The Laughing Children

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I was planning on doing this blog post like the rest of them from this month, as a median between storytelling and talking to you all but as I sat down to write it I changed my mind, see I just read back through a few of my previous blog posts from the first two years of GME and I’m feeling reminiscent.

I entered into this world with a wide eyed glassy sensibility and I would easily crumble at the slightest stress that was placed upon me. I grew bitter and frustrated as the years passed and I seemed to only grow increasingly lost and confused. I didn’t know my place, I didn’t know my purpose and I sure as shit didn’t know what would happen next.

I expressed that through my writing and was made fun of a great deal in high school for being a poet. I wrote this one poem when I was a Sophomore about Christianity and the crucifixion and how it related to me. In the poem I spoke about Christ as a friend to me. It didn’t take long for this kid who sat behind me to snag the notebook and read it aloud, asking me how I felt about my “friend Jesus” and I hung my head, ignoring him and the mass laughter that came from the other kids in the class that though poetry was silly.

I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I stopped writing after that.

It wasn’t worth it to me, to share my work in class because it all came from a deeply personal place and I was horrified of the possibility that I would be chastised or made fun of because of it. Another time, when I was much younger, I was tasked with writing an essay about “your perfect teacher” in fourth grade. While the majority of my class simply wrote that our fourth grade teacher was their idea of the perfect teacher, I took it an alternate route. I remember vividly because of the embarrassment it caused. I described this perfect teacher physically, noting down scars and figure, and left much of the personality aspect out of the piece. The kids didn’t necessarily laugh at me that time. Most of them were so weirded out by it that they didn’t speak to me for years.

I get it, I was a weird kid. I didn’t understand the question and I had a crush on our student teacher.

@ me.

The following year, because I was so horrified of my own writing and I think because of my own imagination, when the class was offered a choice in assignment I spoke out against it. We were offered to write a 5 page essay on a political topic we had been studying in the quarter, or create a presentation for it. I stood up with my friends and looked at Travis, who I told aloud that “There is no way I would write the essay.” My teacher plucked me from the group and told me that I no longer had a choice. I was going to write the essay or take a failing grade. A while later in that class after the essay had been finished and I turned it in with a sheepish look about me, we were tasked to create a story. Travis wrote this enlightening piece about animals who were injected with this molecule that made them hyper destructive fighting machines, like ninja turtles except way more badass. I liked the idea, so I took it and ran in a different direction. (I say that, but I plagiarized the shit out of him.) I had written and illustrated this story in all of the graphic detail it contained. This snake man who was the cause of all of the problems faced off against the heroes, a wolf, a tiger and a lion on a mountaintop laboratory. Seeing that they could not end the dispute peacefully, they coiled the snake upon the spire and impaled him as his blood drained down the summit of the mountain. I showed this to my parents and they told me immediately that I “couldn’t show that to anyone.” I was confused. I had been brought up all my life to be creative and to explore the parts of my mind so many people keep hidden. I had been taught by my mother every day to write and work and create something that no one else has before and then when I did (well, I didn’t, not really, not the point.) they told me to change the ending. It was my first and last experience to date with a true editor. I remember taking the last panel of the book up to my bedroom and tearing it to tiny pieces after I had spent so much time creating it. I didn’t want to feel that way again. I hated destroying my work, but my parents were right. I couldn’t show that to someone. They would think I’m crazy. If destroying my work was like death, the laughter of my classmates and the insults I would hear afterwards would have been eternal damnation. I would never feel that way, I couldn’t bear to.

