Tag Archives: relationships

Equal Opportunity Salvation

Equal Opportunity Salvation

March 27, 2016:

Today is Easter, and that means church services will be filled, dinners will be served, and millions upon millions won’t even get why any of that matters. It might even be safe to say that those who don’t get it won’t want to get it because anything “religious” just isn’t their cup of tea. Maybe you’re one of the millions. Maybe you’re perfectly happy with that. In our culture, happiness is what’s important, right?

Honestly, it makes sense. Religion has gotten a bad rep, regardless of the people who run it or the god(s) they serve. Some people just don’t want to get involved. Maybe they think it’s the same as eating kryptonite.

Why should they care about Easter?

I could tell you exactly what Easter is…so I will. It’s about Jesus rising from the dead after taking our sins on the cross and out of this life. Basically, it’s his victory over sin, which translates to our victory over sin. It’s about giving us a place in Heaven. It’s about paying a price we can’t pay ourselves. You know how Christmas is the prime gift-giving day of the season? Easter is about the greatest gift we’ll ever get. I still don’t know how bunnies got involved.

Maybe some of you haven’t heard about the importance of Easter. I acknowledge that there are still people in this world who haven’t heard the Gospel (otherwise we’d clearly be living in the times presented in Revelations, and though I think we’re certainly close to it, I don’t think we’re there just yet). But if you have heard it and you’re not already on board with this, there’s a strong chance that you don’t believe it or care about it or, for some reason, you’re resistant to it.

And again, I understand why you might fit into the latter category. Here are some possible scenarios that may apply:

  1. You think the Bible is fiction.
  2. You think Christians are bigots, and you want nothing to do with them.
  3. You think you can save yourself.
  4. You don’t want to give up the sinful life you’re living.
  5. You believe something else entirely and don’t want religious cross-pollination.
  6. You don’t think sin is real.
  7. You don’t think God is real.

And so on. You get the idea. You know where you fit into this story.

The thing about Christianity is that it’s full of people who have heard all of these excuses and more. In fact, it’s full of people who have made these same excuses at some point in their pre-Christian lives. Even those of us who learned about Jesus at a young age still had to experience the temptations that life brings, so we still get it. It’s the reason there are so many who have turned away as teenagers and young adults. They spent so much time learning the watered down, educational version of Christianity that they didn’t want it any more. They wanted to experience “life,” and their understanding of Christianity wasn’t about to give it to them. And, if you know the difference between “religious” Christianity and true Christianity, then you’ll understand why some Christians still turn away from it.

They knew Christianity as a religion, much like those who refuse Christianity think of it as a religion. And to be fair, many Christians treat it like a religion. These same Christians may be responsible in triggering one of the listed beliefs you have about Christianity above. But it’s not supposed to be that way.

First of all, and I’m going to speak from the heart here, not from some sense of all-knowing righteousness. This is just what I think:

Many non-Christians, and you may be one of them, choose to disregard the Bible as truth, calling it fiction. Some also think of it as a list of archaic laws that no longer apply. And most commonly misunderstood: many don’t believe it’s the inspired Word of God. They simply think that it’s a product of a group of misogynist men getting together and making up some rules that are designed to oppress people and justify evil. This, of course, assumes that the critics understand what evil actually is. Again, this is understandable. Many Christians wrestle with this very notion. It’s why we have faith. We really don’t know if it’s true. We just choose to believe it. Some say we do so foolishly.

BUT…

We choose to believe the Bible is true the same way we choose to believe the Law of Gravity is true. The only proof we have of gravity, besides the fact that everything falls (including us, which is why we have Jesus, but I digress), is what physicists, like Isaac Newton, tell us. We blindly believe them because we trust their authority. And, when we open our eyes, we can see that what they say is true. The same could be said of mathematicians who say that one plus one equals two. I’m no math guy—I studied English in college—but if a mathematician tells me that one and one equals two, I’m inclined to believe him. I don’t believe him because I’m an ignorant tool who thinks all scientists are liars. I believe him because he’s the authority on that subject. He understands math in a way that I never will, just like Isaac Newton and other physicists understand gravity in a way I never will, just like Albert Einstein understands relativity like I never will.

I choose to believe the Bible because it was written by people who have authoritative knowledge that I never will. But more on that in a moment.

Let’s start by addressing the “fiction” that so many non-Christians want to lambast it for. The Bible has parables in it, which are stories about fictional characters. Jesus told us about the servants who were given ten, five, and one talent respectively, and told to do something with them before the master got back. The two servants with ten and five talents respectively invested what they were given and yielded double the return. When the master came back, they were rewarded with even more. The servant who was given just one talent chose to bury his because he knew the master was cold and exacting and wouldn’t want him to lose it. The master thought the servant’s understanding of him was poor, and he saw him as wasting an opportunity, and he ultimately stripped him of the one talent he had, so he was left with nothing. All because he didn’t use what he was given.

I don’t believe the three servants and the master were real people, but I do believe Jesus told this parable to make a point about using what we’re given. It’s still history, as the storyteller is very real, and there are plenty of witnesses who saw him give this parable, and if this message was later written in the Bible incorrectly, there were many, many people who’d know it and rebuke the misinformation.

I think of it in terms of a historian writing a book in 2030 about the events of 9/11 and explaining how the aliens burned down the World Trade Center with their heat vision on September 11, 2001. Um…no. But there was a fire! It must be true. No! Stop being stupid! There were no aliens and no heat rays. You watch too many movies, Mr. Historian.

We can treat the Bible as a history book because there were plenty of people still alive at the time of its writing that would call out its inaccuracies, if it had any, based on the consistency of their eyewitness accounts. And even if they weren’t there personally, the correct information would’ve survived just as our correct information about the assassination of JFK has endured 53 years. If you tell someone JFK was murdered in Houston, Texas, they would quickly reeducate you that it happened in Dallas. If the story of Jesus was written ANY other way, the authors of those four books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) would’ve been laughed out of a reporting job (and possibly sent into exile—those days were a lot tougher on mistakes than they are today—but at the very least they would’ve had their books rejected). There was no way they could’ve gotten it wrong and gotten it into the history book. The people of that time cared more about the historical account than even we do.

Outside of the parables and the history accounts, the Bible is also made up of prophecies, and I’m pretty sure this is where most people have problems with it (well, no, most people have problems with what it claims as sin, but I’ll get to that in a moment). In short, I don’t understand prophecies, or how a prophet can know what God is telling him. But there’s a good reason for that. I’m not a prophet. I don’t specialize in prophecies. But, just as I trust a physicist to tell me the truth about gravity and a mathematician to tell me the truth about one plus one, I trust a prophet to tell me the truth about the heart of God, or in more relevant terms, the divine inspiration of God’s Word, aka, the Bible. I believe the Bible is true because I believe God is wiser than I am and that He knows how to get His exact message across to the world, even if I don’t understand the details. That’s fine, really. God knows not to trust me with His divine prophetic words. I’d screw it up. It’s not my gift. It’s why He gave it to the prophets. They’d know how to handle it.

The people who accuse the Bible of being false, or fictitious, do so in complete ignorance. The same people who accuse Christians of having a closed mind are not that good at opening their own minds, because if they were, they’d investigate biblical truth until they found emphatic proof that it’s a lie (which no one in human history has ever done, FYI—even those theorists—Note: those who specialize in theory, not fact—who think they’ve disproved the Bible because they compared it to something they believe (not proved) and found fault based on their limited understanding just haven’t dared to keep looking beyond their limited understanding or skewed worldview; anyone who has, has given up their quest and become Christians, and yes, that is documented). No, they, too, have a closed mind because they don’t want to find out they’re dead wrong (which they will if they dig deep enough), and why would they want to ruin their precious reputations on silly things like facts or truth?

