Let’s Come to A Conclusion: Paths.

*Previously posted on Elite Daily.*

It’s an old tale about a fork in the road; honestly, that’s about as much as I can recall. I feel it has something to do with our decisions and how we have to commit to those decisions, even if we end up regretting them in the end. I could have also started with that poem by Robert Frost, but that’s too often misinterpreted, so I’d rather not bring it into the mix.  I could easily droll on about the impact of our decisions and the importance of thinking something through, but I feel that that issue is something so often represented in the decision-making trope that it rarely ever needs repeating. In fact, I firmly believe that the mere repetition of it makes it, not only redundant, but less impactful. There is a beginning, middle, and end to everything, and I want to discuss the middle; the path after the decision is made.

As of late, I have gone through a lot of different life changing experiences: I graduated college, I had a major break up, I came out as gay to the world, I cut all my hair off, and I moved back home. I admit, some are much more trivial than others, but life changing nonetheless. After having made these decisions, I started walking down this path; at times it was riddled with felled trees and moss and mud, while other times it had a beautiful cerulean ocean that stretched for miles into the sunset. But along this path I chose to make, there came the inevitability of unwanted scenery. What I mean by that is, I could still see everyone else around me on their own paths.

Some went at glacial speeds while others appeared as if they couldn’t stop moving. I started moving slower so I could compare my place to theirs. Was I moving faster than those behind me? Why wasn’t I catching up to those already miles ahead? That guy over there has a better view of the ocean, why didn’t I take that route? All of these questions never brought me answers. Before I knew it, I was on the side of my path, letting those behind me get in front and those in front disappear from my view. I was so aware of everything else, I lost sight of what I was doing. I cared way too damn much about the trivialities of people I wouldn’t ever see again.

If there’s one thing post-grad life can teach you, it’s that you can’t regret the major you chose in college. You can’t regret the decision you made four years prior, because a part of you, deep down, chose to commit to it and not one part of you ever let you give up on it for four years. Thing is, there will always be someone in front of you, someone behind you, and someone next to you. And if you keep comparing and contrasting and dwelling on pointless nuances, you’re not going to be happy. You’re not going to move.

Different choices bear different paths and the path that we choose to take may be more difficult than others. It may not reward us with the same kind of benefits and privileges and it may even add weights to our ankles as we forge our paths. As sad as it is, we are able to see those paths everywhere: on social media, in real life, or on television; and we are somehow inclined to exaggerate and emphasize these so-called success and compare it to ourselves. In essence, we never feel good enough.

Truth is, no one else matters. At that point, yes, it sucks. There’s no need to invalidate that feeling, but that moment isn’t forever. That moment of disappointment is not a defining moment, the defining moment is when you decide to get back up, put on some horse blinders and keep moving. So here I am to tell you to stop comparing your path, and to move forward dammit, because there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Let’s Redefine: The Process of Re-Identifying the Third Wheel.

“It’s sort of like being the sole training wheel on a bicycle. It’s fine, but every now and then it begins to lean.”

–On Being the Third Wheel

We’ve all been there before, quietly lurking in the shadows; edged out by the now-handholding entity that used to be your best friend. It’s always funny to compare how others have taken up the title of the “third wheel.” Laid out here are some of the main stages* of being the third-wheel, from being an awkward bicycle to an awesome tricycle (*stages are not universal, apply to your life at own risk):

Denial:

There is always a sense of claim that attaches itself to your best friend. You were there first. They’re your friend. Then the significant other sweeps in on their white pony, carrying them off to happiness. You manage to keep up on foot, but barely. You tag along on “group dates” as they suddenly become a thing and attempt to schedule time with your friend around their pre-determined make-out sessions and utensil-type cuddling. You try to understand it all; how they could leave you all alone when they used to spend all their time with you. “It makes sense!” you tell yourself as you go to the movies alone for the fifth time that week (considering you like going to the movies for recreation). As you watch the film, you lazily eat your popcorn and think, “fine, be that way. I don’t need you anyways!” when in reality, you feel like you do.

