What’s left of me

(Avantasia again, but now taken from The Mystery of Time, an epic of an album in scope and confusion.)

We’re coming to the end of another year. This one has been rough. Maybe not quite as bad as 2020, but it’s pretty close. We still dwell within the dystopia of a false pandemic, now with the added bonus of the powers that be attempting to force a harmful, useless, and potentially deadly drug down our throats. (Or, if you prefer, into our arms.) Tennessee has begun to stand as a small beacon of hope in a darkened world, which might be the only positive thing going at the moment.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality, specifically my own. It’s not that I’m old (38 isn’t even middle-aged, is it?) or that I’m scared of the bioweapon that kills 1 out of every 1000 or so. I don’t fear for my life. I just don’t see it lasting too much longer.

It looks as though I have everything arrayed against me. Although this state has taken a tentative step forward in barring public functions and private businesses from requiring the so-called vaccine, there’s nothing stopping them from reneging on that pledge of liberty. Add in an economy spiraling down, indeed put into a nosedive by those in control, and the stress of working a job that relies on cars being, you know, a thing, and I don’t see a lot of wiggle room. Literally everything has to go right for me to even have a chance to tread water. Advancing just doesn’t seem possible from where I sit.

Part of that is mental, I know. Depression colors my thoughts at all times now, but a rational breakdown of those thoughts will show that not all of them can be attributed to the darkness clouding my mind. Our world really is in bad shape. We’re beset by demons, though of the metaphorical sort—you can’t make me believe the literal ones exist.

My worldview relies on that rationality. It relies on the notion that a person’s value is proportional to that which they create in humanity as a whole, that creators are inherently more beneficial for our species than destroyers, and that they will be rewarded as such. Most of all, it takes as axiomatic the idea that the single most human act is the creation of another.

If I can’t do that, I might as well not even live, because what am I contributing?

This is not a suicide note. It is a simple statement of fact, of my sincere beliefs. I don’t intend those beliefs to cover anyone but myself. This is how I view my continued existence, rather than a general judgment. I would hope that others recognize the value of it and see it in a positive light, finding ways to incorporate the essence of it into their own system of the world, but I am content to hold it in isolation if necessary.

I accept my position and its consequences. To that end, I now view the coming year, 2022, as a final chance to put certain things in order. Most importantly, I want to take those twelve months to create…something big. Many things, rather, things that will outlive me. If my lineage will not survive, maybe my legacy can.

One legacy may come from employment. The project I’ve been working on these past two months has the potential to become a viral sensation. Even if it doesn’t, it will most likely provide a strong base for future projects in the same vein, and a platform that can endure. Although I have not once thought I was worthy of bringing it to market, I would be happy to put my name on the finished product.

The second is far more personal. I want to take time in 2022 to develop my philosophy of “technetism” for two reasons. First, I do believe it is beneficial as a whole, and will inspire others to think of the world and themselves in a better light. Second, I hope it can do the same for me. Spiritualism in any sense has never worked for me, despite decades of trying, so I don’t see many other options. As always, the only course I feel is open to me is going it alone.

The third on the list comes from a longtime hobby of mine. As I’ve repeatedly stated on PPC, I got into fantasy writing in part because of my hobby of language construction. In the 20+ years I’ve been tinkering with my own linguistic creations, I’ve expanded into related fields, and I want to do something big in that vein. I’m not sure what that is just yet, but I have a few ideas I’m going to explore in December. If I come up with anything, I’ll be sure to let my readers (do I even have readers?) know.

The writing itself comes in fourth on the list. I regret that I probably won’t be able to finish Orphans of the Stars, Otherworld, The Hidden Hills, The Occupation Trilogy, Endless Forms, or even Modern Minds. Honestly, I doubt I could finish them all even if I lived forever. But I would like to leave enough behind that others are inspired, and maybe a talented author could complete what I left incomplete.

These are the things I want to do. Not all of them, mind you. Many goals I would like to reach are no longer possible. Many avenues have been closed off. Thus, I take what I can get and ask for no more, because no amount of asking, begging, or pleading has ever gotten me anywhere. The items I listed are, to me, the bare minimum that I feel I need to complete before calling my life well-lived.

Those four hopes are, in a sense, all that’s left of me.

Inner turbulence

(Title mostly from Dream Theater’s Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, probably one of the most personally meaningful albums I’ve ever listened to.)

