And One Fine Morning—–

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I don’t know if there’s a God. Whether there’s some Almighty Creator looking down on me from the sky, judging me, deciding that if I do this one bad thing, I’m going to get punished for it…I don’t know about that. I do, however, firmly believe in Karma (or something like it, anyway). The difference for me is very important. God is a figure we’ve created to help us deal with our inward anxieties: forgiveness, morality, hurt and pain. It’s easier to believe that we aren’t responsible for the things we put out into the world. It seems to me, that to be an agent of God means that your actions are not your own. You move through the world doing things because it’s all part of some bigger plan. If you have a moral misstep, it’s God we have to own up to first, then ourselves, then the one who has been wronged. That order feels so wrong to me, but it’s simply what I’ve observed.

Karma works a little differently. Karma for me is like Newton’s third law of motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Life for me isn’t about pleasing a deity in the sky, nor is it about believing that everything happens for a reason. Life is about balance. My personal goal (and one that I think everyone should inherit) is to make up for all the bad things in the world by putting more good into it. Really, when it comes down to it, you have to remember that just as sure as there will be morning, there will also be night. Bad things are going to happen, you’re going to make mistakes, and not everything is going to go your way. But there will be good things too, and that has to come from you. You can approach a tough situation by dwelling on how bad it is, or you can fight it and do something positive in exchange. The human condition is so strange, because we are all capable of good and bad things, but it’s ultimately what thoughts we act on and what good or bad we put out into the world that makes a difference.

(I can see why God might feel necessary for some, and I don’t discredit anyone’s experience with spirituality, because that’s extremely personal. But I don’t think it works for me. I’ve often observed friends, family, and strangers, praying to God for strength to make it through hardship [e.g "God please give me the strength to carry on"], but when I’ve prayed this way, what I’ve ultimately found is that the strength I need is already inside me. God didn’t reach into my conscious mind, find that small courageous blerb I need, and push it to the forefront of my mind. No, I did that. I found it inside me because it is simply instinctual. Since the dawn of time, we understand that obstacles must be overcome in order to survive, in the same way we don’t decide to have sexual desires. We just get turned on and want to have sex because our animalistic instincts subconsciously remind us we need to procreate to bring new life into the world, and keep our species alive. It’s all survival of the fittest.)

Anyway, life has done me dirty for most of the year. I was broken up with at an impossibly strenuous time of year and forgot to take advantage of my final semester at school. I got hired at an internship which both took advantage of me and totally dismantled my drive for a career in entertainment. I was jobless for about four months and as a result, my empty bank account made it difficult for me to maintain and build on certain friendships. I struggled to apply for grad schools (again), collecting additional materials, overcoming self doubt, and digging deep to write several several several drafts of personal essays to prove I am a worthy student/human being. I also learned a week or so ago that my hero and favorite professor Kenneth Speirs, passed away from a heart attack.

My heart still hurts from the immediacy of his death, but I take comfort in remembering his life. He was a one of a kind man- someone who believed in the goodness of people and seemed to draw the best out of every student. He taught me many things but there are two moments with him that really stick out in my mind as extremely powerful and remarkable. I once caught him after class, excited to discuss “As I Lay Dying” with him. I remember telling him how much I hated the book while I was reading it, but taking a step back, it was the excitement I got from hating it so much that actually made me love it. His response was something vague, referential, and wise (as his language usually was). Something like “Ah, that’s so good. That’s great– and you should really experience that hatred. I’m glad you’re using your experience as a means to get you somewhere bigger. You know, I’m someone who actually doesn’t enjoy answers. I really like questions. I like the discomfort in searching for something. Searching doesn’t always have to make sense, you know? Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re looking for. And you don’t always have to be right, but pushing in certain places, and asking questions, and struggling is really where you learn the most from a novel…and life too I think.” An elaborated version of the expression “It’s about the journey, not the destination”. But I’ll always remember that and aspire to take comfort in the uncomfortable as Kenneth did. It’s so important, I think, to remember the value in making the most out of a bad situation. Balance, balance, balance. That’s what it’s all about.