And for the record, Christians have closed minds because once we figure out the truth, we have no reason to lie to ourselves any further. Having an open mind means we’re still searching for the truth. We’re not. We’ve found it and we know it. There are many reasons why we know we’ve found the truth; often it has to do with what Christianity is—a relationship with Christ that goes deeper than knowledge or theory. It’s the same reason why we understand our spouses better than our grocers understand our spouses. Our grocers may think they know our spouses, but they don’t, not really. They only know what they see. They don’t know the fullness of what we’ve experienced, so they don’t know our spouses like we do. Christianity is the same way. We understand Christ better than non-Christians do. That’s why we choose to serve him. Just like a husband might serve his wife, and a wife her husband. They understand what they have (ideally, of course—human nature does get in the way sometimes, but that’s another topic for another time). We’re not idiots. We just have an understanding that you don’t. And that’s unfortunate for you. Sorry to call it out like it is. But, no, actually I’m not sorry.

I am sorry about the second point on the list, the bigotry. But let me explain why this is still a problem:

Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship with Jesus Christ, who died for all of our sins. Now, to be clear, sin is sin, and I do not suggest that anything that is sin shouldn’t be called sin. If it’s sin, it’s sin. Period. And if it’s sin, it is the thing that can keep you out of Heaven. Period.

BUT…

That’s why Jesus came to mankind. Because we all do it. Sin. We’re all equal opportunity sinners, and Jesus, thankfully, is an equal opportunity savior.

The problems with Christianity, and the bad rep it gets with things like bigotry, comes down to Christians trying to make it into a religion. It’s about some Christians trying to be better than everyone else. I’m probably guilty of this myself sometimes.

Look, let me set the record straight. We’re not better than anyone else. Period. Part of believing in an equal opportunity savior is to acknowledge that we, too, are equal opportunity sinners.

I’m not going to write about how certain sins that progressive politics have made okay are okay. They’re not. Sorry, but no politician has ever died for my sins, and no politician has ever created the physical laws of earth and heaven, so I don’t believe any politician has the right to tell me what is and isn’t sinful. Even Moses, who drafted the Ten Commandments, had to get his instructions directly from God. And keep in mind that these instructions were passed down from a God who understands human nature very, very well.

The issue here is the people who sin, and that’s all of us. We all need Jesus. None of us need bigotry (in any of its forms, and for the sake of further argument, I’ll refer to it also as prejudice against anyone who isn’t perfect, which is basically everyone, and being prejudice against everyone makes life pretty lonely). I’d spent part of my life misunderstanding the point. I used my human brain to justify my understanding of God’s laws, when I wasn’t really trained well enough to understand. And though I don’t struggle with misunderstanding people anymore (at least, I don’t think I do, but I apologize if I do), I’m sure I still have areas of weakness, including the courage to speak up when others are clearly screwing up their lives (maybe because I don’t want to acknowledge that they are screwing up their lives). As a Christian, I’m supposed to love everyone, and part of loving others is to point out the path they’re on. I supposed that’s the main reason why I’m writing this. Many of us take this concept too far. We’re supposed to do everything in love. That’s what Jesus asks of us.

What it comes down to is that the religion of Christianity is run by fallible men, but actual Christianity is about believing in the infallible Christ as our savior. There’s nothing more to it.

That said, becoming a Christian doesn’t mean automatic goodness. Nobody becomes “good” overnight. Jesus himself tells us that no one is good but God the Father. But, choosing to love Jesus means our attitudes begin to change. It means that our actions begin to change. It doesn’t happen overnight. There are plenty of Christians who still openly sin, and many more who still sin in private. We’re still trying to shed the old life in favor of the new. For those who don’t want to give up the old life, it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to become Christians. Maybe they’re afraid of what life would be like without that addiction. Maybe they enjoy the feeling of hate. Maybe they like to invent their own truths, even if the result of it wrecks their lives. Some people just want to live the mediocre life. Some just want to burn. It’s their choice.

God gave us free will. That’s why evil exists in this world. That’s why we have so many viewpoints about what equals truth, and more difficult, what is and isn’t sin. It’s why we have so many cults and religions, and why those religions require so many tasks. It’s why the state religion, politics, has so many counterintuitive, counterproductive, conflicting laws and practices. We think we can better ourselves with new ideas and new practices. By nature, we progress in ideas because the thing we thought was good before wasn’t actually good enough. Tomorrow we’ll look for something to replace the thing we thought was good today. Eventually we’ll complete the progressive circle and find ourselves back at the beginning.

But look, we had perfection once. We thought we could improve on it. We ruined the world and ourselves as a result. God had to step in and fix it for us, because, you know, He’s the one that built it in the first place. He understands how it works. He understands how we work. He knows us better than we know ourselves. The only one who really knows how to fix our mess is God himself.

Maybe you don’t want to trust in God’s leadership and Christ’s salvation, but I hope you will. We can’t save ourselves, no matter how much we convince ourselves we can. We’re not the ones who set the standards on righteousness. Don’t let the faults of any man or woman, or your misunderstanding of a subject you have no expertise in, deter you from experiencing the only gift you’ll ever really need. We all need Jesus. Easter would not be among the world’s oldest holidays if it didn’t mean something.

I think there were other points I wanted to address in this article, but I wanted to keep this as short as possible, and I’ve already gone on too long. Maybe I’ll add a second part if I think of something I’ve forgotten about. That said, if you wish to discuss this, please comment below.

Note: If you came here looking for information on my books, or writing, or something else more to the current theme of Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm, I will be talking more about them soon. Sometimes I have other topics of interest that I want to write about, so do expect the occasional non-writing topic here.

Finding Love at Best Buy

Finding Love at Best Buy

Or, Dating in the Express Lane

Or, Impulsive Mating

February 29, 2016:

(Note: I had planned to finish this essay a couple of days before Valentine’s Day, but I had other stuff to catch up on. My life is a mass of incompleteness.)

There’s nothing wrong with window shopping. Sometimes we walk along a series of storefronts, peer inside to see what the shops offer, and discover through a casual glance the must-have item of our dreams. Suddenly, thanks to any number of qualities it displays, we’re enraptured by this amazing item’s presence. Whether we’ve found that jacket we want, or that national best-seller everyone’s been talking about, or a movie with a cast we like, we’re immediately lured in by its siren song. The temptation to acquire it drives to the forefront of our short-term ambitions. For an undetermined length of time, it becomes our chief focus.

If that temptation to acquire is weak, we smile, acknowledge that having such a thing would be “nice but unnecessary,” and then move on. If it’s powerful, then we have to face a starker reality where we feel the creep of obsession growing through our heads and gnawing at our brains and spreading into our hearts and stomachs, and suddenly we think we “need this more than anything in the world.” Most likely, our window shopping may lead us to something in between: realization that we’ve just discovered this item that is “right for right now” or “desirable, yet worth waiting for.”

At that point we have to decide what to do with that temptation. Decide if we can do anything with it. Sometimes we consider the budget we’re on, consider the money we left at home, remember the braces we still have to buy that kid we’re responsible for, and ultimately fight the urge to explore it more. But sometimes we forget where we are—we’re so caught up with the idea of having that awesome thing—that we go right in and buy it anyway. We create a reality where we need it and we can afford it, so we should have it, even if we can’t or shouldn’t.

And, then comes the new reality that we frequently encounter. The thing that had so much promise in the storefront turns out to lack the very features it seduced us into thinking it had. A coffeemaker that assured us it could not only brew the best coffee in town, but steam milk right into it, suddenly proves that its idea of steam is nothing more than a splattered mess that hits everything but the coffee or the cup it sits in, when it even works.