Someone posted this just as I sat down to get a few things out of my head, and it struck me, because it was very closely related to what I was going to write here anyway.

Yes, the possibilities for anyone are nearly infinite. That’s the beauty of free will: we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we do know we are not bound by some cosmic force pushing us onto a predetermined path. Our choices are our own, although our opportunities are not.

The problem lies not in the paths available to us, but the very real possibility that none of those many paths lead us to what we seek. When no road takes you forward, what then? Theists have no answer but to tell us to keep trying, that it’ll all somehow work out in the end. Nihilists can’t even offer that much. Neither extreme is fulfilling in any real sense. If we have no purpose, why bother continuing on? And if our purpose has already been set, why bother playing along? In both cases, we are not the masters of our own destiny, so can we say our lives truly belong to us?

I have been on that road to nowhere for a very long time now. Unlike the creator of the above picture, I don’t see infinitely many paths ahead of me. Rather, I see them, but I can find no way to change my lane to get to them. Those paths, as far as I can tell, are for other people, stronger people, people who haven’t been beaten into surrender and submission by the world around them.

Acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process, we’re told. I now wonder if it is the final stage of depression itself. Should I accept that I’ll never stand at the altar beside my beloved, that I’ll never have the chance to hold in my arms the child I fathered? Do I accept that I’ve failed in my attempts at building a life for myself, and try to create something of the wreckage that is left?

None of those paths look very promising, if you ask me. Yet I can’t help but think all the good ones are already closed off to me.

All that was

(Title is a song by Ayreon that is more than just amazing: it actually fits my mood perfectly.)

It’s hard to think, harder still to act. Lately, the pressure has just been growing and growing, and it doesn’t seem like there’s any end in sight. I’ve come to the conclusion that the end of my journey is looming in the distance, coming ever closer with each passing day.

On some of those days, I’d almost welcome it. That’s how bad things are getting for me.

This isn’t only about depression. It’s not merely a reaction to the violations of human rights I, like billions around the world, have suffered in the past year and a half. No, this is a combination, a culmination, an amalgamation of everything that has happened in my nearly 38 years of life.

We are the product of our experiences. In my case, I’m the product of a world that never cared to care, and that world has worn me down. It has eroded my spirit almost to nothing, washed away my hopes and dreams in a torrent of tears, and drowned all but the strongest emotions. I’m not angry at the world anymore, because it’s nearly impossible for me to feel anger at this point. Instead, there’s just a numbness, an emptiness where such feelings used to be. So it goes for joy, desire, and self-worth, as well. I feel as if I’m nothing, but only because everything that makes me, well, me has been taken away.

I wanted to make the world a better place. To leave it in better shape than I found it, as the saying goes. Over the past few decades, I’ve had innumerable ideas on how best to do that, but the last few years have seen them coalesce around a few pillars.

One is my writing, whether fiction, opinion, or fact. I’ve written over 60 completed stories and worked on 2 nonfiction books, including one that has reached a finished draft. I’d like to do more, because there are still a lot of ideas I’ve never had time to get around to writing. I just don’t feel I’ll ever have time. (Honestly, that would be the case if I knew I would live forever. Such is the life of a dreamer.)

Second on the list is, for lack of a better term, making. I mean this in the “maker culture” sense of creating, DIY, and so on. I have a 3D printer, for example, and a CNC router has been on my wishlist for a year or more. Making things interests me, and I’ve constantly looked for ways to use that interest as a positive force. That has taken me to a lot of different places, researching things like post-apocalyptic prepping or sustainable architecture. Not because I believe in the necessity of such things, but because they overlap with an interest. So they clearly have some purpose, right?

Closely related to this is the software angle. Specifically, I’m a big proponent of decentralization on the internet. I support the so-called Indie Web, the fediverse, and various retro-style applications and protocols such as Gemini. These are things that will help the world, if only they can gain traction. Resistance to censorship is vital today, as anyone who has ever dared to express an unpopular opinion on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube can attest. Technologies like cryptocurrency are also sorely needed; that’s another road I wish I’d had time to explore.

All of it, however, comes back to one simple thing: freedom. I believe in freedom, in the inalienable human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness expressed in the founding documents of our nation and the Enlightenment from whence they came. No one should control my life but me. That’s my firm opinion, and it’s the closest thing to dogma you’ll ever hear out of me. The vast majority of my depression, I’ve found, comes from the knowledge that I have essentially zero control over my life. And we have a term for people who have no control over their lives: we call them slaves.

