Stories by Crazy

A little crazy never hurt anyone…

For You, My Children

As the reality of this election sinks in, I find myself falling back into that place where I was when my first and only relationship ended. It surprises me that it was two years ago, probably since I did such a grueling job of burying what past I had in order to move forward. It was a difficult experience in my life, and it took a long time to recover, to realign my priorities, and to refocus any shortsightedness for the big picture.

A large part of that big picture is the next generation.

To me, anyone around my age has already been proven, in that their maximum potential has been realized or at least estimated to a certain extent. That is, we already know what we want to be, what we want to do, and what we are ultimately capable of doing. It is slightly sobering to think that I won’t be able to do things that I want to do (perhaps do a back-flip or other stunts), though some still chase those dreams – whether in frivolity or earnestness. More power to them.

The coming generation, however, is still yet to be realized.

I tutor fifth graders at an after-school learning center, and their lives are full of possibilities. They are sharper, smarter, more discerning – but they still retain that child-like quality that unlocks creativity, improvisation, and discovery. I like to think that they are clever, but not yet conceited. They hold the keys to the future, and maybe someday, children of my own will be in their shoes, looking up to their role models to be whatever they want to be.

And therein lies the concern. Is there going to be a fertile future for this next generation to flourish? Have we essentially scrubbed our fields so that only a few chosen can survive? What is going to happen to this next generation?

I fear for them: for their safety, well-being, sound-mindedness, empathy, sense of responsibility, civility, and the list extends onward. Their environment for development is much harder than when I was raised and educated, and it continues to complicate. Sure, technology has made it easier to learn, but it has also made it easier to ridicule or be ridiculed. Modern society has become more tolerant, but having passion that potentially upsets complacency risks making one the exposed nail. On top of it all, there are still remnants of older times that I cannot believe still exist.

I have a professor that insists on having a personality over being an effective educator. Arguing with him on his side comments has had no effect, and has made class time that much more unbearable. He also mentions that the evolution of cinema requires no screenplay, which has been a real selling point to all the screenwriters. (Sarcasm, in case you didn’t catch that.) In effect, he has taken his own personal agenda of making movies great again by puffing up his own ego and stuffing it down the students’ throats.

It is difficult, to say the least, to accept or take in his teachings, let alone like the man. However, I would argue that the students who have found his rhetoric as condescending – as well as those who have not – have become stronger as a result. Not only because this windbag has stoked a fire under our asses, but more importantly, great teachers have stood alongside and encouraged us that we can still do something great. Their kindness has made us, their next generation, better.

My hope is that I can instill the same resolve in my students and the next generation, even amidst these trying and unknowable times. In a way, it is over for my generation, but theirs is only beginning. As such, they should better themselves, but not at the expense of others. They should never give up hope or succumb to taking the cheap shot. They must fight for what is right, and regardless of outcome, do it in a manner that shows class and heart. They must be kind and ready to forgive those who do wrong to them, not perpetuate a cycle that has gone on far too long.

Most of all, they should have faith in their futures, because I have faith from God in them.

A Breather

Usually, I type up a reflection around my birthday, which I’ve been doing for the past three or four years. This year, however, I completely missed an opportunity because I decided to take on five classes (three being the regular load), and thus, I sat behind my computer, complaining about things, wishing things were easier…

But lo and behold, I finally have a moment to perform my two favorite pastimes: to collect and to dump. (I’d advise you to also get some coffee if you intend to read through all this rubbish.)

Normally, I’d remark on some pitfalls and then offer up my learnings from them, spin it with some Christian-faith-life-makes-everything-go-round; but this time, I don’t have much to say in terms of my growth. I don’t understand why, since my inner mind is a bit more systematic and theological, yet I’m drawing hardly anything out of my recollections. Perhaps I’ve become delusional because of all the writing I’ve done, but I think it’s simply:

I’m tired.

This year was tough. Very tough. (Not to the level of Andy Dufresne, but metaphorically speaking.) In a rough outline:

  • I got rejected by women,
  • I watched my church get torn apart by stuff I still can’t comprehend,
  • I had to move away from friends and community I had grown with for nine years,
  • I took on a mountain of debt to study for a job field that will probably keep me in debt for a very long time,
  • I burned a few bridges along the way,
  • and I burned myself out.

In a regular in-person prompt, I wouldn’t say all this. It’d be like hanging a dark cloud that gives a torrential monsoon that nobody likes.

Again, at the end of it all, I’m tired. Maybe aside from the first point, everything else was pretty heavy – relatively speaking. Collectively, though, and now that I can see these events sprawled out in front of me, I realize that I am alone.

