Why I Chose To #WalkAway

I had to dust off my blog for this. It’s been in the back of my mind for a while, and I’ve made various allusions to it in conversations – online and off line. Now that the concept is trending though – #WalkAway – I felt compelled to voice my input; not that anyone asked. It will be more of a reference point for me in the future. More on that later.

Background
I never paid attention to politics until college (2005-2010). Until then, it was herd mentality for me, and I far from understood the nuances. My closest friends were intelligent, funny, successful, well-liked, and also Democrats so it made sense in my mind that I was too:

  • I had friends that were gay and I wanted them to be accepted as anyone else.
  • I thought companies were greedy.
  • I couldn’t stand the idea that a shirt could sell for $200 but people are starving in the streets.
  • Drugs are bad but locking people up isn’t the best way to deal with it.
  • Bush was regularly mocked on television so he must be objectively stupid.

And so on and so forth. I was (and still am) very pro-gun though; one of those rare pro-gun moderate Dems. However, I never gave it much thought. Politics was something boring that smart people cared about.

A Seed Is Planted
By 2007, there was election talk and I had to start paying attention. Like any good citizen, I did all sorts of research on the candidates. I knew I couldn’t vote for McCain because he’s a Republican and Republicans are bad because Bush was bad. That was the extent of my logic. I liked a lot of things Obama was talking about though I didn’t agree with 100% everything. The main thing was ending the war in the Middle East and I saw that as a preservation of tax dollars that be used for better things. I continued to research on and found the Libertarian Party. Anti-war, pro-gun, lax on drugs, and open to other lifestyles were big things that appealed to me. At first, I was hesitant to the ideas of lower taxes and reduced regulation but everything was explained in a way that made sense. On platforms alone, I cast my ballot for Bob Barr knowing that the LP would lose. From the “lesser of two evils” perspective, I was holding out for Barack Obama to win. I went into his presidency with an open mind. I told myself I would pay attention, that I would attempt to minimize my biases, and try to understand how everything worked.

(not much) Hope & (a lot of) Change
I can’t remember the exact day or even the pivotal moment for me, but after a year or two into the Obama presidency, he lost my support. Various influential reasons include:

  • Expansion of military presence in the Middle East
  • Drone strikes
  • Wall Street bailout
  • Winning the Nobel Peace Prize despite little to no contribution
  • Opposition to same-sex marriage

Even with his deeds mounting in my turn of support, the number one reason above all others was the culture surrounding him. He was hosting SNL and dancing with Ellen. There was very little focus on policy and a deafening emphasis on what a “cool, smooth guy” he is. He cracked a joke about a drone strike on the Jonas Brothers (that his daughters were fans of at the time). The man was untouchable. Any criticisms were written off as racism, and that defense solidified with constant media images of legitimate racists hanging effigies and hateful signs.

The Left Gets Cocky
This is purely my interpretation but I believe the Obama presidency to be the beginning of identity politics and the current culture war. A Democrat foothold in the White House was somehow the confidence they needed to begin, whether it was a conscious decision on their part or not. It was during this time that I first heard about concepts of privilege and patriarchy:

  • “White men have been president long enough.”
  • “Criticizing the president is silencing black voices.”
  • “This is a space for women and people of color – white men are not allowed.”

They started fighting perceived racism with actual racism; perceived sexism with actual sexism. I have always accepted people as they are and here I am being told that I’m not welcome or desired because of my sex and skin color. Being politically to the right of Obama meant you were Nazi. Criticizing the president on any matter meant you are a white supremacist. The people claiming that their voices weren’t being heard were now silencing other voices. Their voices got louder as time went on. They moved from the halls of academia and into the mainstream. As the internet expanded, with more people having access to cable and broadband, and the proliferation of smart phones, the voices were found everywhere and the message spread.

