Searching For a Portrait of Myself


This week begins my first full week of summer vacation.  I cannot recall ever wanting to accomplish more than what I want to accomplish this summer.  There are so many explicit goals that I’ve lost track of all the different pieces of paper that I’ve written them on and the implicit goals that I want to achieve can only be attained if outside forces intervene.  I might as well be shackled to my computer so I can only get my writing done.  Life, it oftentimes seems, comes second to our immediate hopes and dreams.  Everything that is not an achievement in the short term is pushed aside because no one wants to think long term anymore.  I don’t like thinking long term, in fact it scares the bejesus out of me, but that doesn’t mean I tuck it away in a drawer somewhere and pretend like it doesn’t exist.  I casually ignore it as it stares me in the mirror each day.

Thoughts of my own aging damper my hopes and dreams as I begin to realize that I’m quickly losing time.  Why should it though?  I’m not different now than I was five years ago.  The only difference is that I’m committing my energy towards something constructive.  It’s what I look at as committing to a constructive lifestyle as opposed to a destructive lifestyle.  Freud had a theory (Freud had many theories, but this is the one that I buy) that man had a subliminal urge to destroy himself despite his best efforts to the contrary.  In Freud’s view, man was engaged in a perpetual struggle not against the world or some other existential threat, but against himself.  One side of us wants to see our dreams fulfilled while another side of us wants to see how we would react if our dreams were crushed.

My destructive lifestyle was formed more out of boredom than anything else.  I used to drink a lot, smoke a lot, and use a lot of drugs.  My attitude was: why not?  I no longer smoke and my alcohol use is carefully monitored, it would be helpful if I could smoke pot (it basically solves the problem of panic attacks) but I’m okay with not immersing myself in it.  I now have a greater sense of purpose when it comes to what I want to do with my life.  In short, I’ve looked at the outcomes that my behavior will produce more than the effect my behavior will have on me at the present time.  This is, quite simply, a choice between leading a constructive or destructive life.  I still engage in behavior that results in self-inflicted wounds, but I plan it out much better than I used to.  Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone’s not out to get you.

All of the thinking and philosophizing that I do takes a great mental toll on me.  I’ve got three books I’m going to finish by the end of the month.  I read a book called: Thinking Fast and Slow in the morning.  The book analyzes cognitive brain function and tries to come up with explanations as to why we make counter-intuitive choices and decisions.  It’s a fascinating book, almost as fascinating as the other psychological book I just finished reading The Power of Habit.  I recommend both books if you’re an intellectual or have the time and brain power required to really take these books in.  There are great lessons throughout and analyzing yourself can lead to some great realizations and it is these realizations that will wind up changing your life.  I read Madison & Jefferson later on in the day because I’m writing a TV show using these characters.  It’s interesting to see how they viewed individual problems and the choices that they made in order to enhance their way of life.

As my day begins to wind down I take a look at Indian Summer, which is my book.  It is, in many ways, my most prized possession.  It’s the greatest prose I’ll ever write and my emotional attachment to the book is probably doing more harm than good when it comes to finding a publisher.  When you have a product that you know will be in demand however, you have the right to state your terms and that is what I’m doing with Indian Summer.  I don’t enjoy the editing process, but editing this book is a little less painful than all the other editing I have to do.  I don’t mind moving stuff around or changing parts of stories to fit a larger narrative.  Everything about that book makes perfect sense to me.  I know exactly what I want to accomplish and how I want to accomplish it.  I know who my audience is and I want to speak to them as well as I possibly can.

All of this brings me to the voyage of self-discovery that I now find myself on.  I’m at one of those where do I go from here moments in life.  My friends suggest personal growth.  They think that I should get out more and do more things, get more involved with different people and experiences.  I can’t really argue with that.  The only question I have is: how?  My life revolves around my writing and my completion of a set of goals that I set for myself.  Going out, heck doing anything would require me to sacrifice some of my short term goals.  I’m not sure I’m ready for that.  The oddest suggestion that I got was that I should get a girlfriend because the biggest problem in my life is that I lack someone I can communicate freely and openly with.  I understand the logic behind this suggestion, but I’m at a point in my life where I can barely focus on me, how am I supposed to focus on another person as well?  It all boils down to what trade-offs we’re willing to make.

