Between X and Y

We were born after John Lennon died, but we remember watching the Challenger explode.

Most of us respect the X’ers before us. They were our older siblings. They showed us the way to cynicism, but we added our own twist to it. Most of us despise the Y’ers after us, because they share the same cultural influences, but they’d rather text message someone standing 10 feet away then open their mouths and talk to them.

We have, all at once, the best and worst components of being old and young, cynical and joyful. We’re the twixters. We think that the real world is lost to those younger than us, and we saw the spirits of those older than us crushed by their observations of what the real world is.

We’re socially responsible, but we feel powerless. We were the children of the information age, but now we feel deluged by it. We spend more and more of our time talking “virtually” to each other than ever before, but bad as we are–it’s all the Y’ers have ever known.

We clearly remember life before the Berlin Wall fell, and we remember that before September 11, 2001, no one was afraid to speak out against the administration. We remember learning how central freedom of speech is to a healthy society.

We have fears that Ashley Simpson and MySpace will be the culture that history places side-by-side with our generation. We have fears that we can’t get anyone older or younger to understand the issues we’re facing now, and we have fears of being a second silent generation.

We’re scared, above all else, that as a nation, we’re not the good guys that we remember being taught we were. We’re scared that our culture is mediocre, our sciences are failing, and our industries are crumbling.

We have a right to be scared.

So, is that how “we” feel, or am I alone in the space between X and Y?

Sway

I was watching little bugs over the water. They just kind of hovered in a three-inch layer of air just above the stream. Dodging and diving into the water, they just flowed when wind came across the surface. They swayed into dense lines and back again when the air calmed.

No matter what kind of disturbance shakes them, the bugs keep going. To the bugs, the wind isn’t a disturbance, it’s just something that happens. They move with the change and continue on without complaint. They sway.

For years, Sister Fate has been putting plates in front of me, filled with experiences and opportunities that would continue the growth I want. For years though, I would refuse to eat.
Every once in a while I would get close enough to smell the food, but I would back away quickly. Better to never taste heaven then to have it taken from you later.

I started nibbling shortly after my 20th birthday, but I still don’t feast. There’s a shift that needs to happen. I always recognized the “wading in the pool” metaphor when I was writing about my anti-social behavior between 18 and 20. I could stay the hell away from the pool, or I could wade in it, but neither action could teach me anything.

I wrote about it for a long time: before you dive in, you wait for the perfect moment of serenity that never seems to come. This brings us back to our metaphor: you either dive in, or you stay the hell away…wading is only teasing your soul.

Nothing sucks more than letting yourself taste life and then backing away from it.

The paradigm shift works this way: for as long as I can remember, I’ve been doing what it takes to keep going. To survive. I’ve been rationing myself just enough to make it.

In other words, the question in relation to the task is– is this enough?

Here’s where the shift needs to happen. I need to be exactly where I am, focusing on what’s happening instead of doing enough to get it out of the way. There’s something fundamentally incorrect about the way I’m approaching life and career. These aren’t things to be gotten out of the way…these actions become your legacy. They become your reputation and your credibility. This has nothing to do with money and fame. It has to do with the QUALITY of your contribution to the macro-organism of society.

My father said it best: “I don’t care if you’re making widgets or cleaning floors. What matters is how much of yourself you put into your task. If you do your task to the best of your ability, and improve that ability over time, you will be the best at what you do, no matter what it is.”

In other words, the questions in relation to task will be– have I done as much as I can?
Can I make this any better? Have I put passion into this? Is this the best I could possibly do?

Being a leader requires this passion about what you’re doing. Leaders lead best with example as their first tool. Leaders lead best if they’re putting forth the effort that they expect from others.

In other words, no one can follow you if you’re not going anywhere.

I’ve learned nothingness. I’ve grasped absence. I accept the zero.
I’ve learned essence. I understand presence. I accept the infinite.

Now all that remains is for me to tie them together, the two poles that make me a person. I can rush extreme like the best of them, but I have yet to comphehend balance. I have the components and the knowledge to flow and sway, but I have yet to make them habits.

