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Owl City’s “Vanilla Twilight” was a defining anthem during my freshman year of high school. The dreamy beats and love-longing lyrics perfectly captured the tender awe and novel rush of adolescent awakening.  Adam Young sings,

I’ll watch the night turn light blue
But it’s not the same without you
Because it takes two to whisper quietly
The silence isn’t so bad
‘Til I look at my hands and feel sad
‘Cause the spaces between my fingers
Are right where yours fit perfectly

It was magic. Now, as an adult, I return to this song as a reminder to never lose sight of life’s daily marvels, as fuel for the wonder I’m continually seeking to enliven.

Young is doing the same. His most recent work is called Cinematic. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’m eager to get to it. Speaking of the album on his website he says, “It’s a personal narrative, as if a film was made from key scenes throughout my life. My hope is there’s a way to teach yourself to recognize and appreciate what I like to call, ‘movie magic moments’, so you don’t miss out on them. That’s what the title alludes to. You have an audience cheering you on. Everybody is in your corner. Do your best for them.”

This notion led me to the following realization: Every day may seem everyday, and certainly, the grind is real, but doing some tough internal maintenance can change the mind’s mechanics so that your perspective goes from picking up on the ordinary and familiar to experiencing the extraordinary and wondrous.

We are in control of our lives. We have the power to choose to see the greatness of life, if only we can muster the strength to seek encouraging influences and leave when necessary.

It’s never too late to move on and improve your life.

Whether you’re 14 or 40, whether you’ve been abused or the abuser, tomorrow could mark a new chapter for your life.

The past doesn’t define who you’ll become.

You have agency. Simply make the decision to take ownership.

And forgive yourself. You’ve learned, and now, through that learning, you can just do better next time.

It’ll probably be a bit more messy than you’d like, but all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.

 

“Here’s the only thing you need to remember from this talk: ‘Study something you love to death’—I mean ‘depth’! [laughter] ‘Study something you love in depth.’ I just gave you an hour, so tonight give me 45 minutes. Spend 45 minutes tonight studying something you love. Watch the first five minutes of your favorite movie 7 times. You will notice new things.” – Paul Karasik from a lecture entitled “How to Read a Comic”

I’m continuing my battle against cynicism and becoming jaded.

A part of winning this fight is dropping everything that’s uninspiring and focusing intently on what makes my inner artist boom with glee. So last weekend I spent over an hour searching for this post I came across a few months ago that encouraged budding artists to forget trying to learn everything and to just study a couple of inspirations in depth.

I couldn’t find it.

But I did find this post by Austin Kleon that had the above similar quote. This is some of the best advice I’ve received.

Only recently have I accepted the importance of not wasting my time by doing things I don’t like. A lot of people skip and move on from songs they don’t like, but they can feel obligated to finish movies, podcasts, and books.

Just don’t. Life’s too short to not be amazed and gripped with anticipation.

For this reason, in addition to cutting out listening to the news, I’ve narrowed down the number of podcasts I listen to from around 30 to 9, I’m rewatching Bo Burnham’s SPECTACULAR movie Eighth Gradeand rereading The War of Art.

Yes, it’s mad inspiring.

Don’t let others’ portrayals fool you, living a good life is tough for pretty much everyone.

 

 

The hurt doesn’t go away for a lot of folks.

It lies beneath, waiting for a hard moment when it will be invigorated and begin launching dull, persistent attacks on their fortress of emotional stability and hope. 

They believe that it can be ignored, that they can get by for a long time lying to themselves.

They turn their secret dormant longings for closure and acceptance to distractions and substances.

They replace their self-love with external validation and materialism, never learning to communicate effectively and live the fullest expression of their lives.

My artist is writerly and enjoys sophistication, hope, sincerity, solitude, and the intimacy of small, thoughtful groups.

My artist has clear influences: the vulnerability and heart of Brené Brown, the entrepreneurialism and distinction of Seth Godin, the whimsical craft of Austin Kleon, and the cultural grounding of Bo Burnham.

But my artist is not them.

My artist is unique to itself.

This uniqueness must be nourished and accepted without compromise to live the fullest, most contributing expression of my life.

Nourishment involves constant experimentation.

Its affinities manifested through this iterative process include the love found in the writing of E.B. White, the curiosity of Krista Tippett, the collective shame of adolescence, and the authenticity of Thoreau.

It is not drawn to others’ poetry because of the time it takes to decipher the abstraction, the negativity found in the writing of Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the manipulation found in books about selling and business.

I don’t know what we should be doing with our time.

If I were to guess, I’d say figuring out what it means to live a good life, advance truth, and discover what’s fulfilling.

In sum, to understand wisdom, love, and happiness.

This is antithetical to the idea of focusing on how to get ahead of others, how to take advantage of them, and how to compete.

It’s better to fail in a career and be true to yourself and kind to others than to reach the heights of institutional success by abandoning your values and being selfish and manipulative.

Work hard. Stand in your conviction. And don’t be afraid.

Goodness evokes kindness, empathy, and thoughtfulness. The actions of a good person are often thought to involve holding the door, being generous, and caring.

But goodness must extend beyond a kind of selflessness, which might be called a gentleness of character, to include a kind of resiliency, or strength of character.

This strength manifests as endurance, the ability to withstand the negative forces of life with courage, patience, and sureness – knowing that all things, good and bad, will come to pass.

Unfounded criticism is endured through steadfast conviction and confidence.

Irrational frustration is endured through equanimity, a calm balance of emotions.

And the pangs of loneliness are endured through the cultivation of self-reliance and comfort with solitude.

To brand is to simplify the complexity of the human experience to a succinct theme for greed.

Decisions made in consideration of brand guidelines are decisions made out of the audience’s perception, not out of sincerity.

It’s living a lie for self-interest.

It’s manipulative.

It’s a sign of a hack.

So instead of focusing on branding and self-gain, focus on living a fulfilling life and happiness will follow.