Or, it does offer everything as advertised, and maybe more, but we find out too late that it’s ultimately something we would never use: That automatic banana and carrot peeler, for example, might look really good on the kitchen counter and work like a charm. But we forget that fingers are free, a full carrot is healthier than a peeled carrot, and even though the automatic peeler does everything as advertised and more (it also makes a whirring sound that can drown out the neighbors’ screaming), it’s basically a waste of money. Then what?

Or, we need it for the moment, like an express juicer that can crank out drinks in a hurry for that night when we have to entertain our boss and his many guests as he gives everyone that final hurrah before shutting down the business and putting us all out of a job, but then we find ourselves dumping it into storage after the party’s over.

Or, sometimes, just sometimes, we actually find something we want, discover that it does everything it promises, and we end up using it frequently.

In early summer 1999, I had one such experience.

I was closing in on 23, living in a house near downtown Orlando, and enjoying one of my favorite pastimes: exploring my neighborhood Best Buy for the next great temptation. In those days, Best Buy was the premier place for your electronic, movie, and gaming needs, as well as the place for consumer products that single college students don’t typically care about—like brand new appliances and office furniture. On that particular Friday afternoon, I was perusing the computer game shelf for my weekly fix of seeing what’s new and taking a mental inventory of what I might want someday and wrestling with my financial conscience over the concept of fiscal responsibility and deciding on the difference between what I needed (food, rent, shelter) and what I didn’t (movies, computer games, anything that didn’t add a day to my life), when I happened across the shiny quarter that would intercept my summer with a vengeance. It was a computer game called RollerCoaster Tycoon, and it would steal my heart away.

In our modern-day society, I think it’s fair to say that we make most of our big decisions the same way we make our little ones. We search the Internet for that next great job and apply to anything that looks promising. We often don’t get the interview (for the people in charge of hiring seek their candidates the same way), and in those rare moments when we actually get the job, we find that our actual responsibilities are nothing like what was listed in the description, or that those things we did come to expect are really ill-fitting for us, and even if we get the paycheck we want, the experience earning it comes with a soul-sucking black hole. Or, we go house-hunting, find the perfect beach house on the housing site we trust, and discover at the open house that the photos displaying its majesty are ten years old and that the owners haven’t been keeping up with it since the pictures were taken. Or, we go through the motions of picking out our house, buy it, move in, and discover a week later that there’s a skeleton in the downstairs closet, just behind the water heater (or termites).

One of the biggest decisions we make, the people we get involved with or even marry, also falls into the trap of express itemizing, of cover judging, of buying before the research is finished (or started), and even when we might know better, we still find ourselves window shopping, we still find ourselves impulse buying, and we still go home with buyer’s remorse. It happens far more often than not.

And yet for some, it still works. For a while.

When I saw RollerCoaster Tycoon sitting on that shelf, I was immediately intrigued by the cover, but I wasn’t about to waste $30 on a cover. I had to check out the back of the box, where the game’s description could be found, where I could get a sense of the game through the screenshots. I didn’t want to end up with some ugly mess of a product that dabbled in a genre I had no interest in playing. But what I found on the back simply amazed me. As a fan of rollercoasters and the nature of motion and momentum they provide, I was curious how a game about building an amusement park would handle that. And when I saw that the rollercoasters were free-form, and that little people called “peeps” would spend money to ride them, and that I could still build an experience similar to what I might find at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure all around it, I thought, sold!

At that point, I’d done all the initial research I needed. I knew I was going to buy this game. But when? Would I wait until I knew I could afford it? Would I investigate it further through consumer reviews or magazine write-ups? Would I wait a few months for the price to drop? Any one of these precautions probably would’ve been smarter, and I knew it even then. But no, I didn’t want to wait. I had to have this thing now. I had to play it tonight. It promised me everything I ever wanted in a “tycoon” style game (building a park from an empty lot, deciding where things go, how much they cost to ride, how many janitors, security guards, etc. needed to roam the park, whether or not peeps had to pay to use the restrooms, and so forth, not to mention building rollercoasters!), and dang it, I was going to build me an epic park. So I kept it in hand, headed for the checkout, and impulse bought the greatest computer game I’d ever find.

I was so excited for this game that, even though I went to my friend Brad’s house to hang out for a bit (I think this was the time when I was putting together a graduation video for another friend, and was sort of on a deadline and needed Brad’s help to film a part of it), I kept thinking about how much I just wanted to go home and check out this new game I’d bought, even though I knew nothing about it beyond what the box promised, and hadn’t even heard of it prior to my Best Buy visit. As evening approached, I decided that I didn’t want to hang out longer than necessary, even though I could’ve been social (and a good friend while I was at it), so I got into my truck, looked at my precious new RollerCoaster Tycoon, and dreamed about the night we were about to have together.

And let me tell you, it was everything the box had promised. If I had waited months to buy it, I would’ve discovered its coming legacy as a critically acclaimed, best-selling Game of the Year (strategy, if I recall), that would give me not one, but two expansion packs, which meant having three times as many parks to build (25 each pack), a dozen or so new rides and shop stalls, new themes, and more, turning a great game into something unparalleled, and if I had waited as much as a year, I would’ve been able to get all of that as a complete set for a fraction of the cost. But I didn’t wait. I took a chance while it was still new and I knew nothing about it. And it was a chance I’d consider pretty lucky.

When I went home that night, I installed the game, played through the first park (a grassy area, taking me about three hours to complete all of the objectives), fell in love with both the concept and the game’s execution of the concept, played the second park, a desert map with a pyramid-like sand dune in the lower right corner and a crazy mine coaster in the upper right corner, overspent my money on a swinging overhead coaster that had an absurdly high nausea rating, kept trying to sell off pieces and rebuild them into new shapes in order to lower the “extreme nausea” designation caused by sudden changes in height and direction, and kept waiting for the “peeps” to fund my operation enough to not only outweigh my expenses (keeping things in the green) but to do so at a fast enough rate that I could lay more than one piece of track every few minutes, and kept building past my required objectives into the sandbox period (when you no longer have to keep an eye on the game clock) until I’d stayed up so late that night that I had to quit because it was now Saturday morning and I had to go to work. And yes, I went to work (at that famed ‘90s establishment called Blockbuster Video) without having gotten any sleep, and by noon that day, I found myself literally sleepwalking while carrying a stack of VHS tapes to the shelves. But I thought the experience was worth it, and when I went home that evening, I lay in bed for just a few hours, enough to quench the sleepiness I’d felt, and then I was back up by eight o’clock and plowing through another session of amusement park construction, which I would again stick with until the absurd hours of the night, or morning.

Did I get my money’s worth out of that game? Absolutely. I played it just about every day for four straight months. Did I give it the epic marathon of hours each day that I had in that first weekend? No. Not even close. I had other responsibilities to factor in, like college, work, church, friends, food, sleep, etc., so I reduced my epic gaming sessions down to maybe an hour or two a day. But I kept advancing through the parks, and when the first expansion, Corkscrew Follies, came out, I was briefly rekindled with my love for the game, for the expansion offered me 25 new parks, a handful of new rides and shop stalls, new themes, and all of the things that a new expansion to any game would normally offer a gamer in 1999, and I would devote a new breath of endless hours just to play it through a second honeymoon stage.