Then I entered high school. I wrote and sketched every day. I began to blossom into a creative machine who could not be stopped. Until I wrote that poem my sophomore year and I once again felt that laughter that burned my heart. I couldn’t bear the insults and the jokes made at my expense so I stopped writing for a long time. I turned to music because it was the “cooler” creative hobby. Of course, what no one tells you is that it’s only “cooler” if you’re making money or are attractive while doing it. I was neither of those things. Playing guitar only gave me relief in that I was good at it and I used it as a tool to overcome stress from my day to day life. I had finally found a place to fit in. I was playing guitar and working with two of my best friends every day sharpening my abilities and I even joined choir. Music really did save me, but before I get into that chain of events, I had to feel the blistering pain of failing at that too once before I could understand what I was really on this earth for. It was my junior or senior year and I had been practicing for a New Year’s Eve talent show at my church, I was going to play “Dear God” by Avenged Sevenfold for these people who loved me and supported me for years. Hours every day I had spent practicing and before I knew it the night had arrived. My parents and I showed up to the church and I sat down to tinker with my guitar before the show started. I was feeling confident and capable, nothing could stop me. Then, as you have probably guessed by now, something shook me to my nerves. There was this kid that I went to high school with who absolutely hated me. I had no idea why, I still don’t. He was the kind of kid who was cool in high school because he didn’t care about anything, not really. He skirted classes and dates and treated his girlfriends like shit, you know the type of guy I’m talking about. I saw him come in and suddenly my nerves broke. I began sweating and shaking and on the verge of tears I stumbled up to the front of the church at the provocation of my parents and a family friend. I sat down to play the song and made it through the first verse well enough, but I couldn’t get my fingers to land where they needed to land. I couldn’t get my mouth to make the right noises and my lungs couldn’t hit the notes like they needed to. I let my fear get the better of me and stumbled through the rest of the song like an idiot, rather than giving up in the middle of the performance and stepping down I was determined to keep going so I took a break and started again, finishing out a 6 minute song in 9 minutes and doing it more poorly than when I had first begun to learn the song.

I left the New Years Celebration shortly after he stepped up to play a song and wooed the crowd. His voice was beautiful, even if he was rotten to me I can’t deny him that. He was a fantastic guitarist, still is as a matter of fact, I see him every once and a while playing a show at the Rodeo or in one of the bars.

I couldn’t bear the laughter and the stifled laughter that I had heard like viscious echoes all through my life every time I put myself out there and then immediately failed. I have grown paranoid of it. I still have nightmares to this day, that I will release a book and the kid in my Sophomore English class will rip it out of my hands and ask if I really think Chaim is real. Or I will be at a book meeting and the kid from the NYE Talent show will step out and begin playing guitar while lying naked across my signing table so everyone stops paying attention to me. I’m horrified that these things will still happen but this sad and embarrassing truth comes hand in hand to you with another;

Just like high school doesn’t last forever, neither will your uncertainty.

I have put out so much content over the last four years that I barely know what to do with myself. I have over 400 blog posts in total that I have been writing since 2013. That’s nuts, isn’t it? I have (as of now) five published books, with a sixth coming out later this year. I work every day to better myself and make something more important and more powerful because I learned a long time ago in the middle of the night, as I listened to the echoes of the other children laughing at me…

I was a child too. Each child is given a purpose. More often than not we must fight to carve that purpose out for ourselves and we cannot give up. I have done my best carving during those late nights, wondering why people don’t understand my mind and feeling like I am viewing a party from the outside. “I think so differently” I would tell myself. “Why can’t I be more like them?” On the nights when the laughter was increasingly hard to hear, I would put my headphones on and write something for them. Something I will never show another living being as long as I live and something that will hopefully be lost before I pass away. I would turn the music up when I was done and I would cry myself to sleep. I withdrew into a shell and wouldn’t let anyone have that kind of power again. I wouldn’t let anyone destroy me with their jokes about my art or my music or my writing. I couldn’t stand it. In the throes of those endlessly painful and harrowing nights I was given two things, one that I had to claw away from the deepest parts of me, wrapped in bad memories and calcified tears, it was that I had always been different. I had been created to be different. I see things in a way that not many others do. I take things from a new perspective, like so many artists before me, but I use words as the catalyst for change and dissection. I found this through the muddy water inside of me as I ran each night from the voices of the other children laughing at me. I learned quickly that the fastest way to tune them our was with music, mind or otherwise, so I would strap headphones to my skull and turn the music up as loud as possible as the voices tried to distract me. After years of doing this, I found that I have developed a minor case of tinnitus.