Every single one of my goals, then, boils down to emancipation. Liberation for myself, liberation for others. Freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of religion. The power to speak one’s mind without fear of censorship, whether government or corporate. The ability to defend oneself, including defending ourselves from our elected officials, if necessary. Autonomy of body, mind, and spirit. Freedom of association, to choose those people we would prefer to align ourselves with.

Having no power over my own life, I cannot begin to tackle the larger issue of giving others that same power. I’ve tried. I do what I can, but it just isn’t enough. One man can’t take on a million.

In such dire straits, some turn to faith, but that’s another thing I can’t do. Faith is anathema to me, whether it’s a traditional religion or the new cult of scientism. I have to know. Or, if I can’t know, then I have to know that something is knowable. To do otherwise, in my opinion, is trading one set of chains for another.

No, I really don’t have an easy out. I’m caught, imprisoned, stuck in a place I can’t escape. And it’s my nature to be an escapist. Thus, every waking moment is painful. I can’t be who I am, who I want to be, who I was meant to be. That’s the kind of denial that hurts on every level, and it has taken from me until I now have nothing left to give. It seems that all I have left to hope for is to go out in a blaze of glory, with a bang instead of a whimper.

The oath

The most important words a man can say are, “I will do better.” These are not the most important words any man can say. I am a man, and they are what I needed to say.

The ancient code of the Knights Radiant says “journey before destination.” Some may call it a simple platitude, but it is far more. A journey will have pain and failure. It is not only the steps forward that we must accept. It is the stumbles. The trials. The knowledge that we will fail. That we will hurt those around us.

But if we stop, if we accept the person we see when we fall, the journey ends. That failure becomes our destination.

To love the journey is to accept no such end. I have found, through painful experience, that the most important step a person can take is always the next one.

Earlier this evening, I read a post where someone was talking about Dalinar, a character in Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy series The Stormlight Archive. Specifically, they referenced his climactic scene in Oathbringer, the third book of the series. In that scene, Dalinar confronts Odium—for better or worse, the books’ equivalent of evil incarnate, but also passion. Emotion. Fury both angry and righteous.

Odium, much like the common conception of Satan, is a tempter. Though armies loyal to him are slaughtering the human forces, he offers Dalinar an out. Freedom for humanity (of a sort, as they would be in service to him) for a simple price: the pain one man keeps inside.

When I first read Oathbringer, I didn’t think much of that scene. Now, however, I think back on it and see it as a mirror reflection. All I have to do is give up my pain, and the world is saved? Honestly, I’ve been willing to offer exactly that in my darker moments.

But Odium is offering a drink from a poisoned chalice here. It’s not merely pain he’s demanding, but a part of the self. We are the sum total of all our experiences, good and bad alike. Change any one part, any one action or inaction or feeling or memory, and we wouldn’t be us anymore. We would become someone different.

Pain hurts. If it didn’t, painkillers, antidepressants, and alcohol wouldn’t be so commonly abused. What we have to do, then, is give meaning to the pain. Learn from it. Instead of burning us away, let its fire temper us and therefore make us stronger. Otherwise, we’re hurting in vain.

Dalinar was tempted. Who wouldn’t be? In the end, he understood that all of it, all the pain he had caused and had endured, had a purpose. And so he stared in the face of a literal god and said, “You cannot have my pain.”

I only wonder if I could do the same.

I have stumbled. I have been tried and found wanting. I have failed and hurt those around me. Family, friends, those I love in any way, they have seen me fall. Worse, they have seen me not want to get back up. They have seen me ready to lie down and let the journey end.

We aren’t dealing with genocidal deities, supernatural storms, and semi-sentient hordes in our world, but the battle is no less real. It’s no less painful. While I certainly hope the destination is a good one, I can’t say for certain, so the journey really is all I have. If it ends, so do I, and…I’m not sure I’m ready to see my journey’s end just yet.

To everyone I’ve hurt, everyone who has seen me hurt, I can’t put into words how sorry I am. I don’t know if I’m ready to speak “the hardest words a man can say” yet, but I believe I could get there.

Not alone, though. Not without a lot of help.

As it’s getting too late tonight, I’ll start reaching out on a more personal level tomorrow. Until then, know that I’m thinking of all of you, and it hurts to see what I’ve done, how I’ve failed to live up to the ideals I’ve adopted.

Life before death.

Strength before weakness.

Journey before destination.

