up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars over a long enough period of time. It reminds me of the “Bookman” episode of Seinfeld. However, I recently came across this MSN article that sparked an interesting new way of looking at library fines: Food for Fines: Libraries Across the Country Will Let You Pay Overdue Fees With Donated Food.

“For a limited time this month, libraries across the country will be accepting an alternative form of payment from patrons with overdue books.

Bring pantry goods into a library with a Food for Fines program and you can pay your fines without further opening your wallet. Libraries will donate any unopened, nonperishable foods they collect to local food banks, and they typically waive $1 worth of fines per item. Some libraries even accept pet food to give to animal shelters in their area.”

This is a fantastic idea. Instead of only serving to donate money directly to the library to pay for your past due items, you’re instead helping members of the community. That seems like the ethos of libraries in general. They exist as information warehouses where the general public, with or without the financial means, can stay well-read, use computers, engage in free activities, rent movies, and better themselves without incurring cost.

It only makes sense that, instead of punishing people’s wallets directly, force them to empty out their pantries and donate directly to helping alleviate at least a portion of the hunger in their own community.

The article also states:

“In addition to providing food to communities, Food for Fines programs can get people to rethink traditional library late fees. Many libraries are moving away from fines all together in an effort to make their services more accessible to low-income families. At Los Angeles County public libraries, anyone under 21 can clear their late fee balance by reading more books.”

Again, this goes back to the idea of public spaces for information and culture and their ultimate goal–improving the lives of people in the community. Doing away with late fees entirely or finding alternative ways to wipe them clean are fantastic efforts to inspire positive change without further negatively impacting the economically under-privileged.

The Philosopher’s Notebook: Writing Prompt #001

Recently, I stopped inside of a local Barnes & Noble near my workplace to grab an overpriced cold brew from Starbucks. Whenever I’m in one of these book stores, as rare as they are nowadays, I’ll always take at least 5 minutes to page through some of the clearance books.

After gliding over a few of the cooking and self-help books looking for anything that struck me as interesting, I was drawn to a particular publication that caught my eye instantly. Laying prominently on the third shelf up in front of me, I found a copy of “The Philosopher’s Notebook: A Creative Journal for Thinkers and Philosophers.”

Within, there are several sections of profiles of philosophers with a “for dummies” guide to their larger arguments, viewpoints, and assertions. After each section there are multiple writing prompt questions that are designed to make you consider the questions being asked and how you would answer and defend your point.

Being a lifetime lover of philosophy and asking questions about the world around me, I have decided to start a series of writing prompts from this book and detail my own personal feelings about the open-ended inquiries presented.

While I’m quite familiar with almost all of these philosophers and their ideas, it’s always important to take it back to basics when examining one’s life and purpose. You never know how your ideas may have shifted over time and these are ideas that you should always be considering.

“According to Socrates, virtue derives from the ability to think for oneself. Take a look at the following philosophical queries and write down your responses. These questions resurface in various guides throughout the book. As you work through this book, you might want to revisit your thoughts here to see if (or by how much) your perspective has changed.”

Can humans ever experience the world objectively?

It’s important to account for the dictionary definition of the word before answering the question. The textbook definition of “objective” is “not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased.” Utilizing this definition, I believe there is a part of human life that can be experienced objectively.

The obvious case is that of a baby, born freshly and brought gently into the world. During the point at which the first cognizant thoughts are formed, you are experiencing the world objectively. You’re born with no preconceived feelings or prejudice other than the need for survival necessities like air, water, and food. Everything you see is absorbed like a bathroom rug and your thoughts and feelings are formulated thereafter. Your cultural mores are discovered, your language is formed, your relational interpretation of the world into discernible thoughts has begun. From then on, your world shifts from wholly objective to purely subjective. You become an individual, but you are not born that way.

What happens to us after we die?

