Mario Villalobos

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The Deal

One of the things I want to do more of this year is write. I don’t want to write a novel or short stories or a screenplay; I want to write more posts for my website. I have a long list of ideas built up, of unfinished thoughts and sentences, and I want to spend every morning this year going through them, fleshing them out, spending good time on them, and posting a finished product I’m proud of to my website. That was the idea, at least. Sure, I’m only a week into the new year, so the year is still very young, but damn, I wish I was more productive with it already.

The struggle, and every writer knows this, every creator knows this, is that you have to show up every day. The muse helps those that show up, and if I don’t show up, then I won’t create. That’s the heart of the matter. Does that suck? Yes, of course it does. But I have to show up, whatever the cost, and in this case, the only cost is time. Time is so damn valuable yet I’m finding it so hard to find enough of it nowadays. Where does it all go?

I’ve been spending about a quarter of an hour to half an hour every morning sitting in front of my computer poking away at an essay that just isn’t materializing the way I’d hoped. The point was to show up every morning, to build up that writing habit again, but I feel like I haven’t. Not yet, at least. I’m “pretending,” to an extent. I’m checking off the task from my mental checklist and calling it good enough and moving on to the next thing.

I wish I spent more time on it. I wish I had more time to spend on it, but life is moving so fast that it’s so very tough to keep up with it. So what’s the answer? I wish I knew. But here’s the deal I’m making with myself: I have to show up and do the work before I can go out and play.

I don’t want to live a passive life anymore. I want to live an active life, a life I can look back on with pride. And to do that, I simply have to show up every day and live.

This book gave me the fuel I needed to not only shop less from Amazon but also change my shopping habits completely

2021 Books

I read 26 books this year, nine more than last year. I read more fiction books than non-fiction, but that’s mostly because I wanted to read some sci-fi, The Expanse and The Interdependency being the two series I spent the most time with this year. I also read through all three of Sally Rooney’s novels, which I really loved.

Against Everything was a really good book of essays I read at the start of the year, but the one book that really blew my mind open was Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. I’m still thinking about this book almost a year after I’ve read it. How to Resist Amazon and Why gave me the fuel I needed to not only shop less from Amazon but also change my shopping habits completely, and Jeff Tweedy’s How to Write One Song helped me think about creativity in a new and more mentally-healthy way than before.

2021 was a different type of year for me, one that a reading log can’t quite capture completely, but each of these books shaped my life in some way, and I’m grateful for all of it.


Photo by Aurelia K. Photography

A Stream of Consciousness Life Update

I’m listening to The War on Drugs' new album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. Over the past few weeks, I’ve purchased albums by Miguel, Lena Raine, Lana del Rey (a favorite), Meg Myers, Radiohead, SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, Cassandra Jenkins, Faye Webster, Jana Winderen, DARKSIDE, Better Oblivion Community Center, Tyler, The Creator, Snail Mail, Phoebe Bridgers, Low, and many many more. As cliché as this is, music grounds me. It helps me overcome all of life’s struggles and hardships, all the bad feelings and dark thoughts I sometimes experience.

I believe in buying my music rather than paying some company the privilege of renting them for a month at a time, and yeah, it makes me feel good to do so. I get the same feeling when buying books from my local bookstore than to Amazon, even though it costs me more to both drive there and to buy the book. It’s one of those things that I feel we’ve lost as a society, the knowledge of the true cost of things. I listened to a recent episode of Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly where they talked about the carbon tax, and it made me think more about this. I recommend giving it a listen.

I swear I didn’t plan on making this post about the morality of where you buy things and taxes, but that’s kind of what happens when I write. Things just happen and I get to see where my thoughts take me. It’s fun and interesting. Anyways, what’s this about a life update?

In early September, I contracted COVID. I had mild symptoms, and I didn’t think much of it until I woke up one day and couldn’t smell my coffee beans. During the heart of the pandemic, I made an effort to smell my coffee beans most mornings to 1) make sure I didn’t have COVID and 2) because they smell so good. Fresh coffee beans are one of the best parts of life, right? So I woke up that Sunday not able to smell, so I drove to my local hospital and asked for a rapid test. They swabbed my nose (a feeling I had forgotten about until now—do not recommend!) and told me I’d get results within a day or two. I got the call on a Tuesday mere minutes after texting a friend that I was 99.99% sure I didn’t have COVID. Turns out I was 99.99% wrong.

