When Things Just Suck

Everyone knows that sometimes life sucks. When I’m depressed, or things aren’t going my way, or I’m lost with no answers or direction, people tend to tell me that life sucks. And it always pisses me off, because… like… like yeah, no shit life sucks sometimes. I already knew that. I’ve known that for a long time. You’re not revealing a deep message to me that’s going to help in any way.

All right, maybe I take those words a little too seriously. But it’s still weird that’s what people say. It’s not exactly the most sympathetic phrase, and it doesn’t help the situation either. It’s like, that’s all some people can come up with in response. To be fair, other people try to help. But I’m sure you’re familiar with the kind of help some people give. You know which kind. The unhelpful help.

That’s why sometimes you just need to hear someone acknowledge that you’re going through something. You don’t need them to help, you don’t need them to listen, you just need a moment of empathy. And as long as you’re not going around asking for pity, I think that’s a perfectly healthy desire.

So to everyone who’s trying to find a satisfying job, but can’t find one…

To everyone who’s struggling with money…

To everyone whose car just won’t stay fixed…

To everyone who’s currently fighting with a friend, a group of friends, family members, a girlfriend, or a boyfriend…

To everyone who hates their job, their coworkers, and their clientele…

To everyone with kids that are driving you fucking crazy…

To everyone in a relationship that’s not working out…

To everyone that’s not in a relationship and can’t get something to work out…

To everyone who recently had someone close to them die, unexpectedly or otherwise…

To everyone with a “to worry” list that keeps growing…

To everyone trying to find a place to fit into…

To everyone saying goodbye to friends after graduation, wishing they could stick around…

To everyone saying goodbye to someone that’s moving far away…

To everyone trying to create something magnificent, but never getting to where they want to be…

To everyone struggling with anxiety…

To everyone struggling with depression…

To everyone that lies awake each night, wondering what the point of anything is…

To everyone who has a problem with their age, or their body, or their face, or any other thing involving self-esteem…

To everyone that’s jealous of someone else that has something that you wish you had…

To everyone that wants to stay in bed each morning because they’re afraid to face the day, or simply sees no point in it…

To everyone afraid to go to sleep at night and be alone with their thoughts…

To everyone afraid to go to sleep at night and be alone…

And to everyone else going through something completely different…

 

… I’m sorry you’re going through that. And I really hope things turn around for you. Keep going.

Potential in Journal Entries and Writing Exercises

Recently, my mind’s been all over the place. I keep having angry days, sad days, melancholy days, paranoid days, etc. I thought I’d try keeping short journal entries so I could have somewhere to put some thoughts and maybe try to work through them in a therapeutic sort of way.

But as I was writing my first entry, I ended up doing something different. What started out as ranting about something that pissed me off turned into this snippet that peered into the life of a character I’d accidentally created. It was sort of strange, but halfway through I thought to myself, “Hey. What would someone like me, but not me, have to say about this topic?” And I kind of started writing something else, pretending I was a different person. And like all my characters, there’s always going to be some degree of “me” in them, but I gave him a name, made up a situation for him to be in that I’d never personally been in, and before I knew it I’d made a character.

So I tried it again a few days later. I was on my way home from work, and it was a cooler summer night, and I was feeling a little lonely. When I got home, I began writing this little blurb about loneliness, and it turned into this short piece about someone longing for a girl to share a moment with as he sat by a lake, ending with him confessing that he missed this one girl from his past. Who’s the guy? I don’t know. Who’s the girl? I don’t know. But I made this narration that I was really proud of, and I saw potential in another character if I decided to expand it.

I made two other “characters” this way and I noticed the more I played around, the better I got at creating characters that felt more separate from myself, and that’s something I feel I need to work on in my fiction. These recent writing sessions turned into very effective exercises. At the moment, I’d like to try fleshing out these characters a bit more to see if I could create a story around them.

But either way, I thought I’d share my experience with this for any writers struggling with fiction. Creating stories and characters is complicated and often doesn’t work the way we want them to, so sometimes it’s important to go back to writing exercises. This is why it’s important to keep writing, even when you’re short on ideas. Whether you’re writing journal entries or working on short exercises, keep writing something. You never know what you’ll end up finding as you do them. 🙂

On Streaming Services and Free Online Content

I thought I knew what I wanted to say for this post, but now I’m not so sure it makes a lot of sense outside my own head. But I’m going to try to explain it the best I can.

So a recent announcement on South Park‘s website  says that their almost complete collection of episodes will no longer be available for free viewing on their site. If you look at the comments, no one seems to be happy about this. And it’s not something I can entirely blame them for; no one would be happy to lose what was essentially 17 seasons of a TV show that only cost them an Internet connection to watch. Instead, they’ll be available on Hulu Plus, with the South Park website having a select few available at a single time.