As people are probably tired of hearing me declare, I am an atheist. It’s not a means by which I hold my intellect about others and it is free of judgement, as long as the tenets of other religions and ways of thinking don’t impede on mine or my loved ones’ existence. It’s just always been a part of who I am, from my earliest memories being raised in a Catholic household. I was the kid who couldn’t swallow anything that was uttered in mass. I was sitting backwards on the kneeling pads using the pew as a desktop and doodling or playing with action figures. After all these years, at 31, my parents finally accept that this was not something I was doing for attention or to be rebellious, but that is truly how I feel inside. This needed to be said before addressing the idea of death and any sort of “existence” afterward.

I believe that we are born, we grow old, we get sick, and we die. Like any sound Buddhist, I have accepted these realities and am perfectly okay with them. To borrow from many who have said it before me, namely Neil Degrasse-Tyson, I find it more incredible that life has existed and flourished in the face of such cosmic apathy. So much of the world and universe could kill us and most life instantly, but life finds a way to survive. We are made of the same elements of life and matter as existed during the “Big Bang.”

To me, nothing happens after we die. Much like the time before we were born, it is not an experience that can be described. Nothing is just that: no thing. It’s not blackness or good or bad or apathetic. It is simply no thing. To me, that is incredibly comforting. There is no better idea of “final peace” or “final resting place” than the absence of all things. The whole heaven/hell/limbo things seems like so much drama and such a hassle. I’d rather just dissipate and not exist at all. I’m totally okay with that.

How free are we?

Much like the baby I mentioned earlier in this line of questioning, we are completely free from birth outside of the confines of our physical barriers and survival necessities. No, an infant is not free to buy a house and drive a car and stay out until 3am because they’re not able to walk, talk, or think in sophisticated enough terms to do any of those things. However, there’s no intrinsic law saying that they can’t, should these barriers be lifted.

Outside of our inherent mammalian desires to eat, drink, fuck and procreate, we are completely free to think how we want. Our biology definitely has influence, though. Our DNA always wants to replicate. Our organs require certain minerals, energy, and water to function correctively. These will have influence on our thoughts, but the end decision is still up to us.

Societally, no we’re not free. There are laws and records and ways in which the people who have the most power and influence over this particular reality control things. You can’t just do whatever you want without consequence. You can do whatever you want, truly, but there will be consequences and obstacles that are above your pay grade. Our freedom and our reality are dependent upon the people who hold the most power.

Does life have meaning?

In my lifetime, I’ve yet to find a better quote than this one from the “Wonders of the Universe” TV series by Brian Cox that sums up my ideas about the meaning of life so succinctly:

“Just as we and all life on earth stand on this tiny speck adrift in infinite space, so life in the universe will only exist for a fleeting, bright instant in time because life, just like the stars, planets, and galaxies, is just a temporary structure on the long road from order to disorder, but that doesn’t make us insignificant because we are the cosmos made conscious. Life is the means by which the universe understands itself.”

The idea that life has found a way through all of this chaos and danger is a meaning in and of itself. Life is significant because it exists and it continues to exist. Even in the darkest, most inhospitable corners of the earth, life finds a way. However fleeting and transient the timelines of our lives exist in the grand scheme of things, the experience is relative. The days feel long and the minutes wash over us, but we are alive and conscious and this is a precious, arbitrary gift from an unknown source.

From a semantic standpoint, also, of course life has meaning. Anything can have meaning. Meaning is dependent on the being appending meaning rather than the object itself. I could say that a feather falling from the sky onto my head is divine providence and tether that meaning to that object, so too can human beings attach whatever meaning they desire to their own lives. That is the privilege of self-awareness.

Is the universe intelligible?

There is a difference between “intelligible” and “solvable.” Of course the universe is intelligible. It is able to be understood in some capacity. The study of physics and astrophysics alone are examples of humanity’s successes as far as comprehending some small part of the universe. Essentially, any scientific trajectory is a small piece of understanding of the world around us. There are mathematical consistencies in some parts of nature. There are reappearing designs and structures. There are laws of movement and chemistry and biology that are able to be recreated in laboratory settings. There are some organized data sets. Yes, the universe in intelligible.