It’s okay, however. The ringing in my ears only serves one purpose. It is quiet still, but just loud enough to drown out the voices of the children still echoing around in my skull. When I go to submit a manuscript or propose an idea to my friends and family, I am blessed by the eternal ringing within my ears. Because it keeps the laughter at bay so I can remember…

I have a purpose, and it is this.

I will never give in to the laughter. I am not a child, and even when I was they never controlled me.

The laughing children don’t control you either, so keep writing, keep fighting and pushing and painting your future. Embrace your differences and rejoice within them. We are all designed with our strengths and weaknesses, don’t let them take yours away.

Thank you for reading, remember that life is not meant to be awful.

www.linmtba.com 

(G)rass + (F)ields (Poem)

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Just a little something I threw together off the top of my head a couple days ago. I’m enjoying this whole spinning up a title and writing the poem around it later, it’s pushed the bounds of my creativity + that’s all I try to do. I hope you guys enjoy.

2017.4.26- Grass + Fields.jpg

I’ll be releasing the second edition of “The Darling Bones” this year! for info and updates on it, check out my website + follow me on Facebook/Twitter!

LINMTBA.

Mapmaking

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Here we are, friends. At the end of yet another journey. I have so many stories to tell you yet, but first… I want to tell you how this all started. It began last year when I was speaking with my friend about his not wanting to watch a television show because it reminded him of a past girlfriend. I knew that feeling. I felt the scars on my heart where the wound had been made and I thought to myself about how terrified I still was of so many things. So I sat down, late at night, and began working. I wrote and drew and painted and screamed. I cried and I begged for mercy. I considered giving up this fight so many times, and just when I knew I was on the verge, I would push one more time. I would swing my blade one more time. With the final push, I realized I had made ground and I looked down at this map I had made for myself. I took solace in the quiet moments. Where there was nothing hunting me. Where I was hunting nothing. I’ve made a thousand campfires and eaten whatever I could gather. I have starved and I have bled this year. I have cried and I have ventured out, and though I still have dragons to slay, I am so much father than I was a year before. This journey is far from over, friends, but I will be travelling alongside you until one of these beasts takes my life. That much, I can promise you.

Life can be difficult to navigate. It seems like every day we are in a new place with new faces and new scenarios and new quests that we must complete. That being said, it is about the adventure and not the destination. Those who complete it will be gifted with bounties of all kinds, but what we will truly take away are the sounds of laughter with friends, tight hugs from family, the bite of the cold rain on a bad day. The exhaustion that comes from navigating these mountains and valleys and these joys and sorrows. My mind is often complex and difficult to keep under control. At the first sign of danger it pushes me to flee from anything that could harm me.

This includes so many things, being let down by friends, rejected by a woman, owning up to the fact that I work myself to death. It comes when I send off for a story to get published and must wait in anguished silence as I ponder the contents of their return letter, or, on the worst days, the silence that they send me. I take a deep breath when I post a new blog post or poem because I’m terrified that people won’t like it. I’m afraid that people won’t like me and won’t be kind to me. I’m scared that I will lose my job and I won’t be able to get a new one. I’m scared of the dark. I’m scared of myself. I’m scared of being in the desert on my own. I’m scared of waking up one day and losing someone that I love.

I am afraid of so many things, and that was why I set out this year to do battle.

I have lived for far too long with this idea in my head that I can be bested by anything at all. That simply isn’t true.  It isn’t true for you either, there is nothing that can kill you. You are invincible until you allow yourself not to be. By that, I don’t mean to shelter yourself and to hide away from every hint of adversity. I’ve tried that route to, and to my surprise it did more damage than getting knocked down in a straight fight.

