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The Truth

October 22, 2013

Issue 13
Vol 3.

Heroic

After reading so many of my recent posts I know that I must seem melancholy. This is not the whole story. I am not always such a sad sack though I am always over thinking my life. If I told you that I have rewritten, reviewed and deleted this post over 25 times. I am trying to make this right, precise so that I am satisfied. I am trying to show you that I am “Earth’s Mightiest Hero” if only in my own mind.

My Kryptonite

In the post before this one I talked about Dr. Kevin Casey, a character from NBC’s TV show Scrubs who had serve OCD and used that to become an excellent doctor. He studied ad nausea until he was excellent at what he did. But in the end they showed him still battling his OCD, he never really overcame it he just learned to use it.

I think too much. Given only a moment I will go over everything that might happen a thousand times before I attempt anything. I obsess about every social misstep or slight I have ever made. My mistakes are on a constant loop in my subconscious and try as I might I can’t forgive myself about so many things.

I used to think think phrases like “know yourself” were total bullshit. I mean for a guy who thinks as much as I do how could anyone not understand their own motivations? But as I have grown older, looking back so many things are self-evident now. My motivations were not always apparent to me and that was shocking. Worse yet was the number of them, the amount of things that I did not really understanding why I did them. Nuke school seems to be the most obvious. All of the women who hit on me in high school (despite my best efforts at revisionist history) and how I reacted to them. A lot of what I did was motivated by something inherent to me. The more I thought it didn’t become harder to figure out but it never became any more more clear.

I have done push ups until I was in tears. I did that. Its self-destructive to be driven so hard by a terrible feeling of not being good enough. Informed by your failures, real or perceived, and I watched it color my reality.

That fear though has driven me to be one of the most respected technicians on my ship. When I was leaving my ship I heard it from person after person that if they heard I was working on something then they stopped worrying about it. I had the confidence of men and women from so many walks of life, from my command, and from the Navy. I wasn’t given the amount of training I was comfortable with so I taught myself. Hours and hours of extra studying and practicing commands in CLI, learning about the building blocks of a network or operating systems, giving myself a crash course education in Computer Science. That fear of being asked and not knowing or watching something break and being unable to fix it. That very same fear has made me better at weight lifting, play better at sports. That same fear that causes me hesitation, to miss open shots and opportunities. Its a terrible catch-22 that I can’t escape and worse yet I am not sure that I want to. I am not sure if it is better to just let go, of everything, and try to overcome my fear or carry it with me and let it drive me to improving myself and reaching my goals. I am not even sure I can let it go.

You're not through with me...you're never through...

You’re not through with me…you’re never through…

What I learned from Madden

Madden 25 came out last august 27th. Every year, damn near, for the past 25 years Electronic Arts sports put out an NFL simulator. I have had each iteration since 2001. As the years went on they added features and changed the game. I have played with the St. Louis Rams every year, through thick and thin. I am nothing if not loyal.

In Franchise mode you are owner/coach for a team. Depending on the version that you own you control not only the players on the field but are responsible for drafting players, resigning veterans and free agents. Players get better or worse as the years go on, winners are crowned and losers get fired (One year the team I built into a winner fired me the next season and I watched them go 18-0. Salt in a wound Madden. Salt in a wound.). It has RPG, action and simulation game elements blended together faithfully to approximate the real NFL.

I first got Madden 13, last years version, and initially loved it. I played with the Rams again and despite my best efforts struggled against the computer. So I quit in favor for another game that I though was worth my time. For months I never played that game I had always enjoyed because I was so frustrated that despite my best efforts the Rams weren’t getting any better. The team wasn’t making any progress.

A few weeks before Madden 25, the newest version of the game, came out I started playing it again. Then I realized Madden had reminded me of an important lesson.

Know thyself.

Long gone are the days of the greatest show on turf where my home team would fly around making incredible plays and dazing defenses. We were now a power running team and so thats what I did. I ran, more over I taught myself to be a better player by running the ball. Play after play after play. A dogged, grinding, running game.

I recently completed a season in the Madden 25, drafted 8 or so rookies, and started the next season. One of the players I got was an imaginary man named Davius Tyne. Built in the same mold as Steven Jackson, he is huge, not very fast but when he is one on one with just about anyone else in the game he is unstoppable. I mean the team I have developed is this powerful, grinding run game that is almost unrelenting. The opposition tires and their will breaks and all that is left is a man that never existed, brutally running through epiphanies of NFL pro-bowlers, real men.

There is an often forgotten power in knowing who and what you are, what you are capable of and what you want. In Madden I am determined to win and have the Rams be a contender.

If only in a video game.

