Author Archives: TheBlackhairedGuy

About TheBlackhairedGuy

I'm a guy. And I have black hair. Well not really because it is slowly turning grey. I suppose TheNotquiteBlackhairedGuy doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it? I write the blog EverythingSucks.blog as well as dabble in some freelance writing.

(A Lack of) Self-Esteem Sucks

When you first begin to write you learn a lot about yourself. Certain themes and plotlines seem to appear and I know it points to something within my subconscious. Sure you can purposefully have a theme to a story, but sometimes things just appear that makes you think “Why do I keep writing about that topic?” Another thing I’ve learned over the past few months is that I have little to no self-esteem and lack confidence in my writings. It is so damn clear to me now that I’ve wondered how I was in denial about it for so long. No matter what sort of feedback I get on my writing the truth is clear: In my mind I still suck at writing. And to me I’m horrible at it.

My grand plan (if you could call it that) was to post short stories and chapters on my old blog, which was repurposed for its new mission. The idea was to get some feedback on what I was writing and to snowball that into self-confidence going forward. If I had enough people — ya know like five or ten — tell me my stuff wasn’t total trash I would have enough validation to continue writing. Just a handful of support and I could channel that into pure confidence going forward. I could hold onto it as a cherished gift and always have this initial support to fall back on in times of need. I imagine the established author who has sold over a million books: this person will never run out of confidence because they have that shining badge that they can always look towards as proof that they’re actually good at what they do. A little feedback would serve to be my shining badge in a way. Or so I thought.

Naturally, I started thinking I would fail from the start, which is a big red flag in terms of self-confidence that also should’ve been apparent. Surprisingly, after posting the first few chapters I had tons of positive feedback. I was shocked. Some people would ask me if they could be in my stories. Others gave feedback in the form of blog/Facebook post likes and comments. I mean why would people like and comment if they didn’t like the work? Would people really do that to feign support? And one of the best signs of not sucking was when one of my “fans” (she called herself that. I’d never call people who read my stuff “fans”) mentioned to someone else that I was a good writer. You don’t recommend stuff you hate to other people. Overwhelmed with actual positive feedback, I was set right? Free to write with all the confidence I needed to push through chapter after chapter and finish a book. It sounded like my plan was a soaring success.

OF FUCKING COURSE NOT! The plan was a miserable failure. What would happen was a wildly successful post would be followed by a not-as-successful post and instantly my brain would conjure up reasons for everything successful to be a fluke. Just me getting lucky for some reason or another. No, success was never from actual skill. Failure is my natural state, and anything other than that is an accident. Maybe I just got lucky on the popular posts? Maybe people wised up to the fact that I’m not really good at writing and all my chapters are kinda samey? Maybe everyone dropped the facade of liking my stuff because it was exhausting to do so.

I try to be humble, but I feel walking the fine line between ego and being humble is difficult to do. I find myself erring on the side of caution by being humble and have always taken solace in that. Maybe I’ve gone too far? Maybe in trying to not be too cocky or egotistical, I’ve went to far in the opposite direction? Either way, being cocky and being confident two wildly different things. Is it that hard to be confident and humble? This doesn’t seem like a slippery slope to cockiness.

Just as an experiment, let me try to actually be confident for a moment, to try to weigh the positives and the negatives together. Once again, this isn’t meant to be a cocky “Haha, look at how good of a writer I am!” ego stroker. I just want to see if I can hype myself up for a few sentences. Maybe make a case for myself not being shit.

  • This blog has about 600 views per month. These views are growing. When I first started blogging I was happy to get 5 views in a month. This means I’m doing something right.
  • One of my college English instructors loved my papers, even using me as an example to the class a few times. She pointed out that I always asked questions as I wrote, kinda prompting the reader to think about things as well.
  • Another English instructor suggested I go into technical writing because my research paper was so goddamn awesome apparently.
  • I won two seperate writing awards in college. Not being a writer I decided to YOLO a few submissions and took third and second place. I won $50 from writing an essay about what college meant to me. I hammed that essay up so much. It was the first money I’ve earned from writing. The other award wasn’t very rewarding: I had to read that essay (about improving our community) aloud in front of like fifty people.
  • I’ve self-published two ebooks on Amazon (blog post about that mess here) that have netted me a whopping $0.11 $0.60 in royalty payments. Woah!
  • Someone mentioned that my writings sound very “conversational” as if I’m actually having a talk with someone. That’s good, right?
  • A few coworkers have used my posts as a springboard to their own thinking and writings (the enlightenment post) and have told me their own thoughts on it. That means they had to get something useful from it, right?
  • Lastly, the general positive feedback from people who have read my stuff.

So now why do I suck? Is there any concrete reasons to suspect sucking?

  • I’m not wildly successful. I haven’t sold thousands of books yet.
  • Other people’s blogs are more popular.
  • My past few chapters haven’t had any positive feedback on them.
  • And. That’s it.
  • This isn’t a long list…
  • *thinking very hard*
  • *shrugs*

(Big Note here on how my negative points arise from comparing myself to other people. I obviously know this is a mistake but do it anyways. Oof.)

Thinking about this as objectively as possible leads me to believe that, hey, maybe I don’t fucking suck at all. But my brain doesn’t work this way! Even after typing all of the positives I have to look back on I only felt better for about ten minutes before feeling awful again. Brains are emotional things, and I’m apparently an emotional person. None of this shit matters because somehow a thought randomly appears in my mind that makes me think I’m terrible at writing. It doesn’t even take negative feedback: my brain can tear itself down all on its own! It’s a superpower I didn’t want but am somehow stuck with.

