Let’s Talk About 2014 (And 2015, For That Matter)


It’s funny.

I don’t often find myself the type to reflect, to look back. What’s back there, anyway? Nothing. Because it doesn’t exist anymore. The past is over. You’ll never touch it. There is only now.

But now is a hell of a lot better than it was then.

For years, I was down pretty far into my own mental illness and depression. I’d more or less given up by the end of 2013. I had nothing left in me. I had lost most everything, and found myself without much energy or drive. But I kept the struggle alive for one more year. And it turned out to be the year I finally pulled stick out of the fire, so to speak.

It took a few months, but I was able to net a job which has grown into a security blanket. Something I’m comfortable doing, a place where people rely on me. Sure, it’s not glamorous or high-paying. I won’t exactly be bragging about it. But I’m essential there now. I was given a chance, pushed to keep moving up, and held to an expectation that is higher than most. It’s what I thrive on. Does it make me anxious sometimes? Certainly. But that’s how I am at my best. And I am finally able to utilize that again, after years of finding that all but lost.

I found that when given the opportunity, people would actually find my opinions worth listening to. I got to dip my toes into game journalism simply by throwing a few lines into the water to see if I could catch anything. In doing so, I got my in to surround myself with creators and thinkers, the people who make the things that raised me. Fueled every creative fiber in my body. I now get to count game developers, journalists, and people of all sorts of backgrounds and lifestyles and characters as friends. Peers. People who listen and I can listen to. It’s fun. It made a hobby matter more.

And then there’s Kat. I didn’t really know what to expect when I attempted to connect with someone again on a meaningful level. But I finally have comfort. Someone I can rely on to just… be there. Makes everything that much easier to deal with inside my head. I love her, I do. That’s all I really know and care about. If everything else crumbled around me, she’d be there still. And that is the definition of comforting.

So where do I go from here? I’ve re-established a base, a foundation. What do I build on it?

Do I return to writing about games, even if it’s not for pay? Possibly. It’s always in the back of my mind as I continue to study the history of the art, the craft.

Do I get a chance to return to fiction writing? I hope so. I haven’t really had much drive, only producing something like two stories in the last year or two. Maybe I can finally create again, now that I have something that moves me forward, keeps me thinking.

Maybe I can learn to do something NEW with all this weight shifting around in my head. I need to produce more, to expand on what I’ve left behind. 2014 was about getting my life back, now it’s time to get myself back.

And for fuck’s sake, I need to get healthier…

Most importantly, I just want to establish something this year. Experience. Live a little. I’m not getting any younger, and all that cliche bullshit. 2015 is my year to expand on what 2014 gifted me. What I battled my own demons to get.

We’ll see. Either way, forward is all I have to go. So… forward it is.

Thanks, bitches. <3

An Open Letter To Mike Rowe


Hey Mike,

I confess I am not super familiar with your work. I’ve seen some episodes of Dirty Jobs and have heard of your Works program (which is a positive thing, no doubt about it), but I wouldn’t consider myself a huge Mike follower. I have, however, seen a lot of your statements regarding certain issues and responses to rather unsavory criticism from “the internet”, and have generally found it pretty interesting and worth spreading around.

I say this because I want people to know I’m asking this from a completely unattached standpoint. Someone that has no real purpose in asking this other than wanting to hear your opinion.

I was recently reading an article on what I assume was a Right-leaning website that covered one of your responses to an ugly question from a “fan” who, yes, happened to be Left-leaning. Your response was, if I can be allowed to paraphrase, that loud, brash, rude, and insulting statements/questions do not make people want to listen to what you have to say. You responded with a little snark, but all in all you seemed to be pointing to the fact that “sides” have a tendency to instantly go to write-offs and insults instead of actual rational conversation and that’s why we can’t seem to understand one another in any meaningful way and accomplish things.

Out of curiosity (it killed the cat, and it gave me a bloody headache in this case), I scrolled down to the comment section. Internet 101 dictates this is rarely a good idea but… here we are.