Help me find the conviction to speak those words, to believe in them and take the next step, the most important step. And then I know I can swear that oath: I will do better.

Defense mechanism

The pithy, meme-like definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result. By that standard, I am completely, certifiably insane.

I do the same things, fall into the same patterns, again and again. My days all seem to blur into one, the only breaks in the monotony coming when disaster strikes, such as the death of my cousin in July. Everything in my life feels to me like a downward spiral, as if I’m swirling around a cosmic toilet bowl, and some part of me sees that analogy as all too accurate.

All that should be fairly obvious to anyone who has read some of my earlier posts on PPC. Nothing new, really, except that I think I’ve finally reached the point of acceptance. If the path to becoming a better man, to reaching the kind of life goals I want from myself, requires battling my own inner demons, an apathetic family, and a hostile world at every turn, then I have to stop and ask, “Is it even worth the cost?”

History lesson

World War I is now over a century in the past, but we still remember it today. Four years of bloodshed, devastation, and misery inflicted on the entirety of humanity for the trivialities of a fading noble class. Millions of lives lost, countless others left permanently damaged in body, mind, or spirit. The entire world left upside down.

Some people see their lives as metaphorical warfare, and I often wonder which wars they’re talking about. The movie kind, almost certainly, the stylized tales of individual heroism. They see themselves as protagonists, as the lone wolf fighting off waves of Nazis, Communists, Taliban, or whoever their preferred enemy might be. In their lives, the bullets fly, but they never find their mark. Wounds are patched up off-screen, and the mental trauma is swept under the rug.

Not so for me. I feel more like an infantryman of WWI: nameless, faceless, with little hope for survival. I’m stuck in a trench, never truly gaining ground except to give it right back. Monotony and drudgery are enemies as great as the ones sniping at me, and harder to defend against.

Even the best soldier gets worn down eventually. Even the strongest man cracks under the constant pressure. I was never the best, never the strongest, so I sometimes wonder how I’ve held on this long. And sometimes I wonder if I have, or if I’ve already been broken beyond repair.

I consider myself at war in more than the metaphorical sense, however. As I see it, this whole country—no, this whole world is at war. It’s mostly a cold war at this point, this battle of good versus evil, liberty versus tyranny. We see occasional flickering flames, such as the present rioting in Australia and ongoing protests in France, but most of the war is being waged in the hearts and minds of our fellow man. We’re just waiting for our Fort Sumter, our Lexington and Concord, our Pearl Harbor or Franz Ferdinand or Dien Bien Phu. The moment in which our enemy, in this case the enemy of all that is good and just in this world, finally makes that fatal mistake and turns a cold war into a shooting conflict.

Last stand

But being a soldier is hard work, remember. We in America have been in a constant state of war for twenty years running, but the last few have seen that war turned against the common people, and the past eighteen months have seen the good guys take loss after loss on the psychological battlefield.

Early research into what has, at various points in history, been called combat fatigue, shell shock, and post-traumatic stress disorder gave a good upper bound for the time a battle-ready soldier could expect to be deployed in active combat before suffering a mental breakdown. That time works out to around 280 days; curiously, about the same amount of time as a pregnancy.

We’ve been under siege for twice that, and the numbers show that we’re all starting to break at a frantic pace. Depression is skyrocketing. The same goes for anxiety. General feelings of malaise, despair, hopelessness, and similar negative emotions are so common that it’s getting almost impossible to find someone who isn’t seeing the worst in each passing day.

I have all of the above and more. I used to look at each day wondering what I could do, what I could make, and how I could make a difference. Now, though, I greet each morning with a sigh and a vain hope that it won’t get any worse. I can’t blame all of that on external factors, of course. Some of it comes from my own problems, problems that were exacerbated, not created, by current events.

Placing blame really misses the point. What’s more important is that I’m broken, I know I’m broken, and I accept that putting myself back together is beyond me. I’m a casualty of this war, make no mistake.

If I have to go down, let me go down swinging. That’s all I feel I can ask now. I doubt I’ll ever have children—another hope dashed in the past year and a half—so there aren’t a lot of reasons to keep fighting. What fight I have left, then, is in the defense of the ideals I hold most dear: liberty and justice for all, equal opportunity, the rights each of us has from birth. For the sake of those I love, I’ll fight in the name of those ideals as long as I can. Even if I can’t live in a world free from the evils of tyranny, maybe I can help make it so they can. It’s a small chance, but it’s all I’ve got, so I’ll keep on fighting for it until the bitter end.