So this isn’t such a whiny post, are there ways to have a little more confidence in regards to writing? Firstly I should probably not worry so much about viewers/likes/numbers. I’ve recently read a blog post stressing this same point. (Vee over at Millenium Life Crisis always has great and informative content.) Secondly, stop worrying about beating the mythical “other people” because all that matters is your own progress. Maybe I can internalize that if I try hard enough. Another thing that sort of helps seems to be reflecting on the past; those 600 views a month sure mean something, and if I put myself in my past frame-of-mind I find myself thankful and proud of the progress I’ve made. Lastly, just keep writing! Even if I do feel like I suck, that doesn’t mean I have to give up. Ya know, progress forward just to make progress.

Closing Note: If it wasn’t obvious, I’m not trying to farm approval or validation with this post. If that isn’t clear I fucked up somewhere. The point wasn’t to whine until people came to support me, but to point out the clear issue of me lacking confidence. It’s a problem I really need to work on. If you did like this post, great! I won’t turn down feedback in any form. But I’m not trying to get a pity-party going on here either.

Facebook Sucks: Stupid Things People Share

Note: I wrote an entire ebook about Facebook and why it sucks. Check it out if you’re interested.

Let me be totally honest here: I’ve started writing this post over and over about five times now and nothing seems to work. Nothing flows right. My intention, upon scrolling Facebook and being totally pissed at all of the low-quality shit that people share, was to make a blog post about it. Usually I try to write an introduction that eases into the topic while sometimes asking interesting questions about it. With this post I might ask why people share so much stuff in the first place. Why don’t people make their own posts as much as they share? And so on. But hell if this post isn’t just a collection of shitty memes from Facebook. I don’t even want to attempt to be “deep” about why people share this shit: I just want to bitch about how shitty these things are. This list is also not exhaustive and there very well could be a part 2 or a part 3 to this someday.

And let me be honest one more time: these shitty images were filling up my phone’s download folder and made it a miserable place to be. Once this was posted I could delete the damn things leaving the folder filled only with amazingly funny and clever memes, because I have the utmost refined comedic tastes obviously.

Mildly Amusing Sexist Jokes

These are really stupid to see and they upset me greatly. I’m not even upset much over the sexism (and this goes both ways depending on the actual image, sometimes it’s women being sexist towards men) because a joke is a joke. I’m willing to laugh at almost anything because as long as you know it’s just a stupid joke and there’s no I’ll will behind it, who cares? What bothers me most about these is how goddamn cheap they are: they’re lazy jokes. Take this one for example:

Haha right? Women wash dishes! That’s their job! You thought the meme was talking about an actual dish washing machine when you read it, right? Gotcha! No. No you didn’t. The joke is so obvious that it isn’t even funny. Part of the humor in jokes is not seeing any immediate connection between the setup and punchline and then figuring it out. There’s an “a-ha!” moment that makes the joke funny. These lack that cleverness.

HUEHUEHUEHUE GETIT?!

They’re also shared almost exclusively by older people who apparently have a fondness for this type of humor. It makes me wonder if in 30 years I’ll be sharing jokes that aren’t funny on whatever social media is around then. I fucking hope not. But a few younger people share them too, usually males (obviously). They’re typically the people you’d expect to share them too. They’re the ones constantly posting sexual memes and jokes (almost like trying trying to end up on r/ihavesex on purpose) and have a general sense of vulgarity about them. Luckily I’m not friends with many of these people so that’s good for me at least.

Sports

Take a look at this:

Okay. I don’t even know what to say about it. You don’t like the Packers. You watch football. It’s a Packers’ logo on toilet paper. You know, what you wipe your ass with. Ha.

Shit like this is usually shared by the demographics from above, but you could find any diehard sports fan sharing it as well.

2deep4u Posts

Here ya go:

These things are exhausting because they’re everywhere. I’ve always liked to bitch amount images that are just images of text, because, why? For fucks sake put some background on it or something. Even worse are the 2deep posts that are pictures from someone else’s Facebook post. Like this one:

Making things even worse is the fact that many of these actually have decent advice to them. The first image is a perfect example of this: the actual words make sense really. Sometimes it is wasting your time to talk to a headstrong dumbass. The problem arises because the person sharing the image is likely to be one of these people, ironically. If you really felt this image resonated with you you probably wouldn’t be sharing it on social media. Also, with the multitude of these on social media they lose their meaning an effectiveness. After seeing 30 of these every time you look at Facebook, you simply find yourself not caring about them anymore.

A friend pointed out that there is a brown version as well!

Remember when I mentioned that social media should be a conversation deleted and rewrote the introduction? A two-way conversation? These fail miserably on that goal. Even if the outward appearance is one of information — what if the poster just wanted for other people to see it? — they’re usually posted to say something about the sharer and aren’t directed to an audience at all. The poster is saying something about themselves — that they can understand different perspectives and aren’t a dumbass — and how deep and complex they are. It’s egotistical as fuck. They’re not trying to prompt others to keep an open mind, they’re only circle jerking themselves.

2deep4u Fake News?

This one is a subset of the 2deep4u posts but with the added benefit of having a questionable factual basis:

I don’t know anything about wolves really, so maybe the image is true, but my bullshit radar goes off anytime I look at it. The worst part? Posts like these you’re not bothered enough by to actually fact-check them. While I suspect it’s bullshit I don’t want to make an effort to find out it actually is bullshit.

Informative Fake News

A few posts might actually be helpful or make some sense at first. Like you can tell the sharer isn’t being self-centered or looking for attention and is actually trying to help their friends and family have some useful information. Once again many of these set my bullshit alarm into high gear. Here:

Floor polish and pumpkins? Once again I don’t know enough about the ingredients of floor polish and how pumpkins decay so I can’t outright say that it’s bullshit, but come on. This one I’m not even going to research either. I don’t want part of my internet search history to be about floor cleaner and pumpkins. The next time I’m on Amazon I don’t want endless ads for Brite floor polish.

Or this one:

News just means, ya know, “new stuff” and if it’s printed on paper you might be tempted to call it a “news-paper.” It’s no surprised that a newspaper would be called what is is. Come on people.

