When You’re Scared To Do Something

Just do it.

… Seriously. Just do it. Unless it’s something stupid like jumping a bunch of cars with your motorcycle, the best thing you can do is just do whatever it is you’re scared to do. Telling someone you like them? Do it. Approaching an intimidating teacher or boss? Do it. Applying for a new job? Moving out? Attending therapy?

Just do it. You might need to compose yourself, put yourself in a better frame of mind. That’s fine. You’re scared; it’s natural to prepare yourself. But in the end… well, you just need to do it. If you don’t, your fear will turn into overthinking. And we all know what overthinking can do.

So just do it.

Why Do Things Leave Less of an Impact On Us Now?

Borat. Silly Bandz. The Transformers movies. Guitar Hero. The explosion of Brony culture. Gangnam Style. Harlem Shake videos. Flappy Bird. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older or if the world works differently now, but I’ve noticed that trends come more frequently and leave less of an impact upon dying out. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that’s because “things were better and more memorable in the past than they are today,” but I would like to explore the idea of why we seem to remember things from 10+ years ago with more fondness.

One of the more obvious answers is because people typically tend to remember the stuff they grew up with before becoming adults. Time seems to pass differently for kids. I remember every year from elementary school through high school seemed like it lasted much, much longer. And naturally, the movies, TV shows, books, video games, and all of our experiences in general are going to seem like a bigger deal. When time gives the illusion of passing slowly, the things we do and experience during that time will usually leave a bigger impact.

Take Pokemon, for example. Any person that grew up in the 90’s probably has a lot of memories associated with Pokemon. I’m no exception. Some of my strongest childhood memories involve Pokemon. And there’s a lot of them. Watching the TV show before going to school, playing the Game Boy games almost every day, reorganizing my trading cards, playing with the toys, drawing them in notebooks, trying to make up my own Pokemon, playing the spin-off games (Pokemon Snap, Stadium, Puzzle League, even the board game and Monopoly version); the list goes on. I always viewed my time with Pokemon as the essential influence on my childhood. After all, it seemed to always be there back then. Strange how it was actually only for two years.

Eventually we got to a point where we embarked on a journey to discover who we are. It’s on that journey when we discovered those songs, movies, and other forms of media that spoke to us as something more than mere entertainment. A simple lyric or line could sync up with where we were in life. We felt connected to whatever said that thing we’d struggled to express ourselves. That’s why we tend to remember those influences more positively, even years later when we revisit them and they seem overrated, juvenile, or dated. We don’t forget what they’ve done for us, how we’ve remembered them so positively for years. That’s why we can overlook some of the more embarrassing qualities that would normally make us leave those influences behind as we move on.

But even so, what’s to stop us from being influenced now, after we’ve grown up? Well, it’s not impossible. Most of us 20-somethings are probably still looking for our place in the world. But we usually have a clearer concept of who we are, what we want, and where we want to be. It’s harder to find that special connection with different things because we no longer have vague concepts of who we are; we have more specific questions about ourselves that we need answers to. We’ve gotten more life experience, and it’s harder to find things that match our own ideas.

Of course, growing up aside, there’s also the issue of how information is presented today. I’m sure you’ve all read something about it, but stuff is thrown at us much faster and more frequently than ever. Since around 2006 or 2007, it’s been becoming ridiculously easier to absorb media in greater bulk. Quite frankly, we take this for granted, and the new stuff we acquire becomes less special.

But honestly, who can blame us? We have advertisements for movies and TV shows shoved down our throats every couple of minutes. You can’t watch a single video online without seeing a trailer for something. We see so many of them that they all just blend together. We can download book after book into the palm of our hand for just a few dollars each. Songs can be purchased at any time for just a dollar. Netflix and Hulu let us binge watch TV shows entire seasons at a time; remember when we had to actually get a physical copy of a box set for that to happen?