The March, the Drum beat and the puzzle

My note “Summer like sweet tea” was, I think, my best post in recent memory. In the sub section “All alone in the night” I rambled, sort of about my fears and disillusion with growing up. How purposeless I felt that my life was about to become and how inevitable, and ultimately empty, the American dream really was. And how if that was my ultimate fate, no matter how hard I tried, or what I tried, then I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted. Like a constant drumbeat int he background, just soft enough to ignore during the day, these thoughts and fears would keep me up at night.

I almost didn’t post any of that because I was afraid people would think I was attacking married couples or families. I’m not. I have been shown all of my life that this is what you do and it means you are an adult. You do these things, marriage, children, job you hate, and these things mean you are an adult. And I couldn’t understand people, people who are smarter than me, more talented than I am, choosing not to follow their dreams. What happened to their 5 year-old that wanted to be an astronaut, or a ballerina, or a firefighter or whatever. I would ask  and most people answer me with a shrug and say “I guess they grew up.” and that is supposed to mean something, be any sort of real excuse.

On the other hand there are my parents who are perfect examples that fly directly in the face of that notion. My father has been painting, drawing, sketching and creating for over 50 years. In the evening after work or afternoons on the weekends I find my father in his studio working on a painting.  I can still find notepads full of sketches under bills or tucked away next to his favorite easy chair. He works at a job I don’t think he finds rewarding but he still makes time for the hobbies and pursuits that he loves. My mother doesn’t have anything besides that but her work is her passion. In her mid-50s she was thinking about going back to college and working on a degree in law. She sits in the living room, TV turned off and a book in her hands, reading about any and everything. She is constantly pushing herself in the most gentle and casual way to learn more. My parents are the best examples of what an adult is in my mind (I MAY be biased). They found a balance between the work they must do, and the things they wanted to do. I don’t think it was ever easy, maybe easier now than it was because of the positions they had or but effortless because there was no choice for them. They seemed to just know what they want and what they want to do.

I certainly grew up, I got older also, and my dreams changed but never reduced in scope. When I was little I wanted to be an astronaut. I never gave up on that dream but my aspirations did change, it doesn’t hold the same majesty that it once held for me. I have sat in my living room, in Starbucks, in my car, thinking about what I want to do. The same things run through my mind, over and over again.

I still feel so uneasy about all of it and the worst part is that I don’t know what scares me. I have no idea. I mean I do the most basic adult things pretty consistently. I pay bills, that’s easy. I manage to clean and feed myself, but does that count I have been doing that for years. I have a career if I want it, either inside the Navy or on the outside. On top of all that I know that I am dedicated, more focused and driven than the average person. I know I can do exactly what I want to do in life. I have done so much already. I wanted to join the Navy and I did. I wanted to be in Navy Nuclear Power and I gave it my best shot and I have no regrets. I have been to two continents and several countries and cities. When I was on foreign soil I did more than drink. I have been apart of history and seen things that is hard to describe. But none of that seems to matter, not to me. I say them because I know most people would count them. I am proud that I am in the Navy and I took that chance but even that seems trivial if I am honest with myself.

Maybe I am just neurotic or overly critical. I know I’m hard on myself and tend to ignore any victories that I have but I don’t know any other way to motivate myself. I think that I should just accept things and just “be”. This almost “zen” like approach doesn’t make sense to me. If you want something then you have to go and get it. I want to lose weight so I go to the gym. I want to be a better writer so I read and write. I want to be a penetration tester so read about computer security and attempt to do the things that pen-testers can do. I’m proud of that, the work that I have put into get what I want.

A lot of people don’t work for what they want. I have seen people wish for something and never do it. Either they never got around to doing it or when they were presented with the opportunity they were always just all talk. It takes energy and courage to go after your dreams. I have seen the best minds of my generation just settle for whats expected and never dare to do something different or interesting. I often worry if I am so uninterested in family life because I often see it as a near impossibility for me (I am not proud of that). Or feel guilty for judging people who want different things in life than I do. The only people I really respect are the people who are still striving to get to where they want to go.

One of the things I though about trying was stand up comedy. I think I could be a pretty good stand-up comedian. Its an art form that lends itself to writers and the skill of story telling. I thought about going up to open mic shows and trying to make a room of people laugh. I have told a few of my friends in the past about this idea and most of them encouraged me, on the other hand one told me straight up “You are not that funny” and then a week later the very same person told me “I think you are funny as all get out. As much as I hate to admit that. (Possibly the funniest thing I have ever read).” Gun to my head I know that after a few years I could make a living doing going up on stage and telling jokes. But I start thinking about what it really would take to become good stand up comedian and being honest with myself I realize its not a life for me. I just don’t want to be a comedian but I want to make people laugh. I think to be the type of comedian I would be you have to be in love with all of it. The art of telling jokes, and building an act, the culture and the travel. None of that interests me, not really.