Its not really informative like the pumpkin one but it still purports to have an interesting fact that, once again, screams of bullshit. In fact I’m like 95% sure it’s bullshit. Even worse is the woah reacts to it that I’m assuming are from people who gobbled up the bullshit like a swarm of hungry flies would.

And this:

There’s a general theme here of my ignorance on a topic giving claims something to work with even if I suspect there’s bullshit around. Once again there are claims that seem factual; charcoal can affect medicine uptake, but is charcoal used to color food that much? It seems like it would affect the texture or something. Who knows. After some quick Googling apparently charcoal is used to color foods, among with other possible ingredients. Basically known what your medicine shouldn’t be taken with and figure out if charcoal is in your food. Which you should’be been doing even if you didn’t see this shit on Facebook!

I think the same will be true for my conclusion paragraph as the introduction paragraph. I don’t have shit to say and am just going to stop. If anything, check the shit you share for factual basis before sharing it. I can’t believe I even have to mention that.

Writing Kinda Sucks

“…I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work.”

Hunter S. Thompson

I think when we pick up any new hobby or interest we only see the positives. We see the glory of it — the big picture of it all. As a painter you imagine relaxing at home and just creating beautiful artwork. Or the pianist sitting at their instrument creating interesting and wonderful music. Or the author, bringing magical worlds to life that only exist on paper and in the imagination of your readers. You dream of actually making it by publishing your books, selling your artwork, or ending up in a successful band, etc. When we undertake a new goal or hobby we rightfully only see the good because it’s where we want to be in our lives. But to get to the good you have to toil away with the total bullshit that no one talks about.

Prospective writers and authors also have their own fantasy: sitting at a desk with a cup of coffee and a dog in the corner/cat in your lap while you let your imagination run wild with ideas that you effortlessly slap down on paper/PC/typewriter/whatever the fuck you’re using. Anyone who has even attempted writing will instantly know this is bullshit. No one idolizes the times where you’re staring at your computer at 11 p.m. and while wanting to write something realizing that you have no idea for what to actually write. Or maybe you have an idea but it doesn’t come out right and you can’t get into a flow. There’s also the opposite problem like with me right now: awake at 2 a.m. suddenly finding yourself inspired to write a blog post about writing. The idea just appears out of the ether and you gotta grab the inspiration before it disappears.

I always thought writing was easy. It’s not that it’s hard like math is hard; it’s a different sort of difficult. I was always the type of person to procrastinate school papers until the night before they were due and knocked them out in a few hours of furious typing; I’d always get good grades by doing this too. Maybe this is where I got the “writing is easy” idea from, and I know for a fact it’s where I got my dreadful procrastination from. (Why plan anything out when you can knock it out in a few frightful hours?!) But writing isn’t easy. Let me walk you through a typical writing process for me. I’m assuming everyone else has similar issues and the more we write the more we learn to manage and minimize these pain-in-the-ass traits that writing entails.

Inspiration

This sounds stupid, but you need to have something to write about before you write. You need a story idea or a blog post idea or something. Once again this was never a problem in high school or college when people told you what to write. Now that you’re doing this on your own you need to figure out your own ideas. These ideas almost have to accidentally come to you and this is frustrating, especially in regards to blogging. We all know that frequently posting is a good idea, but you also need ideas for your posts. You end up torn between spam-posting low quality stuff day-after-day or postponing things for so long that you appear to be unreliable. It’s a pain in the ass.

It’s even worse for fiction writing as you need to conjure up characters, a plot, themes, and whatever else, and as I mentioned earlier you can’t seem to force this part. You can’t sit down and force yourself to write a good story with no plot in mind. You have to sit around and brainstorm and hope something good comes along. Even so, this isn’t an invitation to procrastinate in terms of perfection: you still need to get off your ass and write! It sounds contradictory huh?

The Writing

After you have an idea you can get to work on it. This is the actual fun part of writing where you can let your ideas run wild. Writing is the transformation of ideas into concrete words and sentences that other people can enjoy. It’s timeless and romantic and amazing to do when you get in the zone. You’re literally creating new worlds that have never been created! Bringing into existence people, creatures, and things that have never existed outside of your mind! It’s amazing! Sometimes you start typing and are surprised with what you’ve written, as if the ideas materialized out of thin air. What you write might be fantastically good, or shine light on some subconscious workings of your mind that you’re not even aware of. It’s this part of writing that is the most addictive. This is what I love about writing.

The Editing

For fucks sake this part is awful. I worked for hours day-after-day to finally edit my two ebooks and it wasn’t enjoyable at all. This is the part of the writing process where you take your random, rough, and rambling writings and clean the things up. You’re hunting around for grammatical errors, factual errors, spelling errors, and any other errors imaginable. For fictional stories you’re also making sure the characters’ names and jobs are consistent and that everything makes sense. I realized in one one of my stories that a character was terribly inconsistent in two of the chapters he’s in and it’s something that needs to be fixed. Sometimes you need to move paragraphs and chapters around or even delete the damn things. Sometimes you find irrelevant trash that you have no idea how it ended up in the work in the first place. Chapters about nothing in particular. This step is tedious, boring, time consuming and all around awful.

The End

Somehow if you pull all of this shit together you will have a finished product, be it a story, a novel, a blog post, or even a fancy self-help instructional guide. Whatever. And this is what makes it all worth it I suppose. When you can feel good for sitting through some not-very-fun bullshit to actually create something. When you’ve suffered through all of the difficult and tedious shit long enough to have something to show to others and something that you can be proud of. It doesn’t even matter if what you’ve created is trash because at least you’ve created something. How many countless others have wanted to create something but never got around to doing so? How many people fail before they even start?