I’ve got to admit I’m bummed out, too. South Park is definitely one of my top five favorite shows, and since I can’t seem to ever see it on TV, I’ve started to rely on their website to catch up on episodes. The ability to instantly watch almost any episode I find a sudden urge to see is something I’ve taken advantage of, as well. Granted, I have plenty of other things I could watch online instead, so it’s not like I’m going to be without entertainment or anything like that. But I’d still like the opportunity to check out almost any episode on their website, especially since Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been offering that opportunity for years now.

But in all honesty, I’m surprised they haven’t made this move sooner. South Park is a pretty big show with a lot of viewers; having almost all their episodes available for free on their website was truly a gift in this age of dominating streaming services. Things like Netflix and Hulu Plus are well on their way to replacing cable television, at least for my generation. And why not? They’ve already replaced video stores, and I’m fairly certain almost no one buys movies or seasons of TV shows anymore.

Which is pretty sad, because I don’t think a lot of people understand what using a subscription service means.

A lot of people sign up for these services thinking, “Hey, now I can watch any movie or show I want!” Well… sort of. I mean, yeah, there are a ton of options for you to choose from, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always be available. If at all.

Take South Park as an example again. It used to be on Netflix a few years ago, but it’s not anymore. I’ll admit I was pretty pissed off at first, but then I found out they’re all available on their website for free. So that wasn’t so bad. But lots of shows have disappeared from Netflix. Same with movies. I’d make a mental note to check something out later while I was browsing through available programs. And when I finally got around to checking that something out, it was no longer available.

These kind of services let you watch whatever they have, which isn’t the same as whatever you want. These two things may be the same at times, but not all the time. Personally, I can’t even remember the last time I watched a movie on Netflix. Every time I try to see if something is available, it’s not. And it’s just not new movies, either. I wanted to watch To Kill a Mockingbird a couple of years ago. Classic movie. Not available. Earlier this year I decided I was too old to never have seen The Shining. Another classic movie. Not available. Last year I read Fight Club for the first time and fell in love. I wanted to check out the movie. Cult classic. Not available. A couple of years ago I had a sudden desire to check out The Karate Kid. Nope. Not available.

These aren’t even new movies. I could sort of understand why a streaming service couldn’t offer new movies, but older classics?

To be fair, I’ve had much better luck with TV shows, although I’ve still seen them come and go.

But I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t rely too much on streaming services that offer a seemingly unlimited amount of material for a small fee. I mean yeah, it’s great and all, but a lot of people get used to the idea that they’ll be able to access whatever they want at any time. But those services decide what to offer and what to take down at any point. It’s not the same as owning a copy on DVD. It’s not yours to access any time you want. It’s theirs, and they choose to share it with you for a fee.

Same goes with free stuff online, like the South Park episodes. It’s really disappointing when stuff like that goes away, but it’s not like we bought the DVDs, then someone came into our homes and took them away from us. And I mean, I get it. It’s not like we’re going to go out and buy every single movie or TV show we have an urge to watch or check out. That would be ridiculous. Having stuff available for free online or part of a streaming service probably gives more access to more people, which may in fact help studios in the long run.

But, like… I don’t know. Like I said, this all sounded better in my head. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t get too attached to streaming services or free online stuff, ’cause you never know when they’ll just take stuff down. Buying a copy of something for yourself may not be as lame or outdated as you may think.

Let’s Talk Books – The Fault in Our Stars

Warning: Spoilers for both the book and movie

Please… take this with a grain of salt.

I was fully prepared to sit down and tell you my honest opinion about The Fault in Our Stars. I was fully prepared to tell you that although it wasn’t a bad book, the writing sometimes felt a little juvenile, even for a young adult book. I was going to tell you that the relationship happened instantly, without letting me get to know either character, and their honeymoon phase royally pissed me off as it was rubbed in my face for the majority of the book. I was going to say most of the dialogue was great when two characters were going back and forth in a conversation, but it seemed weird coming out of characters with virtually nothing to them. I was going to say there were also too many speeches that didn’t seem natural.

I was fully prepared to say that Peter Van Houten was a less cool version of Dr. House, and his sudden appearance at the end of the book seemed so out of place that I was convinced it was leading up to a new book in which he starts his own journey to move on. I was going to say that Isaac was the best character in the book, if for no other reason than he was a breath of fresh air from the main relationship, and because he was essentially the only other teenager in this story about teenagers (there was also Kaitlyn, but she was so minor in comparison). I was going to rant how Hazel was much more likable than in the movie, because a) the descriptions of her struggle with her cancer are more effective, and b) I feel like she meant it more when saying she was afraid to hurt people with her eventual death, BUT was still a huge tease by telling Augustus that they could only be friends because she was afraid of hurting him, yet still cuddled with him, let him kiss her (Friendly kiss between teenage guy and girl? Ha… okay.), and allowed him to use his wish to take her all the way to Amsterdam. I was ready to hear the argument that Hazel was confused and didn’t know what she really wanted, and I was ready to say if that was really the case, than the book could have portrayed that better.