I was instantly met with almost nothing but vitriol about how terrible and stupid and useless Liberals are. People going on paragraphs-long rants about how Liberals are destroying the country and corrupt, immoral, closed-minded people (at least in regards to their “agenda” to make everyone think like they do) who aren’t rational or thoughtful in the least. Not to mention multiple people talking about how (and this leads to the guys question) anyone that’s Christian AND Democrat at the same time is sinful and evil.

Whew. Talk about irony.

For a point of reference: I’m not Liberal. Or Conservative. I’m “Libertarian”, which is that thing both sides don’t seem to understand, but like to judge anyway. I’m usually viewed as a fence-sitter who has no stance or spine. Which, for anyone that’s read even a single article about Libertarianism or listened to a Libertarian politician (if one is even allowed to speak where anyone but Libertarians can hear them), couldn’t be less true.

I’m also Atheist! The only religious view that no one ever takes issue with being shat on by the population. It’s not really considered a “Religion” so no one thinks it’s covered by any sort of right. And it’s also apparently a lack of morality.

I guess I’m immoral and have no stance on anything. I didn’t know that about myself.

Really, I drew the short straw twice in a row. But I’m ok with that. It’s not a woe-is-me story. But it gives some reason for me to be disappointed in this verbal trench warfare that both sides resort to instead of, as you pointed out yourself, taking the time to ask rational, calm, calculated questions or discussing their stance with any sort of credible reserve.

So, to my question then. You seem to be willing to speak to people on both “sides” and find the kind of insta-attack attitude to be poisonous to getting anything done in terms of bipartisan progression.

What do you think of your “fans” that agree with you in a way that seems to entirely miss the point of what they’re agreeing with? This ironic “Not all Conservatives/Liberals are the same! But all Liberals/Conservatives are the same! All Conservatives/Liberals are evil and ruining this country. But not all Liberals/Conservatives are evil and ruining this country!” attitude that BOTH sides seem to think is going to get things done?

I’m not sure if you’ll read this, and really it doesn’t matter since it does work as an over-all general statement on the current state of black vs. white, right vs. left, good vs. evil that America is so in love with. But hey, at least it got me thinking.


The Guy Standing In The Middle Of Two Trenches Watching Shit Fly By

On Robin Williams And What We Need To Learn…


Today, the world lost one of the most beloved celebrities of all time. Someone who’s career spanned decades, crafting movies, tv shows, stage products, and comedy albums that spanned from hilarious to profound and dramatic. Someone who was not only a beloved member of the comedy community, the actor community, but the video game community as well.

Robin Williams has always had his own unique style. Maintaining a child-like energy and excitement from the early days of his career to his recent role on the tv show The Crazy Ones. He was a one-of-a-kind performer who put everything into his work. An improvisational genius, he often came up with a lot of his stuff on the spot. His stand up shows would vary from show to show due to a lot of the jokes being thought up instantly. He even stopped by Who’s Line Is It Anyway? to lend his improve talents.

His Live On Broadway special ranks in my Top 5 favorite stand up comedy specials of all time, and he was one of my big influences in comedy writing. What Dreams May Come is one of my absolute favorite movies, and it is in part due to his genuine and heartfelt performance. He was a true talent, and the impact he’s left on generations is astonishing. May he rest in peace.

With the memorial out of the way, I want to focus on the sad parts of this: that it was depression and substance abuse issues that led to this. Moments like this need to not be mourned, but to be learned from. I’m still struggling to wrap my head around all of this, but here are a few things of note I want people to learn and take away from this horrible loss.

1 – People who suffer from mental health issues or addiction can smile. They can laugh. They can be productive and successful. They can have wonderful, loving relationships with family and friends. They can make huge impacts on people’s lives. Even the most boisterous laugh or widest smile can still mask unimaginable pain and fear. Depression, struggles, addiction can all hide behind energy and the appearance of perfect happiness. Appearances can be deceiving, and depression is even more deceiving.