Yes, I have friends in film school, and I have friends at my local church. I still have some friends back home, and I have friends from home that are conveniently nearby. I would consider my roommates my friends. (Hopefully, they return the same sentiment…) But at the end of the day, I’m alone – with my thoughts, and with whatever dual personalities I’m currently embodying for screenwriting purposes.

At this point, I’d imagine some of my friends would recount a Michael Jackson tune, which would probably boost my spirits. I’d take anything, really – as long as it’s not drugs or alcohol or medication or really weird metaphysical treatment.

Analyzing myself (as I often do on the page), I realize that I crave intimacy. Just to have that immediacy of talking to someone heart-to-heart, relinquishing problems and finding solutions, recounting the good days and looking forward to those not yet come to pass – and not get criticized for sounding cliché. (Honestly, some people just need to lighten the hell up – a little cliché never hurt anybody.)

“Oh, don’t worry. You’ll find somebody.”

I call bullshit. Really, I do. If God had wanted me to partner with a woman for the rest of my life, it would’ve happened by now or would be on the way to that. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough, or maybe my standards / tastes / preferences are too high / specified / whatever. Yet, for this last year (plus change), I’ve been realizing that maybe I’m just not going to find that one person. Sure, I can get married at 40 or 50 or settle for just anybody, but if you are thinking that, please, just shut up and listen to me.

Is it really so hard to listen? To just shut down that part of your brain that wants to hurry up and fix things, instead of realizing that this is a human in front of me with something rooting much deeper than a cut knee or a sprained ankle or a TFCC injury… Have we come to that age where people just want to move to the next thing, and leave those with anchors behind?

And here’s part of why I’m so pragmatic. People keep offering me solutions, but don’t really want to empathize. They just want to seal the crack with some duct tape instead of actually learning how to properly amend the breakage. They want to slap an applicable label on me and process accordingly. (At this point, it should be clear that I’m an INFT – for all you Myers-Briggs whores.) As a result, in my rashness, I end up doing the same out of perpetual influence.

Never once has someone just said, “Hey, let’s go for a walk.” (And to not have the pretense of catching Pokémon.) To just hear me out, not say a word, and then sit there with me in the silence – for as long as needed, maybe more. (Maybe at a park underneath stars with perfect lighting and impeccable background, but has nothing to do with the story being told…)

I think I really have lost sight of what I’m reaching. I can ingest scripture and sermon until my eyes and ears are sore, but I’m in a trench with tools that only do so much. I carry on with routine, and if the day is empty, I have to find something to do – or I feel completely useless, like I’m on the verge of being thrown away. (Maybe not that dramatic, but you get the idea.)

In philosophy, the smartest thing stated was “I don’t know.” A paradox, though, since the pretense is that Socrates did know how to solve the problem. Nonetheless, I do not know. I don’t feel any smarter by stating that. I don’t know why I feel this way – perhaps I need more Jesus in my life. I don’t know if there’ll be a Shawshank-like redemption for me at the end of wherever the tunnel ends.

All I know is the trudging plateau of hot California weather mixed with a gauntlet of never-ending, caught-in-the-middle-of-whirlwind-situations lifestyle, topped by having to drive across dried land for everything.

So yeah. That’s been my year. Hope you enjoyed your coffee.

Happy Bastille Day to all my French brethren.

Ideal Date #7

Do you like home-cooked hot food?
Mine comes with first-degree burns.

Till Now

The last three months have been a complete alskdjfo awijern cioco iuerieak wnwpe rowd invm ocijarwe.

(If that made no sense, then I think I have explained my condition accurately.)

I purposely and unintentionally stopped writing here because of school, school, and questioning what to share. My head’s been spinning, trying to keep up with people and work, that I forgot to spend time on the things I enjoy the most and are most important to me (even though I would deny it all in person). Having some time with spring break, I have blown off the cobwebs to pen some thoughts on the blank pages.

***

Relationships. Are. Hard. (How hard, Dave?) Not just the ones you probably immediately assume, but friendships, familial ties, work ties, etc. They’re like consumer goods: everyone enjoys them until they go wrong, in which they try to trade up and over. But relationships aren’t commodities. They’re much more important, and I feel like the dumbest person when I iterate that.

Growing up, it was strenuous having to move all the time. (I feel like I’ve told this story already.) Every few years, I would have to leave the friends I had just started to enjoy being around, only to have to start over. Probably a nice skill to develop, except meeting people was extremely difficult for me. Most people would just blame personality type, but to be honest, I was worried what others would think about me.

I’m weird (if you haven’t deciphered). I’m not like white T-shirts or low-cut socks. I’m really really difficult to be around when I talk, and it’s worse when I start to force my opinion down your throat. I did tone it down a bit by talking less (or not talking at all), and it’s only by the grace of God that I have any friends.