Solvable, though? Hell, no. Just like there will never be a “largest number” or “smallest element of matter,” there can never be a Rosetta Stone for the universe that just unlocks and solves all of its intricacies. There are infinite moving parts. There are infinite unknowns. For every bit of information we discover, there is an exponentially larger amount of information that we do not understand or have not even come across yet.

In the future, who’s to say that our laws of physics will not be challenged? What if there are additional elements or states of matter that have yet to be discovered? Science is self-correcting and its existence and continued truths are dependent upon pencils having erasers. The pursuit of knowledge and understand of the world around us is a fundamental part of human existence, but there will never be an end to this as long as humankind propagates.

Is there a god?

I’m going to sound like a bit of a hypocrite, but even as an atheist I cannot possibly rule out with certainty the existence of a god. I do not personally believe in any of the cultural gods that humankind has proposed thus far, but I do believe in modal realities. I think anything is possible. I think human perspective is incredibly limited to our biological structure. There could be dimensions of energy and things beyond our scope of sight that exist all around us. There could be a creator being that is able to manifest energy from nothing and experience time on a nonlinear path. I’m not saying it does or does not exist, but it could.

I don’t call myself agnostic, however, because I feel it is important for the progression of human thought to take a stand. Any argument that has a binary answer, someone could just say “I’m not sure.” I think this is a weak position to take and humanity needs the strong sides of the argument to find newer, valuable thoughts and ideas.

Again, this where the hypocrisy comes in. I label myself an atheist, but my lack of conviction about the existence of a god aligns more with an agnostic way of thinking. Call the cops, motherfucker.

Feel free to leave any comments or send your personal thoughts via email. I love civil discourse.

Why Art is an Essential Element of Human Life

“The Purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

Pablo Picasso

Creation is at the core of the human experience. By the time we’re old enough to recognize ourselves in a mirror, we’re expected to begin crafting an identity. We’re constantly forming sounds, words, phrases, likes, dislikes, symbolic representations of our emotions, and imbibing and regurgitating our understanding of the world around us. Thus is the core of art.

Collective Experience

Art is all about letting your deepest emotions present themselves in a way that throws up a digestible signal to people who are attuned to it. It’s sharing.

The best art in the world is seen as such because it’s relatable. Whether you’re watching a film, reading a book, listening to a song, or staring at a picture in an art gallery, the voice that you’re trying to hear is the artist’s. You’re only able to read and pick up on the signals because of the universality of the message being conveyed.

As much as we like to pretend we’re such vastly different people, we all go through many of the same challenges and doubts and experiences. Like any good character study, however, it’s how we deal with these situations and persist as living creatures that defines who we are. I’m not saying the serial killer is equivalent to the selfless volunteer, but they’ve all walked over some of the same crossroads.

It’s these intersecting paths and common perceptions that form the basis of art. Whether grotesque or beautiful in the popular eye, different things look different ways to different people. This is the crux of why art is so important to life. It allows you to find a shared voice among all the chaos.

The Whimsy of Amusement

“People had been working for so many years to make the world a safe, organized place. Nobody realized how boring it would become. With the whole world property-lined and speed-limited and zoned and taxed and regulated, with everyone tested and registered and addressed and recorded. Nobody had left much room for adventure, except maybe the kind you could buy. On a roller coaster. At a movie. Still, it would always be that kind of faux excitement. You know the dinosaurs aren’t going to eat the kids. The test audiences have outvoted any chance of even a major faux disaster. And because there’s no possibility of real disaster, real risk, we’re left with no chance for real salvation. Real elation. Real excitement. Joy. Discovery. Invention.   The laws that keep us safe, these same laws condemn us to boredom.”

Chuck Pahlaniuk, Choke

Many practical people will say that art is a frivolous thing, but I would have to disagree. Sure, we’re living in a society as fat, first world Americans in which we have the luxury of philosophizing. Those of us who never go without food on the table or lights when it’s dark outside don’t have to worry about how we’re getting our next meal or providing the basic necessities of live. This glib outlook only further punctuates the need for art in everyday life. It’s an escape.