But Not the End

Oh yeah, even once you have a finished product on your hands you’re still not finished with the process yet. The more I’ve been writing the more I’ve realized about the other shitty demon involved with trying to be an author: self-promotion. I’m also terrible at it. The fact is even if you wrote a masterpiece no one will buy it or even know about it if you don’t promote yourself. This involves goofy terms like “networking” and “advertising” and “getting yourself out there” and a few other nebulous terms that I despise while not being able to think of them right this moment. Let’s not forget the bloggers’ “SEO” stuff too!

As a side rant I’ve seen this problem mostly with MLM-Facebookers trying to pedal their wraps, diet pills, CBD oils, etc. These people try to sell products to their friends and family first without realizing that they can’t limp by selling products only to them. It’s the same with being an author: even if you have five or ten friends/family that love your writings they cannot support you completely. You can’t be a successful artist if only those people are purchasing your products. You need to branch out and find other customers!

I also think this is antithetical the the stereotypical writer as well, at least for me it is: I’m a person that likes to stay inside my head and someone who has confidence issues. A classic introvert I am. I really do think my writing isn’t good enough for people to actually want to read and am constantly surprised when I hear positive feedback on it. Obviously I’m terrible at self-promotion. It always comes across as begging or cringy when I try to get new people to read my writings. It’s hard to do. I wish I could ignore the self-promotion aspect of writing but it seems to go hand in hand with it. You simply can’t git gud at writing where everyone magically loves you. You need to put yourself out there for people to find you in the first place.

As a general closing note here: writing generally takes a long time! It takes much longer than you’d expect it to take. Consider this blog post: it’s only about twelve paragraphs long so take a guess how long I worked on it? I wrote it in 20 or 30 minutes, and have been editing/proofreading it for about an hour and a half (!!!). I also need to add tags to it, make a banner for it, proofread it again and then post it. In total I’d say this post — which is a total low-effort “quick” post — took a total of two to three hours from start to finish. Writing kinda sucks.

Greta is our Hero

Note: I wrote this a week ago and with my ever present procrastination it sat around in Google Docs doing absolutely nothing. I even thought about scrapping it. But yesterday I found a news story saying that the main motivation for this writing, Greta Thunberg, was actually nearby! She was in Iowa which is notable in and of itself. Iowa isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find someone with worldwide fame to be at outside of presidential candidates during Primary Season. Coincidentally, I was in Iowa last weekend when I was bitching about hotels. I’m well experienced with the absolute nothing that is in Iowa: they have corn and that’s about it. I also can’t shit on Iowa too much because I myself live in Illinois, another state that can easily be described with the singular word that is “corn.” (And Chicago I suppose.) So the stars aligned and Greta was only a few hundred miles away from where I am now and stupidly close to where I was last weekend. Let’s publish this shit and get it over with while I naively think the Universe is sending me signals.

This post is clearly breaking with tradition by not featuring something “that sucks” but if anything what does suck is our inability to actually change the world as individuals. I wrote an early post about that here if you want to check it out. Instead of dwelling on the negativity of our helplessness I want to take a more positive approach. Crazy, right?

Greta Thunberg is yada yada and I’m sure you’ve heard about it all on either mainstream news stations, social media, our your drunken, second-amendment-obsessed right-winger uncle. And I’m sure you already have your opinions of her depending on what you’re brainwashed to believe: she’s either a personal hero (raises hand) or a total fucking villain, something something deepstate/liberal propaganda puppet. I don’t like giving an overview of people like this because it’s tedious and boring; anything or anyone I write about is probably popular enough that you already know who they are. So yeah, Greta. You already know her.

But hey, didn’t you say you weren’t going to write anything political anymore? Yeah, you’re right actually, and that hasn’t changed. What you might not realize is that climate change isn’t political at all. It’s established scientific fact, kinda like the theory of general relativity, quantum mechanics, and electromagnetism are (and surprisingly aren’t politicized). Climate change is such sound science that I’m not going to dick around with proving it to you guys: it’s like trying to explain that the sky is actually blue. I’m not going to prove shit because it’s already been proven. The idea that climate science is a political topic is just some bullshit wizardry invented by those that have a personal interest in the public’s ignorance on the topic.

Why Greta is so beloved/hated is due to how outspoken she is in regards to climate change. She is also a young female which also attracts the ire of detractors. She isn’t wrong though: the climate is a finely tuned and immensely complex machine that has developed over literally millions of years. Humans destabilizing the machine within a few hundred years leaves ecosystems with nowhere near enough time to change and adapt and it’s this upcoming collapse of ecosystems that is the real issue with climate change. As much as people like to think they’re separate from nature we are as much a part of it as any other lifeforms on earth. We’re hopelessly dependent upon the very ecosystems were destabilizing. Greta is pissed about all of this because people have been fucking up the planet for decades well aware of the problem at hand and have done jack to prevent any of it. She’s basically been telling world leaders to get their fucking shit together because we don’t have much room for error going forward.

I think Greta speaks for all of us too: why can’t people in charge get their shit together? Why are companies allowed to pollute and pump endless amounts of CO₂ into the air? Why doesn’t somebody do something?! Note how we always gripe about someone or somebody else. Here’s where I slightly disagree with what Greta is saying: we are the people that need to be doing something! You and I are the problem, and asking or demanding someone else like companies/governments to do something is slightly missing the point. The only problem here is that us, as individuals, feel utterly powerless to do anything to prevent climate change. While we actually hold all the power, we don’t know how to wield it.

Companies don’t pollute for the hell of it because that would go against simple economics. Everyone acts in their own self-interests, corporations as well as us consumers, and this is what drives the world’s mostly capitalist economies. It isn’t a perfect system but it seems to be the economic system that works the best. Us as consumers want good products for cheap and companies provide those products to us to earn the most customers/money. Consider the electric companies: they don’t burn coal for the hell of burning coal, they burn coal because it is the cheapest form of fuel they can find and if they find anything cheaper they’ll switch to that. The problem isn’t companies blatantly polluting, the problem is they have no incentive to do otherwise because us consumers demand their products.