But then my time with it began to wane. I no longer played it daily. Weekly, yes, but not daily. Then the second expansion pack, Loopy Landscapes, came out (either in late 1999 or early 2000). I bought it for $20 (same price as Corkscrew Follies, and the average price for most expansion packs of any game of the day), and played it for a short while as I discovered yet again a new series of parks, stalls, rides, and themes. But by then I was getting bored with the game, and a new spit shine wasn’t going to be enough to put me back on the epic trail. In late 1999 and early to mid-2000, I had two new games stealing most of my attention, Jagged Alliance 2, a complex squad-based tactical strategy game about using hired mercenaries to free a third-world country of its tyrant leader, which I’d bought on impulse like RollerCoaster Tycoon earlier that spring or summer, and The Sims, a game from the makers of all those “Sim” games from the ‘90s that I’d liked so much, which involved building houses and developing characters, and, well, The Sims became the best-selling computer game of all time and probably doesn’t need an explanation here, which I did research a little before buying, though I’d come very close to impulse buying that one, too. By the time The Sims got my attention, RollerCoaster Tycoon had become yesterday’s news, and I’d hardly play it again, at least not for a while. And yeah, it would get two sequels, with one of them getting a full 3D treatment and an expansion pack involving water parks and another involving zoos, and though I’d give the second sequel a significant amount of my attention over time, it still didn’t capture the same level of thrill that the first game had given me in those first four months of ownership.

The fact is, no matter how much I enjoyed my game in the beginning, and no matter how much bang I got for that 30 bucks, and no matter how much of its promises it had kept, in the end, I still moved on after the thrill went away. At the end of the day, it was fun, but it stole four months of my life, added nothing back, and I really didn’t become a better man for it, or even produce better work as a result of having it—unless you count my short story, “Amusement,” which had a setting inspired by the game. The most it gave back to me was a “tycoon” mentality that got me thinking about how spending money makes money, which would’ve been helpful had I gone into business for myself, which I still haven’t done. Certainly not a bad thing, but when you consider how much time I’d sunk into a temporary love that took more from me than it gave, it shouldn’t be hard to see how much I really didn’t need it.

No, the better investment was in the computer I played it on. Sure, I had spent $3000 on that thing, but I had it custom built according to what I needed, and though I had wanted it to come with wonderful qualities like high processing and nice sound, I was most concerned with its longevity. I had planned to write many a story and complete many a homework assignment on that thing, as well as to play the occasional game when I needed some fun, and I wanted to make sure that I could use it for as long as possible, so my decision to choose the model I’d chosen was made for the long-term, and I chose only what I knew I needed, not what necessarily looked or sounded the best. The computer ended up lasting eight long years before showing the early signs of a coming death, and I remained loyal to it until I knew it was basically done with me and ready to die. And I didn’t impulse buy it; I researched it, asked a trusted source for advice on how to choose the right model, made decisions about what I needed and what I wanted and how much I could compromise in order to get the model best suited for me, and even worked out how I would pay for it and keep up with its relevance. And I didn’t find it at Best Buy. No, there was really nothing I needed at Best Buy the day I went window shopping and found the game that would offer me only a small fraction of the time and usefulness that my computer itself had offered me.

At best, I’d found on that day a quick fix for sadness or loneliness, but nothing made to last. I would’ve needed a different mindset to discover something of true lasting value. But I bought it anyway because it was there and I wanted it and I didn’t care that I didn’t need it.

Isn’t that basically how we make most of our important decisions?

Consider this reality: We live in a society plagued by divorce, by dissatisfaction, by distrust, by trains of baggage, and other relational maladies that we fear so much but somehow still expect to buy mistakenly, even when we want to believe that this time it’s going to work, even though we keep doing things the same way at the same place each time. We just think that if we keep looking in that same shop window, we’re going to find what we’re looking for.

Maybe we need to expand our reach a little, take a little more time to do the research before making the sacrificial purchase, examine whether this is what we need before committing so much precious time to discover how much it really isn’t.

That said, I’ve since made back the $30 I spent on the game (and the computer, for that matter), but I never made back the time. There are plenty of things I could’ve done with those lost months, or people I could’ve met, or skills I could’ve built that would’ve benefitted me more than the limited (watered-down) business concepts or design methods the game had taught me. But, nope. I chose what chose, and I’ve done something similar plenty of times before and since, often with far fewer redeeming values than the game I most adored, and I can’t begin to guess the amount of hours I’ve ground into dust trying to medicate my heart with this thing that added so little value to my life. But I will say that I don’t regret it because it was a lot of fun at the time, and I still occasionally think about the parks I’ve built, even if I have basically moved on to other preoccupations.

Question is, are these new loves in my life worth the investment, or are they also just shallow fillers of my irreplaceable time? I’m still having fun, certainly, but I don’t really like how little I’ve progressed in life. Maybe I need to stop going after what looks good or feels good and start giving my time to what is good.

I hope you will, too.

Happy Leap Day.

New Stories in February

February 6, 2016:

Now that the buzz for Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One is fading and the lack of Christmas this time of year makes The Fountain of Truth basically irrelevant for the next ten months (unless you’re looking for a good fable!), it’s time to set our sights on the future. And when I say the future, I mean in the next few weeks.

I’ve been “hard at work” on my revision for a short story I had written back in Spring 1999 called “Gutter Child,” which I wrote for a college fiction class for a grade (I want to say a B) but always believed could be better. In 2004, I took the original story and built a framing device around it, essentially changing who the main character was, and published it as the final short story entry in my personal anthology, Nomadic Souls: The Collection of Junk, Vol. 1. It was a little better than the original version, but I still wasn’t happy with it.

Now, in 2016, with the growing popularity of e-books and the higher quality nature of print on demand (POD) making updates to my older stories more attractive, I’m giving it a third go, and this time I’m ripping the guts out of the old frame and building a far more compelling story around the original, which is now the catalyst for the events that rock the main character’s world (and causes him plenty of trouble) rather than the complete story it once was. Essentially, I’m rewriting “Gutter Child” as a new story altogether, and the results are looking good. I’m still finishing up the story’s third act, and then I need to go back and fill in the missing pieces. But I expect to be finished and ready to polish in the next day or two.

But that’s not all. I’m also putting in some additional hours reforming the story I had written before “Gutter Child” for the same class in 1999, called “The Fallen Footwear.” Like “Gutter Child,” the core story will remain, but serve more as a supporting sequence than as the complete story it was seventeen years ago. Neither story was particularly long initially, but both are now over 10,000 words (“Gutter Child” is now over 20,000 words, whereas the original story was less than 4,000 words). When all is said and done, the month of February will see about 40,000 new words added to my growing archive of e-books.

So, what are they exactly?

“Gutter Child,” which will be a novella by the time it’s finished, is the story of a teenager who, while getting ready to head off to college (the only one he could get into, and definitely not his first choice), discovers by reading his sister’s autobiography that they were adopted–a fact that neither parent has ever shared with him–and as a result falls into a headlong spiral of doubt and betrayal as he looks for the truth behind his origin.

“The Fallen Footwear” is the product of a twenty-something version of me writing about heartbreak and recovery within a symbolic frame of a favorite gift gone tainted, then passing it off to the wiser thirty-something version of me who thinks the old story is too artsy and says too little and needs a clearer story about the dangers of falling in love with someone who probably doesn’t deserve us. It’s about meeting the person of your dreams, finding out that person sucks, and trying to figure out how to move on when that person leaves your heart in a puddle by the side of the road as she drives off into the dark. It’s at times a comedy.

I expect both to be ready in February, with “Gutter Child” likely heading to Smashwords on or around February 9th, with Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo getting their copies throughout the week, and “The Fallen Footwear” sometime between the 17th and the 26th to Smashwords and the steady trickle to the other retailers after that.