The mundane nature of the middle class lifestyle is a constant merry-go-round of bemusement, boredom, sadness, happiness, joy, excitement, and back to boredom. It’s a long, even keel marked by seldom moments of happiness. As honest as I can stomach it, the moments in which I’m expressing myself and creating something unique are the moments where I feel most at ease.

When you feel that spark of inspiration that crawls behind your eyes and allows you to spew out a colorful array of thoughts that you always believed you couldn’t translate, it feels good. Every human is a creator by nature and everyone can pinpoint a time in their life where they felt such a moment of clarity. It’s like a breath of fresh air that overtakes your senses and gives you a few, brief, shining moments of extreme honesty and cleanliness of thought. Your swirling thought loops pause for a moment and marvel at something that you simply must say, for the good of your being. It could be a drawing, a melody, or a poem, but it falls out of you like liquid from a leaky valve and there’s no greater feeling.

Like reading a great book, art allows you to walk away from the dullness of life for a little while. It gives that little extra umami to your average taste of life. It’s everything you need when you’re feeling particularly down or particularly up. Art lets us imagine what could be instead of settling for what is.

Justification for Existence

Consciousness is a tricky nut to crack. Outside of physiological processes, there’s still no concrete answer as to why it’s evolutionarily superior to exist with self-awareness than without it. Our brain exists as a relational database for this reason. We’re always looking for ways to process the world around us, store that knowledge, and use earlier comparisons to quantify and qualify that stored knowledge. Art negotiates values between us and the world.

Two of the most misunderstood aspects of life are love and death. When you try to put either of them into simplistic words, they don’t carry enough weight. Straightforward language does little to encapsulate the incalculable mass of these two concepts. Love is almost cosmic and otherworldly while death is life’s greatest mystery. We all arrive at the same place, but we have no idea where that leaves us. Without art, we couldn’t even begin to touch on understanding the emotion behind these things.

Art is the tangible medium by which we, as humans, explore and search for an answer to our very existence. Why do we choose to proliferate? It’s these value judgements based on beauty and understand and purpose that guide us. Art is behind so many of these motivations.


Creating any form of art is also the only time, as sentient beings, that we’re truly free. Plucking a thought from your head and displaying it in any fashion you see fit is an act of rebellion. You’re taking your inner monologue that is constantly hidden in plain sight and reproducing its contents to put on display. Whether it’s shared with a handful of friends or an entire generation of people, the fact that you broke down the fourth wall that separates you from others is courageous.

Art is the free expression of the human mind and senses. These expressions are not beholden to any kind of utility, but rather they exist for their own sake.  It is a reflection of our innermost humanity.

However, it also exists as a tragic burden. The ever-growing distance between our most idealistic self and its actualization, that infinite universe between raw data and metaphors. We, as animals, struggle each moment to close that chasm, knowing its futility.

Art, in the plainest terms, does not matter. We, as peons milling around a blue sphere, do not matter. That’s what makes both art and life so beautiful: they exist without needing to.

Just like those indescribable ideas of love and death, we cannot live without it.

You Can’t Be Liked by Everyone

It’s human nature to need to be wanted, praised, thought about, and validated by everyone. Unfortunately, this sentiment is an impossible expectation that leads to multitudes of frustration, sadness, and insecurity.

Anecdotally, it’s not hard to believe that I, a perpetually overweight and formerly extremely overweight guy who has struggled long-term with clinical depression, have a deep and continual awareness of insecurity. I was the guy writing poems and telling every girl who gave me a second glance or a pity smile that I was into her.

All of us have talents, passions, and unique aspects of our personality and physical form that are worthy of admiration from onlookers, but after every compliment we get, our focus immediately shifts to obsessing about each person who isn’t fond of, drawn to, understanding toward, or envious of us. How do we, as humans, deal with this kind of pressure? We serve the interests of others and forever walk on seas of eggshells in the hopes of universal acceptance as social creatures.