I just can’t help but think that end is coming sooner than I ever expected.

I alone

(Title is, of course, from the song by Live. I’m a 90s child.)

“You’re not alone,” people always say. In your darkest, weakest moments, they’ll offer those three words as some sort of panacea. It’s intended to be a sympathetic gesture, an acknowledgment of your suffering. It’s meant as a comforting truth.

In reality, it’s nothing but another lie.

We, as humans, are alone in many ways. You’re born alone (unless you’re a Siamese twin) and you die alone (unless you’re a member of a cult or something). Whatever awaits us in the hereafter, if you believe in that sort of thing, we must face by ourselves. And the far more pressing concerns and pressures residing within our minds are likewise something no one else can help with.

That’s a simple fact. Nobody knows exactly what I’m thinking, as my words will always convey only a subset of what’s truly going on inside my head. Another person, looking at me from the outside, can’t comprehend that mass of thoughts, emotions, feelings, and concerns. And I can do nothing about that. To quote one of my favorite songs, “Stop saying, ‘I know how you feel.’ How can anyone know how another feels?”

We carry on with the illusion, though, because we’re human. We have a natural need to empathize. In that, emotions are contagious. Whether or not we intend them to spread, they will. The people who don’t feel along with us are rightly seen as abnormal: we call them psychopaths.

But that doesn’t mean those who feel these emotions along with us are facing the same causes we are. Not at all. They only get the effects, and those effects are very often prone to misinterpretation. Is he happy because he got a promotion? Because his wife’s pregnant? Or just because he watched a funny video? We can’t really say for sure. All we, as outsiders not privy to the internal monologue, can say is that he’s happy, but that’s enough for most people to feel their own burst of happiness. The same goes for any other emotion, sadness or anger or whatever you choose.

That’s why “you’re not alone” rings so hollow in my mind. My partner has said it on numerous occasions. So has my boss. In both cases, while I’d like to accept their words at face value, it just isn’t possible. I know that I have to face some things alone. I have to fight some battles alone.

For me, most of those battles are against my inner demons, that multitude I’ve discussed at length here. No one but me can see them, let alone fight them. As I know I’m not strong enough to do that in my current state, it leaves me in a conundrum.

There are battles we can fight together. The fight for freedom, for instance. But those battles are against external foes, people or groups or ideas we can point to as enemies. We can have a war against mandatory vaccinations, or against communism, or against progressives. Those are battles we can (and must) fight en masse.

The war inside my head, however, must be fought by an army of one. I can get advice and aid from others, but they can’t stand in my place. I alone must face my demons, whatever my friends and loved ones might say.

Dear agony

(Title for this post is from the Breaking Benjamin song of the same name, whose refrain you’ll see as soon as I finish this parenthetical.)

Dear agony,
Just let go of me
Suffer slowly
Is this the way it’s gotta be?

The simple answer to your question, Ben, is…no. No, it doesn’t have to be that way. But only if something good happens to give you a little bit of hope.

Over the past few weeks, it has.

For fifteen long months, I had suffered. I had all but given up. I’m not afraid to admit that. There were nights that I cried myself to sleep, days where I would hide in my room, not wanting to do anything but sleep. And if that sleep turned into the more permanent sort, well, I wouldn’t have been opposed. At least then the pain would stop, right?

Now, I honestly feel like a whole new person. While I’m sure a certain man in northern Virginia wouldn’t mind taking all the credit for that, it wasn’t just the job that gave me hope. No, landing that position merely gave me the spark. As I’ve said often, if I could get just one good thing to happen to me, all the rest would fall in line. And it might be doing precisely that.

The world still sucks, as we all know, but things are getting a little better. The ranks of those who question the narrative are growing, and they have grown large enough in my humble state to start putting the brakes on our slow decline into tyranny. Better would be throwing this train into reverse and getting us back to liberty: banning mask mandates, banning vaccine passports, opening schools and bars and sporting events. In short, living our lives, instead of cowering in fear. But any progress is good, even if it’s so slow that snails are outrunning us.

That is one belief I hold dear. Progress is good. Progress has given us immeasurable benefits, and it will continue to do so as long as we embrace it. Not everything new is progress, however. Anyone who has grumbled over an app update or yelled at a voice menu knows that all too well.