I was and am fully vaccinated, but I do work at a school, and I, like far too many people, stopped wearing my mask. I had mild symptoms throughout the entirety of my experience with COVID, and I did regain my sense of smell later on the same day I lost it, and I’m now weeks and weeks removed from my quarantine, but I still feel some after effects of having had COVID. It’s not fun, it can be scary, and I don’t know what to do about it. It feels like I have a tennis ball stuck in my throat, and on some days I don’t feel anymore and on others I can. It’s weird and unpleasant, and I don’t know when, or if, it’ll ever go away. Right now it’s on the milder side, but I’ve been afraid to think that maybe it’ll go away this time, you know? Because it always come back and reminds me that something is wrong and that maybe—maybe—I don’t have that much more time of relatively good health left.

I paid off my debt over three weeks ago, and life has been interesting since then. I didn’t feel debt free for maybe a week or two after sending in that final payment, but now? Now I can feel it. As soon as Apple’s Unleashed event ended, I bought the 16" MacBook Pro with the M1 Max chip, all the RAM, all the GPU cores, and just 2 TB of SSD storage. She’s a beast, and she should be in my hands on Monday. I’m sorta back in debt, but really, only for a few months. Am I justifying it? Not really? I’ve been planning to buy a machine like this for a while now, and now that I have it? I’m good. My life is good. I don’t need much of anything else. I just want to create for as long as I can, however long that ends up being. If I have a year left, then I have a year left. If I have 50, then I have 50. All I know is that I have to take it one day at a time.

And today is a Friday, so I want to live this Friday as best as I can. And part of that means writing again.

I finished my school’s website redesign a few weeks ago, and even though it’s very much a 1.0 product, I’m very proud of it. I learned a lot, and I know I want to keep writing CSS and HTML for as long as I can. It’s so much fun and so very satisfying. I’ve been absorbing so much of my time and attention on the entire web development scene, from blogs and newsletters and podcasts, and I just want more more more. I love this feeling, and I hope it never goes away. And with that comes my desire to redo this website again. I have ideas that I want to explore and mock up and prototype, and yeah, I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m eager for this work. I’m yearning it, you know? I want to spend my time on this, like, right now! But I want to wait until I get my new laptop before I start working on it full-bore. I can’t wait.

Last Wednesday, the 20th, I donated blood for the first time. I don’t know why I never had before, but now I have, and I definitely want to do it again. Up until a few days ago, I never knew what my blood type was. But now? Now I know. I’m O+. I’m a universal donor. That was my wish. I was hoping I was a universal donor, and I am. And I’m going to keep donating my blood for as long as I can. It feels good that maybe my blood can help someone out there, some stranger fighting for another day with their loved ones, for another hug, for another kiss, for just more time. That’s what we’re all fighting for, isn’t it? At the heart of it? For more time with who we love?

One of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time was agreeing to be the academic coordinator for this student from Germany. It has been so enlightening to see the world through someone else’s eyes, especially someone from the other side of the world. This is her during her final volleyball game of the season, and unfortunately, it was my first and last time seeing her play volleyball. I, of course, brought my camera and took over 4,800 photos over a two day span. My Fujifilm X-T4 was crying for mercy by the end of it, but I didn’t care—I needed to take photos! It had been so long. It has been too long.

Fortunately, basketball season is coming up, and she will be playing. She has never played basketball in her life, but just seeing her go at it anyway has been inspiring. She had never played volleyball before either but just look at her smile! I think that says more than I ever could.

Halloween is this Sunday, then Thanksgiving after. All the holidays are coming up, and I don’t know what I’ll be doing during any of them, but maybe I can do something about that. Maybe I can live each day to the best of my ability with the people I care. I think that’s a very good goal. Let’s do it.

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.