2 – Seeking help is not the ONLY part of getting better – Robin had been through treatment. In fact, only a month or two ago, it was reported that he was here in Minnesota seeking treatment. He even stopped by a local Dairy Queen and surprised the staff and took pictures with fans on his way in to get help. But help is not the ONLY step to recovery. While therapy or treatment can be a positive part of the recovery process, it is not a instant fix. It also doesn’t always work for everyone, nor can it always help with every aspect of what is troubling you. Please know that getting help is a resource that should be readily available for all, but that it is not the final solution. It requires love, support, and lifestyle work as well as professional help to even begin to get a handle on something so unknown and powerful as mental illness and addiction.

3 – It can happen to ANYONE – It doesn’t matter how successful you are. How many loved ones you have. How much money you make. How much you get to express yourself – things like depression and addiction can still leave a mark on your life. NO ONE is safe from something that does not discriminate. That does not pick and choose. That isn’t just fixed by having positive things around you. It can hit at any time, and it can get anyone regardless of who they are or where they come from. Do not ever believe that someone is free from struggle just because they’re successful or appear happy.

4 – Every moment is the right moment to spread awareness and words of encouragement – Something that troubled me was people sending out words of encouragement and links to support for people suffering from mental health issues and addiction. This is a wonderful, hugely important thing… that we just don’t do often enough. We can’t always wait for a tragedy to strike to do this. These are things we need to talk about often, with love and understanding. Just getting the word out that people don’t have to be alone, that we all care and understand and want to fight for them. That they’re not broken or stupid or beyond our reach. Getting that word out, providing the help and the support, needs to be more frequent. We need to be willing to speak up at all times, not just when it claims a life. Because it claims lives every day. And it will continue to do so. We must not hold back on how hard and how frequent we fight.

These are just a few thoughts on my mind as I struggle against my own mental health being negatively effected by losing such a wonderfully inspirational person. I hope people can consider these thoughts and learn as they mourn. We can’t let mental health and addiction defeat us. For every single person that fights against these demons, we have to learn and understand and move all of us forward.

To everyone who is suffering from these problems: you aren’t alone, even when you feel it. You can come to me, or many supportive people and places, and seek help. You are not broken. You are not stupid.

You are not alone.

RIP Robin Williams. The infectious laughs will be missed. But they will not be forgotten.


Depression, Apathy & My “Yes” Problem


I can confirm that it’s possible to be completely apathetic and ridiculously productive and useful to other people.

Allow me to explain. I got bumped up to shift supervisor at work (not bad considering I started there two months ago), and everything’s been moving fast. I can’t say it’s been a blast being somewhat rushed through multiple training stages in two-months time. I haven’t exactly had a hard time adjusting, I’m usually quite quick to pick things up, even though that’s dulled over the last few years. My problem has come with the realization I kinda let this happen without expressing much reluctance to dive straight into everything head-first.

I should probably have taken it a bit more slowly. I sorta just agree to everything dumped in my lap and pick it up, no matter how much extra stress and anxiety comes with it. And since everything I do comes with stress and anxiety due to the complete and utter lack of self-worth in my head, it’s just added stress and anxiety when there is REAL stress and anxiety on top of the stuff I generate in my head for no good reason.

It’s not that I don’t think I can handle it: I can. And it’s not that I shouldn’t be doing this: I need the money and the hours. But what it really is is a problem I have with saying “yes”. I realized it when I picked up another shift tomorrow when I was supposed to have the day off. Which puts me at 6 days this week. Considering I worked the last few days, with my one day off being punctuated with heading into work for a bit to do something, and then working a bit at home as well, that means there is going to be a run of 11 days where I only don’t go into work one day. While that’s lovely for my paycheck, I kinda realized how much of a pushover it makes me seem to be.

It’s apathy. It’s a weird form of apathy that makes me not care what happens to me at all. If they wanted me to come in every single day for a year, I wouldn’t care in the slightest. I’d just go “sure, whatever”. If they wanted me to work from open to close without a break, I’d just go “sure, whatever”. Want me to wash the floor with my tongue? Whatever.