I’m also notorious for burning bridges, which is ironic to the point of hypocrisy. If I don’t value a relationship enough, I’ll let it die or worse, and I’ve gotten all the backlash from those moments. You would think after the first or second time that I would learn from my mistakes, but the story never works itself out. In a sense, I think of it as a “cleansing,” removing the chaff, but it’s never that — it’s more like cutting out an organ. Only in hindsight, though. Again, grace of God that people even talk to me after the first encounter.

I think it wasn’t until recently that I realized that my friends like me for who I am regardless of what benefit it is to know me other than to know me. It breaks my heart, cause if I were in their shoes, I would cut and run away from me. The Christian would say, “He needs love. He’s just as broken as we are.” My immediate reaction would be, “GTFO.”

And yet, everyday, I’m starting to notice who my close, ride-or-die friends really are. There were many people that did the whole “don’t forget us little people when you make it big” when I left Seattle, but slowly, most of those people ended up doing the thing they asked me not to do. I don’t blame them, as life keeps us busy, but all the same, I do feel disappointment that the relationship I viewed was not the same relationship they viewed. It does stress the fact that it takes two to tango, and it takes two to make a thing go right. It’s not just their fault, but also mine. And no one’s.

***

Failing is a skill that never gets easier. If you ever listen to comedians pontificate, they often say that you’re not a real comedian/-enne until you bomb (once). It helps you learn from your mistakes, makes it easier to take rejection, and solidifies “who you are.” As Nietzsche famously said, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

As a famous ex-network talk show host once rebutted, “What [Nietzsche] failed to stress is that it almost kills you.” And he’s right. Once it happens, you feel like someone just snatched the life right out of you. You may cry, you may hold it together, but you always feel broken inside. And it’s the worst when it’s something in which you hold a lot of pride.

Mine was my first ever screenplay. Anyone can write a screenplay, but like music or art, it takes a master to make it great. And I thought mine was on the way to being good enough to hopefully get in the good graces of my hard-ass professor, who would hopefully send it to an agent that could land me a job once I graduated. Bake my cake and eat it without getting a sugary stomach ache.

Instead, he tore me a new one. While there have been students that cried due to his brash criticism, I held my ground, much like someone trying to save face while taking a public whipping. Even so, it was the most incredibly embarrassing moment in my film school life to date. All eyes staring at me, watching me as my work was shredded to bits, maybe hoping to see me crack. (Note: though my professor sounds harsh, he still cares for all of his students.)

It was depressing the next few days. Could I salvage this story, or would I have to start something new and be completely behind all the other students? I wracked my brain for countless hours, and eventually, I decided to start fresh with something closer to the chest.

And it was like a breath of the freshest air from any of the peaks of Washington State entered my lungs with rejuvenation. I was technically behind, but I felt like this was it. This is a good story that I want to tell, not so much one that I want to get made into a picture to earn a ton of recognition and money. This was the one that really spoke to why I wanted to come to film school: to move and motivate people to do something better.

I’ve got a lot to catch up on work-wise, but for once in a very long time, I feel like things are going to be okay (with school). Even with all the stress, mess, headache, crying, sleepless nights, forced malnutrition, etc.

***

In everything, I cannot begin to illustrate how much Christ has done, and maybe it is serendipitous that it is Palm Sunday Passion Week as I write this. In all my problems, the solutions stood right before me, tapping on my forehead. I was just too caught up in everything else to notice.

Knowing God makes it easier to keep relationships, and knowing Christ makes it easier to fail. It’s crazy and sounds too good to be true, but it is easier. And free. And free-ing. I think less about marriage, jobs, how I’m going to pay off all this debt, and the future (although they’re still there, in my mind wasteland). It’s kind of like emptying your mind, but it is also filling it with God.

The buck’s not supposed to stop at me. As Christians, we’re called to spread the Good News to all; and yet, I still hear of stories of Christians with good intentions, but no tact or manner. It really does suck that it happens, and then other people generalize Christians as such — they make the molehill steeper every time they “profess” the Word of God.

I do want to share my faith with others, but I’ve realized that it’s not a one-and-gun deal. I hate to harp on short-term missions, but sometimes, I wonder if the impact will last and take root — most of the time, it just turns into a vacation. Not to say that they aren’t beneficial, but I’d rather get to know this person or people, walk with them, talk with them, live life with them. It might be why I don’t have the urgency to travel, or constantly looking for “a good time.”

Spreading the Gospel is work, but it shouldn’t be force-feeding scripture. It should be an lifelong, open invitation, regardless of reception. You till the ground and nurture the crops, and then hope to God something does happen. It’s a waiting game, not a baiting game.

I could throw more clichés or well-worded phrases and rhymes, but at the end of it all, it’s just a bunch of words. You would have to walk or talk with me, one-on-one, everyday for the rest of my life to see if what I spew is hypocritical or something sublime. And even then, you would have to come to the conclusion, not me.