The reason none of us alter our daily activities and habits is because we all feel powerless. If I was the head of a giant corporation I know I could take drastic measures to combat climate change. The same is true if I was a politician. But I’m neither of those things and am just some random guy in Illinois. What can I do to stop climate change? And why would I want to change anything if it will be utterly futile? This is why we want the government or corporations to do something; we can’t do a damn thing because we feel powerless as individuals.

We can stop climate change dead in its tracks if we collectively got our shit together as individuals. We are the problem, but by being the problem we are also the solution.

And back to Greta. Greta is our hero because she can unite us usually helpless feeling individuals and give us direction. I really think humans by our very nature require leaders. Left alone we kinda zip off in our own directions and wander around with misdirected motivation. I think of bugs or moths around a light a night: each of us while wanting to do something is zipping around lost, confused, misguided and undirected. If only we had someone to give a voice to those who feel they have no voice and to give us all a direction to move towards. Someone to inspire us.

Greta also contributes to meme magic.

And that’s what I think Greta’s main power is. We all like her sticking it to world leaders and corporations but they only do what their constituents/consumers want. They’re only working as they should in a capitalist economy. (Maybe that is the problem? There is no incentive to work in a carbon neutral way because there is no economic incentive to do so. I think a carbon tax might be a good idea, although I’m no expert.) But with Greta sticking it to the world leaders, she gets us all on the same page. She gets people passionate about climate change and has us asking What can we do to help stop climate change? I know I’ve been asking myself that same question over and over the past week and I can only imagine that other people are doing the same thing I am, possibly by the millions. We’re not alone and she reminds us of that.

Depression in Stardew Valley Sucks

A few days ago I became legitimately depressed while playing Stardew Valley. It was both kinda funny and sad at how awful I felt over the game; I didn’t know whether I should laugh about it or feel depressed by being depressed by a video game, let alone Stardew Valley. This incident also shined some light on my own personality and the lack of self confidence I have in life. This post will probably be deeper than you might expect from a Stardew Valley inspired post, but here goes.

Here’s where I give a shitty overview of the game in case people don’t know what I’m talking about: Stardew Valley is a game where you farm stuff and live in a tiny village. You can talk to, befriend, and even marry some of the residents in the town. I don’t know how important all of that is to the main story of the game, but the game does stress the aspect of community, which freshens it up from being only a farming simulator. Anyway, it’s also a cutesy, 2D top down, “kiddie game” as one of my friends described it. This almost makes the incident worse because as stated it’s a kids game: It shouldn’t punch me right in the feels, especially as directly as it did.

In-game Jeremy wandering the fuck around.

There’s a community dance (The Flower Dance) that happens in the forest around day 25. It’s an optional thing to do so whatever, no big deal. I went to the dance because I’m trying to be the friendly new guy in town who is trying his damndest to fit in and be accepted in the community. I should also say that up to this point in the game I’ve been a very diligent and socially-isolated farmer: I’m toiling away in my fields every single day either chopping wood for fertilizer, planting/harvesting/watering the crops, or running into town to buy more seeds. While some people might be fucking around socializing in town all day, I’m trying to turn my farm into the most fantastic farm ever and give the community something to be proud of. Because fuck the JoJa Corporation and Capitalism in general. I’m all about seizing the means of production, even if I haven’t told Mayor Lewis any of my intentions yet…

Pam is a beauty…

So Jeremy who is the new resident of Stardew Valley — let’s call him in-game Jeremy — shows up to the dance and starts talking to people. Some of the townsfolk he sort of knowns, and others appear to be new faces. Mayor Lewis allows in-game Jeremy to decide when the dance should actually start (since the game sort of revolves around in-game Jeremy for some terrible reason. Unbeknownst to in-game Jeremy he is, in fact, the player character. The story literally revolves around him). After talking to most of the people in-game Jeremy realizes that he can ask people to dance with him. Oh shit! He actually found this when he accidentally asked the emo gothic guy to dance with him. Luckily he said no but it was still awkward. (“Hey bro, you want to dance with me? No homo tho, I just think those skinny jeans look really good on you.”) In-game Jeremy then proceeds to confidently ask the females, being picky at first but then growing desperate and asking anyoneeven the trashy, alcoholic Pam but you can’t actually ask her — if they would like to dance. They usually replied with something like this:

“Oh! Oh! I’m sorry…I, er…have plans to ask someone else.”

“I’m flattered! But…no.”

“That’s flattering…but I’m gonna have to say no. Sorry.”

“I’ll be honest. I don’t want to dance with you.”

“Eww…No.”

Holy fuck game, thanks for the hefty dose of rejection. So in-game Jeremy, with no one to dance with, finally walks up to Mayor Lewis and gives him the go-ahead to start the dance. In game Jeremy wants to just get the stupid-ass dance over with so he can head back home and go to sleep. He’s sick of these people, their rejection, and their unappreciation of him, his hard work, and his farm.

After the dance in-game Jeremy goes to his house and goes to bed. It’s night and there’s nothing to do. He almost thought about watering the crops before bed, but fuck the plants too, they can wait. In the morning, in-game Jeremy stares at the crops and doesn’t actually want to do any work, but he sure as fuck isn’t going to town today to socialize with those assholes. He doesn’t want to work on the crops but there’s nothing else to do with his life so he begrudgingly gets to work. Watering. Weeding. Planting. Harvesting. Urgh. Not that anyone appreciates it. “Fuck this place,” In-game Jeremy says as he toils in the fields the day after the dance.