What I’m saying through analogy, is that I don’t want you to sit and hide from your pain or your fear or your anger. Embrace all of those things. Use them. Transform that emotion into energy to write or sing or dance or work. Use it as fuel for the next blaze of enjoyment and life that sparks within you. Use it as ink, fill up your pen and begin drawing a map.

Before any traveler leaves the comfort of their home, they will always be sure to carry a map.

This year, I have been working harder than ever before to map things out. To find the highs and the lows, to become intimately familiar with all of my misery and all of my elation. It has done more for me than any other tactic. I have amazing friends, I have a compassionate and deeply caring family. I have a job where I find comfort. I do what I love for hours every day. There is nothing in my life that says to me “You are afraid. You will be unhappy.” Yet, there are days when a dragon is bellowing into my ear and screaming “You are full of fear. You will never make it out of this alive.” I travel through that every day.

Within the laughter of my friends and the joy my family brings me, the security my job and my passion lend me, I have managed to forge an armory of weapons to hunt this dragon. But more on that later, because weapons will do you no good when you don’t know where you’re going.

So I created a map. Every day I awoke to a pained world that was full of strife and doubt. I awoke to a room that I was raised in, or a room I was renting and I looked at myself. I saw the doubt and the fear etched into my face with wrinkles that wouldn’t go away. I stayed up late at night, every night searching for a plan. A way to defend myself from the monsters that haunt me. I found it through experience, see… this year was intended to be a journey. It was meant to stress me out. So I knew I would be facing many ups and downs I wasn’t used to. I unrolled parchment and began tracing the things that made me happy. A tree outside my parent’s bedroom window in the morning that filtered out the sun. The crisp air of fall. The small messages and gifts that are given to me by friends and family. I took everything that made me happy and secure and drew it out. I placed it on this map and the daunting unknown space began to get filled in.

Then, with trepidation I began thinking and experiencing the things that hurt. Rejection. Sadness. Anger. Bitterness. I found their sources and began to map them down too, finding every shitty hole in this universe that I could fall into and painting big, red X’s across their surfaces, telling me to never go there. The shadows that bristled at my spine began to ease away when I produced the map. They saw that it was bountiful with good thoughts and feelings. They saw the mountains that had been made of my small accomplishments and began to whisper pride into my ear. Then a family member or a friend would come to me and tell me that I was doing good work, that they hoped I would be well, and the dragons and demons quit their whispering. They saw the running waters of the rivers that I had filled with determination and they whispered to me that I would fail. That no matter how much work I put forth, I will never go anywhere. That I won’t help anyone. Then someone from outside my circle would tell me how much help I have been to them, and those demons screamed in pain from behind me. They saw the forests that I had mapped for shade, so that I could cool myself when my anger overwhelmed me. They whispered to me that I was a fool. That my anger was just. It never was. I was reminded of this because I snapped on a friend some weeks ago, and she broke down into tears. I knew immediately and the demons cheered, but they were silenced when she came to me and I apologized for what I had done. Then, they found the deserts where I would go to parch my soul of jealousy, my biggest opponent and my most fearsome dragon was waiting for me there. He spoke to me, he didn’t whisper. He was unafraid. He would rake at me with his claws before my weapons were drawn. He would tell me that I was a fool. That I knew nothing. But the desert itself had proven otherwise. Written in the sand here a handful of hints and clues that I never took the time to see. I watched as more and more demons and dragons and monsters fell by the wayside as I ventured forward. I carried the kind words of friends and family and strangers. I pocketed every glimpse of hope that I could see and I pressed forward until only a few dragons were left. I set out, and I had my route to find them, because I had drawn a map.

This year I have battled harder than I ever have before. I have written down so many of them in these passages and they are here for you. In the future, when dragons rap their claws against our doorframe, know that I am here. I have fought and I have lived.