“Gutter Child” will more than likely break my 25,000-word threshold for determining price, so, unless I get it under the wire, it’ll retail for $.99 on release day. However, I will also supply a coupon for a free copy downloadable at Smashwords for readers of this blog, so look for yours when you find the book. “The Fallen Footwear” will most likely be one of the few freebies I’ll be releasing in 2016. And yes, I will not be posting as many freebies this year as I did in 2015. If you enjoy my work, please consider supporting me by purchasing my upcoming priced titles. I’m sure you’ll love reading them.

So with that, keep an eye open for these titles in the coming weeks. I’ll talk more about my 2016 progress as a whole in a later post. Thanks.

Don’t You Forget About Me

October 22, 2015

Even though “Back to the Future” Day was yesterday, the celebration continues with a look back at my favorite movie of all time.

In the year 1985, the same year that Marty McFly first adventured with the DeLorean into another time, a movie was released that would change the landscape for take-charge teenagers forever. Well, two movies, if you count Back to the Future. That first movie, The Breakfast Club, changed my life.

But that’s vague, so let’s paint a backstory here.

In February 1985, the month that The Breakfast Club was released, I was still just a kid, not even in the double-digits yet. High school was still many years away. And, most importantly, it was an R-rated movie, and my parents were too responsible to let me, their young child, see something with such language at the time of its release. So, I didn’t see it in 1985. Or, really, any time particularly close to 1985.

In kid’s terms, “particularly close” might mean a few weeks, or at the most, a few months. In kid’s terms, two years is a lifetime, and I’m pretty sure it had taken me a lifetime to finally get the opportunity to see it. But sure enough, sometime in the mid-late ’80s, a local independent station, which later became a FOX affiliate, started airing the edited-for-television version (Bender’s spirited curse becomes a spirited support for a university when “F**k you!” becomes “Fam U!” for example), and now, finally, I got a chance to see it.

I was blown away. And I don’t know why, exactly. As a nine- or ten-year-old, I had no reason to find power in the story of five teenagers who were way older than me and went through things I was still years off from experiencing myself. But I did. Maybe I was moved with anticipation. Maybe I thought all high schools were like Shermer High, and maybe I thought all teenagers were like the archetypes presented in the movie. Realistically, I was grabbed hard by the throat by the awesome soundtrack–I mean, that opening on black title cards and a montage of static empty high school scenes, so simple yet so thematic. But at my core, I think I was moved more by the dynamics of these people, the friction between styles, ideologies, and backgrounds, even with the one common thing they all share is universal: our parents help shape who we are. For a ten-year-old, that’s quite a lesson to learn.

On the one hand, I think it did probably have some bearing into helping me understand the person I’ve become, based on the instruction my parents had offered me. Both had vastly different levels of style, personality, and responsibility when it came to raising me. Mom was always very economical, responsible, intent to raise me to respect others, follow the rules, and so on. Dad was basically carefree and pretty blasé about most things, and more or less the dead opposite of my mom. In some sense, they were like a two-person Breakfast Club, two completely different archetypes trying to reach the same goal: not to accidentally wreck my life or kill me. I’m still alive and functional, so…I guess they succeeded.

But that’s not all I got out of the movie.

The characters in The Breakfast Club have a three-dimensional arc we can all learn from, even though the substance in their arcs may seem shallow at times–Ally Sheedy’s character, for example, grows from being a weirdo to being a pretty weirdo. But they still exhibit change in the nine hours they’re forced to sit together in a high school library. For most of us, change takes longer, but the fact that we can change is well-documented in this brilliant John Hughes movie.

And speaking of John Hughes, this is the movie that made me a fan of his work.

I’ve probably seen this movie 40 times or more by now. I don’t recall if I had done this on my first viewing, but at some point I had recorded a VHS copy of the edited-for-television version, watched it at least ten times in the three or four years following, bought the soundtrack on cassette, noticed a theme I hadn’t heard in the movie, rented the real movie (on VHS) when I was finally a teenager, was surprised to see that the edited-for-television version had cut a few scenes (including the joint sequence, which featured the theme in the soundtrack I hadn’t heard in the movie previously), eventually bought it on VHS when I was old enough to carry a job, bought it on DVD years after that (as part of a triple pack with Sixteen Candles and Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and I even had the opportunity to see it in theaters last year when Cinemark put The Breakfast Club in its Classics Series lineup for that season. And let me tell you, it’s amazing what we miss on the small screen that’s so much more defined on the big screen. I feel like seeing it in the theater brought me full circle. And even if I never watch it again, I feel as though I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth, and life’s worth, out of it.

I could keep going, but that’s the point. There’s so much to get out of this 97-minute movie that its impossible to cover it all in a single blog and still keep it short. So, rather than dive into character studies, cinematic tricks, relevant themes, and so on, I’d rather open this topic up for discussion.

Have you seen The Breakfast Club? What was your favorite part? I still get a kick out of Allison throwing the salami slice at the statue and watching it stick to the amorphous head. Just funny stuff.

Thanks for joining me on this nostalgia trip. Come back in an hour for my essay about hoverboards.

“The Computer Nerd” Release Day

October 20, 2015

Official Ad Flier for
Official Ad Flier for “The Computer Nerd”

Well, the day is finally here. Have you picked up your copy of The Computer Nerd yet? If not, you can find it at the online retailers presented in the links on its official page. It’s just 99 cents, a bargain for all the punch it packs!

If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think. If you start a discussion about it somewhere, link me to it. I’m curious to know how the general public receives it.

I’ve posted quite a bit about this story already, so I’ll keep this entry brief. Just wanted to say thanks to all of you reading this who have shown support by picking up your copy. If you like what you’ve read, then feel free to take a look at some of the other things I’ve written, which you can find on the side bar to the right. Most of them are shorter and freer, so they’re a no-risk investment.

In early November, I’ll begin the postmortem report on The Computer Nerd, its sales potential and reality, and how it stacks up against the concerns I posted about yesterday. Why would you want to know about that? Well, if you’re an aspiring author who wants to give indie publishing a try, then you might like a heads up on what the sales reality for what you’re producing could look like. We all need a reality check sometimes. I will also talk more about the books that are next on my release schedule if you’re interested in what’s coming soon.

Thanks for the readership, folks. Start opening up those discussions.

A Note to Potential Reviewers:

If you’d like a free copy of The Computer Nerd to review for your blog or website, feel free to send me a request by e-mail, listed on my contact page, with the subject line “Requesting Book for Review,” or some iteration. In the body, specify that you want a copy of The Computer Nerd for review and send me a link to your blog or website so that I know where to look for it. I’d also appreciate a follow-up e-mail when the review goes live so I can link it here. Please note that all free copies must be redeemed at Smashwords.

And thanks for your interest.

Regarding the Price:

I had intended to keep it priced at $.99, but after giving it some thought, and seeing how little readers seem to be interested in a cheap book (versus a free one?) so far, I think it makes more sense to charge a standard price for a worthwhile book. So, on October 27, 2015, the price will go up to $2.99. I think this is more fitting for its size and quality anyway.

However, for those who read this blog, I’ll keep a $.99 coupon handy for you (which I’ll list on The Computer Nerd‘s book page) until the end of the year.

Again, this wasn’t my original intention, but I think it makes the most sense from a business standpoint, especially now that I can see how little of a sales difference $.99 makes (spoiler alert!).

Changing Gears:

Beginning tomorrow, I’ll be posting some new book reviews and other interesting things in honor of Back to the Future Day, so I hope you’ll come back for the fun.