Hostility:

The significant other is now your enemy. He or she is the proverbial dragon guarding the tower of your seemingly doomed friendship. The dragon must be slayed at all costs. You begin to talk shit about them to your friend (when you have the chance to talk to them, that is): “I think he chews funny,” “Dude, she asks too many damn questions,” and my favorite one, “I think they’re just dating you for your money.” Unfortunately for you, love has a shield that is impervious to your Iago brand of bullshit. You relent and move on to different tactics. If you’re brave (or in some cases, idiotic) you’ll approach the significant other, chest extended and fists clenched. It’s at this point you delve into two modes: Active Motherf*cker or Passive Motherf*cker

  • Active Motherf*cker: Strategies may include: having the big sibling “talk,” finger pointing, and Olivia Pope inspired tirades in front of the significant other. The presence of your friend is not require or pertinent in this mode, but you are going in claws out and thirsty for blood.
  • Passive Motherf*cker: Strategies may include: Continually throwing shade behind his or her back, seeking out tertiary friends who have no opinion and are therefore malleable to yours, and passive aggressive comments about how they look, act, eat, or talk.

Neither of the above are acceptable under any circumstances. Alas, no one can control how you act except for you.

Reluctant Acceptance:

So you’ve attempted to take on one of the two personas and neither brought you the results you had hoped for. So now what? You still feel left out and want your friend back. Here is what I’ve learned in the past: you can talk to your friend face to face and it won’t ruin the friendship. If it lasted through past bullshit, it will probably last through this. And that’s what gets me sometimes; we are consumed by accepting and embodying these societal identities that we forget who we truly are. Once you realize that, you also realize that your friendship wasn’t in any real danger. The significant other is possibly the coolest person you’ll ever meet! Their “dangerous” attitude turns into spontaneity and their ugly mole you saw that one time really was just a piece of chocolate from a cookie.

It will all work out! Your friend is still your friend and now you’ve scored yet another one to hang out with and possibly buy you lunch.

Once you’ve realized that, I highly suggest you throw out that ridiculous bike and trade up for an equally appealing tricycle; I mean, they’re supposed to have three wheels.

This article is also featured on Elite Daily.

Let’s Be Prideful: Finally!

Finally is the not-so secret word of the day, as The Supreme Court of the United States FINALLY ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry across the country. Honestly, it’s about damn time because I am sick and tired of living in a world where people are denied such a fundamental right, granted to those who are:

1) alive.

2) american.

3) someone who probably wants to get married one day.

To be alive, and somewhat a part, of such a historic day makes me look back and pay homage to those before us who paved the road to this day. We can’t forget that while we made it to this goal, not all of us made it. There are people who marked the path, laid down the ground work, and poured the pavement. There are people who set up streetlights and crosswalks to keep us safe. There are people who put reflectors on the road to guide the way. Not all of these people made it to see this day, but damn if we let those who made it forget that these people even existed to begin with.

In school, I attempted to avoid history courses whatever the cause. Loopholes, roundabouts, replacement courses, anything. It didn’t interest me because I was so consumed with moving forward towards the future that nothing behind me mattered.

“It’s in the past, it doesn’t affect me!”

I’ll also add now that past me was not only young and naive, but also an ignorant idiot. Don’t worry, the recent, updated version is much more understanding and willing to take into consideration that there are different ways of thinking, being, and living.

Jason v.34.3.1 is aware that history/herstory/the past is what makes us, us, while still allowing us to acknowledge that there is room and a necessity for change.

So today, on June 26, 2015, I stand with pride. I stand for those before that could not be here, I stand for those who cannot, and I stand because I freely can. For the next month, you can guarantee that there will be bride oozing out of every orifice of every American who is happy to be a part of such an amazing feat. Well, it is Pride Month, so I do suppose that was already a given, but on the proverbial boombox, they will crank it to 10, then break the fucking knob in an attempt to achieving volume 15.

Break out the rainbow flags, your comfy shoes, and march.

March with pride because, finally, there is pride all around us.

**An updated version has (now) been featured on Elite Daily**

Let’s Go From Cubbies to College: Best Friends Since Grade One

“Friends come and go.”