I don’t want to sound like an old man that wants to go back in time, but facts are facts: the easier it is to obtain something, the less special it becomes. Same with how frequently we obtain something. I’m not saying that limiting yourself to enjoying different types of media is going to make them leave a deeper impact on your life, but part of the reason the things in the past seemed like they were more important was because it was harder to get them. Other than birthdays and holidays, how did we get stuff? We didn’t have jobs, money was extremely limited, and it’s not like we could have gone shopping whenever we wanted. We were, more or less, at the mercy of another force, like our parents’ generosity. We had to make do with what we had, and as a result we appreciated it. And when something new came into our lives, we appreciated that, too.

Anyway, this was just some food for thought. What do you think?

“Seasonal” Bad Memories

Sometimes, something happens to make you dread a certain time of year. Maybe a relative died in December, and now you can’t enjoy Christmas because you’re constantly reminded of her passing. You could have had a handful of crappy birthdays over the past few years, and now you don’t even want to celebrate it. The first sight of flowers blooming in the spring and the overall sensation of the warmer weather might make you recall a significantly bad breakup, and now you have to deal with the memories until the heat of summer arrives.

We’ve all got something like this that we’d like to forget about. I’ve had many over the years. Some I’ve gotten over, and some are going to take a little longer. And unfortunately, there’s probably going to be an event in the future that will make you dread another upcoming time.

Recovery is hard, we all know that. This is why it’s essential to take those steps to not letting our past conditioning make us hate present moments. Like it or not, Christmas, birthdays, and spring are going to come every year. The sooner you can let yourself enjoy them, the sooner you can move past those bad memories.

Keeping busy can help. The more you do, the better chance you’ll create new memories to overshadow the bad ones. Try adding new routines during these times. Make a point to see family or friends more regularly. Maybe have lunch or dinner with someone every week or two. Binge-watch a TV series you’ve been meaning to try out. Start a new book series. Take more walks. Take more drives. See if there are any local events you can attend. There’s a lot of ways to fill up time and distract yourself than you may think.

Of course, some memories just won’t leave you alone no matter how busy you keep yourself. If you still find your life plagued during these times, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to work on some self-help. Do some searches online for people that have had similar problems and see how they handled things (and if they’re still struggling, at least you can take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone). There’s a chance these memories could be connected to another, bigger problem such as a depressive or anxiety disorder. Take some time to research possible reasons for why you feel the way you do. In the long run, they’ll help you understand your past more clearly and let you handle it more maturely.

Whatever you do, try not to let life pass by when these memories become too crippling. It’s really easy to dwell on things, but much more satisfying to let yourself enjoy these times when your past is trying to hold you back. Good luck! 🙂

My First Trip Alone

Sorry there wasn’t a post yesterday. I try to have something for the blog every Tuesday, but I took a trip to Maryland almost all day. Normally I’d have written something in advance, but I knew I was going to want to talk about the visit.

Earlier this year, I found out that my favorite author, Christopher Moore, would be traveling to a number of cities and speaking about his new book, The Serpent of Venice. Although there were a couple of locations closer to me, I decided that I wanted to go to the one hosted in Baltimore. I live in New Jersey, and am, quite frankly, sick of it (at least the central/northern part of it). Maryland is one of the places I wanted to visit to see if it would be better for me to live in, so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity. Unsure of how long I would stay, I requested three days off from work just in case.

This trip almost didn’t happen, actually. The lease on my car was set to expire the day before the event. I wanted to buy the car, but I didn’t know if I was going to have enough money (I actually didn’t know until the very end). I’d always put away half my paycheck for the entirety of the lease, but during the past few months I spent as little as possible in a desperate move to come up with some more money. The buyout process… well, I’ll tell that story another day. Let’s just say it was unnecessarily convoluted. Long story short, I bought a car and had just enough money for my trip. But only for one day.

And it was a pretty important day, too. I’ve had a personal issue bothering me for a couple of weeks (in addition to the stress of my car’s lease) and really needed to get out of the state to help clear my head. I was going to meet Christopher Moore. He’s the man that made me want to be a writer, and at the risk of sounding like a fanboy, he’s the guy that got me reading books again (high school had seriously damaged almost all of my desire to read any sort of literature).