A few days later, still feeling shitty but not quite as shitty, in-game Jeremy realizes that it’s Emily’s birthday, and that he should give her a gift. Maybe a flower? After he picks a few flowers and heads into town he stops and thinks, “Is she even going to like this? She probably won’t even give a shit if I give her a gift or not. If anything it’ll be the wrong gift and she’ll hate me.” In-game Jeremy goes up to the “shipping bin” where you place products your farm has created, and chucks the flowers into that. Emily has no idea in-game Jeremy was even going to give her a gift and goes about her day knowing nothing of the conflict that occured in in-game Jeremy’s head. In-game Jeremy continues to sulk and overthink things as he tends to his garden daily. “Pretty sure all the fuckers hate me,” he thinks to himself.

The next day in-game Jeremy finally drags his ass into town. He ran into Haley, a young and beautiful blonde lady who lives in town. He tries talking to her, just to say “Hi” or “How’s your day going?” The game informed in-game Jeremy that: 

HALEY IS IGNORING YOU

“Maybe you should, like, kill yourself? No one likes you or your stupid farm!”

Jesus Christ, Stardew Valley is depressing as fuck.

In-game Jeremy then stops into Pierre’s store to find some rope for a noose, but sadly Pierre doesn’t sell rope. Not that in-game Jeremy has unlocked the noose-crafting node anyways. In-game Jeremy, as depressed as he is, is hopelessly stuck in the world with no way to escape.

While I was trying to strike a clear difference between me — IRL Jeremy — and my avatar in-game (in-game Jeremy) I found it kinda difficult to do in practice. When you play a game that is as absorbing as Stardew you kinda become the player character and this is a good thing. (“This game really makes you feel like Spiderman!”) While in-game Jeremy felt like shit over being rejected by everyone in town, it also became difficult for IRL Jeremy to also not feel rejected, even if there was no reason to feel that way. While IRL Jeremy was laughing at the brutal and consist nature of in-game Jeremy’s rejection something inside was also being stirred around. The vague shadow of repressed memories, fears of total social rejection, and loneliness from high school/college swam at the corners of my consciousness. What if everyone I know actually hates me? What do people say about me when I’m not around? Am I really as awkward as I think I am? Does anyone actually appreciate me? It was kinda scary. Faced with the “fun, kid-friendly” story and graphics of Stardew Valley, it almost seemed surreal in a way. This game was making me feel like shit about my own life and had me questioning all my real relationships and my worth in the world.

I also felt bitter and angry towards the damn in-game townsfolk; these people aren’t even real and I was pissed at them! Logically it made sense that no one wanted to dance with in-game Jeremy because he was the new guy in town who has only been around for 25 days (or like 2.5 months if you take Stardew time in terms of a year) and who wasn’t being social at all or making zero effort to socialize. The town basically sees in-game Jeremy as a recluse farmer who never talks to people but then shows up and creepily asks every person available to dance. No shit they said no! If I was a video game NPC like these people I’d also say no! In-game Jeremy — you socially-inept idiot — you have to make actual effort in relationships for them to work. And if that isn’t hitting things a bit close for IRL Jeremy as well. I found myself questioning how much effort I put into friendships and if I expect other people to do all the work. Or do I just show up and expect people to like me when I do nothing likeable at all? Do I show enough interest in other people? Or am I self-centered asshole that metaphorically is a recluse farmer who tends his fields all day? Once again I wasn’t expecting goddamn life lessons from Stardew but here we are.

One of the highlights of the game so far. I was pissed and fishing off this bridge just because, and Abigail walked up and stood next to me. She stood there for hours watching me fish and neither of us said anything. In-game Jeremy was utterly focused on catching those damn fish and gave no outward sign of his appreciation, but he loved her for being there keeping him company.

I’m complaining here but you have to give the game credit: usually people play video games just to kill time, to have fun, or to escape the real world for a little bit. To feel some progress in a game world to counteract the utter difficulty and lack of progress in the real world. It’s a rare game that somehow acts as a mirror and puts yourself up there on display for you to analyze, especially if said game is usually viewed as a “kids game.” This allows you to lower your defenses and to be vulnerable, not realizing that you’re about to get utterly punched in the feels so aggressively that it resonates with your actual self. Stardew Valley made in-game Jeremy feel like a loser who would never properly fit in with the townsfolk even if he really wanted to, and that made IRL Jeremy also feel the same way, constantly searching for approval, community, and appreciation. The depressive mood didn’t last for long, maybe twenty minutes or so, but it was twenty minutes that I was not prepared for at all. It was an eye-opening experience that I wasn’t at all ready for. Fuck you Stardew Valley for being such a good game.

Hotel Rooms Suck

I’m currently out of town and sitting around totally bored in a hotel room. I really don’t want to write a blog post or anything but there is literally nothing else to do so why not try to be productive? After this I’ll probably try to work on some stories or something. While I don’t exactly know where this post is headed I’m going to write it anyways. This has never before been attempted on the Everything Sucks blog!

It’s already uncomfortable enough being in a city that you’ve never been in. In this case it’s Waterloo, Iowa (yay…). And it’s also discomforting knowing that the city you’re currently in which you’ve never been in before is also exactly the same as nearly every other city you’ve been in. Even though you’ve drive hundreds — even thousands of miles — across the wide open expanses of the United State of America, you always find yourself in the exact same places that you’ve already been. Our current hotel is situated less than a mile from a mall, a Target, a CVS, a handful of other hotels, a handful of gas stations, and a handful of restaurants. You already know those too: Applebees, Olive Garden, Burger King, McDonalds, Arbys, and so on.

This is America. Seriously. Zoom in on any city and its “business section” and you’ll find the same general theme of businesses. Coast to fucking coast…

My point here is that while being holed up in a hotel room is boring, you also can’t go outside and find anything else that isn’t boring. There’s no culture to explore and discover. This city is the same city I live in even if it has a different name. The streets have different names and everything is laid out differently but it’s the exact same city I’m used too: there just isn’t anything new out there and it’s not like I’m in a different country or anything. For all purposes Iowa and Illinois are exactly the same thing. No new and exciting accents, geography, or anything. Not even a new time zone.