My apathy makes me easy to use. Having zero self worth and a general disregard for yourself and your own well being will do that to you. I don’t mind helping out and filling up time with work. I have nothing else going on really, so it’s something to do at least. But there are moments where I realize I should probably stop just kinda… agreeing to everything. That apathy is drawing me back into my routine of just bending over and taking whatever is shoved up my butt in regards to work and what people expect of me. I don’t view myself as someone that has limits, because I view limits as something someone who cares about themselves sets.

The last straw only exists when you have any straws to begin with.

Maybe I figure the only way to make any value in my life is by letting other people do with me whatever they want to. Maybe it’s just a distraction and therefore I’ll take it. Whatever it is, it comes from my mental illness and depression. It draws from that well. I know it does. And I don’t really care to stop it. I don’t have it in me to go “naw, I need my day off”. Or “I don’t think I’m ready to take on MORE responsibility when I’ve barely been here long enough to be completely comfortable”. I’m just going to continue doing whatever is asked of me and picking up slack wherever with no regard for my well being, sanity, or dignity.

That’s dangerous apathy right there.

Random Acts Of Kindness Shouldn’t Surprise Me As Much As They Do


Yesterday, I had a customer at work who handed me a five dollar bill and said “please put this towards the next person’s order” and then left with her stuff.

The next customer happened to be a lady with two kids in tow. She ordered her drink, and as instructed, I paid for it with the five dollars left behind. It was entirely taken care of. She was completely blown away by it. I had a couple bucks left over and put it towards making the next guy’s order only come to about a dollar. Two people were taken by surprise and had a tiny moment of kindness in their day. It left both rather elated.

For some reason, this was a genuinely surprising thing that happened. A stranger just leaving behind five bucks, not a particularly huge gesture, but enough that it managed to give two people something randomly pleasant where they didn’t expect it. That blows my mind, actually. And I am at a point where it kind of makes me sad just how surprising it was.

The whole “pay it forward” random-acts-of-kindness moments aren’t exactly UNCOMMON, but they’re not rampant either. And I feel like we’re in a world where I have to grumble under my breath at how mean people can be more often than I can smile at how nice they are. So when things like this happen, it does remind me there are still relatively decent people in this world, even if they show it with tiny things.

Not really sure why I’m writing this. To let people know there is still good out there? That people are willing to do little things here and there to make a complete stranger’s day better? Maybe it’s to remind myself of these things so I can stop being so surprised by random acts of kindness. That the world isn’t so bleak all the time. It encourages me, really.

So, if you got five bucks to spare, maybe we should all give this a try some day? Just drop it on a counter and say “hey, make the next person that walks in that door feel good”. I think next time I’m somewhere, I’m going to give that a shot.

“Mental Health” Isn’t Broad Enough


Usually, I’m uppity about terms being used to represent TOO LARGE of a behavior group. But the term “mental health” has always struck me as not being broad enough. That in order to make strides in awareness and recovery, we have to be more open to the implications of the terminology we use.

This came up during a discussion about the recent shooting in Southern California. I urge you to read the news article and consider the details before continuing. The shooter in this case gave a rather frightening manifesto video regarding why he sought out women and shot them, blaming his lack of ever having a girlfriend on a hatred for all women. It’s very easy to see why some believed this to be a simple case of a disgruntled, entitled misogynist lashing out when he didn’t get his way. But I immediately saw it as a mental health concern, as is usually the case when someone turns to taking multiple human lives as a way of projecting their feelings and thoughts.

Admittedly, I did not project that well enough, so I wanted to take this time to explain myself in greater detail and urge people to reconsider how we use the term “mental health” and what constitutes a mental health concern. Taking it at a rather literal face-value, mental health is anything related to your mental state and it’s well being. And since your mind is made up of such a large quantity of information and presents itself in a myriad of ways, your mental status is very broad and hard to take in all at once in a general sense.