Most importantly, it was going to be my first trip somewhere by myself. I’m 25 and have never actually gone anywhere. I mean, I’ve been on family vacations across the east coast. I’ve gone to New York and Philadelphia on a few occasions with them, too. I even went on weekend trips when I was younger with friends and their families. But I’ve never actually gone somewhere. Alone. And I think by this point in my life I really should have. More than anything else, this trip was going to be something I needed to do for myself.

So I packed some snacks, Cokes, and bottles of 5-hour Energy into my messenger bag, along with one of his books for the signing, and headed out. The ride was about three hours, which went by surprisingly fast. When I was in college, it took me an hour to drive to campus, and even after getting used to the drive after all those years, it still felt like a long time. Maybe it was because I was driving through uncharted territory and everything felt new, but the three hours flew by much faster than I expected. Luckily, I also had no trouble staying awake. I’ve been known to start nodding off on my trips to school, and I’m truly thankful I didn’t have that problem this time. 🙂

When I arrived in Baltimore, however, I was pretty overwhelmed. I want to admit upfront that I am absolutely not a city person. Although I live in a fairly commercialized town, I’m fortunate enough to live in an area with a large amount of open back roads that almost never have more than a few cars traveling on them at once. I need open areas. It’s the kind of environment I identify most with.

So although I was expecting it, I still became pretty anxious upon my arrival into the city. Other drivers were quick to honk in an attempt to make this Jersey douche speed up. I never knew what lane to be in, and because I had to take a ton of different roads to get where I needed, I made many sudden lane shifts and turns. (So, so thankful I didn’t hit anyone; I was honestly expecting some damage to my car immediately after I just purchased it.)

I’m also really glad I looked up info for nearby parking garages before I left. After traveling through the city, I was certain that I would not only have a difficult time finding a place to park, but also remembering the location. Thankfully, there was a parking garage at the college close to where the book signing was. The plan was to park my car, then walk and explore the area for a few hours before the event began. After all, I came all the way down to Baltimore. I really wanted to check at least a little of it out during the short time I was there.

Unfortunately, the “road” that the garage was on wasn’t found in the GPS unit I borrowed from my dad. I typed in the street before it, thinking that it wouldn’t be an issue to find the garage from there.

Nope.

I’m glad I also brought a set of printed directions from Google Maps, because if I didn’t have a list of nearby streets I would have never found where I was supposed to be. It didn’t help that there was major road construction cutting off a significant part of my route, but I ended up circling several blocks for almost a half hour before I miraculously stumbled upon it (and I only recognized it because of the Google Street View I looked up before leaving home). I’m not sure what exactly gave me trouble, but I think it was the layout and crossover of several streets preceding it.

Anyway, with my car safely parked, I took out the directions for the trip from the garage to the Barnes and Noble where the event was being held. The first thing I wanted to do was know exactly where I needed to go and how to get there from the garage. I printed directions for walking on foot. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read them before printing, and was a little surprised to read a series of steps consisting of turning left and right. On the same street. A street, I might add, that wasn’t actually within sight.

Oops.

Luckily, I also had a set of driving directions from the garage to the bookstore. While they may have been less than helpful due to road construction blocking some of the streets, I was able to use the nearby street names to find my way. It wasn’t without difficulty, however. For one, some of the roads didn’t have any indication of what their names were, and some of them were a little hard to see. I went back and forth a number of times, completely looking like a lost tourist, before I buckled down and asked a couple of people to point me in the right direction. Once I knew where I was going, it was only a 20-minute walk from the garage to the bookstore, and it was a fairly straight path crossing several streets and only one turn, but before that I must have spent at least an hour walking around what was probably only a couple of blocks.

I almost let out a victory cry once I saw the Barnes and Noble. I headed inside and looked around for a little while. Surely a Barnes and Noble in a big city would be huge compared to what I’m used to. Hell, maybe they would have some of those books I’ve had my eye out for but didn’t feel like ordering online.

Surprisingly… no.