Hotel rooms are fit nicely into this because they’re all exactly the same too. Each room of a hotel is superficially the same layout, even if one room is a mirror image of the room next to it. Each room has a shower, bed, sink, a bunch of mirrors (to make the room look bigger I’m assuming), and usually a table or a desk with a “work chair” or something like that. These rooms are cookie-cutter rooms that you’re just meant to sleep in because there isn’t much else you can do in them. Besides type bored blog posts that is.

Work in progress on “The Work Desk” feature of every hotel room.

They’re also surprisingly devoid of life as well. When you go into people’s houses or rooms they each have their own design, layout, and unique smells. People usually have their belongings/clothes/artwork/pictures/junk around that makes these places feel “lived in” and alive. Hotel rooms feel clinically clean and totally devoid of life even if they are, microbally, diverse and thriving (eww). It’s strange because the room I’m in has also been lived in by countless other people over the years and I don’t even want to think about how many babies were conceived and how many STDs were contracted on the mattress I’m laying on right now. But even knowing the amount of people and “stuff” that has actually occurred where I’m at there are no signs of anything really. It’s as clean and bland as a doctor’s waiting room. Hell, even more so as our room doesn’t have the classic “doctor’s office artwork” on the walls. A hotel room is probably the blandest living space you can find in our society.

I’m also staying at a fucking Motel 6 which is about as bottom of the barrel as you can get in terms of lodging. This is partly due to procrastinating the reservation as well as being fucking cheap. I’m notoriously cheap! A hotel room is just a place to sleep when you’re away from town and I’m not trying to stay at a place with a “fitness room” or a place that offers a “free continental breakfast” which I’m never awake in time to attend anyways. A room is a room and a bed is a bed and so be it. Anyways, Motel 6 is stupidly cheap and you can tell this from the room I’m in: this place isn’t trying to lie about its cheapness or to pamper you at all. Hell, it doesn’t even have a coffee maker which I’ve assumed was standard in all hotel rooms. This makes the room feel even more “hotely” than usual, once again pointing to the lack of stereotypical “hotel art” on the walls. These walls are bare: there is literally nothing on them besides the white and brownish-orange paint on the walls.

Next to our cheap Motel 6 is a Holiday Inn Express, and while not a 5-star place itself it is much higher up on the hotel food-chain than our Motel 6 is (Their rooms are around $90 per night while ours were around $70). In fact the building itself is higher up with its four floors overlooking our paltry two floors. Sometimes I will look out the window and see curious Holiday Inners curiously glancing out — and downwards, metaphorically and physically — into our Motel 6 rooms. And hey, I’m looking right back at them as well, a kinda passive curiosity exchanged between us. I ask in my imagination to them, “Hello, fellow traveler, what exactly are you doing in Waterloo, Iowa of all places? Are you on a business trip or are you on vacation with your family? Is this hellhole your actual destination or are you headed for more elaborate locations in the USA? Are you stopping for the night on a long journey to the West Coast or are you heading out East? Perhaps to see New York or Washington? Niagara Falls? Or maybe the Grand Canyon?” Then again maybe the man looking down on me from over there is just picking up a prostitute for the night. Who knows. I’m imaging them wondering the same thing about me as well: Who is this guy sitting in a rolly-chair with a hat on at 8 p.m.? Why is he rolling around in his hotel room in said chair? Why does he look angry? And what is he typing on his computer and why is he taking pictures of his hotel room? And why the fuck does he keep looking up at me and then typing something on his computer?

(Note: I also doubt that anyone is staying in Waterloo during a transcontinental adventure. Waterloo, IA doesn’t even have a giant interstate running through connecting anything important. 380 connectes Cedar Rapids to Waterloo but doesn’t really do much other than that. Why anyone is here is anyone’s guess.)

I’m new to staying in hotel rooms and usually only deal with them for the rare vacation and then only for a few days at most. I’m imaging the people who stay in these lifeless boxes frequently, like pilots, business travelers, musicians, etc. and I wonder what the hell they think of these places. I don’t even know what jobs require you to frequent these bland, all-the-same-but-kinda-different rooms and buildings, but it almost seems like it would be draining in a way. Like if you stay in these rooms for too long you go crazy. I’m thinking like the movie Fight Club or in the Stephen King stories 1408 or The Shining where the hotel room/hotel itself is haunted. Hotel rooms seem to have some mystery to them simply because they’ve been around for so long and have had so many people stay in them. Over time there’s bound to be something crazy happen in them. But maybe that’s the wrong outlook and that some people find these rooms comforting in a way. As all the rooms are the same I could seem them turing into “home” for the frequent traveler; a little slice of comfort and familiarity to come home to in the total blandness of them. Like if you stay in bland and drab rooms long enough you start to find them comforting in a way. Like you find yourself used to and comforted by the neutered lamp-on-desk, undecorated white walls, and wrapped up single-ply toilet papers. The white, undecorated towels. Not to mention the little shampoo bottles as well! As for me, luckily they’re only boring, even if they are intensely boring. I’m just trying to pass the time here. I’m not returning to just another hotel room on a month’s long job assignment, nor am I terrified that the room is haunted or that I’m losing my mind. Maybe boring isn’t so bad after all.

Enlightenment Sucks (Part 1 of ?)

I’m pretty much a closeted Buddhist. I say closeted because I’m not really good at being a Buddhist; I’ve never been to a temple and I’ve never actually done anything extremely “Buddhist” whatever the fuck that means. I also have a blog where I write “fuck” alot, complain about everything, and seem to hate all sorts of shit: this also doesn’t sound very Buddhist of me. But I do have the mindset that favors introspection, curiosity, understanding, and being at peace with the world and find the “religion” (if you want to call it that) to be very appealing. Buddhism just kinda clicks with me I guess.