This cliche is so strong that it not only permeates individuals, but generations as well. This past Monday being National Best Friends Day, it got me thinking about friendship. The friends from junior high probably never made stuck around to high school, and those from high school never bothered with you once you went to different colleges. The Facebook birthday notifications fill up your screen and it becomes a game of heads or tails deciding whether you should leave a halfhearted message on their wall wishing them a happy birthday and that you should “catch up when you’re in town.” At what point in that decision were you serious and do you actually hope they’ll say yes? Chances are you say that knowing that they wouldn’t take you up on the offer. You were just being polite. While these kinds of friends are plentiful, they are hopefully not the only ones that fill up your Facebook wall. Having just graduated from college, I can definitely tell you that the hardest thing to do is keep good and old friends around. In time, you just become so obsessed with your own lives that you don’t realize you’re drifting. Your finals schedules don’t sync up and because you go to different colleges on different sides of the country, there’s always a need to add three hours to your current time to make sure that they’re not asleep or too drunk to take your call. But, your best friend defies all of these rules. Your best friend doesn’t have any rules.

The beautiful nature about a best friend is that they choose to stick around despite the roadblocks and finals and drunken tirades. They help you through it and will be there at the end of the day to tell you that you’re brilliant and deserve better. And after about a week, they’ll tell you how what you did was stupid in the name of “tough love.” Keeping your best friend from cubbies to college is not an easy feat, nor is it an impossible one.

My best friend’s name is Nicole.

c. 2010

c. 2010

Ever since grade one there had been a polarizing force between us. Call it fate or a happenstance seating assignment, but since that day is Mrs. Enrique’s classroom, we haven’t really separated. We went to a peculiar grade school, in that it encompassed every grade from kindergarten to twelfth grade without the need to leave and find an adjoining campus. That being said, keeping us together was easier than most for the first eight years. From Harry Potter duels to my failed attempts at playing basketball our bond grew as tight as Justin Bieber’s pants are low. Nothing could stop us.

High school proved a challenge in that we were physically separated for four years. Unable to drive, hormones at a high, and “drama” a bourgeoning force in our respective lives. We had to result to phone calls and AIM (AOL Instant Messenger for those unaware) to keep above the fray of insanity. Between the first boyfriends and awkward Prom dates, we made it to graduation. Timing being the monster it is, she didn’t show up at mine, but I managed to see hers. Surrounded by people I didn’t know, I stood up and cheered the loudest as she walked across the field to get her diploma (holder).

c. 2011

c. 2011

These four years, however, prepped us for the college years. The calls became less, FaceTime and Skype were minimal, and the texts became every so often. I was highly aware that this could be it. Is my best friend going to become the person my Facebook wall that I flip a coin to decide on a birthday greeting? Is my best friend going to evaporate from my life because we’re too busy or consumed in our own sh*t? If your friendship has spanned fifteen years, three months, and seventeen days then it won’t give up. At that point, your friendship is an angsty teenager, unwilling to fulfill society’s wishes of fitting in and getting a life. It’s a rebel. And our rebellious friendship is perhaps the strongest it’s ever been. Karma being an acting factor in recent history, she was able to be at my college graduation. This time she stood up and cheered the loudest as I walked across the stage to accept my diploma (holder).

c. 2015

c. 2015

It’s not that best friends don’t have rules. They do. In a sense they’re supposed to abide by the same rules that any other friends should, but they choose not to. It’s this choice, to do whatever it takes, at all costs that sets them above the rest. It’s the choice to keep a friendship going for nearly sixteen years that actually makes it work. In making the choice you eliminate the stress and effort, because it’s natural.

So, yes, friends do come and go. But the ones that choose to stay? They stay for life.

(originally passed by Elite Daily, but it’s all good…you all get to read it anyhow!)

Let’s Acknowledge: The Self-Destruct Button.

When life becomes hard, there is one of two things we can do: fight or flight. In love, we sign the same deal. When it becomes tough, we can fight for our love or let it fly away. The situation with the latter is that there is always a lingering hope that it will fly back to you. But if you haven’t trained it to fly back, if it hasn’t a clue what to do once it’s released, then what? What if it flies into oncoming traffic? What if it gets sucked into an airplane? With this train of thought, without the hope or the coming back, doesn’t it become more of a self-destruct of your relationship than the letting go of it? Is this not the proverbial point of no return? Where does the line get drawn? When does the big red button become so tantalizing that the only feeling in the world is to press it and watch the fireworks come to life?