Louis C.K. - One of the best

Louis C.K. – One of the best

That’s one of the hardest parts for me. Separating the interests and the passions. Comedy. I’m interested. Cooking. Its fun but I will always be able to do that. Writing. Passion. I can’t not write and when I don’t I get a little sad. Police work. Again, interested but no more than that, the daily grind of being a police officer would have to be worse than the grind that is being on deployment. Computers. More than interested, less than a passion. Security. Protecting. Secrets. Ideas. Competition. Attacking. Learning. Loyalty. Courage. Curiosity. Those don’t fit quite so well into either column. Those are almost like pieces of a puzzle that I have dumped out in front of me and I am sorting them out, frantically sometimes when I start to see the pieces come together. Other times I am calmer, frustrated though as I try repeated to place a piece I know should fit. There is no picture on the front of the box for me to go by. I am just making it up as I go along. But I’m not. I know where the pieces go. I move this one piece and make a choice, I move another one, shift it and slide it, maybe a little and it comes together. The more I try, the longer I work, the more I do the picture becomes self-evident and I know. So I speed up. And before I know it the picture has changed and I am older and what I was so sure of before seems wrong. Like I wasn’t really paying attention. Of course the chunks and pieces fit together like this. I’m sure now, or at least I hope so, I can see it now clearly.

Stg. Frank Wood

Stg. Frank Woods

I have posted a picture of this fictional character before. Stg. Frank Woods, a cold warrior in the Call of Duty: Black Ops spin-off franchise. Dogged, relentless, focused, intensely loyal, driven and always defiant he is a character that I find interesting. I don’t look up to him, but I do like him. I have some of the same qualities. I have always been enamored with driven people. Most of my favorite characters are driven in that way, even to the point of self-destruction. Batman comes to mind. Even in the stories when he is old he is still unrelenting in his goals and pursuits. He never gave up, obsessed even, with his goals.

Does anyone else feel like that have a calling? To feel or think that you are the right person for the job? And be honest with me, please, is it arrogant to think so? I said before that I have have high expectations of myself. I want to push, discover and set and meet goals. I know what I want and it doesn’t feel so far away or impossible. These aren’t new or original feelings but they are mine and this is how I feel. I know now what it takes to get what I want. I feel stable and I can hear my own thoughts now, clear and ordered. I feel that I am needed, and the drum beat of my own over-thinking and neuroses is quieted by a calm confidence and faith, a faith that I never had before.

When I think like this, about myself and what I want to do, I feel better. There is less anxiety, almost none. I don’t think about what I want to do, or what I want, or how hard it might be, or what would happen if I failed. I can see the rest of the puzzle now. My pulse quickens and I am almost reclaimed by my ambition, focus, will, my hopes and dreams. All of those things wrapped up into one thing. Its not out to prove anything to anyone. It just is. I feel like I am younger, like I did when I was 18, or even 5 years old, like the world is open and anything can happen and I can make anything happen. I feel like impossible is just a word, nothing more than a theory. And that fear, that ever constant fear, an unnamed specter standing at the edges of my conscious is beaten back. I feel like all of my limits are imagined and all of my flaws and imperfections don’t matter and everything good that I bring to the world means so much more. Whatever I have that makes toddlers and children like me and make strangers approach me and talk. What makes people open up and tell me their problems and their dreams. I remember that the world needs me, all of me, needs my talents, my skills, my heart, needs me at my best. To work to become my best. To do my best. To do what I was meant to do. To do what I want to do for no other reason but because I must. Because the world needs me to.

Not to fight, not to prove anything, but because I am needed

I want there to be an end, and I think there needs to be a resolution, and maybe you want one. That’s not life though is it? It always goes on, day after day, and we are participants in the perpetual march forward. Be it our own drum or not, no matter what. The best we can do, or at least what I think, is to set goals and try to achieve them, remind the people that we love that we still do, and remember who and what you are, for all that it means.

~ Adam J. Milton

3 Comments
  1. Callings are important. But that a) doesn’t mean they don’t change, b) doesn’t mean you never have doubts or c) doesn’t mean it’s what you do that pays you money. I felt, and still feel, that working at a newspaper was my calling. I was great at it. I loved it. But it meant giving up other things and it ultimately wasn’t the right fit for me. I’ve wandered around and dabbled in other things, and while I have a job I enjoy and pays well, I don’t consider that my calling. My calling is what I do when I come home, at night, helping people edit their works to make them better. (And then there’s another calling, which is less clear but still important, to write my own things and make people smile or think when they read them).
    You can “have it all” but it may not be in the shape you expect (similarly, how do you know that those people who didn’t grow up to be firefighters didn’t find a new calling when they grew up? How do you know they’re not happy?)

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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