I was fully, 100% ready to say that Augustus Waters is, quite frankly, the worst thing ever. Pretentious, manipulative, obnoxious, needy, and inconsiderate are some of the words that floated through my mind during the many, many moments I had to put the book down, shake my head, and sigh after reading a line of his dialogue. I was ready to explain how he’s the kind of guy that says funny and likable things, but isn’t the kind of person to get away with it without sounding like a douche. I was ready to state my theory on how he’s only dating Hazel because she looks like his dead girlfriend, and his perfect relationship with her is an alternate ending to his previous one (which would be an amazing element of depth, but I honestly don’t think this was intentional). I was ready to say that it’s perfectly healthy to wonder what people would say about you if you died, but to go as far as to have your friends write a eulogy and present it to you at a fake funeral for yourself is beyond conceited, and the reason that it was funny in Futurama was because the character it was based around was intentionally written as a conceited asshole, and the scene wasn’t meant to show two main characters pour their hearts out about how much he meant to them in a tearjerking moment.

But. BUT.

But as I sat down to write this post, a pile of notes neatly arranged on my desk, I found myself having a hard time doing so. For the past couple of weeks I’d been talking to as many people as I could about this book, why they found it amazing, trying to argue all of my negative points with them, etc. I’d gone on many emotionally filled rants about the characters, the relationship, and the writing, most likely pissing a few choice people off.

Maybe I’d just gotten it all out of my system. Maybe I’d spent too much time with the book that I just didn’t care anymore. But when I started writing this review, I felt like I was overreacting. I felt like I believed some of my points, but let myself get carried away in hating things that didn’t deserve to be hated. I read a random chapter again and honestly couldn’t see what I got myself so worked up about. So in a last minute decision, I decided to read the book again in two days before I had to return it to the friend I borrowed it from.

All in all, I had a much more relaxing time reading this the second time through.

I won’t lie, I saw the movie first. I really didn’t want to. The book’s been on my to-read list for a while, and I really wanted to read it before seeing the film. But my friend wanted my opinion on the movie before reading the book (because I’m apparently the only person that hasn’t read it). I liked the movie to an extent; the soundtrack was great, the cinematography was good, the actors were good, but the two leads put me in a really shitty mood. After watching four seasons of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, there was no way I could watch Shailene Woodley and not recall memories of her constantly whining and complaining. And Ansel Elgort… never even heard of him before, let alone seen him in something, but he really brought out something nasty in me. Again, his acting was good, but…

Sigh. It’s a guy thing.

So naturally, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t read through The Fault in Our Stars without hearing them. It’s very much a personal problem, I know. But that’s just how it went. I don’t know if enough time passed for me to put the movie behind me, or if I spent enough time reading to imagine Hazel and Augustus as their own characters aside from their actors in the film, but the second reading was more pleasant. I read the book imagining them as different people, different characters I thought I might enjoy more. And what do you know, I enjoyed Hazel and Augustus. I didn’t even hate Augustus anymore. Granted, I don’t love them like most people do. I still think it was unfair of Hazel to tell Augustus they could only be friends yet encourage romantic gestures, and I still think Augustus is using Hazel.

But… none of that bothered me. At least not nearly as much as it originally had.

I still feel the same about many of the things I was originally going to write in the review. They just don’t piss me off to an intense degree of ranting anymore. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time involved in this story and I’ve just gotten used to it. Maybe the movie really did ruin it for me. Maybe it’s the kind of book that works better on subsequent reads. Maybe it’s because this story had so much potential, and I really wanted to see everything expanded. But I ended up liking it, even with all its problems. Strangely enough, I felt this way after the first read too. Same goes for the movie. But especially so with the second read. And it’s weird, because why would I like this book if I found problems in literally every area? It’s not like this was a book I loved to hate, nor would it be something I’d label as a guilty pleasure.

If there’s one thing I still wish was different, however, it would be some buildup to the relationship. I really wanted to get to know both Hazel and Augustus first, and I really wanted them to know each other more before any feelings formed. You can label that as a personal problem, but I just don’t find a relationship interesting or likable if it’s love at first sight. Something bigger needs to build first.

But honestly, it just wouldn’t be the same book if it worked this way. I guess that youthful rush into the relationship is part of the story’s charm.

Sigh… I honestly don’t know what it is with me and this book.

It’s like the kind of friend that annoys you every time you see him, yet when it comes down to it, you still want to hang out with him. You’d feel guilty or weird if you didn’t invite him to do stuff with you, and even though he pisses you off, you’d still rather him be there than absent from your life.

