Simple Touch

There’s something about warm, soft, cute things that comfort us and fill our hearts with joy and responsibility. Personally, I just got done holding my cat who just needed some affection, and it got me thinking.

What is it that makes playing with a puppy, or feeling a cat purr so comforting?

We’re all inclined towards touch. And it’s more than a primal urge. For some it’s a love language. No matter the case, we all desire and need some level of physical touch, humans and animals alike.

Animals have a way of bringing out the best in people. I strongly believe that most, if not all, are empathetic. Especially more empathetic than a human could ever be. I have rarely encountered a malicious animal. More often than not, your intentions can be sensed from the moment they set eyes on you, and any hostility is most likely circumstantial to the animal’s lifestyle rather than to their true nature.

Through empathy, animals know that sometimes we need the simplest of things: to touch. Whether you’re ill, depressed, anxious, or stressed, your dog or cat will come to you before you even know you want to hold them, and they’ll just volunteer themselves.

According to animalmedical.org, 94% of pet owners say their pet makes them smile more than once a day. Cancer.net says that interacting with your pet increases the hormone oxytocin, which slows a person’s heart rate and breathing, reduces blood pressure, and inhibits the production of stress hormones. So, when you’re down, upset, or feeling sick, scratch the dog’s ear, or cuddle the cat, help yourself out a bit.

I enjoy subjecting my cat to torture, giving her gentle squeezes and peppering her with kisses on her fuzzy forehead and cheeks. She, in turn, aggravates me by jumping directly on me while I’m sleeping, yelping from the other room when it’s dinner time and I’ve not fed her soon enough, or rambunctiously rampaging through my studio apartment at full speed, back-flipping off any wall in her way.

When I’m struggling with whatever is going on with my brain, that little fuzzball finds me, and jumps on my lap or starts touching me with a small paw to say “hey, I know just what you need”. Together we make an inseparable family that sometimes get annoyed at each other, but both of us have something the other one needs and craves: each other, love, and touch.

And if you ask the cat, food.

 

When You Wish Upon a Star…

Every kid dreams of going to Disneyland, and some are fortunate enough to actually go at least once in their life. People of every age attend the parks, and let’s face it, it’s hard not to smile at the happiest place on earth.

Lately, though, I was reading an article on Facebook about the controversy of childless millennials going to Disney Parks. The argument was simple and biased, stating that the parks were designed for children, not adults seeking Neverland.

Being a childless millennial who has been to Disneyland, let me argue a point in return. Yes, the parks were designed for a specific target market, but also observe how the parks have evolved to cater to all ages. Places like Epcot or Downtown Disney give parents a place to relax with or without kids offering things like alcohol and shopping that may suit their interests.

Another thing to realize is not every kid had the opportunity to go to a Disney Park when they were younger. Some of us had to wait until we were in our twenties to be able to go. And at that point, going isn’t trying to find Neverland, or avoiding problem in the adult world. It’s finding nostalgia, and a small piece of innocence that brings a smile to any tired soul.

So before judging a generation for fulfilling a childhood fantasy, maybe realize you’ve had those fantasies yourself. Maybe it was buying that classic car you always wanted as a teenager. Or maybe it was finally getting that one pet you’ve always wanted.

We all search for nostalgia, and all in different places. And it’s all okay and healthy. I think Walt Disney intended for his universe to have someplace where anyone could be happy and feel safe.

The Eye of the Tiger

Just about everyone knows the story of Rocky. It’s the classic tale of an underdog rising up and succeeding in boxing and love. What isn’t there to like about such a lovable character?

Growing up I knew about Rocky, but never had seen any of the films until I was a teenager. One Christmas I bought a four-pack collection of the Rocky movies for my dad. We sat down together and watched through all four over the course of a few days. Watching and listening to my dad and being able to connect with him on something was important and impactful to me.

It sounds cheesy, but there are a lot of great life lessons to be learned from Rocky. Sure there’s the whole “never give up” message. Or “even when it’s hard push harder”. Be a good role model to youth. And even “fight for your friends”. There’s more to the legend than that, though.