–Jeremy

Off a Cliff

May 21, 2014:

The man drove his car off a cliff. But he wasn’t inside at the end. He fell out of the cabin and rolled along the road as it continued on without him, over the edge, into the canyon below.

The woman he loved was in the car with him. No, don’t worry; she didn’t remain inside, either. As soon as she realized what was happening, she bailed. Just as he took his scratches, she took hers. But they survived.

The man didn’t know she had survived.

The woman he loved didn’t know he loved her. They had spent the drive talking about other things, things not so important. He wanted to tell her, but couldn’t. Based on the things she had told him, he didn’t think she wanted to know. To keep her happy, he kept silent.

Now he wished he had said something. As he lay bloody on the track, unaware of her fate (she had disappeared from his view), he realized just how much he wanted to see her, to speak to her, to put her back in that car, hit the reverse gear, and drive so far away from that horrible, awful cliff, to stay forever away from the wide open destructive maw beyond it. He wished it were possible to do just that; he would do so in a heartbeat. Now he missed her.

She wasn’t looking for him. She knew he had gone over the cliff. Didn’t know what more she could do, so she moved on, limping away, seeking help wherever she could find it. Perhaps someone would pick her up and take her somewhere new for treatment. She just needed to get anywhere safe before her injuries got the best of her.

He crawled to the cliff and stared over the edge. He wanted to see her again. But what more could he do? In his mind, she had gone over. He sat there and bled as he cried out her name. She couldn’t hear him. He knew that. She was out of earshot. She was buried in the wreckage below, no chance for survival.

She was out of earshot, not in the wreckage, but on a new road back to civilization, seeking what she believed she needed to recover. Looking back at the old road was not an option.

He called out her name. All he heard was his echo. Even then, he couldn’t tell her how he felt. It would fall on dead ears. It would’ve been the same blind madness that had brought him here in the first place.

He thought back to the drive. Thought back to the moment of truth. Wondered what, if anything, he could’ve done differently; wondered what, if anything, he could’ve understood about the situation earlier. The end of the road just hadn’t been clear to him.

It had been clear to her. In that moment when she realized they were about to meet a destructive end, she bailed.

Even as she fell out of the cabin, he failed to understand what was happening; he loved her so much that he could still see her sitting there beside him, even when she wasn’t there. It was her lack of response that he realized he was in trouble. He stayed beside her empty seat for so long that he nearly missed his exit. Even now, as he sat on the edge of the cliff, losing heart, losing hope, losing feeling in his soul, he wondered if he had bailed too soon. The last thing he wanted was to leave her side.

He could’ve taken a different road. He had his chance to make a different decision, a decision that would’ve kept them off the canyon’s edge. But the roads weren’t marked, and he never did find a map of his options, and she didn’t correct him when he steered onto this road. Perhaps destiny was leading them there all along.

But he had a working pair of eyes, as did she. And he was intelligent, as was she. The car was functional. The brakes worked. The gear could’ve easily shifted into reverse. His decision didn’t have to be final.

He drove his car off a cliff because, even though she had her eyes on the road, he had his eyes on her. She had failed to notice what was happening.

Relational Time Bomb

Previously unfinished and unpublished. Drafting began on:

August 15, 2013:

When I was 18, I had the privilege of going with a couple of friends to see Forrest Gump at the now-and-forever-lost Cross County 8 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Perhaps it was the thrill of knowing the three of us could see Dumb and Dumber the night before it opened, for free, that made the experience memorable. But I disagree. Well, somewhat. What matters is that the experience was memorable, as the pieces I’ve taken from it still resonate with me today.

Forrest Gump, in a word, had changed my life, maybe for the worse. I had no idea it was capable of doing something so traumatic. Yet, therein lies the power of fiction, and, to a lesser degree, cinema. (You notice how cinema rhymes with enema? Yeah, I don’t suppose that’s coincidence.) Here I am watching Forrest run, and living a life that he doesn’t quite appreciate because he’s just living life as it’s given, thinking, “Why is that Jenny so blind or stupid?” yet, I’m enthralled. Forrest’s many adventures through history are enough to challenge anyone’s viewpoint on what they know. The changes to his own life force us to look inward and ask ourselves if we understand what’s happening. That’s actually kinda powerful, especially for something that came out of Hollywood. And this is the effect it had on me then, and it’s the effect that it has on me today. It isn’t just a movie to me; it’s a calling to rethink how I view my own life.

I don’t expect to play Championship Ping-Pong during a high-profile war any time soon, nor do I expect to inform our latest president that I have to pee, and I definitely have no plans to run nonstop from Alabama to the Pacific Coast, to the Atlantic, back to the Pacific, and so on while growing the greatest homeless beard ever. But I do expect to appreciate the little things more. Daily. I expect to look at life through simple eyes in the hope of leaving everything I care about uncorrupted in my mind. It doesn’t matter that my friend (Bubba) could lose his life for a hopeless cause, or my mentor (Lieutenant Dan) could lose his ability to stand from standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, or the love of my life (Jenny) could forsake my love to pursue cheap relationships and end up dying from it, or my family member (Momma) could simply drift forever into sleep because she’s getting too old or sick to stay awake. What matters is that I make the most of these relationships now, today, because all of them are destined to change or expire. I don’t want to watch them fall apart over circumstances I cannot control.

But they will fall apart. Eventually. The fact is I can’t stop my mom from getting older. The fact is my mentors are not all-powerful and can fall at any moment. The fact is my friends can get sucked into situations that, whether necessary or pointless, could pull them away from me. The fact is the love of my life could ignore my heart for so long that I can never rescue her. I may try to hold onto these relationships for as long as possible, but I can’t. Life is always happening. Life is always trying to kill it. Forrest Gump reminded me of that, even if it did so in a hauntingly beautiful way.

Forrest Gump also changed my thinking about the kind of relationships I wanted, giving me revelations that I still carry with me today, for better or for worse.

In the case of Lieutenant Dan, it made me grateful that I no longer have to watch a mentor spiral down toward the bottom of a rock, as he desperately and hopelessly claws for the top. Redemption is still possible, if he wants it, and that gives me hope. Not everyone I look up to wants to commit to the work necessary to climb out of that hole, unfortunately. My dad, my first mentor, had fallen in his hole and didn’t have the steely nerves to climb out, and he died before he could reach the top again. But I appreciated knowing that some still could. Today, I’m grateful that none of my mentors are spiraling down into dank pits where rocks are fat at the bottom. Redemption is awesome, but not needing it is even better.

In the case of Bubba, it made me want to include my friends into more aspects of my life. I still think it’s awesome that Bubba wants Forrest to help him run a shrimp company, and even more so that he offers him this proposition the day he first meets him on the bus. I don’t necessarily feel compelled to start a business with any of my friends, but it does encourage me to talk to them about any future-seeking path I’m considering. Before Forrest Gump, I was content with hanging out with them and talking about God, girls, school, and whatever else was important to me, but never really thought to include them in my journey through life, growth, and self-improvement. Talking about things really was enough. Thanks to Bubba, I saw a deeper value in what friendships are supposed to be and how they play into my life’s journey.

In the case of Momma, it made me appreciate that I still have a mom. I was able to see more clearly how a mother lays everything on the line to make sure her kids are taken care of. It made me more appreciative of the sacrifices she had to make over the years just to make sure I could survive. It made me more wary of the fact that, just like my days, her days are numbered and that I have to cherish each one as it’s given. It reminded me that I won’t have the luxury of calling out to her forever, so I have to be thankful for every moment that I still can.