The other moment that comes to mind, was in a friendly email, just to check in and say hi after graduation. Part of me will regret not responding to his last email. His parting advice to me was “Keep going; be more, much more, of who you are and always play your game with dogged stubbornness.  You know but don’t forget.” Looking back at his wisdom reminds me so much of the final words of “The Great Gatsby”, the first book our class read under his instruction.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——”

And one fine morning, we will pass as all things do… as Gatsby did. As Kenneth did. But what do we do before that happens? We stretch ourselves, we run faster, we push, we search, we love, we create, we keep going and become more, much more, of who we are. Why? So that when life, oh so fragile, finally cracks and crumbles in our full embrace, we leave something good in our wake.

Move, and take all your angels and demons with you. Every step forward is a lesson. Make the most of it, even when you trip.

Forget about God for a bit. Don’t be so dependent on him. Create your own good. Beat the bad by doing good. Learn to forgive yourself before you ask it of someone else. Find your own courage before you ask someone else to find it for you.

All that’s really left to say is that I hope I’m making him proud.

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Dear Future Aaron,

On the day I am writing this, you are supposed to be preparing for an interview for an internship with Vertigo Entertainment, but you keep second guessing yourself. You keep wondering what the point is because you aren’t sure if you want to pursue film anymore- not after the last nightmare of a job you had. You still feel broken inside and you’re still trying to figure out how to get back to the person you were before your heart was torn apart. 

“You will overcome all this and more”, said the satiated to the impoverished.

Was he right? Are you reading this, now, thinking “look how far I’ve come”, or will you keep on this track of self loathing and complacency with weakness? In preparing for this interview, you’re expecting them to ask you “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and I’m thinking… career wise, it doesn’t really matter where the fuck you are so long as you aren’t sitting in your parents house, whining about boys and how you’re hurt and not the same person you were before your heart was torn apart. I want you to be successful and I want you to be saying to yourself “look how far I’ve come”. 

So I’m starting now. The Aaron of the past is pushing forward to get you where you are now. You are better because I’m deciding right now that you’re going to get this interview, and I’m deciding that it’s going to be good for you, and I’m deciding that you can be whatever you want to be as long as you keep moving forward. I’m deciding that whatever you are faced with in the next few days, weeks, and months, you can make the most out of it. I’m deciding right now that you’re crawling out of this hole that you’ve been in for months. I’m picking us up and getting us closer to where you are, which is successful and happy. 

A few days ago I reflected on a quote by Madonna: “Power is being told you aren’t loved, and not being destroyed by it.” I told myself when I read this that I am weak and that the happy, loving, faith-filled person you were when you were in your relationship is dead and he’s never coming back again. That was wrong. You’re going to be like a mother-fucking Phoenix alright? You had your heart broken but you actually were never told you weren’t loved. You had all the love you needed all along to get you through. I’m harnessing all that love right now, remembering it, reminding myself of it, holding it in my memory, and I’m sending it to you now through this letter. Never forget how loved you are. Never forget how much love there is for you in the world and hopefully when you see this again in the future, you’ll think, “damn I loved myself so much, I wrote this amazing letter to help me move forward”, and you’ll think “I love you, past Aaron”, which will be funny because I love you too future Aaron. And then you’ll be reminded that the past, the present, and the future will always have love ready for you should you open your heart to accept it. How’s that for a fucking time paradox you sneaky asshole? 

Love yourself, Aaron. It’s the only way to keep yourself progressing and becoming who you are supposed to be. It’s what’s kept you growing in the past and what’s got you to where you are today. 

With all my heart, 
Past/Present Aaron

PS. YOU BETTA WERK TOMORROW

 

 

Gay-ism

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I read an article on yahoo today that really tore me to pieces. The story was about a young transgendered boy in Jamaica named Dwayne Jones who after dressing as a girl to a high school party, was beaten to death. The article further explained how Dwayne’s friend and roommate (who attended the party with him) was assaulted and almost raped just for associating with Dwayne.