In the first movie, near the beginning, one of the first interactions we see Rocky have is with a guy he’s collecting money from for his boss. Rocky is supposed to break this dude’s thumb because he’s late on a payment. Instead, our hero chooses compassion, and even when offered the guy’s coat as extra payment, the Italian Stallion goes back to his boss and says, “I think he’s good for the money next week”.

Living in a world full of people who choose to be harsh and numb, compassion should be our first choice. Even if it costs us, gets us picked on, or gets us chewed out. Chances are you’ll be remembered more and receive more gratitude, if you’re compassionate and understanding, rather than greedy.

Rocky showed us what an uneducated man can accomplish. He did was he had to do to pay the bills, even if it was stuff he didn’t enjoy or want to do.

Mick also taught an important lesson in the first film. Even when we see the biggest potential in someone, it’s okay to say, “I’m done”. Rocky hadn’t been serious about fighting and fighting well until Apollo came along. Mick had given up on Rock up until this point.

It’s okay to take a break from investing into people until they’re ready to actually change or put actions behind their words.

Let’s skip to Rocky III. Enter Mr. T and a attitude you can feel through the TV screen. It’s my least favorite of the first four films, but it’s message is one of the most important you could ever take away from Hollywood.

Mick, one of my personal favorite, secondary characters in movies, suffers a heart attack and dies after a heated exchange between Rocky and Clubber Lang. The Stallion learns that despite loss, the best you can do is adapt and press on. Apollo helps Rocky get his fire back, and helps him get back on top.

When hard times happen, whether it’s through a death, through depression, through losing a job, you have to adapt to your situation and lift your chin up and start punching again. You can’t stay the same and you can’t wallow in self pity or shame.

Rocky IV taught us about “we can all change” and about unity. But the message I take most from it is don’t be afraid of a rematch. Your butt got kicked once, and you’re scared. Are you going to lie down and take it, or punch above your weight and conquer the odds?

One of the most underrated characters though is Adrian. Even when she was scared of losing Rocky or didn’t approve of him fighting, she still supported him and loved him. She showed interest in the things that interested Rocky, even if it was about fights or stupid little things.

Pauly was Rocky’s brother-in-law that was pushy, mean, and a drunk. No matter what, though, Rock looked out for him.

More than anything we need to love, support and listen to those we care about the most. Or that’s how we lose them. And always look after family, even if they’re hard to deal with. They’re still your family.

Rocky is more than just the story of a fighter. It’s a story of a family, of life, and of learning. I can guarantee you, that next time you accomplish something hard, just yell, “Yo Adrian, I did it!” and you’ll smile every time.

What’s the Deal with Parenthood?

It sounds like a bit from one of Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy routines. Jim Gaffigan and Robin Williams have had some of the funniest and truest comedy routines about parenting I’ve ever heard. You’re probably wondering though, why is a twenty-something year old writing about parenthood? He knows nothing.

And you’re 100 percent right.

But in all honesty, who does? Sure if you’ve been there, done that a few times, I can see you knowing a bunch about parenthood. But we’re constantly in a state of learning, no matter how young or old we are.

Recently, in life’s changes, I’ve temporarily moved in with my sister and brother-in-law. We all have a good relationship, so there’s nothing disastrous happening between us. But I’ve gotten an inside look at what it’s like to raise a child on a daily basis.

Britt, you can stop sweating if you’re reading this.

My nephew is about a year and a half old. Being my sister’s first and only child, she and my brother-in-law are learning how they want to parent and how they don’t want to parent. Through every day successes and struggles they’re going above and beyond to be the best they can be for their son.

I’ve come to a deeper appreciation altogether for people who are raising and have raised kids. Realizing it’s okay to not know what you’re doing has reassured me and taken away some of my fear of becoming a parent one day.

Nobody has perfect parenting techniques or solutions. And no one should expect that or be judging anyone raising a child. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, sibling, or friend, you have no place to. You do have the right to stand in a place of respect and support, though.