True progress is that which improves the human condition: longer lives, healthier lives, more freedom, more resistance to the ravages of nature, and so on. Unfortunately, it’s so often the case that we are told these things are bad. We’re defying the will of God or poisoning Mother Earth or whatever.

The worst of this sort of thinking became popular last year, when elites and their hangers-on parroted the line, “Nature is healing.” In effect—and, in some cases, in words—these people made the claim that we humans are a pathogen, and the made-in-China coronavirus was, in fact, a natural response to our overreach in some nebulous way. Of course, the same people say the same things about weather disasters, so you can’t take them seriously, but the sheer idiocy of such a statement never fails to annoy me.

My contemplations of the past year or so gave rise to technetism, but this anti-human religion gives it an enemy. And I feel it gives me a higher purpose, something beyond writing novels and computer programs. Common sense dictates that I reject the nihilism and doom-saying of the environmentalists, the pandemic fearmongers, and all those who stand in the way of progress.

However, a negative philosophy is no philosophy at all; this is my biggest criticism of atheism, and it fits here, too. It is perfectly fine to say that you don’t believe in something, but far more fulfilling if you can find something you do believe in. If you have to make it yourself, then so be it. Every movement began somewhere.

I choose to believe that humans are an inherently positive influence on the world, and on each other. We build, we create, we invent. We solve problems. We come together and make something greater. Yes, there are individuals (and large groups) standing in our way, blocking our progress. Impediments have always existed, though. They’ll never truly go away. What we can, and must, do is overcome them. The best way to start, in my opinion, is to be more sociable. Shake hands, hug, get close to one another again. Take off the masks and let people see that we are human beings.

There’s still a lot of agony out there. For me, it hasn’t all gone away over the past few weeks. But now I have enough positive influences in my life to see the sun peeking through the clouds. Now I have a reason to fight that extends beyond myself and those I love.

Maybe that’s all I needed.

A new chapter

I have battled depression and anxiety for a very long time, far longer than I’ve been writing about it here on PPC. Even before I understood what was wrong with me, I fought, and I have learned that it’s not a fight I can win alone.

In the past couple of years, I’ve been more adamant about finding ways to combat the demons in my head, and all my best strategies boil down to one simple task: get my life on track. I’m 37, and I very often feel like I’ve accomplished nothing in the past 20 years, that the entire 21st century, for me, has been a waste of time. I tried to start my own business, and it never really worked. I didn’t bother with dating until my 30s, because I figured it was just a waste of time; who would want somebody like me?

As I descended further and studied my condition more, I came to see how it was exacerbated by my perceived failures. I had dreams, much like anyone. I still have them, though they aren’t the same as they were when I was 18 or 25 or even 33. Now, thanks to the rigors of the past two years, the trials and tribulations I’ve endured, those dreams are more concrete and more…mundane. I want a life of my own. I want to get paid to create things. I want to be a husband and a father. That’s pretty much it.

For 30 months, I fought to drag myself towards any of those goals, with no progress whatsoever. In some cases, I feel I regressed, and that was both due to and contributing to my depression. Why? Because I was trying to do it alone. As I’ve stated on here before, when I’m in a depressed state, my natural reaction is to hide. If I’m going to be a disappointment, my thinking goes, let it just be for me.

And that line of thinking has taken me to the very edge on more than one occasion. Not a full month ago, I was at quite possibly the lowest point I’ve ever faced. I had given up on all three of those life goals, and I had made my peace with that. I was ready to abandon the eternal (and eternally disappointing) job search. I did abandon my relationship. And I was okay with it, because I didn’t think there was any point lying to myself or to those around me anymore. In the last week of March, I made a deal with myself. If I couldn’t get hired for something, somewhere, by the end of this month, I’d quit trying. I would try to find a way to explain to my beloved that it wasn’t her fault I failed her, and I would spend the rest of my life writing as many books as I could, while making preparations for an end that, I had planned, would come in the days before my 40th birthday, in 2023.

I am happy to report that this plan went out the window.

I had mentally prepared myself for the breakup text, but she contacted me the day before I’d planned to send it. Some of the things she said hurt because they came from the anger she felt at being ignored for almost a full month. Many more hurt because they showed me the pain I had caused her. Because of her, and the love she showed me even when I had none for myself, I resolved to try one more time.