The most heartbreaking bit?

“Dwayne’s father in the Montego Bay slum of North Gully didn’t want to talk about his son’s life or death. The teen’s family wouldn’t even claim the body, according to Dwayne’s friends.”

I just want to take a minute to reflect and express how deep my gratitude is for the life I’ve been given. Oftentimes I think we forget how fortunate the LGBT community in America is compared to other countries. That’s not to say LGBT in America are by any means treated perfectly, as we still have a lot of work to do regarding marriage equality and anti-bullying laws, but reading this story reminded me just how blessed I am to have been born into a family that chose to love me regardless of my sexuality or gender. More importantly, I was born into a time of progressive acceptance for LGBT citizens, where there are support groups, advocates, and allies around every corner of this country. 

But what I really want to think about is the importance of the T in LGBT. I think oftentimes the gay community excludes or ignores transgendered youth.  I think the thing that’s really struck me about this story is Dwayne’s courage. He chose to be himself in front of a crowd of his peers and that is something to admire. I am not transgendered and I can’t imagine how suffocatingly difficult it would be to express oneself in a body that didn’t match my spirit, but I know what it’s like to not fit in with gender norms, and it has been very difficult for me to be myself 100% of the time because of that. My deepest sympathies go towards ANYONE who understands and intimately feels that their biologically “assigned” gender does not represent what’s within. Human society has structured such a powerful dichotomy between what is “masculine” and “feminine” that it becomes otherwise “queer” when someone can’t categorize themselves as one or the other, and I think that’s a horrible shame. 

I truly resent these dichotomies. I’ve never felt like a “man” but I sure as hell don’t want to be a “woman”. I am my own person. I am my own spirit and my own being. I don’t want to be either “man” or “woman”. I’m myself. I’m comfortable in my skin (though it wouldn’t hurt to shed a few pounds). This body is my own and no one else’s, and how I perceive myself is not up for debate by anyone else. I really wish more people in the world could understand that sentiment and that fewer gay men would chose to stay misinformed on gender. I cringe every time I hear “I hate feminine gays” or “I’m only attracted to masculine guys”. It’s important, I think, to rule out those stereotypes and to keep our minds open to the possibility that anatomy and sexuality don’t always reflect our gender. Gay men should be especially open to this as owning a penis technically leaves us responsible for procreating with a uterus. Gay men misuse our provided anatomy constantly, thus we know our anatomy does not define what we are attracted to. Our anatomy does not define who we are on the inside and what we are put on this earth to do. Just think about that.  

This post had no end point or conclusion, I just think it’s important to discuss the diversity of ideas, people, and possibilities there are in the LGBT community. Some people are blessed with strong families and others are blessed with nothing but the courage to be themselves.

Dwayne Jones, wherever you are, I want to thank you for reminding me how blessed I am for my family, for my friends, for this body I grew up in, and for the many beautiful opportunities I’ve had in my life so far to be who I want to be. You may not have been loved by many, being born into a world of hatred, but I love you and you inspire me. I’d rather die being who I am, than to live trying to be something I’m not. May your soul rest in peace, friend. 

The article referred to earlier can be found here:

http://news.yahoo.com/jamaica-transgender-teen-murdered-mob-070446416.html

Where I Am

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On the first day of kindergarden, I remember a tall black boy confronted me and insisted that I move chairs because he wanted to sit where I was sitting. Before I even had a chance to move, he shoved me out of my chair and I fell to the floor. I didn’t cry then, but I was so overwhelmed when I shared the experience with my mother later that day that I became really upset. I asked her why someone would do that to me and how someone could do something so unfair.

Instead of whining to the teacher, or encouraging me to fight back, my mom insisted I share some candy with him the next day.

What? Why would I do that? Why would I show kindness to someone who has so clearly mistreated me? I remember telling my mom “That’s dumb, candy isn’t going to make him nicer”.  She suggested that perhaps he acted the way he did because he was scared. He didn’t have any friends in the class yet, and maybe he was just afraid of being away from his family. An important lesson: we never really know why people act or feel the way they do until we walk a mile in their shoes.