All in all, as long as you’re doing your best, even on the days where you’re running on little sleep or you’re ready to pull your hair out and admit your kid to the zoo, I see you and I appreciate you. Good job, whoever you are, you’re a BA mother or father, keep it up!

Why Did it Have to be Snakes?

Most reptiles give me the willies. Other than some lizards here and there and some amphibious things, Indiana Jones has never been more relatable.

Turns out there’s a type of people that gives me that same feeling. It’s the type of person that tries to blend in, so I’ve appropriately called what they do the chameleon effect. Someone probably warned me about people like this when I was younger, but of course it’s only now where I’ve truly acknowledged their existence.

People who do this aren’t inherently bad people, let’s make that clear. But they aren’t healthy. No person should feel like they need to change anything about themselves just to fit or blend in better. Some do it unknowingly though, which is even more harmful to those around them directly.

It’s only natural for the people we hang out with the most to rub off on us a little bit. Whether it’s a phrase, pose, or sound effect it’s bound to happen. But if we’re constantly mimicking or evolving into those people, it’s time to step on the brakes for some re-evaluation. Because this is what kids do when they see an adult they idolize.

We all have done it as a child or teenager. There’s that one celebrity or authority figure that we put on a pedestal and strived to be like. It’s when we’re adults that the chameleon effect starts to damage not only the people that care about us, but also ourselves. We start to lose sight of who we are, and in that we lose some value of ourselves.

The only identity you should ever have is your own. Because you are worth so much. You owe yourself to look inside and see that, as difficult as it may be some days.

With that said, a question can be raised. Are people who are guilty of that chameleon effect worth keeping around? I only say it that way for a lack of better wording.

There’s no harm in confronting someone and giving them a chance if you notice them acting like someone else, especially if it’s causing harm to you or those near to them. But if there’s no change and they’re continually not ever their genuine self, some people you can live without. As hard as that is to accept.

All in all you need to surround yourself with genuine, honest people. Those are the people that truly have your back and care about you. Those are the people who don’t give a crap what others think about themselves, and show the world what it’s like to be a half decent human.

The One About Misanthropy…

One of the rarest phrases I think I have ever heard come from the lips of a human being is: “I just love people”. Because think about it, how much do you actually love people? Despite whether you’re of the belief of being called to love humans or show kindness towards them, how much do you actually act on it? Do you even remotely like people?

Misanthropy, the dislike of humankind, is a word thrown to me by a friend because of our constant disdain or frustration in our lives by everyday situations with people. In fact, my two closest friends and I have a group chat that originated because of our dislike of people. Often enough I’m guilty of saying, I’ll take animals over humans any day. Because let’s just face it, dogs and cats are so much better than any human being on the face of the earth. This is not to be confused with asociality or pessimism, either. I’ve heard a few people lump the concepts together, when in all reality they may go hand in hand, but they are each vastly different.

Why is this concept so prevalent, though? For a first warning, I firmly believe this goes beyond just disliking someone or distrusting someone because of an experience you’ve had, or what you’ve been told about someone. As a second warning, this is just my own opinion, you, as the reader, are entitled to have your own.

Everyone has had a moment of self-reflection, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, often times we don’t like what we find. We’re guilty, we know we annoy people, or do things to harm the environment, or encourage bad habits or practices, or whatever. And instead of just accepting that we are part of the problem, we deflect the blow by saying we hate people and all that people do. All of course without accepting that we also are classified as people, and also do the same stupid things other humans do.

Somehow there’s a feeling of justification in telling ourselves, “well, it’s not just me”. There’s always someone or something else to blame when in reality we don’t like what we see in ourselves.

Misanthropy goes beyond just a dislike of human beings, though. Included in that is a distrust for human beings. Is that because we know what we’re capable of? I believe we as a people dislike our own kind so much because we know we are all to blame for all the crap, for the lack of a better term, that’s happened to this world we live in. We all have realized at some point we’re responsible.

