This Turbulent Riot

"But his heart was in a constant, turbulant riot."- F. Scott Fitzgerald

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What I Learned From Writing a Poem a Day for a Month

I’ve never been one to walk up to someone and tell them I write poetry. Or even freely offer up something I’ve written. I’ve always believed that poetry comes from inspiration and inspiration can’t be forced, which sometimes lead to poems every day, once a week, once a month. After dropping out of my MFA program, I became worried that I wouldn’t write as much as I had been. That I would become stagnant. So, in order to make sure I kept writing, I challenged myself to write a poem every day during the month of December.

Some days it was extremely difficult to write and I found myself in bed almost asleep and then realizing that I hadn’t written. Some days I had inspiration. I had a reason to write. With all things like this, some of the poems turned out horribly and some of them turned out pretty well and I can make a good poem out of them. But, what I learned was that the quality nor the quantity actually mattered. What did matter was the journey through my written words.

After several days reflecting on the past month and reading my poems, here is what I learned:

Accountability really is important. I’m not gonna get all mushy and tell you that I couldn’t have done this without a partner. Did having someone doing this with me make it easier? Yes. I can’t reiterate that enough. But, it was more than that. When you have someone going through something with you, keeping you on track, experience similar things, then you are going to grow closer. But, you’ll probably argue some too. At times, you may want to separate yourself from that person. Put distance between you. And when you are exchanging something personal like poems, emotions get involved. Sometimes messy. Sometimes sentimental. But in the end, the experience is so much more rewarding when you go through it with someone.

Sometimes you just gotta push through the slush. If you are doing a challenge like I did, then you are probably going to have several days in a row where what you are creating is horrible. You’ll become disenchanted with it. I know that a few times during all of this, I just wanted to stop. To give up. I would convince myself that I couldn’t actually write. I’ve written bad poems before (lots, actually), but when it’s two, three, four, or five days in a row of nothing good it becomes heavy. It’s incredibly important to push through that. Not only to finish, but to find something good. Because when you make the effort to focus and produce/create/make something good, it makes all the bad worth it.

Writer’s block isn’t real. I’ve heard professors and writers both say that writers block isn’t real. But when you are a student sitting at your desk trying to write a poem that won’t make you look like an idiot in your workshop class, that block seems pretty real. However, when there is pressure to write a poem everyday, the block isn’t as real. Or rather it becomes moveable. Sure, there were days I went to write and had no clue what I was going to write about, but I pushed through it. I (metaphorically) picked up the block, put it aside, and wrote.

Inspiration really is everywhere. In forcing myself to push past my writer’s block, I began to find inspiration for poems in everything and everywhere. I wrote about the stars, the night sky, my day, my fears, my hopes, my struggles, and my past. I allowed myself to see the world around me differently because everything had the potential to be something important. Everything had the potential to be a trigger. A trigger to something that I didn’t know until I started writing. And I can still see the world that way. I’m thankful for this.

In the end, something will be there. Whether you sprint to the end or barely cross the finish line, isn’t the point to finish? I struggled through part of my challenge, but I made it and I have over 30 poems (I wrote more than one on some days). I can’t use them all, but I can pull lines out of some of them and try to make them something good. And I learned several things. I did something, and that’s what matters for me.

Would I do this again? I’m not sure. Maybe in a few months when I’ve recovered. But, I would recommend it to any poet, writer, or anyone who just wants a challenge. Maybe you don’t want to write poetry or even care about it. But, find something to challenge your mind. Spirit. Emotions. And life with. Find something to care about, to grow, and accomplish. Life will become renewed when you do this.

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On Anger

In the past year, I would have told you that the word “hate” was one of my favorite words. I’m sure a day didn’t go by in which I didn’t say it. “I hate this client.” “I hate this project.” “I hate this place.” “I hate this food.” It was a word that slipped off of my tongue and onto the floor until it no longer held any real meaning.

It wasn’t until recently I realized what the root of all of this was. It was just this tiny thing that I was covering up day after day after day until I didn’t recognize it anymore. Until it was so covered and so embedded into who I was that I didn’t realize something was wrong. You see, one day turns into two, which turns into a week, a month, and eventually a year.

I’m not entirely sure when it happened. What made me feel this way. But, at some point I became angry. I can’t pin point one thing. I’m not blaming anything or anyone. Maybe myself. You see, it just takes one day of anger to grow into an entire year and eventually, you don’t even realize that you are angry anymore. I thought for a while I wasn’t. Thought that everything was good. But, saying you are happy. Saying you are great and being either of those things (happy and great) are two very different things.

Maybe part of why I needed to move 2,000 miles away was so I could recognize this in myself and do something about it. But, for the first time in a long time, I’m extremely happy. I’m excited about life and the future and the potential that surrounds both of those things. Yes, I’m excited about potential.