The trouble I found is that the current use of “mental health” is usually equated to only certain types of mental health issues. Usually depression, suicide, psychopathy, sociopathy, or very televised mental health conditions like schizophrenia or things that are easy to spot on the surface. But I would argue that this is only the tip of a very large,and very hard to grasp ice burg. One I myself have been fighting to understand better ever since coming to terms with my own mental health concerns.

I am undiagnosed. I have never been labeled as “depressed” or “manic depressive” by any medical professionals. I was only in therapy for a few weeks as a pre-teen, and was put on medication for all of a week for anger management issues. Other than that, I have never once been TOLD I was mentally unwell. I never thought I needed to be. I became aware of my outward actions, and of my inner feelings, and recognized them as not being healthy. I believe without doubt that I have mental health issues, and that I am not a bad person for it. I also recognize that not everyone has that kind of self-awareness when it comes to these concerns, some never even finding out they had a problem to begin with.

That’s why I feel the need for “proof” is a bit sketchy. While it’s easy to instantly turn to mental health as a reaction to events like this, there are some that also believe it is hasty to use it as an excuse, that it derails the conversation. And that’s understandable, but I also believe it comes from a too-focused definition of what constitutes a mental health issue.

This shooter was called entitled, that he believed he deserved women, that it was his right. And I believe that mindset is unhealthy. Believing another human being is property is not a sign of a healthy mind to me, let alone being angry enough over it to take someone’s life as a result.

I parallel it to physical disorders. While there are physical issues that are very obvious, from cancer to abnormalities that show on the surface, there are also things such as the common cold. Or just feeling a bit wonky one day. I feel that we only see mental health as being the former, extreme, blatant, or not actually a health concern. That if it’s not something that can be labeled, treated, and diagnosed, it doesn’t deserve to be placed under the “mental health” umbrella. And I can understand that point, but as I said before, I believe your mind is such a large, vast thing that it can be unhealthy in many, many more ways than just depression or psychopathy.

And that includes entitlement and proprietary ownership of fellow human beings. As I said before, it’s an unhealthy state of mind to view yourself as in control of another person. This comes from a perpetual cycle of unhealthy mindsets passed down through our society and through those that shape us during our developmental stages. While this may not be an abnormality or a chemical imbalance such as depression, it is still a mental issue.

This is a result of, for lack of a better term, abuse of a young mind. This is why the way we present relationships, gender issues, and gender roles in media is truly dangerous. And the way we tell our children about certain things is equally as deadly. This is why people fight every day to show women as equal in our media. Not to sexualize and objectify them. It’s why it is so incredibly important to allow children to learn of respect early on, instead of this entitlement we blame this incident on. It is a matter of entitlement, but entitlement IS the mental health issue here. It’s the result of abuse, much like things such as drug addictions or anger issues can be as well. This kid was a result of an abusive home, with people who gave him at a young age an unhealthy perspective on the world, and of women.

I consider things like depression almost a physical issue. While thought processes, the way we’re wired to think, are more of a real “mental” health issue. It’s easy to believe that because his bad way of seeing things isn’t something that can be diagnosed or treated with medication, that it isn’t a health concern. But I think it doesn’t help matters to simply write this kind of escalation off as simply a person being bad. No one is bad from the start. And that’s where we need to start seeking understanding when events like this occur.

I don’t believe in demonizing someone like this. I believe we have to study the triggers, the things that “made” them do what they did, and figure out why they became this way. What is it about the world around us, the people who brought this person up, the situations and events he witnessed in his life, that led him to entitled misogynistic views of such a degree as to murder innocent strangers out of nowhere?

Treating this as a societal-centric mental health issue allows us to seek a better understanding of EVERYONE with these negative mindsets and points of view. It helps us address not only those that reach the level this young man did, but those that simply say mean things or treat people poorly due to their gender, race, etc. We have to remedy the cause, not just the disorder. We have to address what has caused this mindset to skew people’s point of view. And that starts with accepting that the term “mental health” has a far broader definition than we allow it to. Everything that causes our way of thinking to shift, and causes our actions to shift as a result of that, I feel deserves to be called a mental health concern.