I would not say that people are born inherently evil. But I would argue that people are born capable of becoming inherently evil. I think that somewhere deep inside us we know that, and choose to ignore it, because we’d rather be optimistic about people than accept the truth that someone you care for is going to or could hurt you someday.

You may be thinking that evil is a strong word to use, but any way you look at it, anyone can become evil or bad at any point and time. Whether you like it or not, and you probably don’t, free will is always at play. And whether you like it or not there is someone in your life or someone you may have pushed out of your life that you have cynical thoughts or words about. Before you say you don’t, think on that first.

So is there any way that being a misanthrope is justifiable? This is where you’ll most likely disagree. Because we should love all people and show everyone kindness, right? I believe there is a healthy level of misanthropy. To hate people is what isn’t healthy. Hate brings about racism and other big issues that I’m not going to touch with a thirty foot long pole. But there’s a point and time where it’s okay to say I really don’t like people, I don’t trust humankind as a whole. And if you do, I really think you should be paying better attention to current events worldwide, or asking some hard questions to yourself. If somehow you still trust and like people just as much as you did before then I give you kudos because you’re a much better person than I am.

Hate is so present in our culture right now, it’s okay to not like those that encourage and promote hateful things. I choose to believe and trust in a higher power because I know mankind isn’t strong enough on our own to be trustworthy. You can still show humankind kindness and care without having to wholly trust or like it.

The most dangerous thing on the face of the earth is mankind, as long as we’re here.

Just Don’t…

It’s said that the average person will hold 12-15 different jobs in their lifetime. The average person will make 396 personal relationships, but only 33 will last. Also, the average American will move 11.4 times in their lifetime. All of those figures add up as the cause of people living their life, and experiencing all of the ups and downs that come with it.

People, opportunities, chances, houses, jobs, animals, beliefs, laws, leaders, and other things come and go. The question is are you settling for less, or fighting for and chasing what you want and deserve? All too often, I see someone choose the former rather than the latter. I’m guilty of doing the same thing. Everyone has done it at some point. But why?

People settle for what comes easy, and call it coincidence or fate to justify simplistic reasoning or emotion driven responses instead of deducing right from wrong or having a thought out decision or direction.

Read that again.

That being said, it is true that people, jobs, opportunities, etcetera, will come into life at the right time. But that doesn’t mean that everything that just plops itself into your lap is right or good for you. Everything deserves some questioning. How else would faith, trust, loyalty, or love come to fruition without a question or explanation here or there?

We all want everything to be okay. We don’t even wish so much for fantastic or marvelous or outstanding. We will happily settle for okay because most of the time, okay is enough.” – David Levithan

I’ve worked a job where I settled for two years stocking shelves, cashiering, bagging, and cleaning at a small town grocery store because it was an easy catch. What I really settled for was getting upset with management but not doing anything about the situations at hand, being drained mentally everyday, and a lot of headaches. Did I learn valuable lessons there? Did I make good friendships in the workplace Yes, but I settled for too long. I became comfortable, and okay was enough.

It doesn’t pay off to settle for less when you know you can achieve more and do better for yourself.

I’m 22, turning 23 later this year, I now have a job that promises career options and education and good connections. I’ve worked towards and achieved having better mental health over settling for “that’s just how I am” as a lame excuse for who I am as a person. I’m about to move into an apartment instead of living in just okay houses in downtown Kalamazoo. I’m now dating someone healthy and good for me who cares about me as much as I do for them. I’m no longer settling for less. I’ve seen the outcomes, the pros, the cons, and none of those things are worth it.

Don’t just settle for less because it’s easy. Don’t just settle for less because it’s what your gut tells you to do or because it just feels right. Don’t just settle for less because it sounds good right now, what about the future? Don’t just settle for less when you can be so much more. Don’t settle for a grey answer, when things are clearly black and white. Just don’t.

Nothing comes easy, but you are worth fighting for, for yourself, for others, and for your future and dreams. Chase after marvelous things, after things you feel are out of your league, or too good for you. Because those are the things that you deserve.