I guess my point is this: if we hold onto things, if we allow things like anger to grow in us, then life is lost. It’s easy to find yourself passing through, making excuses, and telling yourself that you’re fine. It’s another thing to recognize it and do something about it. To make a conscious effort to be happy. To take the steps and actions needed to change your life in a positive way. And maybe then, we can all change the world or at least the one around us.

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On Disappointment

Sometimes I write things out prematurely. I say something and then in quite contemplation, I realize that it all came out wrong. That what I was trying to say didn’t actually come across. What I was trying to say was stuck in the back of my throat and nowhere on the physical page (or, in this case, computer screen).

In a fit of my own disappointment I wrote out a blog post that most likely did not make any sense. To be honest, it didn’t make much sense to me, and so, I’m starting over…No. I’m moving on. I’m looking past that failed attempt to write something with meaning. To write something that pulled me out of my own feelings of disappointment.

What I was trying to say in that previous post was lost in the confusion of this idea of “after disappointment.” You see, in my head, I was trying to rush the feeling of disappointment. I was trying to separate myself as quickly as possible from this feeling of inadequacy. But even after writing the post, publishing the post, and walking away from it, that feeling didn’t disappear. It was still lingering in the bottom of my gut.

And in the twenty minutes since I wrote that post, I’ve come to the realization and the acceptance that this feeling isn’t going to go away because I want it to. Because I wished it or willed it to. No, this feeling will go away when I realize what the “after disappointment actually is.” While that phrase may not make sense to you, it is an idea that I’m currently clinging to. An idea that is only full of hope.

Hope that after this feeling has settled. After my stomach stops churning, I’ll realize that this isn’t actually disappointment. It is merely a misstep. A path that I thought I would go down, but in fact I’m not meant to even see. This disappointment is temporary, but the after disappointment may in fact be bigger than what I can imagine. The after disappointment may in fact be what was supposed to be all along. And in that notion–in that idea–I have solace.

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On Starting

It’s currently 9:33 pm on a Wednesday night. For many out there it may not feel any different from last Wednesday. And next Wednesday may not feel any different from this current one. But, for me I’m standing on the edge of something. Standing on a razor-thin enough that I’m balancing on the arches of my feet. I know the risks. I know that I may end up cut up a little bit, but I can’t help while sitting here, sipping on tea, and listening to some James Taylor that those little cuts may be a good thing. That they may lead to something better. Something bigger.

I’ve never really pretended to know what bigger is. What better is. My life has never felt like it had a whole lot of direction. Perhaps that’s why I’ve chosen to go back to school. Maybe that’s what I’ve been searching for during these last few years. But, right now, starting seems like one of the most terrifying things in the world. I know that 5:30 pm tomorrow is going to roll around no matter what. No matter how nervous I may get. No matter how much I may want to turn around and run away. I may find that I’m not cut out for this. I may find that I’m not enough, but I’ll never find any of it if I don’t start.

If I don’t attempt this, then I will never know what I’m made of. Never know what I’m capable of.

If I don’t start this, then I’ll never know that this potential that I’ve been storing up for years means anything.

I’m trying not to tie my worth to this, but it’s also what I’ve been working for during the last few years. Maybe I won’t find anything. Maybe we never really find much at all. But, I have found this: without ever starting–without ever attempting anything–we really won’t know our selves. Won’t know the world. Won’t know what the potential we can see even means. Or what we are capable of within the world. 

And quite frankly, I’m not willing to live with that. I want to know. I want to search and discover. I want to start.

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On The Things That Haunt Us

I’ve been spending a lot of time alone since I moved. It’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s part of why I moved here: to be alone. You see, there were things that I needed to clear out of my head. Things that have been weighing on me far longer than I think they should have. The only way I could dream of getting rid of them was to move away for a while. I understand that this may not make sense to some people, but I just wasn’t sure what else to do.

You see, we all have these things. Some call them demons. Some call them baggage. These weights that we carry around from our past. Maybe you’re like me and you keep them hidden from the world. Maybe you keep them tucked away in a pocket that you’ve sown into the back of your mind. It doesn’t matter where you keep, it’s the fact that you keep them at all. We all have these things that haunt us. That keep us tied to something we only pretend we want to leave behind. But the truth is, many of us pull those things out when it’s quiet. Maybe when you’re sitting alone in a dark room. Maybe it happens when you are in a room full of people. The problem is we all keep them because while these things may haunt us, we get some sort of comfort from them. Even demons can keep us company if we let them.

I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot lately. For a lot of reasons, really. But, it hit me last week that if this really was one of the reasons that I moved 2,000 miles away from home, shouldn’t I be doing something about it? Shouldn’t I be doing something about the demons I keep around for myself? And the truth is simple: yes. I should be doing something about it. The bigger truth is much more complex: I have been doing this. I may not have noticed it, but demons have been falling down around me and I haven’t been sensible enough to look on the floor next to me. To recognize that I’m already changing. That I’m already losing parts of me that I wish I could have shed so much longer ago.

