Mario Villalobos

Refreshed

I think I’ve come to the end of one of the best summers I’ve had in a very long time. I don’t have anything tangible to show for it because most of the work happened internally. I was in a very dark place when I wrote The Door, but I think I needed to feel what I felt then to really work on myself, to improve my outlook on life and my role in the world. I think I said it best in this post from July:

I started to spend my time on this because I’ve been at something of a midlife crisis this summer. I’m afraid of tomorrow, of next week, of next year, because I feel like time is moving way too fast and I still don’t know how I want to spend it, and every minute lost scares the shit out of me. I’m slowly (very very slowly) building myself back up, and I’m hoping I come out of this stronger. I just don’t know what I want to do with my life anymore, so I’m pursuing every little interest I’ve ever had in my life, from these crazy ideas to the impossible ones.

It’s like I grabbed all the clothes in my closet and threw them on the floor then spent all summer slowly going through each article and hanging up only those that truly brought me joy. And I dug deep. I dusted off that old moldy box crammed in the farthest corner, the one that reeked of old memories, and I opened it up and saw what was inside. I opened every random scrapbook and set of envelopes, every rotten and embarrassing memory, and I simply experienced them all over again. Because I feel like life is a series of roads not taken, and so many of us don’t turn back and reconsider the choices we’ve made. And I reconsidered everything.

I think I’ve made my thoughts on social media well-known here, but I have to reiterate how dangerous these services can be and how much better life can be without them. But I also have to admit how often I’ve turned back to them when I’m yearning for some kind of connection with people. In early August, it seemed like every tech blog I followed were singing the praises of Glass, a social media service meant to be some sort of successor to Instagram. Did we really need another social media app? Apparently yes, and I downloaded it and tried it out. After enjoying the “new” thing for a few days, I realized how much I still didn’t like social media apps. Anything that uses the word “followers” in a non-religious context should cause everyone to take a step back and rethink what it is they’re doing. I’m not Jesus preaching to a flock of worshippers. I’m just some guy trying to figure out the world and my place in it. So I deleted my account.

I appreciate how easy it was to delete my account, but I didn’t like that I had to wait 7 days for Glass to do so.

When I decided to leave Micro.blog, my intention wasn’t to leave it forever. At the time, I needed a break from it and services like it, and I’m grateful for the time away from it, but on reflection, I think I’ll be better served if I continue to stay away from it and all social media services like it. I’m four months removed from my initial declaration to quit all social media services, but I feel like four months isn’t long enough. Hell, four years might not be long enough when social media, in one form or another, has been a part of my life for about twenty years.

So what are some of the things I’ve reconsidered? In Identity from July of last year, I wondered what kind of life I would have had if I grew up in Montana. Would I still be a writer? I explored this idea more in Abyss, and ever since I wrote that in February, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and the place it has held in my life. During the summer I didn’t really blog or journal or work on any writing project, and that’s because I really don’t think I was meant to be a writer. When I made the decision to attend USC and major in screenwriting, I think I made one of the many wrong turns I’ve made in my life. I don’t mean to imply that I don’t like writing; I do, very much. I just don’t love it, and I think that’s the big lie I’ve been telling myself for a long, long time.

Here’s how I know I don’t love it.

When I was a kid, my mom bought an old typewriter in a garage sale for us kids to use. I don’t really remember any of my siblings using it because I’m pretty sure I spent all my free time on it. I so very loved typing on that thing. I loved the clickety clackity sounds it made and the impressions the type made on the paper. I remember one time I grabbed a paperback, measured the dimensions, cut a piece of paper to the same dimensions, then transcribed the first page of whatever novel it was on both the front and back side of that paper. I remember how I then took this page to school and showed it off to my friends. How I wasn’t bullied more I don’t know.

Later, when I was in high school and had a computer with internet access for the first time, I remember falling in love with typography again and its role in web design. I remember pirating a version of Photoshop, learning it, and creating banners for one of the many blogs I started and abandoned. I remember how I would stay up all night learning how to design webpages and publishing all my changes to friends I made on AOL chat to see. I remember going to school the next day, tired and sleepy, thinking all day about going back to my computer and getting back to my designs and experiments.

Earlier this year, I rediscovered this love when I spent maybe 16-18 hours a day working on my site redesign, from learning all I could about Hugo, HTML, and CSS to asking what if? and trying my best to see if I could make that idea come to life. I remember forgetting to eat many times and going to work the next day, tired and exhausted and hungry, but so very eager to come back home so I can keep working on my designs. And this has happened all over again recently as I started work on redesigning my school’s website and simply loving the hell out of the whole process.

I’ve never felt this way with my writing. I’ve had moments of joy and exhilaration when writing something particularly good, but mostly, I associate nothing but pain and despair with writing. And sometimes that’s what I need but not something I want to do all the time. I don’t want to spend 16-18 hours a day living in despair, forgetting to eat, waking up the next day in pain and eager to relive it all over again. Shit man, I’ve been putting off writing this entry for weeks, with the only reason being that I’d rather spend my limited time on other things.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not spending all my free time wisely. I still spend way too much time watching TV and browsing the web and not enough time creating things (which I’m pretty sure is my true love). I’m also pretty sure I would not last long if I spent all my free time creating things. But the progress I’ve made this summer admitting all this to myself has been one of the most thrilling and revitalizing times of my life, and I’m so so so eager to see where all this goes.

Should I pursue design more? Should I consider devoting more and more of my time to web design and things like it? What about my photography? In the back of my mind, I’ve often thought how cool it would be if I was a National Geographic photographer or something. Should I pursue mechanical engineering again? Before I decided to focus on writing, I was on track to go to a school like UC Berkeley or UCLA and major in engineering. Shit, I was accepted to both, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to the best film school in the world. My dad was a mechanic, and I thought if I pursued something in the same world he lived in would mean he would be proud of me or something. But I didn’t, obviously.

One of the great joys from this summer has been delving back into engineering-type things. I’ve been spending more and more time on cars, on how they work, on how to fix them, on how to race them. I’ve been learning more about craftsmanship, from car design to how to build houses. Oh man, about a month ago, the lever to my toilet broke. You guys have no idea how satisfying it was to go to Ace, buy a new one, come back home and replace it. The feel of the flush now feels a million times better than it did before, if only because I fixed it. I spent the time adjusting the tension to my liking, and now every time I flush the toilet, a small piece of me is lit with joy.

And that has been the story of my summer and why I think it has been one of the better ones of my life. It’s been about having this conversation with myself, asking myself what I want to do and going out there and doing it. It’s been about giving myself permission to explore the world, to see it like a kid again, and loving every minute of it. That is what’s been the most rewarding part of the last four months, and I could not have done it if I didn’t give myself the space to explore and play.

And I feel so damn refreshed.

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