The Hills are Alive

I bet you couldn’t read that title without immediately thinking about the rest of that song from the iconic musical, The Sound of Music. There’s something about music that seriously captivates the brain and the soul. And if you say otherwise, you just haven’t heard the right music yet.

Music is something that ties people together. It creates bonds, experiences, and memories. Just the other night I was sitting at the bar with Nathan and over the speakers Africa by Toto began to play. At least 4 other people were singing it, just like we were. Even if people agree to disagree about music choices, everyone still loves a form of music.

I’ve been asked before how I write music, or my sister has commented how she can’t believe how I can write it as easily as it seems (when the feeling is mutual about her painting skills, which are amazing, she’s been to Artprize twice, not to toot her own horn for her). I can tell you right off the bat it’s not that easy.

I did some lessons growing up, but overall I was a “play by ear” musician. Or I taught myself off of tabs. To this day I haven’t been able to grasp reading or writing sheet music. I’m not sure why but there’s something about it that just won’t stick. So I stick to what I know, hearing.

There’s days, weeks, and months, where I can’t write music. It’s because I can’t hear it. Because that’s the process for me. I hear lyrics, melodies, harmonies, chord progressions, and the like and it’ll be like a broken record, on repeat, until I write it down. I’ve stewed on something for months before it touches paper. Then comes the process of putting it together, whatever “it” is, be it a song or a set of lyrics. The right chords have to be put in the right places or everything sounds wrong. There are times where I can come up with a song in 10 minutes, or it takes a few months. There’s no rushing an art form, any artist will vouch for that. It’s got to be right or it’s not worth it.

So what I would convey is just because you aren’t “great” at something doesn’t mean you should quit. You can find ways around or through your flaws or shortcomings in order to overcome what might seem impossible. Persistence pays. It takes time, but overall it’ll always be worth it. Because even if you aren’t a fan of your art; someone else might be.

The Hunt

I’m going to take a break from the more serious stuff I write about to tell a story worth sharing. Last year I moved into a house in the Vine Neighborhood of Kalamazoo with my best friend and two other guys. Living with Nathan is one of the best things I’ve ever experienced in my life because we get each other, and we know each other well enough to where living together hasn’t destroyed our friendship.

A couple months back when the polar vortex hit Michigan, and I’m sure a large portion of northern USA, Nathan and I were both home from work seeing as at the time we both worked jobs where we were required to be outside ninety percent of the time. It was around nine o’clock in the morning and I had just texted Nathan about doing some gaming, when he calls me.

Something to understand about Nathan is the man never calls me. We text or we see each other in person. That’s it. So when I get a phone call from Nathan I get suspicious (rightfully so) right away. I answered the phone and gave a very sleepy “hello”. My buddy Nate though was wide awake and quickly responded with “wanna go hunt a squirrel?”

So now it’s time for the backstory. For months ever since winter started, we had been dealing with a squirrel infestation in the house. You think hearing mice is bad? Think again, bud. When squirrels are dropping nuts and scraping the heck out of your walls for hours and rarely are silent, you start to question your sanity and whether time in jail would be worth burning your house down.

During a relaxing evening of Dungeons and Dragons, Nate and I heard a squirrel sassily scampering around on the ceiling tiles of our kitchen. Running out to the scene, Nate grabbed a roll of paper and poked one of the tiles. The tile, though, was water damaged and thus broke with the little pressure he applied to it, dropping the crumbly tile, dust, and walnuts onto Nate.Fast forward back to the polar vortex. We hadn’t heard anything for a while from the squirrels, until Nathan had called me. I quickly told him I’d be right out, and threw on pajama pants and a hoodie as quickly as I could, and brought with me two beach towels to try and have something to snag the rascally squirrel with. Rushing out of my room and down the hall the first glimpse of Nathan I see was a sight to behold. The man was standing just outside his doorway, pajama pants and a bathrobe on, shirtless beneath, donning gloves and brandishing a knife.