My mentor said that there’s just one thing I need to change. If I change that thing, everything will change. It’s nothing less than the way I see life…

Though I take it in as prose and poetry, I’m still looking at it with tragic cataracts.

That means I know the right way to think. I just have to reset my senses.

One Year Ago…

I was living in a single room above a restaurant. I was scared that I would have to move back home yet again because I couldn’t cope. I was still missing Arbor Mist and Wild Irish Rose. I was starting to figure out that you build your own life. I was just wrapping up my first screenplay. I was thinking about how quickly and strangely life turns on its axis. I was flat broke and out medical and dental coverage.

Today…

I’m living in the woods next to a stream in a three-room cabin. Milford is home. The winery seems like another ancient chapter. I’ve got a plan. I’m editing that yawnfest of a screenplay. I’ve accepted that my life will never again be boring. I’m flat broke and out medical and dental coverage as well as a car.

——————————————

Yes, it’s been a year since I moved to Milford. It was a little bit frightening on that first day, watching my stuff pile up on the bed of the room just above the Muir House Restaurant in Milford. I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope, how I was going to learn to be a writer (by profession, not hobby) just by being tossed into the pool.

I spent the first two weeks keeping myself from hysterics, and the next two months commanding myself to stay the course, to make Milford my home as I have in the past with places like Los Angeles, Doniphan, and Three Rivers. The difference was that this time, I was going to stay. Every other one of my journeys lasted about three months and concluded with me finding a way to come back to Canandaigua.

Passing that three-month mark was a big deal to me. At the end of July 2005, I had passed the bar with no end in sight. When I back to Canandaigua to visit, it didn’t feel like home anymore. It was a strange feeling that a shift had taken place–that I had left my mobile planter behind and that my roots had taken up the soil of Northeast Pennsylvania.

The magazine schedule is a strange thing that compresses time; almost as if I could escape the event horizon and watch the events around me slow down again. It’s May, and we’re working on July. In July, we’ll be working on September. In September, we’ll be working on our end-of-year plan. You’re always looking two months ahead, alost as if you don’t get to experience the month as it’s happening. The season always seems to be the issue we’re working on instead of the month that we’re in.

Though I rarely write about it, Katherine came into my life last summer. Another unexpected but welcome change in life happened around November, when we simultaneously spoke our intentions for each other and held on ever since. I keep telling her she needs to write stand-up. (Think Margaret Cho and George Carlin.)

Winter came and went almost instantaneously. My body couldn’t grasp it, the odd temperature fluctuation here that seems to be nearly 10 degrees warmer than it is in Upstate NY. Somehow, this winter never got cold. It never got hostile. This winter, even more than the last, seemed–benevolent?

In January one of my friends from high school come to live with me in my badly-arranged apartment on Broad St. in Milford. Ben did odd jobs while I worked at the magazine, and Ben would be assigned an article a month until April.

Three weeks to the day I started last year, Ben was hired on as editorial assistant. There are, once again, two creative minds in the office to bounce ideas off one another. Now I sit planning the future of Milford Magazine, and subsequently, my own.

I’ve been talking about the city more often again; I think as summer approaches it becomes an important destination to me because I STILL have yet to bring my guitar to central park, and I crave the surrounds of music and people and the heat of asphalt and concrete.

2007. This is when I want to be in the city. I will turn the prophisized 24, thus beginning the time when I think the real big things start to happen. Until then, I’m not resting on what I’ve accomplished or allowing myself to be lazy, but instead, clearing out my credit and getting myself back on the grid so I can be a financial adult.

Seven is a big deal to me, as is 24. There are a few goofy little superstitions surrounding the numbers and what I think they’re going to mean. 2007, of course, would make my birthday of that year 7/7/7. Despite the fact that my birthday has been July 7th for my whole life, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that my friend Nate pointed out that I have the luckiest birthday in the gregorian calendar: seven-seven.

Where will I be at 24?

Let’s draw a line from 20 to 22 and continue that slope. Wherever that point lies–I want to be above it.