#MAGA
At this point, you know where I’m headed. After eight years of rants about privilege, patriarchy, males, white people, etc, we hit the election season again and Donald Trump takes the win. How? Why? We’ve all heard it time and time again. It wasn’t out of blatant support for Trump, which, he did and continues to have his supporters. But Donald Trump was the protest vote. Yes, he’s boisterous. Yes, he’s confrontational. Yes, he has made some questionable remarks. And all of that upset the Left. Middle class white families in “flyover” country were tired of being blamed for any (real or perceived) ills. Every single problem is “the white man’s fault” and voting for Trump was their way of fighting back; casting support for someone out of spite. I’m not excusing it or endorsing it. I didn’t vote for Trump. But for a lot of people, this was the rationale.

And what did the Left do? No self-reflection. No evaluation of their methods and messages. No questioning of outsiders to learn of other world views. They doubled down. Hitler! Nazi! Racist! Anyone who even slightly disagreed is now an enemy. College students protest and interrupt speakers they don’t like – even those who are left-of-center. Mainstream publications such as Huffington Post, Washington Post, Slate, Salon, and others regularly post articles about the perceived evils of Republicans and “privileged white men.” The concepts of rape and sexual assault have been dumbed to include any minor discomfort against a female (even using the word “female” is considered derogatory) and now assault statistics have been artificially inflated. Sexism means something that a MALE did. Racism means something that a WHITE person did.

Violence is not only acceptable now, but openly encouraged. Richard Spencer was punched on television in the middle of an interview. Yes, he is a neo-Nazi and his world view is disgusting. Being a despicable person is not justification for violence though. Afterwards, the “punch your local Nazi” movement started. Given how quickly the term is used to describe someone who disagrees with the mainstream Left, it’s easy to see how quickly that logic can spiral out of control. In 2017, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise was shot during practice for a Congressional charity baseball game. Immediately, people took to Twitter to express their displeasure that he lived. How much hate must a person have to wish death on another? It’s easy to hate when you dehumanize the enemy.

Final Thoughts
I could continue but it makes my head spin to even think about. It’s disheartening to think about that this is how people occupy their time and their lives. It has consumed all areas of American society. Nothing is safe; all is political. In the last year, I’ve been working on developing more of a social life and coping with my depression and anxiety. I can’t even do that without politics coming into play. Friendships now form over people circle jerking about how much they hate Donald Trump. Perhaps I want to go play pub trivia? At least three team names will be along the lines of “Le Cheeto Hitler Drumpf is stoooooopid.” Dating apps? “White men swipe left please.” I can’t order that crab rangoon pizza because that’s cultural appropriation.

Now before someone says “but you said you’re a libertarian… why are you defending Republicans?” Yeah, I disagree with Republicans on several issues. And yes, I disagree with Democrats on several issues. But the current state of affairs is as such:

  • Democrats are the loudest voice right now
  • Democrats have demonized me over perceived injustices
  • Republicans have accepted me with open arms, socially speaking, despite our disagreements
  • In a world where I politically align with less than 0.1% of the population, I have to be more politically aware than I was before because I’ve been backed into a corner

Yes, I am a straight white male. I am staunchly libertarian, pro-gun, pro-capitalism, pro-drugs, and vehemently anti-government. I work in automation engineering and consequently, I’m part of the “job killing movement.” I am literally Satan incarnate to a lot of people. But I’ve never hurt anyone. I’m quite humble, even into self-deprecation territory. I like to think I’m pretty open minded and accepting of all people, or at the very worst, silently tolerant. Even on the small chance I disagree with something, if you’re not hurting anyone or damaging property, I don’t care at all. You do you. I listen. I care. I love. I believe that I am a good person; a reliable and trustworthy person. But apparently my biggest sin is not being “woke” enough. I don’t wish ill against anyone; I just have a different view of how to solve problems. Because of that, I am the enemy. That’s why I had to #WalkAway.

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Stressed. Lost. Scared.

I’m stressed out. That is the simplest way to sum it up. I wake up and before my feet hit the floor, I’m stressed. Maybe some of it is legitimate, and maybe some of it is me over thinking. I’m an engineer and perfectionist, with anxiety, and a touch of depression. It’s the perfect recipe for overthinking.