I know this “review” has been all over the place, but as you can tell, so has my opinion on the book. Again, please take it with a grain of salt. The overwhelming amount of praise and fans of this book makes me nervous that I’ve pissed a lot of people off. I honestly did end up liking the book. I don’t know why, all things considered, but I know when I think a book is just okay, and I know when I don’t care for a book, and The Fault in Our Stars didn’t fall into either category. I legitimately liked it. I didn’t love it. But to be fair, I don’t think I’m the type of person this book was written for.

But… well, I still liked it. Don’t know why. But I did.

Info for my edition of The Fault in Our Stars:

  • Published 2012 by Dutton Books
  • Hardcover, 318 pages
  • ISBN 978-0525478812

On Opening Up To Others

Opening up to people can be a frightful decision, especially if you’re struggling with trust issues or have difficulty expressing yourself. Sometimes you face problems that can’t be explained in a single sentence when someone asks “what’s wrong?” Opening up means telling someone an extended explanation of a personal issue and why it bothers you, not to mention placing faith that the listener will be able to understand. It’s extremely frustrating to work up the courage to talk about something difficult, only to find the person you’re talking to isn’t following or treats your issue as something that can be easily fixed.

When I was in high school I used to wear my heart on my sleeve, so to speak. If someone said “hey, how are you?” I would spill out an unfiltered story about whatever was bothering me. At the time I reasoned that I didn’t want to lie, and if someone asked me how I was, I genuinely thought they wanted to know. It wasn’t until years later that I realized “hey, how are you?” is a greeting, not a literal question, and answering it like a literal question each and every time made me come off like a depressing mess. There’s a big difference between the greeting and the legitimate question, and the sooner you can tell which is which, the sooner you can tell who actually cares.

That being said, just because someone is concerned about you, that doesn’t always mean they’re the right person to open up to. Sometimes a person wants to help but can’t. There are many reasons for this. Conflicting personalities, life views, personal histories- unfortunately, opening up to someone often requires a certain degree of synchronization to be effective. It’s sort of like a relationship; even if two people like each other, they may not be able to make something work between them.

So how can you tell who’s a good person to open up to, or when the appropriate time is? Unfortunately, there is no single answer to these questions. Different people have different problems, and it affects them with different intensities. However, there are a few things you can still do.

Even if there isn’t anyone you feel you can truly open up to, chances are you know a couple of people you’re at least comfortable with. If you’ve never tried speaking to them about deeper issues, try feeling them out. Don’t bombard them with the entirety of what’s bugging you, but casually try to work a small part of your problem into conversation. See how willing they are to listen, show empathy, and ask questions. Who knows? They may be more helpful than you thought. If not, at least you tried. I know that might not seem like a lot now, but it proves you have more strength than you might think.

If it’s possible, you can try therapy. Therapists can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never spoken to one before, but they offer a special opportunity you can’t get anywhere else: you can speak to someone about anything in a closed space, and nothing will ever leave the room. Sometimes people don’t want to open up because they’re afraid it will create conflict with other friends, family, or coworkers. It might seem weird, but speaking to someone that’s not connected to anyone you know has more advantages than you may think. You don’t need to worry about your confessions biting you in the ass. And sometimes you need an outsider’s opinion. Sometimes you’re too involved with a situation, and you create problems that aren’t there. Having an unrelated party listen to you may help you back up enough from the situation to see what’s worth worrying about.

Of course, sometimes there isn’t anyone you can really count on. Sometimes you need to open up, and for whatever reason, other people can’t be counted on or reached. I know. It sucks. There’s this storm inside of you building up, and if you don’t find somewhere to move it, you feel like you’re going to explode. This is why it’s important to be able to rely on yourself. If there isn’t anyone else, open up to you. Take a notebook out and write out how you’re feeling. You can write whatever you want in one sitting, put it down and come back later, keep a daily log, even tear it up once you’re done. You’d be surprised how much better you can feel after writing some thoughts down. Big difference between letting them swim around in your head and putting them out in a physical form.

If writing doesn’t work, you may need to just say it out loud. Try talking to yourself when you’re alone. Scream or cry in a private place. Vlog. Don’t put everything up on YouTube in a desperate attempt to gain pity, but make some video journals just for you. For about a year, I made weekly vlogs to talk about how I was feeling, what I’d been learning, etc. It really helped. It helped me be aware of how I spoke and came off to other people, it helped me see how I fell into the same cycles of depression, and it helped just get some things off my chest. It might seem weird, but if you have a webcam and mic feature on your computer, give it a try. You can always delete it after if you want.

Opening up is never easy. It takes a lot of trust, faith, and courage. And sometimes it never works out. But it’s important to recognize when and who to open up with if you want to make any kind of progress with your situation. Again, everyone has different capabilities and opportunities, so there’s some degree of trial and error associated with this. But keeping everything bottled up inside rarely works out. You need to open up every once and a while. So good luck learning how to do it effectively. 🙂