In the case of Jenny, well, let’s just say that before Forrest Gump, I was like any other guy, wanting an instant relationship, and happy to find it in anyone who was willing to show an interest in me (that I was interested in, too). After Forrest Gump, I understood the value of building a friendship first, letting love grow from that friendship, and breathing that sigh of relief when the love is finally reciprocated. It also showed me what real love for another human being looks like. Forrest would not leave Jenny’s side, no matter what tricks she pulled, or what excuses she made for not being with him. He loved her and stuck with her until the day she died, and nothing was gonna compromise that. No one can tell me love looks like something else. I realized that that was what I wanted, a love built from friendship, that’s fired through trial, and perfected in time. The night I went home after seeing it in the theater, I asked God to send me a Jenny. Its effect on me was that profound.

All of that from a two-and-a-half-hour movie.

I’m not stupid, even if stupid is as stupid does (see what I did there?). Even if I have these relationships of quality, life has a way for pulling them loose, for taking them away from me. Those days are coming. Any excuse for not investing in a friendship, a love relationship, a partnership, a mentorship, or a family relationship is uncalled for because the opportunity to change our minds is soon to disappear. I’m not the kind of person to let go of people easily, and I’m not the kind of person who forsakes growth if growth is possible. Granted, I will let go if they want me to. And I’ll forfeit growth if they don’t want to put the effort in with me. But I don’t volunteer it. Time and circumstance will do that job for me.

And that’s all I have to say about that. (Stop groaning; you knew it was coming.)

My Lament

March 23, 2014:

Note: The following is an excerpt from a letter to a friend that I had written on October 17, 2009. The main question she asked me had to do with formatting a manuscript. But this friend also asked how things were going with me after I had apparently told her I was dealing with something that had rocked me to the core. I had replied with the answer to the formatting question as technically as I needed to make it simple to follow, which I’m not posting here, but lost all dryness and broke into an impassioned response when it came time to address the matter of how I was doing.

This is probably the truest of my thoughts about the relational misses I’ve had in my life, since I had no desire to filter anything out or try to think through it logically when I wrote it. Looking back, I can see how my life’s journey really was quite unfair at times. This letter is extremely personal, and the breakdown of things leaves me quite vulnerable, but I’m posting it anyway because we men rarely talk about what we’re thinking, even if we’re thinking it anyway, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be this raw again. Granted, I’m posting this four and a half years after I had written it, and the events to trigger this impassioned writing are long behind me now. But the circumstances that brought me to this state sometimes repeat themselves, so I thought it might be worthwhile to let others see how badly they affect me when they do.

Just for the record, I know that we, as men, are supposed to suppress our moments of anguish Ron Swanson style, but I also know how unhealthy that can get if we’re turning our hurts into violence, anger, or other unwanted outbursts, so I don’t care how the following might be perceived. It’s healthy. I probably felt better for writing it. I might’ve even believed it would put me on the path of healing. So, get over it. It’s fine.

Also, I’m withdrawing names and identifying words to protect the privacy of those that I refer to in my response. It’s no one else’s business who they are.

October 17, 2009:

I’m not sure the thing going on with me is fixable. Years of wounds came to a head this week and I’m tired of dealing with it. I feel like the more I deal with it, the more the problem wants to persist.

It is what it is. There’s nothing I or anyone can do but to accept what sucks. I’ve done all I could to keep encouraged throughout the disappointments, and I just don’t have it in me anymore.
It’s one of those gaping holes that God can fix if He wants, but just hasn’t really given me the help to fix, and I need it fixed, and there’s nothing else I can do about it but to wait for the repair. It hasn’t been fixed. The specific thing that brought all this out is irreversible. The broader thing is unattainable under the circumstances I’m given. And it’s a struggle to face the day anymore. I’ve had all I can stand, and yet, the solution is absent. And now my heart is broken. However, I’ll get through it because life likes to distract me.

Yes, I found out that someone I once loved and pursued, but never won over, got married recently. And in all those years, I had never been able to stop thinking about her. I buried it because I couldn’t do anything about it. But every time I see her face it all comes back up. And when I saw her wedding photo, it all came back up. And call me emo if you want, but I just don’t know how to deal with something like that. She wasn’t perfect, and probably not even the best girl I knew. But my heart was with her. And I don’t know how to get past something like this. I think there’s something wrong when my lament of this has already outlasted my lament over my dad’s death and my uncle’s death.

So, as you can see, there’s nothing anyone can do. I wasn’t able to win her over and I had to release her. And I feel gypped because I haven’t been able to love anyone the same way since. The one or two that I tried taking the chance on, they were surrogates for a dream that was already crushed. They were good for who they were, but they never carried the weight on my heart that she carried, and I don’t feel like there’s anyone out there who can get my mind off of her. I prayed for someone better to come along since 2002 when I got the initial rejection (after waiting four and a half years for the right time to speak up—who does that?). And each one that I thought might’ve been that answer turned around and ignored me or rejected me, too. And nowadays the only girls I meet are just that—girls. [Late teens, early twenties]. Big freakin’ whoop. All they ever do is talk about their boyfriends. It’s irritating. Everyone else is married or unsuitable in one way or another. And I feel like there’s no way out of this misery. All I can do is fall into a distraction because if I’m not busy, my mind goes right back to the heartbreak. What sucks most of all is that I want to be happy for her. She’s happier now than I think she’s ever been. She certainly seems that way judging by the last couple of e-mails I got. I want to be glad that she finally trusted someone enough to take that leap. But I feel like this is preventing me from having any real excitement for her good fortune. And I don’t know how to get past it. She deserves the joy. She put up with a lot from a lot of people over the years. She deserves her happiness, and I want to feel that for her. And I’m pissed that I can’t let go. And I’m pissed that I never found that adequate “replacement” since the day seven years ago when this reality was officially on course. I’m pissed that no replacement has come since then. No man my age can handle this, and I’m annoyed that I’m still expected to. No one can say I haven’t tried. I’ve lost friends—other people I cared about—because I tried. But what can I do when every woman I meet refuses to take a chance, or even to return a phone call? I can’t change anyone else’s mind or heart. I can only take care of myself. I can only make my own decisions, no one else’s. And if everyone I meet is on another page, that doesn’t really help. And then the girl I loved most marries someone else and I have no one around to help cushion that fall (or better yet, to invalidate it, because a better woman would’ve made this inconsequential and would’ve given my heart permission to celebrate the transition into a new way of life). I’m tired of doing everything alone. And I’m tired of every journey I take leading to nowhere.

In the end, it’s one of those things that most people will treat as a common part of life, as something that really doesn’t need to be lamented. I was never with her. We were always just friends. In the end, this is nothing more than something a teenager would stress over. But when I consider how I responded to her, versus everyone else, I feel like this is an unfair conclusion. I don’t lament the people who lose the hearts of those they never respected. I lament those who choose badly. Love isn’t lost if it isn’t actually love. I feel like I’ve suffered a loss on the scale of death. It feels exactly the same. Am I being dramatic? Or was she that important to me? Did seeing her face really quiet me that much?

I rarely wish I could turn back time and do something different. I tend to accept what is, as is, and adapt accordingly. This is the one time, however, that I wish I had the power to travel back to 1998 and start over, to go through all the hellish moments I suffered again if there was any chance at having a new outcome (or to at least relive the moments when I still had hope). The fact that this, too, is impossible kills me. I don’t know what else to do now. All my other prayers, physical, financial, everything seems to get answered without a beat. But this, the emotional needs, the relational needs—it’s as if none of this is important enough to warrant an answer. I’ve been praying for a way out of this dread in one form or another since I was in high school. I thought for sure it would come to pass before I’d have to suffer something like this. And yet, here I am, miserable, hopeless, my imagination for what better would even look like lacking, and I feel like no one gives a crap.