Molting

I’m continually amazed at my propensity to come up with excuses. These excuses aren’t great; in fact, they’re awful, but they’re enough to keep me from doing what I should be doing, things I know that will fulfill me once I start but—oh my god why are these things so hard to start? Why is it so hard to take that first step? And why do I let myself accept these lame excuses?

I’ve come up with lists and goals and plans and anything else under the sun to just get me moving in the right direction, but sometimes I feel like they’re just an illusion of forward motion instead of actual motion. And listen, I know we’re all only human and we can only do so much, but should that be enough? And is that only an excuse? Don’t be so hard on yourself, one might say, You’re doing more than others I know. I’ve heard it before. But if that were true, would I be where I am right now? Feeling this way? Am I doomed to always feel this way?

I think so, and I don’t think so. Things are somewhat slowly taking shape in my head, and I kinda sorta know what I’m doing, and I’m like this close to taking that first step, but part of what’s holding me back is 1) time, 2) money, and 3) my own fear and inertia. I’m watching Tiny World on Apple TV+, and there was this segment in an episode that showed a praying mantis shedding its skin and coming out bigger and stronger than it was before. The metaphor is obvious. I’m in that molting stage right now, and I’ll come out of this stronger. I know I will.

And if the images in my imagination come true, then holy shit will I enjoy life that much more soon. If not, then, I guess I’m doomed to live in mediocrity forever. Either way, I’m at least okay that I’m alive to write the story, and that’s pretty cool.

What Now?

Well, this has been a strange week. It wasn’t quite the one I wanted, but it’s the one I got, so I shouldn’t complain. I wanted to write more, but instead I felt like I was in this liminal state, at the threshold between who I was and who I could be. I wrote about this feeling a few weeks ago, but I felt like this week was the culmination of weeks and months of thinking and feeling through these thoughts and emotions, and I’m now getting started on something.

What that something is I don’t know, but I know it doesn’t involve social media, so that’s a plus. When I decided to quit Micro.blog last week, I wanted to quit the endless and torturous cycle of publishing something then checking Micro.blog for comments, or when I had analytics, checking those stats for hits and referrals and more hits, then when that didn’t satisfy me, I would re-check Micro.blog and see if I got any new comments, and if I did, great, dopamine hit satisfied, but if I didn’t, I would step away annoyed and try to replace that feeling with something else. Later, when I wanted to publish something new, this cycle would repeat itself, and I would again enter this viciousness that I didn’t like or enjoy. I wanted to save my time and energy for more productive pursuits, to write more, to read more, to photograph more, to create more, and… a week isn’t long enough to know how this is going, but I think it’s going okay, all things considered.

If anything, this week was simply a big reset. Like I wrote about in that declaratory post, I’ve grown used to not using social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but that’s mostly because I replaced it with other social media platforms, like Micro.blog. So not having anything felt strange. I really didn’t know what to do with myself. I kept doing my normal things, like journaling in the morning, studying Japanese, and starting a new book, but once I did my work, I had all this time still left unspent that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I found myself picking up my phone every time I felt unsure what to do next, but since I didn’t really have anything to check on my phone, I put it down and felt unfulfilled. I’ve grown used to picking up my phone and seeing if I had new notifications or new things to read in whatever feed I had let infest my life, but now that I didn’t have anything like that, I really didn’t know what to do with myself. I kept asking myself, What now?

These feelings lasted for days. I felt stuck in this loop of old patterns that took all my energy to break free from, the same energy I wanted to devote toward my more creative pursuits, the same pursuits that was the whole purpose of my declaration in the first place. But breaking old habits is tough, and I can still feel and hear the background static that years of bad habits have produced. I don’t know how much longer it’ll last, but I feel like I’m finally walking down the right path for myself.

On Friday, I felt the urge to blog again, so I wrote a few posts over in my Stream. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to wake me up again. I picked up my notebook again and started writing notes for a new novel that I want to start, something I haven’t done in about a year, maybe longer. These notes weren’t much, but they were more than I’ve done in a long time, so I consider that a win. I’m actually very excited to start this new book, and I don’t care who knows it.