I’m stressed about my job. I graduated college in 2010 but I was stuck in retail for three years afterwards. For another three years after that, I’ve been struggling to get into a solid engineering role – taking entry-level positions as they open up because I just can’t advance; either the economy causes budget cuts, or office politics. I feel like I’m struggling to keep up and that I should be making up for lost time. I know – for a fact – that I’m actually doing alright and that things could be a lot worse. But I’m a perfectionist, an overachiever, and a big dreamer. I want to get in to an engineering department and just wow them with something: a design or cost savings or a business plan. I went to school for a reason. I was hired for a reason. Let me do that job. Bring me on board, turn me loose, and let me get shit done.

I’m stressed about my finances. My head is above water. I’m paying my bills. I have a little bar money leftover. All my debt combined is less than $30k. Once again, it could be a lot worse. But all things considered, I have a negative net worth which means that an emergency or accident could completely wipe me out financially.

I’m stressed about my family. I won’t go into the details – the important things to know, though, are that A) I have a small family and B) the dynamics of my relationship with them are changing and not all of it for the better. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m realizing some details about my childhood that have influenced me as an adult – some of which has not been positive. In addition to that, recent events that have upset the tightly knit bond we had.

The most recent addition though… Whilst discussing plans for my 30th birthday (stressor #4) later this month with girlfriend #2 (yes, I’m polyamorous and dating 2 people – the only aspect of my life that doesn’t stress me out), she mentioned that I should focus on what I want for a celebration of MY birthday, rather than trying to crowdsource ideas. The thing is… I don’t know what I want. I passively mention it at as stressor #5 but to rank them, it should be #1. And not just a “I don’t know what I want to do for my birthday” type issue but a general “I don’t know what to do to have fun.” It’s as if the part of my brain that recognizes feelings of fun and being social and doing fun activities just doesn’t work anymore. Things I used to enjoy now feel like a burden or don’t interest me at all. I see groups on MeetUp or events on Nearify that sound fun but I don’t commit. I can’t commit. I’m frightened of the idea of interacting with others even though I want to. I want to go out and be social and make friends but I’m frightened; scared of being judged or ostracized.

All I want is a group of guys like the fraternity in college. Get together on Sundays to watch football, eat junk food, and roast each other about fantasy teams. Find a usual watering hole for after work on Friday night and get a little rowdy. We’ll rotate hosting summer grill days; bring your own meat and beer. Everyone chip in on traveling for a 3 day weekend golf trip. I see it. I hear about it. And I want to live it. But I don’t know how to get there.

Part of having friends is doing stuff, but I don’t have stuff that I do. Even my old hobbies just don’t seem to interest me anymore. I feel like I have no sense of self. Nothing that defines me. On the rare opportunity that a coworker or stranger asks what it is I do, I don’t know what to tell them. “Just a piece of shit millennial paying bills.” I can’t put my finger on what changed or when it changed. It was so easy in college. I suppose because most people bond over whose party you went to or your major. I look forward to every weekend but I end up doing nothing, except playing homemaker because cleaning is my only means of constructive stress relief. I have passing interests but nothing that (I interpret) to be hobbies or activities worthy of developing meaningful friendships over. Combined with the anxiety, I feel completely hopeless; a loser with nothing to offer or talk about. It’s taking its toll on me and I feel utterly lost because of it.

I don’t know what to do…

Strange Crossroads

As I venture through coping with anxiety and how to overcome it, I do what any other person does and I turn to Google. There are tons of great sites at my disposal (I personally find SucceedSocially.com to be particularly enlightening and it covers a wide range of topics, and even includes examples) and all of them offer a wealth of knowledge. A common theme, particularly when out and about, is striking up a conversation with a random stranger. Most sites emphasize that (usually) people are open and receptive to someone striking up a conversation with them. A simple, “Hi, my name is… It’s nice to meet you.” will suffice. From succeedsocially.com,

That will break the ice, and they may start talking to you after that. If not, you just traded names, and you essentially have to use another conversation starter to get it going for real. With new people you don’t always have to introduce yourself to start talking to them. You could start the conversation in another way, and after a while it will only feel natural to introduce yourselves to each other – “I’m Kara, by the way”

It’s a low pressure approach and versatile for many situations: at the bar, networking events, at a new job, etc. Reading body language and nonverbal cues is critical, but overall, the average person is receptive. From there, it can merge into small talk (an underrated concept), a comment on the place or situation, current events, etc.