It was actually really underwhelming to discover how small it was. In fact, I think it was smaller than any of the three Barnes and Nobles I frequent back home. To be fair though, it was also doubling as the nearby college’s bookstore. For all I know, it may have been Barnes and Noble in name only. But even if it wasn’t, the employees were infinitely more friendly than any associate I’ve encountered at the stores by me, and it had a better cafe, too.

After looking around the store, buying Moore’s new book, and getting my wristband for the event, I found an empty seat in the cafe and took a few minutes to breathe. I bought a Gatorade and pizza-stuffed pretzel to regain some of my energy. I had a little over an hour to kill before the event started, so I started reading my new book.

Well, more like previewed it. The store was surprisingly a little noisy, and truth be told, the personal crap from back home had crept its way into my thoughts for the first time all day, so I just glanced over the first set of chapters while trying to keep my mind off things.

When it was time to start, though, my anxiety was put to rest. I went to the adjacent building and sat in a pretty big private room with a fairly small crowd. There were less than 100 people there, and even Moore said that he liked that he had a more intimate setting to work with.

Moore’s writing is almost always funny, but I was genuinely surprised to find out how entertaining he was in person. I know a lot of writers can come off as shy or soft spoken, so to see Moore act so outgoing, humorous, and be such a delight was very refreshing. It was almost like watching a stand-up comedian.

He also did a Q&A for 20 or 30 minutes. Most of the questions were basic, like what he’s currently working on or who his favorite characters are, but I was extremely satisfied when he went into some aspects of his craft. He brought up an interesting topic that I myself have wondered since my college days: what exactly is a draft nowadays? I don’t know how many professors or even writers have said you’ve got to go through draft after draft after draft before a piece of writing is ready. And while that’s something I can agree with, I always had a hard time answering how many drafts of a project I’d actually gone through. I’m always editing on my way through any piece; does each individual change count as a draft, or is it when I finish something, print it, make changes all over it with red pen, then go back and dramatically change everything? Moore said when he started writing, he used a typewriter, so it was easy to tell what a draft was because it wasn’t easy to go back and change something once it was typed. But with computers, you can change anything at any point, so what really is a draft? I’m so happy he touched on that subject.

Afterwards we lined up to have our books signed. I brought A Dirty Job; I thought it appropriate since it was the first book I’d read by him, as well as the first book that made me want to seriously consider writing (I can’t believe it’s been almost 10 years). He signed it, I tried thinking of something to say, failed, smiled, said I really appreciated his time, took his thanks, and headed back to my car as quickly as possible before it became completely dark. I headed out of the city, cursing the GPS unit for trying to send me down “do not enter” roads, and after about 20 minutes I was back on the interstate, breathing a sigh of relief.

So overall, how do I feel my first trip by myself went? Well, it was an experience I’m really glad I decided to take. Meeting Moore was great, I had such a blast and wished I could have listened to him longer. He was a super cool dude, and if I hadn’t been so tired from the drive, getting lost while walking around, and thinking about personal problems, I may have even been able to think of something clever to say or ask him.

Overall, though, Baltimore was more… congested, than I thought it would be. I mean, it’s a city, so I initially expected that. But other people told me it wasn’t as bad as somewhere like New York or Philadelphia, and Google Street View definitely made the area seem a lot more open, so I was still caught a little off guard. Like I said, I am not a city person. Being in a city really overwhelms me, and even though I kept my cool throughout most of my obstacles, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some degree of anxiety throughout most of the day. Granted, I only got to explore a small section of the city; other parts of Baltimore (and the whole of Maryland) might be better suited for someone like me. But next time I go, I definitely want to go with a friend or two. I think I would have felt a lot better if someone was there with me.

But honestly, I’m glad I went. It was an experience I’m happy to have had. I’d never been that far away from home by myself before, and it was good to know I could hold my own. It may not have revitalized me the way I hoped it would, but I’m still satisfied with how it went. Next time I take a trip by myself, however, I think I’ll visit somewhere more open and less crowded. Maybe somewhere in the Midwest. Some people get a lot out of visiting the city, but honestly, wide open spaces are where I get the most satisfaction from.