When I turned a year older earlier this month, I wrote down what I wanted to do during the next five years. A five year plan. One of those things was to simply write a book I can be proud of. I’ve written a few books already, but I haven’t really been proud of them, not enough to send them off to people or publishers. They’ve felt unfinished, rushed, not my best work. So, I hope to simply write something I’m proud of. Not something that would sell, not something for other people to read, but something that I’m proud of. So that’s what I want to focus on. That’s how I want to live my life. And I feel like I’m now, finally, on that path.

I realize a week is too soon to really know for sure, but all I can do now is to keep walking and see what happens. So let’s see what happens.

The Door

The background static felt especially loud today. I dreamt last night of my inevitable failure. I dreamt that I grabbed my phone, logged onto Micro.blog, and checked to see if yesterday’s post garnered any reaction. I woke up feeling awful. I felt awful because I didn’t dream about the content of the reactions, but the quantity. This is what happens when I use social media, and it’s what I’m trying to eliminate from my life, this incessant need to grab my phone, to grab any device near me, and check for hearts and thumbs up and @-mentions. I know this background static will be dominating my life for a few weeks, and I know it’ll eventually fade away, but I have to wonder what it says about me that this is what I dream about.

I wrote yesterday that I wanted to focus on the things that make me happy. A year ago, I wrote that:

I wish I wasn’t so anxious all the time. I wish it was easier for me to get out of my own way and just live. But it’s not. I have built up these walls around me to make me feel safe and secure from the world, and I’m only now realizing how much better I’d be without them.

I remember that day so clearly. I remember the drive to the river, and I remember the fire pit with the used diaper in it, and I remember taking out my microphone and recording the sounds around me. I remember driving on the back roads and seeing everyone’s ranches full of cows and horses and hay bales. I remember I drove to my friend Ginger’s house, how I pulled up to her driveway unannounced, how she invited me inside and showed me around, and how her two kids were so excited to show me their things, their rooms, their photos. I remember going outside and marveling at the absolute quiet of the place. No cars driving on the street, no one playing their music too loud, no ambulances or police cars blaring their horns. I remember driving back home and wishing my life were different, that I lived in that part of Montana instead of the one I lived in.

And I’m sitting here now thinking, Why hasn’t more changed since then? Why haven’t I done more? At the start of the year, I wrote a post where I asked myself, Will I be able to try street photography again this year? I have to laugh at that because I haven’t gone anywhere this year. I haven’t gone to the river or the lake or the city or anywhere beyond the walls I’ve been living behind my whole life. And it’s because I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of opening that door and walking through it. I’m afraid of seeing what’s out there, of trying new things, of exploring the unexplored. And what I beat myself up so much about is that for six years, I was a wildland firefighter. I ran toward the flames instead of away from them. And for four of those years, I was an EMT firefighter. I roamed the mountains as a single resource firefighter, taking charge as a squad boss when needed and as a medical professional the other times. I wasn’t and am not afraid to face the open flames or the open wounds, but I’m afraid of opening this damn door I’ve constructed, and I don’t know what to do about it.

This is the part of my life I want to change, the part I want to improve, the part I want to devote all of my energies toward. Because I feel like I need to. I feel like every force in the world is weighing on me as I reach my hand out toward the door, fighting for every step, and never quite able to carry it all past the threshold. So I’ve grown use to not even trying anymore. Of feeling content staying still, of sitting on my couch in my air conditioned room, of living behind these walls forever. But that’s not living, and dammit, I want to live.

My Mom Is a Badass

I love my mom.

She emigrated to America from Mexico when she was just a teenager. She didn’t go to high school. She married my father at 18. She had me at 21. She raised four kids practically by herself in a country that didn’t want her. She taught herself English. She managed to somehow feed us and clothe us and give us a place to live. She raised a son that went to the best damn film school in the world. A daughter who worked in the video game industry. A son who served his country in the Navy. My mom is a badass.

I love that we talk on the phone once a week or so. I love that the things we talk about are about movies or TV shows we recently watched and liked. I love that we gossip about things happening in our extended families. I love that I can tell her things that I don’t usually tell anyone else. I love that she talks to me in Spanish and I talk to her in English, and we both know what each other is saying. I love that she finally got her US citizenship last year, in the middle of a damn pandemic. I love my mom, and I think she’s a badass.