And we need to keep that separate from other things. Such as depression, or suicide. Or what we label as someone being “crazy” or “insane”. These are different kinds of mental health concerns, not the only ones. The terminology is what catches us up. It’s easy to understand why some of these things get treated as something other than what they are: unhealthy.

I hope the conversation we can have going forward, as we inevitably face more events like this, can shift towards less demonization, and more attempts at understanding the underlying problems that cause unhealthy minds to grow, flourish, and explode.


It’s My Job To Stop Bigotry


Something has been bothering me lately…

There is a consistent string of things written about, and conversations had about, various forms of bigotry and oppression. Be it sexism, racism, or other discriminatory blockades put up preventing certain groups of people from being equally represented or accepted, these conversations are (rightfully) being had every single day. But a lot of the groups bringing up these problems are excluding a very important part of the remedy, and that’s the oppressive party.

I won the privilege lottery. I’m a white straight male born in the United States. My religion aside, I’ve pretty much fallen on the “majority” side of everything. I have friends who have not. I know people across the world, of various nationalities, colors, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, and social status. I want them to have better lives. I want them to feel safer, more comfortable, more accepted, and better represented. It’s important to me because THEY are important to me.

But it’s not on them to achieve that right. It’s on me.

One of the things that troubles me is the exclusion of white males in any discussion or fight for rights in our society. The belief that the “straight white male” has no right discussing something like racism or homophobia. The dismissal of their desire to be a part of it, or their views about it as being unimportant because they have no frame of reference. And while it’s true a white person may not know the struggles of being racially discriminated against, it is still very much their conversation to be had. Why? Because they’re the oppressors.

And the only person that can stop oppression IS the oppressor.

This is not stripping those fighting for rights of their importance in the discussion. It is not taking the power away from them. It is admitting that if we are ever to have equality, it must come at the hands of those preventing it in the first place. To release our privilege and ALLOW the growth and progression that is being held back. To open ourselves to those trying to be by our side and allow them to be so.

It’s on ME, as a white male to stop sexism, racism, and bigotry. It is on me as a straight cisgender person to stop the horrible bias towards those with different sexualities and gender identities. I have to admit, recognize, and release my privilege. And I willingly will do so. And it is on everyone who sits beside me with privilege to do this as well.

If you find yourself in one of the “groups” currently battling for better representation and treatment, you have to be willing to accept that you need those holding you down to release their grip on you. You have to work along side them, not against them. “Equality” does not come from only one part of the equation. You have to balance the entire thing to achieve it, so completely excluding the oppressive force is not going to benefit anyone. It’s going to perpetuate the problem and prevent it from being solved.

By being biased and spiteful towards those that hold you down, you are only preventing them from being in on the progression, especially if it’s done in a broad sense. While it isn’t their problem, it is their fight. It’s EVERYONE’S fight. That’s what makes it equality. The trouble is, all of the bigots that are out there sour the entire group. Every racist white person prevents non-racist white men from being in on the conversation. Every sexist male prevents other men from helping feminists achieve equality. But that should not stop you from accepting and working with white males on stopping these problems.

This doesn’t mean that without the help of your oppressors you’re unable to achieve anything. It’s not stripping you of your power or importance by saying you need their help to stop it. Equality is for ALL. That includes those that are part of the privileged groups, because they’re the ones that currently stand in the way of it.

My purpose in writing this is to urge people currently fighting for better civil treatment to let me and other “majority” people in on the discussion. Let us work with you. Fight with you. Be your equal. I, and many like me, wish to be on common ground with you. Be by your side. Learn from you. Love you. Share with you. And if you allow us to, we will allow you to. It becomes counter-bigotry when you dismiss us from the conversation because we’re not like you and think that we’re not allowed to want equality for all because we already have the privilege.

I do not want privilege. I want you by my side, as my equal. And the only way I can achieve that is by taking the responsibility on myself and letting go of everything preventing it. It is my job to stop oppression and bigotry, because I’ve allowed it in the first place.