Sure enough, I went in the next day with a candy bar, which I offered to him timidly, and asked if he wanted to be friends.  I remember he was so confused by what happened, he didn’t say anything to me the rest of the day. Not “Sure!”, or “Thank you!”, or “I’m sorry for pushing you”. But, the next day, he came back with a candy bar for me and he asked if I wanted to sit at his table. No sorry necessary.

Years later my dad passed along some similar wisdom which I immediately took to heart: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him” (A quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).

Forgiveness and empathy have become instrumental components to the development of my character over the years, but lately it’s been one of the hardest things for me to offer.

Someone I deeply care for posted something on their facebook recently, something that really made me reevaluate where I am in life. His post read “You must have an utterly forgiving spirit.” It was a really good reminder but something didn’t sit well with me. The reason being, I realized I have been building up a lot of negativity. It’s been stockpiling on my heart and it’s made me heavy; stuck and settled in a place of resentment… Resentment towards my job, my hometown, my love life, my life in general.

This week I remembered how much easier it is to sit in spaces of hurt and negativity. It’s easy to play the victim, to feel like you owe nothing to anyone, and to feel like everything is owed to you. And the unfortunate truth is sometimes you ARE the victim, and sometimes everything IS owed to you, but that doesn’t always mean you’re going to get what you deserve. Sometimes you have to forgive before someone deserves to be forgiven.

Be forgiving. Just do it. I know it’s hard but it feels better on the other side- trust me. Do what you have to do to move forward, even if it means compromising your ego and your own hurt feelings. You might not get all that you deserve but you will always find yourself in a position to discover something rewarding in the end.

This is a declaration of my choice to forgive those who have caused me pain in the past weeks and months. I’m moving forward and doing things that make me happy again. I am so grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned through these challenging months. I am stronger because of them and all the wiser. Thank you.. and even though you aren’t sorry, and you may never even understand what you’ve done- I forgive you.

Among the Stars

It’s been a little over a month now since I’ve started my new internship and though I’ve commuted to West Hollywood several days per week, today is the first day I’ve noticed the famous Hollywood sign looking down over the city in the hills.
It was reassuring in a sense. Somehow grounding. It was a realized moment- i said to myself “yes, this IS where I am supposed to be right now. Right here in this bullshit traffic after an unpaid 8 hours at work.”
My fellow assistant is a lovely person and I really enjoy having her help, input, and listening ear when I need to vent, but I can tell she is second guessing her patience and her decision to move out to LA. Me? As annoyed as I have gotten and as frustrated as I’ve been and as much as I’ve lost my patience…I have full faith that my hard work is going to pull through for me. I’m happy being miserable sometimes. It’s exciting. It’s new. It’s challenging me. I’m growing from it and I can see it happening with each new day. That’s what I want for myself right now. That’s what I need, I think. To make things hard for myself, push me farther, test my patience, inch me closer towards whatever it is I’m meant to do/be in my life.
I can’t say Im happy, because a lot of days I sit and wish I had someone other than my family to share this all with. Sometimes I wish it was him…still. But I can say I am working hard and even though I’m not getting paid, it still feels rewarding. I am serving and fulfilling myself the best way I know how, and that’s all that really matters.

Life as I Know It

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately which in my world often means I’ve been idle, detached and anxious. My heart and mind have been trying to do a lot at once this week: moving on, letting go, scorning others, forgiving myself, and moving through fear of the what happens next. 

A few weeks ago my world turned upside down on me and since then I’ve been clinging to regain some sense of control. I struggled so hard to keep a tight grip on my ex, which backfired. I worked so hard to find an internship and have discovered that that job alone wont satisfy my restless mind. I have resisted folding into the settled lifestyle that Corona encourages. In short, I have been trying to control the wrong things. 

I went on my first run today since I’ve been back in Corona. I disappointed myself with an exhausting 1.5 miles. I don’t think I realized it until then that my spirit and my strength aren’t determined by the control I have over things. My strength and determination are determined by how I handle the things I have little control over. 