Relaying to me how he had just got up and had been lying in bed, and how this small red squirrel was bouncing all over the bed and his room, the hunt was afoot.

Both of us began to sneak down the stairs. But when you live in a house that’s most likely 100 years old, there’s no sneaking. Only creaking and two guys looking like idiots going down the stairs. Upon arriving on the main level of our house, everything was silent. And then we saw the little devil scurry into the kitchen at the sight of us. Running after it, we saw it dive behind the stove, trying to hide in fear for its life. Nathan and I shook the stove and watched it run all over the counters, until finally in a last ditch effort, the little guy ran into the bathroom. Slamming the door on it, taking a very quick second to breathe, I was about to ask Nate what the game plan was, when he shouted “I’m going in!” and did just that.

What transpired next is not what you’d think. At first glance, when you see Nathan in person, if you don’t know him you wouldn’t want to meet him down a dark alley. And then you have me, thin, long haired, and a hippy. We would make a great couple. You’d think if anyone would be screaming high pitched it would be me, right?

From the other side of the door I couldn’t see anything of course so I had to rely on sound to understand what was going on. The first red flag was the fact that Nathan hadn’t turned on the light in the bathroom yet. So he was stuck in a small bathroom in the dark with a wild squirrel. And the second thing is that the light switch is in the most inconvenient place to reach as well. So it was probably a good 15 seconds before the light came on. All I can hear are high pitched yelps and yells and thrashing around.

I’m not about to open the door because for starters I don’t want to be in the same place we were about 5 minutes prior to what’s happening now because we hadn’t pinned down the squirrel. But part of me wants to open the door to help. But another side of me is enjoying hearing Nathan practically fist fight something a sixteenth of his size.

Suddenly, all is silent and still. The doorknob to the bathroom slowly turns, and from the light emerges Nathan, squirrel in hand. The first words from his lips will always be framed in my head: “I thought it was going to bite my nipple”.

After telling me all that happened in the 30 or 40 seconds he was in the bathroom, we stood with a death grip on that squirrel for a solid five to ten minutes before deciding to release it to the wild again, because in a polar vortex what the heck are you supposed to do with a little guy like that?

And thus the hunt was finished. See photo attached for proof!

As always, let me know if there’s anything you want to read about!

Restart

As a kid I remember starting my gaming days on multiple video game consoles. My favorite out of all of them was the Nintendo GameCube, and to this day it’s still a favorite system of mine for so many reasons. Something that all gamers are known for is the frantic saving that occurs when you’re about to turn off your system. Sometimes you only hit save once, and then other days you hit it three or four times because honestly, did it actually save?

It’s odd to relate life to a video game console but it’s the honest truth. Because recently and unexpectedly the “restart” button on life was hit for me. I didn’t have a choice, and everything that I thought I saved was gone. And as devastating as it is to a teenager when their friend accidentally deletes their Final Fantasy VII save file from a memory card, this deletion was much more serious. It mean finding different housing, new friends, and adjusting to life being single again, someplace I didn’t see myself ever being again.

Healing takes place where you least expect it. I learned quickly who my true and valuable friends were and are. I learned and am learning from silence and noise alike, appreciating the little things. Oddly enough people would say the exact things I needed to hear without even knowing what I was thinking or feeling.

Part of the restart that happened was an old injury from years ago fired up again. Learning patience and self control from excruciating pain is not exactly how I wanted to spend my time, but when do things actually come when we want them to?

All in all, what I want to convey is keep challenging yourself, don’t give up when giving up is the easiest, cheapest thing on the menu, and probably tastes the best too. There’s more to everything than just that.

Restarting isn’t always bad. It’s never easy and sometimes it isn’t wanted or expected, but you have to make the most of where you’re at with the time given. Life on earth is short and temporary. Are we going to wallow in the mud? Or are we going to stand up and realize the ordeals going on around us are only knee deep?

I apologize for going off grid during this season, but it was needed. As I’m learning and moving forward I’ll be writing more, and restarting this blog, so stay tuned to hear from your local, long haired hippy again.

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