I didn’t expect much when I applied for the job. It was yet another startup (something like a startup, at any rate) looking for a full-stack developer, yet another one of those “1-click easy apply” deals on Linkedin. Something I’d done literally a thousand times before, with 99% of those ignoring me or sending me a polite, yet still hurtful to my fragile psyche, rejection message. Sure, what little description of the job was there did fit my skills: HTML, CSS, PHP on the back end, some jQuery-based scripting for the front. In other words, what I’ve been doing for most the last decade for fun. But there were already 30 applicants, any one of whom might be better qualified. They would have degrees. They would have enterprise experience. They wouldn’t be insecure introverts who freeze up in an interview.

Somehow, I beat them all. I still don’t understand it, and I’m not completely out of the shock phase. I keep wondering when I’m going to wake up and find it was all a dream. I met the team—the rest of the team—on a video conference last Thursday, and the scariest part of that is how I didn’t feel completely out of place. I expected a group who would look at the shy man with the graying hair as someone they were merely tolerating. I instead found…people. Ordinary people who welcomed me in a way I’d never truly known before.

Parts of the arrangement continue to make me uncomfortable. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to perform under the pressure of a full-time development job where I have actual deadlines, not vague milestones or schedules I’ve set for myself, and actual responsibilities that go beyond “just get it done”. I know I’m the outlier in pretty much every aspect: they’re all animal-lovers and risk-takers and generally outgoing types, while I’m allergic to cats and not a big fan of dogs, and I’d rather stay home and read a book than go scuba diving.

I’m not a perfect fit, then. I likely never will be. But it doesn’t matter right now, because I’m there. I’m hired and accepted.

All along, I’ve told myself that I could get my life going if I could just take one good step forward. Now’s my chance to prove the truth of that statement.

Year of hell

(The title isn’t from a song this time. Instead, this very appropriate name comes from my favorite episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the most underrated of the Trek series.)

One year ago, I was free. One year ago, I had hopes and dreams. I believed I had a chance to succeed, to achieve some of the life goals I’ve had for decades. I lived in a country where this was possible, if unlikely for one such as myself. I was depressed, yes, but I felt like I could see the light, that I could reach it, if only I tried hard enough.

A lot can change in a year.

Now, I live in a dystopian nightmare. I haven’t been inside a business in a full year, apart from five seconds inside the America’s Best store in Hixson last May. I went in to get my new glasses. I’d gotten the prescription in February, but then I had to find the money to pay for them. By the time I finally managed that, the whole world shut down, with the notable bastions of intelligence in Sweden and South Dakota. So I couldn’t actually pick up my order until businesses were “allowed” to reopen.

But it wasn’t that simple. As soon as I walked inside, the cashiers demanded a temperature check, so I walked right back out. My mom, who took me down there (can’t drive without glasses, remember), is less allergic to authoritarianism, so she submitted to the illegal medical exam long enough to retrieve what I had already paid for.

Since then, I’ve mostly stayed at home. And that’s most certainly not because I believe that’s the best way to combat a virus.

No, lockdowns don’t work. We have proof of that. You only need to look at the places that didn’t imprison their entire citizenry for months on end to see the real numbers. Similarly, masks don’t work. That’s why I haven’t worn one since December 2019, when I thought I had the flu. (As it turns out, I had the Wuhan coronavirus. You know how I know? Because it was listed as the flu and an “unknown pathogen” on my release papers.) As I haven’t been sick—in the physical sense, as I know I’m seriously mentally ill—since, I’ve seen no reason to restrain my breathing, trigger my anxiety, and curtail my liberty in that manner.

Well, you might think, what about the vaccine? Uh-uh. First off, it’s not a vaccine, because the purpose of a vaccine is to provide immunity to a virus by stimulating the body’s immune system. The Moderna and Pfizer mRNA treatments don’t do this. They don’t prevent you from contracting the Wuhan virus. They don’t prevent you from spreading it to others. They barely alleviate the symptoms. What they actually do is even worse. Ask Hank Aaron. Ask the nurse from Chattanooga who passed out on live TV. Ask the women who’ve had miscarriages, the perfectly healthy men in their 30s who have suffered serious injury or even death.

The virus has an overall fatality rate of around 0.02%, and essentially no reinfection. (Wait, 0.02%? Don’t the official numbers say 0.26%? Yes, but those are heavily inflated. Per the CDC’s own report, only about 6% of deaths can be traced to the virus itself. The rest are due to comorbidities: preexisting conditions such as obesity, heart problems, kidney failure, etc. Since comorbidities aren’t counted for vaccine deaths, we need to compare apples to apples.)