My original goals for this summer were three fold: finish editing Indian Summer, write the second season of Living History, and put together the first three episodes of Travelling Riverside Blues.  Pretty straight forward right?  I think I can still accomplish these goals, though it will require a great amount of discipline, but another goal that I had that I couldn’t do due to fiduciary restraints was travel.  Travel opens up my mind in ways that being in the same place simply cannot do.  I’ve always written best when I’ve travelled.  I used to write screenplays exclusively when I traveled.  Now, however money is an issue and it’s tough to travel with no budget.  Something got me thinking though and it came to me the other day.  I was talking to my mother and she said something that she’s said before but it seemed ominous in this context.  What she said was: “I’d love to give you everything you want in life, but I just can’t.”  I began to wonder if that statement was true, not because of some sort of hatred or dislike or anything of that nature but because we’re all self-interested.

If I would have spent my summer travelling I would have spent a considerable time away from home, that’s a given, but I don’t think that anyone trusts me to make basic decisions about my own livelihood and welfare.  I had three different plans laid out, all of which were very detailed and not nearly as expensive as one might expect, but I constantly hit a roadblock.  No one wanted me to do it.  The trade off with travel is that you’re spending my on an experience as opposed to some material object.  It is for that reason, I believe, that so few Americans travel as much as they’d like to.  They qualify their decisions by saying: “well, I’ve got to pay the bills.”  This is a conscious choice that we make.  We have made the decision that we care more about paying the bills than we do about improving our outlook on the world.  Someone once said that not travelling is like only seeing one part of the puzzle, you can’t put it together until you know the context.  That is a perfect metaphor for why we should spend more time travelling in America.  Most people lack experience in the business world because they lack experience in what most people consider to be the real world.

The real world doesn’t consist of the area you’ve spent your entire life living in.  The real world is a place where everything is different than you’re used to.  Traveling is something that requires us to step out of our comfort zone and work towards not only finishing the trip, but enjoying as much of it as possible.  This is incredibly useful knowledge that many of us are depriving ourselves of and we ought to do something about it.  Take the fiduciary issue aside and deal with the practical.  See if you get the same result when comparing what you want with what you have and I think nine times out of ten you’ll realize that what you want is something that is constantly beyond your reach.  We can live our lives constantly grasping for things or we can go out and blaze our own trail.  Why sit at home when there’s an entire world to explore?  Trade-offs be damned!

We don’t travel when we’re out of work because we don’t have the money and we don’t travel when we have a job because we don’t have the time.  That’s a classic paradox.  You’ve got to take time and money and invest them in yourself not someone else’s perceived idea of how those resources would be best used.  The world is out there just waiting to be explored, it’s too bad that so few of us understand that it doesn’t need to be this way.  By changing our priorities and our logic we can accomplish everything we want to do.  I can write my scripts and books on the road.  I can experience new things while also learning about myself in the process.  It’s the best possible opportunity available to me, but I can’t take it because of “money?”  That’s the worst excuse I’ve ever heard.  If you want to do something bad enough you’ll find a way and it’s only a matter of time before I find a way to travel and get my writing done at the same time.  These two things are just too important for me to push aside.

The worst part about my summer paradox is that I didn’t even push that hard for what I wanted because I knew that there was almost no chance that I would be allowed to do what I wanted to do.  Parents don’t want to see their kids leave regardless of the reason.  It’s only natural to protect those that are important to you, but at some point you have to ask yourself whether holding them back is designed to help them or help you.  We all make mistakes in life and what I’ve found is that there are some mistakes you can never truly come to grips with.  Sometimes we just do things that are wrong.  This is where Teddy Roosevelt’s great words add so much meaning to this context.  Roosevelt said that: “it is not having been in the dark house, but having left it that counts.”

I stayed in a bubble where I refused to make decisions for over five years and by the time I finally come up with a way to push myself and work towards improving myself in an incredibly meaningful way and I come across obstacles that could – at least in the long run – be dealt with rather effortlessly.  How hard is it to take out a credit card when you have perfect credit?  Our lives, for better or for worse, are defined by what we show up for.  My summer is going to be a disappointment because I didn’t do what my heart and brain told me to do, but the key to all of this is learning from this debacle and moving on in a productive way.  That last question is perhaps the hardest question to answer for what we want and what others want, both for themselves and for us, are often two different things.


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