I’m not ashamed it’s taken me this long. These demons have shaped me. Have controlled me in some ways. But, more than that, they have led me to where I am. And where I am really isn’t so bad, right now.

And while I may be alone and tempted to bring my demons out, I have to remember that they can’t talk. They can’t think past what they once were. These demons are no longer real, if we choose for them not to be. Maybe you feel more secure with them around. maybe you feel more comfortable knowing you are not alone, so long as you have your demons. But the question isn’t whether they will keep us company or not. Rather, the question is: are they they company you really want to be keeping?

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On Definitions

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time. Maybe even a few years. You see, once upon a time I tried to write a series of poems that I considered to be definitions. In these poems I explored all of the things a word could possibly mean. I only actually finished one. Maybe I wasn’t ready to attempt them. Maybe I wasn’t ready to explore definitions. Maybe I won’t actually ever be. The point that I’m trying to make is this: I’ve come to the conclusion that definitions are living things. They change. Grow. Shrink. Expand. They breathe and they eat.

I was talking to someone the other day about what they are known for. It started me thinking: “what am I known for?” Of course several words started jumping out in my head. Descriptors. Adjectives. The things I love and the things I do. But, then I asked myself: “are these the things that really define me? Are these the things I want to define me?”

I used to have this magnet quote on my fridge. I know, you probably think they are a little corny or something. But, sometimes all we really need is to know that someone else has had similar thoughts. Has been through what we are going through. Anyways, this quote went like this: “People often say that this or that person has not found themselves. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.” – Thomas Szasz

You see, as a person who is constantly searching. Constantly questioning everything around him, this quote is not just something that provides me with some shred of comfort. No, this quote gives me hope. It tells me that even though I may be wandering. May be looking for something I cannot understand. May be holding onto things that in the end will make no sense, it’s okay. I’m still learning how to create myself.

I am a creation that is still in the process stage. I hope that I’m never done. I hope that the definition of me is always changing. Always expanding. Filling up. Growing. You see, I like to think that while many may see my life as idle or wanderous or restless or whatever else it is you see when you peek inside my life, I see my life as a series of challenges. A series of things that build upon one another. And maybe someday I’ll be able to sit down and define all those things I wanted to years ago. Maybe I’ll be able to write those poems I thought of. Maybe I’ll even be able to explain to you what my definition is. But, I’m not going to worry about that now. No, I’m going to worry about creating that definition. Finding the things that fit. Finding the things that don’t. And I know I’ll make mistakes, but mistakes are the things that help us determine definitions.

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On Dreaming

Salvador Dali said about dreaming and ambition: “At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.”

Now, I feel like I should explain to you all that this post is not inspired by that quote. Rather, it is inspired by conversations I’ve had recently and thoughts I’ve had for a while. But, when I found that quote it kind of hit home. It somehow sparked every thought I’ve ever had about ambition and dreaming. You see, I’m not really so sure about my own personal ambition or even my dreaming.

A few minutes before I sat down to write out this post, I made some notes about my dreams at different ages. I found it very interesting that Dali spoke in a very similar manner. It was surreal somehow. To let you in on what I dreamed about when I was six, here are my notes:


Just for comparison sake, I went ahead and jumped ten years and wrote down what I could remember from when I was 16. Now, like most 16 year olds, I didn’t love my teenage years. And as a result, the dreams I wrote down tonight are all similar in some way and may seem slightly depressing (but we won’t get into that right now):


After I wrote that one down, I thought I’d take a stab at my dreams from a year or so ago. I sat for a little while trying to come up with something. Anything really. I had ideas, but when I really thought about those ideas, I realized that’s all they were. I’m at a place where it is hard to distinguish the dreams I have for my life from the ideas of dreams I have. And as a result, the page looked like this:


And after some more time went by, I decided to really think about it. To think about what I want for my life and where I’m actually going. When I moved away from home (yes, I know it was only a month ago) I was excited about not having to plan out my next two years. To take the time to think about what I want from life. But, as I was sitting here tonight thinking about how I feel, I have a complete lack of ambition and don’t really seem to have any dreams.

Then I remembered something about one of my high school classes. On the first day of economics, our teacher asked us to write down three things we want out of life. I can’t tell you all three things that I wrote down, but I can tell you the first thing: to be happy. I could sit here for hours and try to come up with dreams and try to find ambition lurking in the pit of my stomach. But the truth is, I just want to be happy. I’m not sure where that will take me. Where I will end up. Or what I will devote my life to. I have brief glimpses of things that I could do and maybe want to do, but some days I’m not really sure if they are dreams. If they are things I want to devote my life to or not.

In the end, I’m not sure all of my dreaming is the same as having a dream. I am, however, sure that in all of my dreaming there is one common link. One thing that seems to connect each possibility to the next. To be happy. And really, when we dream, can we ask for anything more than happiness?

Be Happy