I think maybe it’s too soon to utter the things I’ve been letting myself feel and remember and re-digest the past few days, but I think it’s safe to say I’m finally moving towards acceptance of where I am and what I can do take advantage of life as I know it. There are always going to be things I don’t understand, people who act in ways that don’t make sense to me, things that will happen that seem unjust and unfair, and ideas the run like wildfire- out of my control. The best I can do here and now is to just let things be the way they are. To stop fighting, to move when I am called to move, and to rest when I am called to rest. 

I’ve been thinking about who I am and what truths I hold. I’ve been weening myself away from rose colored lenses and thoughts of who I wish I was or how things should be. I’m locating the things in myself that need to be more realized and need to gain back control over the way I live. This might not make sense to me later, but it does to me now, and thats all that’s really important. I’m looking forward to the rediscoveries and new discoveries I’ll be making these next few days/weeks. I’m healing well and I’m feeling more myself these past few days than I have in a while, strangely enough, that doesn’t mean I’ve been entirely happy- just more realized. 

P.S. My backyard is beautiful right now, no?

Cheers, Beers, and Betweens

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In the above selfie, you’ll find a kid-adult hybrid drinking a beer for no reason other than to celebrate himself after taking a big step forward today. Today I had my first “real world” interview with a “real world” producer for a “real world” internship for a “real world” entertainment company. The better half of me is SO thrilled and SO excited to be making these big boy choices and doing my best to get myself into the the entertainment business, but the other half of me is still clinging to Berkeley and the days where I didn’t have to take myself so seriously.

The interview went splendidly enough. I answered every question the way I wanted to, answered them truthfully, thoroughly, and articulately, but the interviewer seemed pretty discouraged after discovering that I didn’t really have any experience in the industry (in my defense, the job was advertised as a “great opportunity for an entry-level position”, how much experience could they expect?). Thus, I walked away with mixed feelings. I felt both confident that I had done my best, and discouraged that maybe my best wasn’t enough.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently- what do you do when your best isn’t enough? How do you keep giving your best to situations that don’t want your best? The answer is a forked road. You can either:
a) Chose to keep applying yourself the way that you have been, confident that you are doing the right thing but everyone else is the problem. The right person hasn’t come along who can see what you have to offer in the right ways.

or b) Chose to make your best better. To improve yourself and the way you tackle certain situations. Everything might have been done right, but surely things could have been done differently as well. Those differences aren’t necessarily wrong- but there is always a different approach to any situation, and what might work for you might not work the same for someone else. Part of being successful is taking the right chances at the right moments. Being the best you can be in a certain moment depends largely upon what is best for another person- be it employer or boyfriend.

I’m somewhere in the middle of those two paths right now. In my experience both roads hold truth and I have found success by traveling down both of them. But where I am now asks me to kind of stand and watch and listen right now. I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing or how to best go about these interviews or my ex moving on and dating someone new because I feel so between everything. Between happy and sad, self-fulfilled and emptied out, excited and scared, enthusiastic and exhausted, patient but eager. There’s so much going on and all I can really say about that is that I’m taking it all one step at a time.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from my ex is to listen to where life takes me and trust that it is right where I need to be. This is hard for me. My insecurities, self doubt, and over-thinking always get in the way of life’s truths. I have spent so much of the past couple years working on trusting myself and feeling confident in who I am, the things I feel, and the choices I make, but I think my confidence has grown too inward. It’s great that I believe in myself now, but I need to start trusting in bigger and better things. I need to trust that God has a plan and that if I walk through life with faith and conviction in the goodness of the world around me, I will always find myself making progress. Life is too short to feel like we’re going backwards or staying stationary.

So, cheers to taking steps forward. Right now I’m not even sure it matters where I’m walking- as long as I keep trusting that where I walk I will end up in a better place than I was a step before. And if I trip or make any missteps along the way, I have all the love and support in the world to help me get up and back on the right track.