The mRNA “vaccines” cause serious harm in about 5% of cases, and death in as many as 0.4%. We don’t know the exact figures, because they rely on voluntary reporting, and no one wants to point out that Emperor Fauci has no clothes. However you look at the data, though, it doesn’t lie. On the whole, getting the virus is actually safer than getting its supposed cure!

And that’s merely one more truth the world has decided to deny in the past year. But there are many more.

  • Lockdowns are ineffective. They achieve nothing in terms of slowing the spread of an illness, unless you go to the extremes of a certain communist dictatorship and weld people’s doors shut so they can’t go outside. As sane countries are supposed to respect things like basic human rights and dignity, citizens will go outside. And they should, because the fastest way to end a pandemic is to reach herd immunity.

  • The Chinese virus isn’t even a pandemic. Take away the overinflated death counts, where suicides, overdoses, car accidents, and murders are attributed to a virus simply because the victim tested positive in a flawed procedure three weeks before the time of death, and it never reached the CDC’s defined threshold of pandemic status. That’s when approximately 5% of all deaths are caused by the pathogen in question; only by counting every death under the sun were we able to hit that mark even at the peak last April.

  • The makers of the “vaccines” have ulterior motives. Notice that they are indemnified against all liability, and they’ve received billions of taxpayer dollars. These treatments have bypassed the normal FDA requirements, and why? The virus isn’t another Spanish flu. It’s not smallpox or polio. It has killed fewer people than tuberculosis in the past year.

  • People are suffering. The single-minded focus on this particular virus has caused irreparable harm to our society and our populace. Suicides are at an all-time high. Childhood trauma is rampant. Depression and anxiety, as I know all too well, can make plenty of people wish they were dead, or at least not living through this.

  • The media is not on our side. For twelve months, they have parroted the talking points of a specific segment of the political spectrum. Andrew Cuomo was a hero when he sent infected patients to nursing homes a year ago, killing thousands of elderly men and women. The governors of California, Washington, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and many other states have acted in a way more appropriate to the old Soviet Union, if not the feudal era. And not only have journalists not called out these gross abuses of power, but they have lauded them every step of the way.

Twelve months ago, even expressing these ideas was heresy of the highest order. You were instantly branded a denier, a skeptic, an alt-right fascist terrorist. You were called racist, sexist, or any number of other hateful epithets.

Now? Oh, it’s even worse. But some people are waking up. There’s a strong anti-mask movement that isn’t hard to find. The worst government abuses and excesses are finally getting pushback. Alternative social media platforms are gaining in popularity, especially now that the big players—Google, Twitter, Facebook—have deemed scientific accuracy and a love of personal liberty to be violations of their terms of service.

It’s been a rough year. In twelve months, I’ve gone from cautiously optimistic to suicidally depressed. The only thing that gives me hope is the knowledge that I’m not alone in this. Anyone who has taken any time at all to think about what we’re being forced to endure feels the same way. We don’t want a “new normal”, where children aren’t allowed to play, where handshakes and hugs are illegal, where you’re a prisoner in your own home unless you agree to undergo experimental genetic modification. No, we want what we had. What was taken from us.

This “pandemic” isn’t worth the name. Compare the total death counts in the US from 2019 and 2020. Shouldn’t those “500,000 coronavirus deaths” show up there? Look at the flu stats for this winter—rather, the total absence of them. Look at the mental health crisis sweeping our nation, and tell me stopping what amounts to a bad cold is worth that cost. Spare a thought for the record number of suicides in the last year.

Because there were a lot of days where I almost joined them.

Future imperfect

Today I met a man
He looked so much like me
I asked him where he’d been
He told me where I’d be

“All the world,” he said, “is
Nothing but a stage
History is just a book
Each life a single page

Authors of our fate we are
Weavers of our destiny
With power to create
The change we want to see

The past for us is written
In ink indelible
The future sketched in pencil
And ever changeable

I have written many stories
Told tales of distant lands
Yet the only thing I wanted
Never fell into my hands

Nothing could come easily
No matter how I tried
So I gave up trying
And many nights I cried

Until my days were running out
My love a memory
I wondered if a bullet
Would be my remedy

I beg of you to listen
Th my words because
I came to show you how to be
Better than I ever was.”

Apparently, I wasn’t done a couple of days ago. Why my mind dreams this stuff up while I’m on the toilet or taking a shower, I’ll never know.