I have mapped out my future, and in it, I am alive. All that it takes is that you grab your pen, your paintbrush, your computer or your arms and you start drawing. Do whatever it takes. Create a map of the places you can go to recuperate, where you can go to fight, where you can go to resupply. When you’ve done that, you can begin your journey. I promise you it will not go as you expect it to, but it will be worth every bloody, sweaty step forward, because you will come out on top. I know, because I will be fighting alongside you every step of the way.

Thank you for coming this far with me, next year will be another battle. I am glad that you are on the front lines, too. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Facebook + Twitter:

@alvatobiasbooks

You’re The Exception

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When my generation was younger, I remember always being told “Labels are for soup cans, not people.” And we stuck to that. We didn’t want to be called jocks, or preps, or emo kids in high school. We wanted to be people, not soup cans. So here we are five or so years later and the lot of us have grown up with that label free mentality. We don’t want to be put into a box of any kind because we are all different and special and unique, but those trait in and of themselves don’t mean anything, because there are so many voices screaming at us all the time saying “If everyone is unique then uniqueness doesn’t exist. There are only so many ways to be different, you have to organize yourself into something so that you can be identified.”

It comes in a million different forms. Myself as an author according to a handful of bloggers, should create a pen name for every kind of genre that I want to write. I should make sure that every different one has its own distinct personality and that I set up social media accounts for all of them. I need to be sure that my horror pen name sells only horror, that my romantic comedy pen name only sells cheesy romance books and so on.

I read that and laughed out loud.

I’m one dude who is comprised of about forty million different ideas and concepts and plans for myself. I’m not going to divide that down because it would take me years to figure out who wants what. Either that, or I trim the fat and only write in one genre because “Publishers don’t want to hire you for a myriad of titles. They look for specific genres and writers, and if you can’t always fit their bill the chances of you getting a deal with one is slim.”

Well, I’m (not even sort of) sorry to say, that I disagree. You don’t get to do that. People don’t get to raise us by saying “You can be anything you want, you can do anything you want, you don’t fit inside any kind of label.” Then when I’m an adult you don’t get to change your answer to “You have to be a specific kind of person because otherwise you won’t be accepted.”

Well, I’m not looking for that kind of acceptance. If I have to foot these books on my own, I suppose I’ll have to. But why? Why do we have to fit inside some kind of idea all of a sudden?

I think that’s why people are getting so confused and fed up with how the world is. We’re fighting against the ideas that we have been taught because they don’t crossover. We lived our whole young lives believing that any person can do and be anything. That stretched through even to the people who do bad things. Thieves have a shot at redemption when we are kids. If you atone for the bad things you did, or your narrow mind state you can come back. If you don’t like yourself you can reinvent yourself. We were told this kind of stuff over and over again.

Then? Bang.

Out of nowhere we are adults and trying to understand bills and taxes and full time jobs while balancing school or our own projects. We are trying to make something of ourselves even though we didn’t have enough time to make a plan to begin with. So we fight and we dodge through life and we get forced into these roles because we haven’t made up our minds.

“Oh, you’re good at engineering. Be an engineer.”

What if you hate engineering?

“Oh, you’re just short tempered. That’s how you are and you will have to understand that it will make your personal life difficult.”

What if you hate that about yourself? Are you supposed to keep living thought and never doing anything to improve?

That’s the big problem with fitting us into boxes. You can’t improve. You can only stack boxes on boxes for a while. Like a machine, pick up life skills that align with what you already know so you can multiply your productivity. Stack, stack, and stack.

Well… I’m not here to tell you to keep that up. After all, I believe we were meant to be like trees, not machines. If you are happy doing what you love and you are good at it, great. Keep going. Keep being happy and doing what you love. Grow and learn and change! Do what it takes.

See, any person in this world that tells you that you must stay the same is a liar and I’d bet that there is someone above them who taught them that too. You can get anywhere and do anything you’d like as long as you believe in yourself.

It might come off like a loose “believe in yourself” blog post, but it’ll come around.

Picture it.