For one, it’s a much prettier end. To see the twirling embers in every color from scarlet to chartreuse light up the night sky, like a funeral pyre for those three years spent wondering if they’d propose, only to end your nights with lukewarm sex and a sweaty back. What better way to end a lackluster streak such as that than with a spectacle far more enjoyable than the ending credits of the fiftieth action movie you just watched? That, of course, is the best case scenario. But what about those moments you find yourself overthinking? What about those moments when the big red button is just an escape from a wonderful, yet emotionally difficult relationship? What if you just don’t want to fight anymore?

Thinking that it could be so much better, thinking that you want nothing more than to watch the fireworks twirl and dance, instead of spending one more day talking about your classes or work or how Patrice baked you the wrong kind of cookies when you were feeling down. What if, the need becomes so enticing, so comforting that you notice your hand begin to hover over the button. It’s bright and shiny and red, untouched and aching to launch days and months of work, devotion, and passion into the sky in a fashion that would entrance the most stubborn of audiences and frighten the most fearless of dogs? You get closer and closer and everything slows down; the sound of your heart pounds in your ear and you actually stop and think for once if it’s what you want to do, because to end something so abruptly isn’t a task to be taken lightly. You then begin making excuses, fabricated reasons to send rockets to the sky. How he licks his teeth, how he smells in the morning, how she scratches her armpit in a way that makes her look like an orangutan, or how the lack of texts means that they must be cheating on you. Lingering fears flood your mind and your gasping for air, the only thing in sight is the bright red button. I will briefly confess that this happens to me. Often. Why can’t you just push the thoughts aside? Let them lie still for once and realize that you have something special. Realize that someone is there for you. Realize that it could be something very, very good for you. Of course, if it really is something that is destructive or poisonous, then the best thing to do is go away, to push the button. Every love life is different and circumstantial. Please don’t look at my love life or your sibling’s, or your parent’s as a monolith for what true love is, because it’s different for everyone.

The fireworks are beautiful, I can tell you that now. They will leave you with awe and inspiration and life. But it’s temporary. The flames will fade and the smell of gunpowder and smoke will linger. The self-destruct button exists, but you can dismantle it. You can wish it away. You can control your life. So given the circumstance, what would it be: Fight or Firework?

Let’s Redefine: Strength, Tears, & Weakness.

I was a cry baby growing up. If someone stole my toy, I would cry. If someone hit me, I would cry. If someone made a joke at my expense, guess what? I would cry. All those tears shed, you’d be surprised how often I didn’t get dehydrated. It was permissible to be a “cry baby” as a child, because you aren’t expected to be strong. You aren’t expected to understand. But as I grew older, crying was seen as something negative. Something weak. When the hell did that flip happen? Where was I to approve of it? Thing is, that wasn’t up to me. For so long, I was told to not be “sensitive.” I was told not to cry. I was told to hold it in. So I did. I held those tears in, because I felt that in order to be strong, I couldn’t show this kind of emotion. In order to be strong, I wasn’t allowed to cry. I’ll say this now because it’s the truth: I wasn’t allowed to cry because I’m a boy. That’s the mindset society calls for in its male-identifying individuals: hidden emotion and shown physical strength. It sucks, I know.

To be honest, I can’t quite recall the last time I cried. Felt tears cascade down my cheeks and drip on to the collar of my shirt. Yet, I don’t feel any stronger having not cried for so long. In fact, I feel broken. Not being able to outwardly express these feelings makes me feel confined within the some invisible box of stoical masculinity that somehow inhibits my strength. At funerals, I wouldn’t cry and to some that may be strength, I guess? “He’s so strong, not letting his emotions get to him.” But I’ll tell you now, that at those moments of sadness and despair, I wanted to cry more than anything in the world, but my body wouldn’t let me. In the one permissible scenario where tears are allowed, more so expected, they didn’t show up. And I am so upset that I couldn’t.

As of today, I will say that I will allow my child to cry. I will allow my friends to cry. I will allow anyone who wants to cry to cry. Crying is a good thing. It isn’t a sign of weakness or submissiveness. It’s strength. To wear your heart on your sleeve for the whole world to see shouldn’t be weakness; it’s bravery. Few people ever dare to do that, so to those that do, I commend you and I strive to be like you. You embody true strength. One that is unbidden and unhidden.