Buddhism doesn’t attempt to place universal blame on some entity for suffering or salvation on someone else’s back: everything seems to be solely up to you. While Christianity seems hell-bent (pun!) on saving your soul through Jesus Christ, Buddhism seems to be focused on saving your ass from yourself. To prevent you from making your own life miserable. And instead of some holy figure to guide you, you’re given the Buddha: some dude who figured out the way to be enlightened. That’s about it. He himself wasn’t actually special or anything: he just figured it out. Life is about finding enlightenment and that’s it. Because, according to Buddhism, the only problem with your life is your mindset. Life isn’t fucked up: it’s your view of life that is fucked up.

What is enlightenment exactly? Buddhism seems to define this as being “aware of how things are” and in a slightly different aspect of it “happy” or at least “okay” with how things are. Buddha didn’t become a saint or do anything magical; he was just a guy who figured shit out and was at peace. This is cool because if some random dude in India figured shit out, then so can you! I suppose at the end of the day — and maybe everyone feels this way — I have the same goal: I want to have a deep and fundamental understanding of existence and be at peace with it. Even if something shitty happens to me I want to be able to back up, view the event from an outside perspective, and be “happy” or “okay” about it in some form or another. This is what enlightenment is, at least to me. It’s kinda hard to put into words really.

The problem arises because I’m fucking terrible about being happy and thankful with the current state of the world! As much as I idealize this idea of enlightenment I’m actually awful at placing it into action: I’m an angry and pissy person and it’s hard for me to see any positives in anything that actually happens. My own personality, while liking the idea of being enlightened, seems to be diametrically opposed to it.

Here’s an example. I was out on the porch drinking just being in the moment and while not purposefully meditating I was still in the zone so to speak. It was like a form of passive meditation. There were kittens outside playing and I was simply sitting there, watching them, totally at peace with the world. Life was good. I would assume that Eastern philosophy and Buddhism would refer to this moment as “enlightenment” (especially Zen as this moment was a kinda “aha! I get it!” moment) and while I didn’t ascend to a higher plane or have any deep insights I was at peace with the world (which is the deep insight really) and totally okay and accepting of anything in it.

But apparently not. Because that’s when the neighbor lady showed up.

She came outside and started trying to call one of the kittens over. We named him “Rain” which is a pretty fucking stupid name anyways, but apparently she had named him “Cutie” which is another level of stupid. So there I was, peaceful, buzzed, and in the Buddhist-Zone when this lady starts yelling in a loving, motherly voice but with the tone of pure nails-on-chalkboard, “Cutie! Cutie! Where are you, Cutie?! Come here kittykittykittykittykittykittykittykitty !”

“It’s an older meme, sir, but it checks out.”

I about lost my shit. It wasn’t as if this slowly wore my mood down over time — no — as soon as she started screeching at the cat my blood instantly started to boil. My pulse and blood pressure notably skyrocketed. My peace, love, happiness, and understanding instantly disappeared in a fiery moment of pure hatred towards this other person. Another being in the universe having the same experiences and troubles as me? My ass. This lady was totally ruining my goddamn peace love and happiness! Didn’t she realize how utterly fucking annoying she was? Didn’t she realize that you can’t force a cat to love you? Didn’t she understand that the kittens were playing and didn’t give a fuck about anything she was screeching about?

(Insight Note: You can’t force a cat to love you. They’re passive beings that love doing their own thing. The kittens had more love for me passively sitting there and not bothering them than they did for the overly aggressive lady that wanted the kittens to love her. Cats have to love you on their own terms. I put myself out there to be loved by the kittens, but at the end of the day I try to leave them alone until they’re accepting of me. This is also true of people. WOAH. 3deep5u.)

Obviously this wasn’t a very cash-money Buddhist way of feeling, and I almost feel bad about these intrusive thoughts. Almost. The thing about meditation is it makes me happy and when this happiness is interrupted I get angry, usually way too angry for the situation. It’s really frustrating because I’m obviously not at the “peace, love, and acceptance” level where I can deal with incidents like these. I’m still horribly flawed even if I do have glimpses of enlightenment and peace and this makes things even more frustrating.

The Buddha when I lost my peace thanks to Neighbor Lady.

And it’s times like that where I think I’m not cut out to be enlightened or at peace in life. I’m just not worthy of it. Im kinda a jackass. I talk shit about some of my coworkers and while my supervisor is a very peaceful, loving, and “everyone has their own story and struggle and you shouldn’t judge them” type of person, I can’t seem to not shit all over people for doing the smallest thing wrong. I understand what she’s getting at, but can’t convince myself to feel that way even if I do think that way. I’m a goddamn dirtbag! While on the surface I understand that people have their own struggles and so on, I still can’t put that into practice and, ya know, be a good person.

In fact I’ve almost started embracing my dickishness. When I’m at the store I openly cuss in front of children. I scowl as people that stand in my way. I’m petty and bitter and love saying “I told you so” when I’m proven right. I don’t go out of my way to make people miserable (I’m not “Karen” asking to talk to your manager) but if I’m pissed-off it’s hard to hide it. I’m all for self-improvement and think everyone should try to fix their flaws, but at the same time I think everyone needs to be themselves, which makes zero sense really. It pisses me off when I see Facebook posts saying something like “If you can’t handle me at my worst you don’t deserve me at my best.” It sounds like justification for being a terrible person. I want to not be a terrible person but I also want to accept myself as-is, even if I apparently am kinda a dick. It’s confusing and contradictory.

As much as I’m into the Buddhist theory and mindset, I’m apparently fucking terrible at putting it into practice. While I like the idea of enlightenment, I realize that I’m not the type of person to actually be enlightened. Something is always pissing me off (which is nice when you have a blog called Everything Sucks I guess) and even if I had an amazing day, I’ll still be upset by something. (“I won the lottery? Well now I’ll have to pay someone to do my taxes for me next year. Fuck.”) It’s a constant feeling of I’m not good enough and I’ll never be good enough in terms of my own peace, happiness, and well-being. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be an enlightened person.