I know times between us haven’t always been good. I know we’ve both said things to each other that we wish we could take back. But I love that we’ve moved past it, that we still love each other so much, that we can still joke and make each other laugh. I love my mom, I think she’s a badass, and goddammit, she’s the best mom ever.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Something Familiar

It’s May, and nature is coming alive. Last week, I went on an early morning walk to the park with my camera and found everything green and wet and full of life. It was my first walk in a long time, and I missed it. I miss the feel of my camera in my hand, the weight of it, the heaviness of the lens, the feel of my backpack on my back and my hoodie over my head. I miss how my senses are heightened as I scan my surroundings, looking for my subject, of the thrill of the hunt. I miss the sound of the shutter, of pressing it after composing my shot, of getting down close and in the face of nature, of getting my sneakers wet, of blowing into my hands to keep them warm. This is life, and I miss it.

I’m at a crossroads, I think, and I don’t know which path to take. I’m looking back at the road I’ve travelled and wondering if I took a wrong turn somewhere. Should I go back or should I keep moving forward? Should I see this through or should I reconsider? I’m full of doubt but also of excitement. I can do anything I want, and that sense of freedom is scary and invigorating. Who do I want to be? What do I want to accomplish? I don’t know, but I want to find out.

I’ve been here before. It seems like I end up here every time I start questioning myself. Questioning myself is good, I think. It means I’m always looking to improve. It means I’m paying attention to my life and what’s happening around me. It means I’m at the peak of one mountain and I’m looking up at the next one. But sometimes I just want to rest and have someone else take the reigns for once. Unfortunately, I’m on this road alone, so I have to pick myself up and keep going.

May is my birthday month. I’m a year older, a year wiser, a year closer to death. Sometimes my mortality scares me, but other times, it doesn’t. It forces me to look in the mirror and decide who I want to see. Who do I want to see this year? Does it matter? As long as I keep moving forward, it doesn’t matter.

And that’s my answer.

Mortality

I woke up the other night thinking about my mortality again. I thought briefly of my father and of him lying on his deathbed, of how he’s been gone for almost 13 years, of all the life he has missed since then, of my life he has missed, or my lack of life, in all fairness. I thought about my life and of its ending, of how short it all feels, of how much of it I’ve wasted, of the purpose of it all. I wrote about it in my notebook this morning and had a good dialog with myself about it. I’m trying to get back on the road, but I lost my way a long time ago. It’s going to take some time to find my way again, and that’s okay.

At least, that’s what I’m trying to tell myself. I haven’t felt this aimless and purposeless in a long time. I wanted to move away around this time next year, on the 10th year anniversary of my living in Montana, but I’m afraid because I don’t know what I would do for money or where I would go. I’d be out of debt by then, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’d bury myself in debt again if I do leave. I like my job but I don’t want to do it forever. I’m in my mid-30s now, and the thought of working here for longer than a few years horrifies me.

Is this what I wanted to be doing in my 30s? My 40s? When will it end?

In Why People Photograph, Robert Adams writes:

There is the joy to be found in a landscape experienced with family and friends…To hear one’s name, and the invitation, spoken with the assurance you will together see the same gift—“Look.”

I can’t wait to travel again, to go there, and say look! at everything I see, but I don’t have anyone to share those experiences with, to share those moments of majesty and wonder. I haven’t had anyone in a long time. In my notebook, I wrote all the names of all the people that have come and gone in my life, and I’ve never seen them all written together before. It terrified me. It terrifies me. It makes me dwell on the everlasting forward march of time and how I can’t stop it. One day this will all end, and the question I ask myself is whether it was worth it.

There’s a verse in Breaking Up Slowly, a song on Lana del Rey’s wonderful Chemtrails over the Country Club, that goes: Are these my good years or do I have none? / Are there really good years for everyone? / I don’t wanna live with a life of regret. It’s sung beautifully by Nikki Lane, and these lines have haunted me all day. I don’t wanna live with a life of regret but regret seems to be the only emotion I know how to feel.

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