This isn’t something I like to share. One of the reasons I drove her away was because I’d express my sadness openly to her. But what I could never tell her was that her involvement with someone else was the cause of it. Now, I’m just sad. And I have to bury it because no one in this life knows how to handle other people’s heartbreaks. If I try, that’s it for me.

I’ve fallen into a no-win situation. And it was all because I took a chance.

I hate everything there is about this thing called singleness. It’s become a poison to me. And all anyone ever cares about is being a friend. Not a date, not an option. Not that I’ve found enough women to want to date, granted, but that in itself is a problem. I think I hate this town, too. And this society. This busy, busy, kill-the-human-heart society.

I used to look forward to each day. I had to walk through Ikea yesterday just to feel like a man with hope again. This is ridiculous. I may not be much when I’m miserable, but I’m full of great qualities when I’m not. And these girls today won’t pay attention to the days that I’m not. They only seem to look at what’s unrealistic—that I can only be a “safe” friend, and that I’m always “down.” I regret the letter I sent to the girl from [location redacted]. She genuinely freaked when she read it. Despite my encouragement, generosity, and whatnot, she never saw the possibility of interest coming. And when I made it clear, she didn’t want to know me anymore. This is what I’m given? These are my choices? Take no chance and maintain a stale friendship or take a chance and lose the friendship? This is what these women give me? Who the hell do they think I am? Some emotionless retard? That “nice guy”? The one who’s a male girlfriend? Such lack of consideration! No wonder I’m a mess.

I don’t know what it takes to get some respect for a change. I don’t know why the guy she married was able to win her over, and why I never had the chance. I don’t know why I was ever led to her when it was clear I’d fall in love but never win her over. And I don’t know why in almost twelve years God never put anyone more suitable in my life. My years are slipping by fast. For every day I’m alone, that’s one less day I have to spend with the one that maybe will finally supplant [that girl] from my heart. She can be out there, if she’s made right, if she’s positioned right. How can it be that in twelve years, such a woman hasn’t arrived? I’m not bad. I’m not a lost cause. Why am I treated as such?

Sorry, [friend], I didn’t think I’d go off on this tangent. I kinda forgot I was writing a response to your questions. But that’s what you get for asking.

So that’s what’s going on. If you think you have words of encouragement that would help, then feel free to try. I can guarantee, however, that this is entirely on God’s shoulders to provide, and nothing’s gonna change until He moves in my favor. I don’t think it’s free will when I’m not given an adequate choice in the matter. I suppose those frickin’ websites like match.com are an option, but your experience has proven that they’re not much of one. If God won’t provide someone suitable to me in my everyday life, how can I expect to find one in the cyber world? That’ll just open me up to worse decisions. The Internet seems to be a breeding pool of liars and fakers. Last thing I want to do is to go out with someone who has a liking to pot or some tattoo fetish (though, why would they ever reveal that in the questionnaire?). I’m not even in the dating game and I already hate it. And I hate how impossible it is to even enter it.

Never in my youth had I thought I’d become the crusty old man. I’m really disappointed with the choices people make, including my own.

I don’t know if this can be fixed. It took me years just to get past my negative nature. I feel like in one swoop it all came back. And all it would’ve taken to repel it is some courtesy, like returned phone calls, regardless of how many houses or states away a girl might live. I feel like hope is a dead weight. The girl I loved most is forever with someone else. What else is there left to say? I can’t bear it anymore.

So there you go.

—Jeremy

[Note from March 23, 2014: I’ve long since gotten over the event that triggered this response, and I’m legitimately happy for the person this was largely about—because I’m still occasionally in touch with her, I have been able to express this legitimate happiness and well-wishing to her in the years to follow. But, as earlier and later journals will testify, the core problem of being poorly matched has not gone away. I have since met better women, which wasn’t the case when I wrote this, but they’ve put me in the same category as these earlier ones, so nothing has changed. Well, I don’t make a big deal about it anymore, so that’s changed. However, I couldn’t say whether the experiences have made me stronger or more callous. There’s a point when you have to throw up your hands and say, “Whatever.” That’s basically where I am now. I’ve stopped looking. Trying to stop praying about it. Sometimes I get thrown into a situation I didn’t ask for and find myself dealing with the aftermath. But that’s the nature of life. A good woman can still hurt me. Whenever I meet one who is unattached, I wonder if God has a plan for us. It’s natural and inevitable. If all goes well, I’ll stop thinking that before it causes me to walk down a troubled path. Sometimes it’s not enough, though; sometimes I can still believe in her, foster a little hope for her, and sometimes she can still find a way to hurt me. But I’m convinced that none of them intend to, and none of them actually know when they do. I have a habit of keeping to myself in those moments so I don’t end up hurting them back. That’s probably unhealthy for all involved. I’m trying to get better about that.

So, I hope this has opened some eyes. At the risk of moving into another tangent, I really do hate being shunted to the side without getting a fair consideration. Don’t get me wrong; I like the friends I have, quite a bit. But friendships alone can’t start families, which I want, and friendships can’t survive when another party comes in and sabotages the time needed to maintain it. If you’re single, a good woman, and I don’t find you repulsive, then don’t assume that I’m disinterested. At least consider me before you friend zone me. If I have to keep dealing with heartbreak over and over, then I’m gonna stop taking on new friends, just to let you know. Trust me, I have enough. I can’t keep up with the friends I already have. I don’t need new ones. I want a companion. A partner. Please stop assuming I’m not good enough for that. Trust me, I am.

Maybe you think I’m not interested because I don’t officially ask you out on a date, so let me clarify something important here: I don’t put walls around my relationships. I prefer to start with friendship, if I’m being honest. It makes the growing process and the looking back at where we came from all the more exciting for me. But, if you’re single, a good woman, and you don’t repulse me, don’t assume our time together doesn’t count as future-building just because I don’t end the night with a kiss. If anything, I’m trying to make the point that you’re worth the journey toward romance, and I don’t have to see you as the latest lipstick flavor of the week. It’s called wisdom and forward-thinking. It’s called consideration for you. It gives me a better chance to actually love you. I’d like to think that’s an attractive quality. Jumping into a romance without knowing you well is a bit like drawing a gun on me and saying, “Love me, dangit!” How can I legitimately love you if I don’t even know you? That’s why, if you’re a good woman, I want your friendship first. I want to choose you for who you are, not for who I hope you might be. Quit punishing me for doing things smart. The only thing you’re accomplishing by putting a glass ceiling over my head is to ensure that you and I have a dying friendship. That does not incentivize me to give you my time. The last thing I want is to knowingly walk into a situation that will inevitably rip my heart out. So, please stop doing things backwards and please stop being unfair. Yes, you should put the glass ceiling over me if I repulse you or don’t line up with your goals in life or simply can’t work well with you. But I’m asking you, please don’t do it just because we’re friends. Awkwardness goes away, often quickly. It’s nothing more than a state of mind. Don’t damage my heart, my faith, and my sense of hope because you’re afraid of a passing awkwardness. It’s shallow and it makes you look bad. Be realistic here: Taking the glass ceiling away is the only way we can keep the friendship alive in time. I hope I don’t have to explain why. If you’re rejecting me because I didn’t ask you out on a romantic date the moment we met, then you clearly don’t understand me. I will ask you out, officially, when I know we’re good together and can work toward a future. Not before. I have no desire to commit to the wrong woman, even if she’s single, good, and beautiful. Don’t expect me to dive off a hundred-foot cliff into shallow, jagged rock-filled waters because you have to label your men “friends” or “lovers” and not simply see them as just “good men.” I’m not crazy.]