However, and this is speaking strictly from personal experience, there is one area where this is not only a “doomed for failure” approach, it is even blatantly frowned upon and met with open criticism: dating apps. Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, take your pick. As a polyamorous person, I decided to try the world of modern dating apps. Although they’re open to a wide range of demographics, they cater to millennials so I figured it would be worth a shot. And worst case scenario, even if nothing romantic or physical happens, I could potentially make a new friend and expand my social circle.

To my dismay, though, countless profiles I’ve come across contain a disclaimer along the lines of “Don’t just message me ‘hey, how’s it going?’ Actually have something to say.” I understand the mentality – I really do. It’s way too easy, when someone asks how it’s going, to just answer with “fine” or “I’m good.” It makes sense. Personally, I would be ecstatic if someone messaged me with a “Hi” out of the blue. Everyone has different experiences and I don’t fall into the group of people that knows of luxury of being approached regularly.

But for some people, myself included, sometimes a simple “hello” is the best they can muster up. Maybe it’s anxiety, nervousness, or being shy. At least your honesty spares me the trouble and 99.9% of the time, I move on and swipe left without incident. However, there is a lingering fear in the back of mind: this constant nagging of, “If all these people are this selective on dating apps, does that selectivity translate to the world of face to face interactions? Having no knowledge, background, or prior interaction with these people, if I were to see one out at a bar or somewhere public and desired initiating just friendly, casual conversation, would they rebuke my less-than-desirable greeting of ‘hey, how’s it going?'”

Just something I’ve noticed…

What is a person to do?

I don’t remember exactly when I started this – just that it was a long time ago. And like damn near everything I attempt, it was started with good intentions… and now falls into neglect. I never once believed I could change the world. Maybe just reach someone – anyone. But then what? I’m not one to proselytize because I don’t like it when people try it on me. I think I was tired of fighting cliches; empty statements regurgitated from HuffPo or memes shared blindly. It’s all virtue signalling and I had the ego to take it personally.

Without even realizing it, I’ve developed my own bubble. It’s easy to write off libertarians as nihilists and I’ve even embraced the joke. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos. But was forming a bubble necessary to be a libertarian, or is it just something that correlates? And is this bubble an actual bubble, or is it something more? Has my anxiety and depression flared up again under the guise of cutting myself off? Or was I just looking for a name for it?

I’ve never been one to conform or fit in, despite the details – if you’re paying attention – that should indicate otherwise. Dude, you do the typical American thing: you went to college, joined a frat, studied engineering, drink copious amounts of beer, and play Fantasy Football. Yeah, I get it. I’m aware. I’m seemingly normal on the outside. But something else separates me… A bubble? Anxiety? Depression? Being a society hating nihilist? I feel as though I’m bearing the weight of shackles that manifest as some sort of scarlet letter. A warning to those around me. I’m not some prince of the dregs of society. If anything, I feel that I lack some sort of calling – despite directly contributing to the production of goods.

Hi! What’s your name?
What do you do?
What are you into?
What brings you joy?

What do you do to disconnect from the 9 to 5?

An exchange that rarely happens – but when it does – proposes the biggest road block. I look at my life and I feel empty. Blank. Floating around, avoiding some unseen fear. Fears of judgment, ridicule, and mockery. So I hide like a hermit, in my bubble, looking to the world around me… hoping… wishing for an extended hand. A hand I would happily extend myself.

Is 30 too young for a midlife crisis? Or is this the chosen path for millennials? I’m 29, going on 21. What I want is different than what is expected. Deviation is applauded, so long as you deviate in a way that is acceptable. Everyone wants to be a hedonist until it comes time to do hedonist shit. So let me be a hedonist. I just want to know I’m not alone in this pursuit. To know maybe there’s something out there. People to revel with who have the same expectations (or perhaps the lack-of).

In the meantime, I don’t know what else to call it.