This loss of self starts with personality mirroring, fake laughs, and forced smiles and leads to lying about our hobbies, feigning our likes/dislikes, betraying who we are, forgetting what we believe, and even going as far as succumbing to complete loss of identity by matching our clothes and behavior exclusively to the expectations of others.

This practice of devoting oneself to pleasing others is unhealthy and emotionally disastrous, though, and I speak from lifelong experience.

I’ve always had a constant and nagging part of me that seeks continual attention and praise lavished upon my person. I want your incessant Snapchat messages, DMs on Instagram, texts that you’re thinking about me, calls, stops by my desk. I don’t as much need praise or compliments as I do the social validation of being thought about and included.

Typically, the quest for validation is due to lingering self-doubt. I don’t particularly doubt myself, my worth, my abilities, or my intelligence, but socially I want to be envied and included and wanted by everyone I meet. I want people to crave my company. I want them to think about me every day. It’s the most vain, pointless form of validation thirst.

By allowing the need for external validation to craft your ways of thinking and acting, you never really take the time to get to know yourself. Your 24/7 obsession with cramming yourself into a mold forged by other people cuts off your ability to explore perspectives, activities, lifestyles, hobbies, beliefs, careers, love interests, and pursuits that could be necessary keys to your personal satisfaction, happiness, and sense of purpose.

It’s not worth trading your wishes, dreams, or wildest ambitions for the sake of avoiding judgment. Appeasement is the death of self.

It’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more we worry about pleasing people in platonic and romantic relationships, the more likely the relationships are to fail miserably.

Your internal desperation has an outward appearance and most people avoid easy conquests, clingers, and the baggage of overly needy friends/lovers. This neediness has jeopardized and ultimately ruined more platonic and romantic relationships in my life than I care to admit. I wasn’t being me. I was obsessing over the comfort of endlessly being told that things are perfect and everything I said or did was well-received. In doing so, I lost people I cared about by being so unstable and possessive.

Just like the fact that we’ll all be dead someday, humankind needs to accept that, despite our forced utterances and actions of appeasement, there will always be people who dislike, are apathetic toward, or hate us and this is fundamentally okay.

When have you ever heard of a genius inventor, philosopher, scientist, writer, artist, or public figure who achieved great things and was also simultaneously adored by everyone? It has never happened.

People who hate you to your core or don’t care about you are much better used as motivation, ignored noise, or welcomed obstacles that lead to personal growth instead of justification for self-abuse.

Just like when I was at my fattest, the niceness of not being instantly liked is that the people you are closest to are true friends and lovers. They’re not just there because you’re a physically attractive, affable, fake, “yes” person.

The more you embrace your inner unique freak, the more you get to understand, appreciate, and accept yourself. Self-validation is one of the hardest, but also one of the most rewarding pursuits in human life. Love yourself first, always, and the rest tends to fall into place.

However, this is not to say that everyone is perfect and should be devoid of criticism. If you’re racist, sexist, homophobic, rude, entitled, unchanging, stupid, a Trump voter, or any other example of an unflattering adjective of a person, you should accept some criticism for these faults. The key is to be honest with yourself. If a criticism is valid, accept the reality and try to change for the better. If criticism received is examined and you find it false, dismiss it as noise and don’t let it shake up your world or cause you to hurt yourself emotionally.

The best ways to achieve this state of consciousness are simple in definition but exceedingly complex and difficult in execution.

The keys to self-validation are:

  1. Be true to yourself and your convictions.
  2. Be honest with yourself and others.
  3. Communicate frequently and openly.
  4. Take personal responsibility.
  5. Never give up on growing.
  6. Take social risks for the purposes of self-discovery.
  7. Own all positive aspects of yourself as equally as you own your faults and imperfections.

In the end, paying any mind to the instilled guilt, judgment, appreciation, or validation of others will never be as satisfying as following your own feelings.