And if that wasn’t an invitation to walk or talk with me through this crazy stupid fine thing called life, then I don’t know… but I got a good feeling.

The Bandage

CREEEEEEEEEEK!

Jason opens the oven door to clear out the excess pots and pans, and to rearrange the oven racks. He mutters his narration, trying to keep himself on task as his girlfriend, Elaine, is due to arrive in an hour. The pressure is on for this first experience as he activates the oven.

“Umm…”

He hesitates, but then rummages through the refrigerator. He pulls out a bowl of brined chicken, a container of diced tomatoes, and another container of chopped garlic and onions. In a fury, he lays out the chicken on a glass baking dish, purees the tomatoes with the garlic and onions, and pours over the saucy concoction over the poultry.

“Where’s the cheese?”

Jason moves back to the refrigerator, rummaging for the mozzarella and parmesan. After a few moments-

“Ah! Got ’em!”

Quickly, he shreds the mozzarella before getting the grater to dust the top of the dish. He vigorously pushes the parmesan against the grater, so much so that he accidentally nicks his thumb.

“Ouch!”

He holds his injured finger betwixt his lips as he tries to find a bandage. He rips open five drawers before he finally finds the first-aid kit in the cupboard. No time for antiseptic — just a bandage.

DING!

“Aw, crap!”

Jason barely applies the bandage when the oven signals its readiness for cooking delectable deals. He shoves the prepared dish into the oven, set the timer, and moves onto the salad. Before he knows it, the front door to apartment resounds a KNOCK-KNOCK!

Jason rushes to the door, his apron flapping. He opens the door to Elaine, her floral dress and hoodie pairing.

“Hey, Jason!”

“Hey, Elaine! Come on in! I’m almost done making dinner.”

“Mmm. It sure smells good!” she exclaims.

Jason guides her to the dinner table, set with homemade mason jar candles, rustic placemats, and shined dinnerware. Elaine sits in awe at the elegant effort, examining the beauty amidst the chaotic backdrop of a bachelor pad.

“Have a seat!”

Elaine plops down on the couch, baring her soft shoulders with the removal of her hooded sweatshirt. From the kitchen, Jason schizophrenically loses his mind between the dinner and Elaine. And her shoulders.

“How about some wine?” Jason calls from the kitchen.

“Sure!”

Jason fumbles with a bottle of cheap Bordeaux wine and a corkscrew. “You look really nice tonight!”

Elaine replies, “Thanks. And thanks for making dinner and everything.”

“Of course!” he exclaims, gritting his teeth, bracing against a wall, pulling with all his might.

POP! Finally… Jason checks the cork and notices that his bandage is missing. He frantically looks around, but cannot find his misplaced bandage.

“Can I help with anything?” Elaine asks as she approaches the kitchen.

Quickly, Jason grabs a wine glass, and in cool fashion, pours out the wine as Elaine enters.

“Uh, no! Tonight is my treat!”

DING!

“Well, I hope you’re hungry,” Jason says with a smile, handing Elaine her glass. She sits at the table, while Jason tries to pull himself together from the nervous wreck he has become.

He steels himself as he sets the table with the entree and main course, taking extreme care to plate the food for Elaine. He smiles at her as he sits down at his seat.

“Let’s eat!” he exclaims. The two bite into their chicken parmesan.

“Mmm…” Elaine licks her lips. Jason’s satisfaction with Elaine’s satisfaction is almost palpable, and all seems to be running smoothly for a romantic night in… until he sees his bandage dangling from her tongue.

“Uh-oh.”

Elaine continues to chew, but as she does, her facial expression shifts from enjoyment to curiosity to worry, and eventually to disgust as she peels out the very wet, very sauced bandage from her mouth.

“OH MY GOD!”

“Elaine, wait! Let me explain!”

Her gag reflex kicks in as she vomits over the table, splattering onto Jason’s front and into his mouth. She kicks out of her seat, dragging the table cloth, food, and place settings with her. Meanwhile, Jason tries to wipe away the spittle and fragments on him and potentially in him.

“WHAT THE HELL, JASON?!”

Elaine grabs her purse and rushes for the door, but not before vomiting again by the shoe rack, right into Jason’s shoes.

“Oh, come on!” Jason cries out.

She cranks open the door and start to leave. Jason catches the door at the last second and pulls it open.

“Wait! What about dessert?” he asks longingly.

Elaine gives Jason a most confused and annoyed look, before another gag convulsion, followed by a very liquified spray of stomach contents. She holds her mouth and rushes off, leaving Jason at his door in a complete mess. He sighs as the coagulated drips fall to the ground, and he shuts the door defeated.