One day, when you start doing what you love and learn how to do those things well, you can make a career based off of that thing and you’ll never have to worry again.

If you interact with people in the most positive way possible, your arguments with slowly vanish and eventually it will be hard for people to pick things about you that are frustrating.

All this takes is a bit of self-observation. If you frequently find yourself getting angry with another person over something they do, chances are high that you see that same thing in yourself.

I started this blog to help me, and I want it to help you too. So here I am.

This life is wild and difficult and full of unexpected things. Some parts will be dull and frustrating. Other parts will be exhilarating and will fill you with passion. You are driven to find a career from the moment you get out of school, if you can’t find one people will tell you to go to college and “shop around” which is fine for some, but I’ll let you in on a secret. College isn’t that important. It’s not mandatory. I encourage every one of my friends and readers that are in college because they want to get to a higher level of education, or their chosen profession requires it. Keep going, I’m so proud of the choices that you’ve made. If you’re on the other spectrum, like myself, and don’t want to go to college because it isn’t necessary for who you are, then don’t. Granted, this is no excuse to be lazy. But you don’t always have to get a higher education thought colleges or schooling to get to where you want to be. Maybe gather experience for a while. Maybe live life in a different way. Every person has a different plan and we all need to take a look at that. All of our plans have exceptions. All of our plans are building us to be the kind of people we want to be.

That’s really important to this whole blog post. We all have exceptions.

Which is great.

There are a thousand things I want to do, and I’ve been told recently that I should maybe take it slow and pick out the things I truly love and focus on those. I am focusing on those, for now. When I’ve reached some goals there, I’ll get to the other stuff. I’m not going to give it up just because it doesn’t “fit who I am.”

You shouldn’t give up either.

For everyone reading this right now, if you have a dream, I want you to follow it in any way you can. Obviously some adjustments and exceptions will have to be made, but that’s okay. You can get there. You can, and you will.

As long as you believe.

The whole world is going to try to file you into a box of some kind for the rest of your life.

 

“Oh, most people aren’t artsy and creative like you.”

I beg to differ, I think everyone has some kind of creativity inside them. It’s how we work and laugh and love. It’s how we are.

“How can you explain left brained people then?”

My father. He is without a doubt left brained. He thinks in logic and numbers and carefully constructed thoughts, he speaks only after he has thought his reply though. He is the most left brained person I know. Yet he helped create me, who you’ve said is ‘artsy and creative’

“Sure, he helped raise you, but you have your own creativity. Not everyone is creative. Not like that.”

You’re right. He doesn’t have creativity like me. He has a kind of energy that I actually can’t understand. I can describe something in 3D and he can sketch it for me. When I was a kid he showed me ways to build and construct solid toys for me to play with. He openly offered for me to cut swords out of plywood and helped me paint and design them. He showed me how to fix my bike and he taught me how the important stuff works in my car because I was frustrated and couldn’t understand it. He doesn’t often get to use big technical words with my mother and I because we don’t think in car parts and exploded diagrams. We don’t think with the same kind of creativity than he does, but the fact that he shows it differently than we do doesn’t make a difference. When you say that someone isn’t creative, you might as well have killed their spirit. Creativity and Passion are one and the same. Just because you can’t place it in a crate and ship it out with some kind of label doesn’t mean that it suddenly doesn’t exist. To think otherwise would be foolish. My father is one of millions of people whose creativity is shown differently. Finding different creative thinkers is important, because if we all begin to think the same you might as well stick every human in the same box, because we will go nowhere. Unified thought with no options to explore will destroy you as a person. That’s why we have our creativity in the first place.

“Well, your dad must just be an exception then. Not all people are creative like you. I can’t write, I can’t act, I can hardly sing.”

Can you create?

“I guess. I liked woodshop in high school.”

Look at that. You’re an exception, too.

 

 

And so are you. The person reading this.

Life is full of exceptions.

Be exceptional, at whatever it is you want to make your passion.

I believe in you.